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February 9, 2011
Picking at scabsBy Greyhawk
...Zeyad, an Iraqi doctor whose "Healing Iraq" blog was promoted by war-blogger Glenn Reynolds and others in the run up to the Iraq war, and then abruptly dropped when Zeyad's cousin was murdered by US troops and he had the bad taste to make a big deal about it.
In addition to Glenn's point, I'll offer this observation:
The date on Zeyad's first post is October 17, 2003 - so scratch "promoted by war-blogger Glenn Reynolds and others in the run up to the Iraq war" from the fact column, too. (And yes, that leaves it empty.) Salam Pax and Riverbend were the "big" Iraqi blogs in the "run up"/earliest days of the war - there were few others, if any. Neither of those two can be labeled either "pro-war" or "ignored" by bloggers who could be. In actual fact, something (nudge wink) must have happened in between "the run up to the Iraq war" and October, 2003 to lead Zeyad to predict (accurately) more would follow, adding "Their voice will be heard at last, now that they have nothing to fear from doing so." While I believe Iraqi bloggers were taking more than negligible risk in sharing their experiences with the world, that Zeyad went on to report a murder committed by US soldiers - and got results - reinforces his point.
As for links to Healing Iraq, here are mine (including to the finish on that particular story line and other "not good" news that followed). Glenn's provided his. And while not comparable to that assumed by Zeyad, for me - active duty at the time - or Andrew Olmsted or Chief Wiggles - guard members - to shine a light on that story at the time involved potential risk, too. (Note that none of us took the THIS CAN'T BE TEH Truth!!! position.) Raimondo's post is far removed from reality; it's an extreme example of the sort of damn the facts - I'm hammering this into my narrative re-write that's increasingly characterized much of the post-World War Two era "history." (His effort even encompasses WWII...) That sort of absurdity is part of my motivation for the america@war project, the Healing Iraq story is but one example of new media's immediate impact on the war (and Glenn Reynolds' contribution is an immeasurably large factor in that) - and this provides a minor coda. Besides increased odds of "truth will out," add "if you make up garbage out of thin air someone's going to call you on it" to the list.
None of that addresses Raimondo's questions: "what are we creating in Iraq? What have we created?" The first is indicative of his ignorance of Iraq, an assumption of the superiority of "we" - or both. While not washing our hands of it, "we" have had damn little influence in Iraq since summer 2009. That's due in equal part to the Bush-era timeline for withdrawal and a mutual lack of respect/trust between the current governments of Iraq and the US - but I'm not hand-wringing over that, either. While any hope for the future of Iraq is very much political, not military, we do still have 50,000 troops there. From time to time I offer glimpses of what they're doing. There are few Iraqi bloggers left, and few milbloggers (I suspect "not enough interest" is one reason for low motivation) but in addition to Zeyad, (who I'm not sure is in Iraq...) if you want a boots on ground report Chief Wiggles is back in Iraq and blogging, too.
What have we created? Opportunity, nothing more. As Zeyad demonstrates once again (and as people like Justin Raimondo overlook) the answer is still - for now - a place where people like Zeyad can write about Iraq, good or bad. Or to paraphrase Ben Franklin, a democracy, madam - if you can keep it.
Added: here's an October, 2005 examination of the story from Dexter Filkins in the New York Times. That's one of the finest bits of war reporting of the past several years, something I've said before re: Filkin's work. (The "Warrior King" might have been well advised to let that testimony stand as the final word. Heck of a bargain there, though...)
Posted by Greyhawk / February 9, 2011 11:14 AM | 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...)
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