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July 1, 2009
Things RememberedBy Greyhawk
From the archives: I wrote the following from Iraq the day after the January, 2005 elections there.
Greetings from a land of bent and broken things
Some of you may have noticed I didn't post my own thoughts on yesterday's elections. My reason is simple: it wasn't my day. I watched through tearing eyes. Yes, this old trooper shed a few tears of joy at what had happened. Like the amazing fall of the Berlin wall, the peaceful "revolutions" that freed Eastern Europe, this was another great victory in my lifetime, and one I felt a little bit involved in. This wasn't George Bush's victory, this wasn't America's victory, this certainly wasn't my victory, this was a victory for the people of Iraq and those who love freedom everywhere. I was an observer, a very close observer, but an observer nonetheless.
I liked what I saw.
Now note the header above. The work has just begun. I see bent and broken, scarred and ruined things here every day. Many were damaged years ago. 1991? 2003? In between? After? It's often hard to tell. Many will be fixed in time, others are beyond repair. Now substitute the word "people" for "things" in the preceding and read it again. Meet a group of Iraqi people and one will tell you how grateful he is that we have given him freedom. He will tell you he lived in fear for his life every day under Saddam. His joy is real, and fundamental, and obvious. Then the next will tell you he lost his entire family in the invasion. He's glad Saddam's gone, but he's paid a price that few would be willing to pay were they given the option.
What would you say to him? "Sorry about that. But cheer up, old boy! Other than that you must admit this freedom thing is pretty great, eh?" No - there's nothing that can be said. He may or may not hate the United States, he may blame Saddam for what happened, but here is a man with the rest of his life before him, and he'll live each day without his family.
The greater good, of course, is served. Many Americans died in this endeavor too; such things temper the celebration. I think Iraqi blogger Alaa offers the right perspective:
My condolences to the Great American people for the tragic recent losses of soldiers. The blood of Iraqis and Americans is being shed on the soil of Mesopotamia; a baptism with blood. A baptism of a lasting friendship and alliance, for many years to come, through thick and thin, we shall never forget the brave soldiers fallen while defending our freedom and future.
So amidst the triumph, I saw yesterday as a Memorial Day, of a sort, for those many who fell to make it possible. Some might try and use those deaths for their own ends, or to justify their belief that we should never have walked this path. Such people don't believe in heroes. They can't even comprehend this simple fact; no one is more opposed to war than the soldier. He knows the cost and has seen the carnage. But as I wrote at the top of the sidebar long ago: The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior, who prefers to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day he stands fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Today we re-build broken things. Grab a hammer or get out of the way.
Posted by Greyhawk / July 1, 2009 4:03 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
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