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January 13, 2010
The rap sheetBy Greyhawk
Sometimes the dots are connected before someone gets killed. This is the story of one of those times.
Headlines on the upcoming release of the results a Pentagon inquiry into the Ft Hood shootings range from "Emerging picture in Fort Hood review is one of supervisors who voiced concerns, but didn't act" (the Canadian Press) to the New York Post's "Feds' screw-ups in Hood case revealed." The Washington Post runs with "Pentagon inquiry into Fort Hood urges focus on service members who may pose risk" - which at least emphasizes the future rather than the past.
Certainly in the Hasan case someone failed to connect the dots - and people died. But what happens when dots are connected? Lives saved, reduced panic, and less dramatic headlines - but as the following example will demonstrate, that last result isn't due to lack of effort on the part of those who write them.
"Fuck you colonels, captains, E-7 and above
There was at least one empty seat on the plane when the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq late last year. Specialist Marc Hall, author of the above quote, was back at Ft Stewart, Georgia, awaiting trial.
Hall, according to charges, did "on divers occasions, between on or about 08 July 2009 and on or about 08 December 2009, wrongfully make statements to members of his battalion that he would engage in acts of violence against members of his unit..." That's one of five specifications; others include telling [names redacted in released charge sheet] that he would "hurt someone if he was deployed" (specification 4) and "that he was planning on shooting the brigade and battalion commanders" (specification 5).
Specialist Hall also recorded his threat (according to specification 2 as "original songs wrongfully threatening acts of violence against members of his unit" which he distributed to fellow soldiers) and sent a copy to the Pentagon. Shortly after Hall was charged, milblogger Jonn Lilyea noticed the IVAW crew had taken up his cause. Not long after that, Stars and Stripes ran a story on the case. ("Army specialist jailed for threats against fellow soldiers, commanders," the headline read.)
Klimaski also recommends a "rap exclusion" for threats: "Listen to rap songs," Klimaski said. "I mean there are a whole bunch of rap songs talking about killing people all the time. Nobody gets killed from them."
Ft Stewart's response is that the "songs" weren't the only threats, and...
"The chain of command has a legal obligation to the citizens of the United States to investigate and deal fairly with SPC Hall's alleged misconduct," Kevin Larson, a spokesman at Fort Stewart, said in an e-mail. "Anything less would be irresponsible to our citizens and soldiers."
Their headline? "Soldier Jailed for Angry Rap Song."
There's been plenty of news lately about failures to connect the dots - here's the sort of story we'll be seeing more often once those failures are corrected.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 13, 2010 2:24 PM | Permalink
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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...)
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