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September 20, 2011
The unrelenting struggleBy Greyhawk
It's been just a little less than a month since President Obama took time out from his Martha's Vinyard vacation to update Americans on the bombing campaign in Libya. Two notable trends have developed in the four weeks since: 1) Libya has mostly vanished from the news, and 2) NATO has conducted 3,254 combat air sorties, including 1,178 strike sorties. (Totals through August 22 here, and through September 19 here.)
In spite of those numbers, a defiant Muammar Gaddafi this week warned Libyan rebels through a recorded message that NATO planes would not be able to protect them forever, prompting a quick response from US President Obama:
In remarks released ahead of the international meting, Obama called on those fighters still supporting Gaddafi to lay down their arms, warning that the NATO mission in the country would continue.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that Qadaffi and his forces continue to threaten civilians, and NATO "will continue military operations under our United Nations mandate as long as necessary to protect the people of Libya." Like President Obama, he's also in New York this week, to attend a "Friends of Libya" meeting and to urge the UN General Assembly to "take the leading role in assisting the people of Libya in the aftermath of the conflict."
Meanwhile, back in Libya, many of the 1,178 air strikes delivered over the past weeks have been aimed at Sirte, Gaddafi's home town. Sirte has been besieged by rebels since late August, but the AP reports their latest attempt to assault the city over the weekend was "driven back by fierce rocket and gunfire" from those inside. They've since "pulled back to regroup, although the two sides exchange fire daily."
Sirte is described as "under constant rocket fire and NATO bombardment." With food, water and fuel supplies running low, those families lucky enough to be able to flee are doing so. Comprehensive casualty reports from the town are obviously not available, however a doctor at a local mosque transformed into a field hospital reported "four people were killed and seven wounded on Tuesday, most hit by shrapnel."
The anti-Gaddafi rebels now claim to have "heavy weapons" inbound from the port city of Misrata, and advised Sirte residents that today is the last day to leave if they want to escape the coming attack.
Meanwhile, in Tripoli, where the arrival of rebels in Gaddafi's abandoned compound (the target of more NATO air strikes through the previous months of the civil war than any other single location) last month proved to all the world he wasn't there (and prompted President Obama's August address), NATO reports some positive signs:
Still, the situation in Tripoli is considered safe enough that the head of Libya's interim government made his first appearance there this week while on his way from Benghazi to New York City.
Libya's interim government chief, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, made his first speech to a crowd of about 10,000 in the capital Tripoli on Monday -- a sign of growing confidence from the former rebels. Abdel Jalil arrived in Tripoli on Saturday for the first time since his allies chased Muammar Gaddafi out of the city...
Jalil can also take heart that after long delays (citing ongoing fighting in Libya as a reason), the African Union has at last recognized Libya's interim leaders as the country's de facto government. However, he may find other leaders in Libya may be harder to win over.
Whether well armed or not, "a fighter from the Libyan National Transitional Council at the eastern Sirte front tells Al Jazeera that there is a sandstorm obscuring visibility. He does not think that there will be any significant advance today, at least not until the wind slows down." This is actually good timing for such an Insha'Allah weather event; headlines of combat (and casualty figures) would not be appreciated in New York City today anyway.
More from Al-Sallabi - who is described as having both "good relations with Qatar, an influential backer of the NTC" and "a wide network of contacts in global Islamist circles":
Meanwhile, other rebel assaults are being repulsed near one of NATO's other "hot targets"...
Speaking of youthful enthusiasm, Chris Jeon, the California college student who ran away to join the rebels, has promised his father that he's coming home soon. (He'd better hurry, classes began this week...)
Footnote: for clarity, Mustafa Abdul Jalil (pictured above), former justice minister under the Gaddafi government, is the Chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC). Mahmoud Jibril, (who served in the Gaddafi regime as head of the National Economic Development Board), is described as "Chairman of the Executive Board of the National Transitional Council." (The board that dissolved following the murder of General Abdel Fatah Younis in July.) He has also been referred to at various times by various sources as the NTC's interim Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and Chief of Staff.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 20, 2011 5:07 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...)
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