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December 31, 2009
Diversions (revisited)By Greyhawk
A look back at one of the big milblog stories of 2009, with a followup that (unfortunately) isn't much of a surprise...
February, 2009: the newly-sworn in President of the United States - who had run on a pledge to "immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq" by removing "one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months" - got a much needed headline: "Barack Obama diverts 17,000 soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan". It was big news at the time, and - perhaps in part because it made good on campaign rhetoric regarding Afghanistan, too - was wildly popular with Americans. (Sixty-three percent approved.) But it was also a fraud, one of the first of many successful frauds the new administration was able to perpetrate on the American public.
Within days of the announcement of the "diversion", Obama would appear at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to deliver his "Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq" speech. The New York Times would explain that the president's bold plan to withdraw from Iraq, "...outlined before thousands of camouflage-clad Marines here, underscored the transformation in national priorities a month after Mr. Obama took office as he prepared to shift resources and troops from increasingly stable Iraq to increasingly volatile Afghanistan."
The president's venue underscored the shift in emphasis. About 8,000 Marines stationed here will ship out soon to Afghanistan, part of the 17,000-troop buildup he ordered.
In announcing his "shift" a few days before, the president had reminded Americans that the troop increase for Afghanistan "has been requested by General McKiernan and supported by Secretary Gates, the Joint Chiefs and the Commander of Central Command." Furthermore, "General McKiernan's request for these troops is months old, and the fact that we are going to responsibly drawdown our forces in Iraq allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan."
The only thing needed to really sell the story was a brigade to actually be "shifted" from a planned Iraq rotation. There were plenty available, but the lucky one chosen to earn Obama his headline (and an all too brief bump in American popularity polls) was the 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
"This is the only way our brigade logistics can really be tested," 5th Brigade commander, Col. Harry Tunnell told the News Tribune. "These are things we have to do in Iraq, but that are really hard to do in the United States."
Those months of training and preparation were scrapped (one example: they don't speak Arabic in Afghanistan) so the phrase "Barack Obama diverts 17,000 soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan" could appear in newspapers. But while a reduction in force in Iraq as a result of greatly improved conditions there would be both welcome and overdue (and military units go where they're needed), that part of the story was the real "big lie". A mere few days later, the Obama administration would rather quietly announce that "Gen. Odierno will receive a Stryker Brigade to replace the incoming replacement brigade diverted to Afghanistan just a week ago." The 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was scheduled to deploy to Iraq "several months ahead of the original schedule, Army officials said Monday."
Some comments from those most affected here. But while it was certainly a big story here last year, unlike the news coverage of Obama's "Iraq drawdown" and "diversion of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan", the revelation that it was all actually a complete fraud (and in fact an overall increase in troops in the combat zones) would pass without notice in the American media.
End of year update: Where are they now?
The 5th is in Afghanistan:
Barack Obama is still President of the United States, and recently received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Posted by Greyhawk / December 31, 2009 8:44 AM | Permalink
A footnote to the previous story: While they didn't have months to learn the language or prepare properly for Afghanistan, when confronted with "an absence of good intelligence on what they would be facing in the Arghandab" valley, NCOs in the unit fou... Read More
...some incredible photos from the current "home" of the 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. (The unit at the center of this storm.) Click it, don't miss it.... Read More
Senior White House advisers are frustrated by what they say is the Pentagon's slow pace in deploying 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and its inability to live up to an initial promise to have all of the forces in the country by next summer, sen... Read More
... I've made a few.... heh, no, just kidding:"There are all sorts of day-to-day issues where I say to myself, oh, I didn't say that right, or I didn't explain this clearly enough," Obama said, "or maybe if I had sequenced this plan first as opposed to... Read More
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.
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Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com