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(Previous entry in series here.)
"I’m reluctant to say “the war has ended,” as he did, but everything else he wrote is undoubtedly true."
- Michael Totten, on Michael Yon.
He was expanding on a brief post he'd done at his own site, in which he added that "...I’ll be back in Iraq myself soon enough, and I’ll weigh in on that question then."
And I believe he's uniquely (and superbly) qualified to do it - so I'm looking forward to his reports.
I met quite a few wandering bloggers passing through Baghdad last year. Missed a few, too.
Mike Totten stopped by on his way to and from Fallujah. He'd been through before, had seen the red zone at it's most red. But this trip was different. While we'd been hearing a little about Ramadi (specifically the awakening movement) Fallujah had all but dropped off the radar as far as media reports from Iraq. Generally this means a place is relatively peaceful, and I thought Mike's choice was interesting for that reason - what sort of story could he tell from such a place?
Turns out he could tell a damn fine story (several, in fact), and once back stateside he did. Michael Totten hadn't come looking for a tale of combat, he sought the story of Iraq.
And by coincidence, his first posted story on his travels to Fallujah prompted what would turn out to be my own final post from Iraq.
Here (with spelling errors intact) is an absurd comment left under Michael Totten's first report from Fallujah:But with that and other evidence of victory obvious in Baghdad at the time, I also noted that "Meanwhile, back in America 48 percent of respondents to a Pew Poll feel that the military effort is not going well, and 44 percent feel we are losing ground to the insurgents."Your no Micheal Yon, and your reporting seems to be all over the place. Are things better or not in the town? Seems like you give it a "Wow, I'm not in harms way since the surge helped the country, how many ways can I say things are bad over here, but not as bad. I suggest these readers go to someone who goes out on combat missions he's attached to with the ground pounders, and get a real feel of reporting. Micheal Yon.I don't want to promote any discussion of the relative merits of the various bloggers who've actually come to Iraq to cover the war first-hand - I greatly admire them all, and I've yet to find any who weren't worth reading. The more the merrier, as they say; after all, there are a million stories to tell over here - plenty to go around. But I wanted to highlight this for two reasons: one, to provide the link to Totten's Fallujah report (which should be widely read) and two, to point out something most readers here have probably seen but not noticed: two of Yon's most recent posts have actually been advice columns on suitable cameras for deployed reporters.
Such, I suppose, is the power of television.
"Well, we're drowning in information but somebody has to sort it out. So, when it came to the war, despite enormous pressure from the administration that said to the media, 'You folks in the media are being too negative. You're distorting the picture.' We had brave correspondents bringing us the carnage night after night, into our living rooms, what was going on in Iraq. And you had the anchors framing the story in such a way that it really punched through."
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Bill Roggio in this discussion. Especially since he and I were on Camp Victory for one of the more spectacular (and, frankly, not spectacular) indirect fire attacks of the year. Bill's efforts in establishing the Long War Journal as the go-to site for front line reporting and strategic analysis on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are without equal, grass-roots media at it's finest. His site is now home to an unmatched cadre of new media war reporters, and if the mainstream media shifts their focus to Afghanistan over the coming months they'll have to work hard to catch up to LWJ, Bill never lost his focus on that corner of the war.
"I'd like to leave Iraq a little better than I found it."
I met quite a few wandering bloggers passing through Baghdad last year. Missed a few, too. One of those I missed had recently stopped updating his site - like so many other military bloggers too often do. But shortly before he deployed Mrs G received a welcome email: "As you may recall, I had to go to radio listening silence after I was warned that my writings might be a bit too strong to stay within Army regs a few months back. I'm happy to report that I am blogging again..."
He added that he was hoping to "maybe give the folks back home a little information they wouldn't otherwise get."
She replied "Great News, was looking in on you just the other day for anything new. Glad to have you back. Greyhawk asked me to pass on that he's in Baghdad. Maybe you two can get together and do lunch."
"I'd enjoy that. I will spend about two weeks at Taji sometime in mid-July...if he's in that area, I'd love to get a chance to finally meet him."
Schedules are inflexible, leisure travel impossible, and lunch was the most that could be hoped for. But it didn't happen. I'd have enjoyed getting the chance to actually speak to him face to face - I wanted him to accept the credit I thought was his. A few years before, when I'd begun writing my history of milblogs project, I'd emailed him about just how early he'd begun - I believed then (and still do) that he was the first of us all.
From reading his reply I got the impression that was a distinction he felt he didn't deserve:
"What I remember isn’t much: I started blogging on 11 Oct 01, inspired by Glenn Reynolds primarily, although I was also reading Virginia Postrel at the time. I’m sure there were other milbloggers at the time, although I can’t recall any off hand. The first I remember seeing was Sgt. Stryker. I’m not sure when he got his start. He was more of a true military guy, though, as my focus has always been more on philosophy and politics."
You can get a feel for that philosophy in a profile a local paper did on him before he deployed:
"I want to see if I can help the Iraqi Army understand a little bit about the rule of law and the importance of being professional soldiers devoted to something higher than just the local tribe or their family," he said. "But I don't know how realistic that is. I don't expect to make any huge changes. If I can make some incremental changes that's about the best I can hope for."That was Andy Olmsted, of course, in the Rocky Mountain News. He was going to lead a team doing the toughest job left to do in Iraq - fighting the last battle of the war, if you will: prepare the Iraqi Army to take the lead, and facilitate our departure. That's part of the story he'd hoped to help tell.
"I guess more than anything else, I'd like to leave Iraq a little better than I found it."
Here's the full email I quoted from above:
As you may recall, I had to go to radio listening silence after I was warned that my writings might be a bit too strong to stay within Army regs a few months back. I'm happy to report that I am blogging again, now for the Rocky Mountain News about my assignment as a MiTT commander. The blog is here, and they've done a profile of me here. I plan to take full advantage of this exposure to get the word out about what the MiTTs are doing in Iraq and maybe give the folks back home a little information they wouldn't otherwise get.Less well known was that he was also blogging at Obsidian Wings under the pseudonym G'kar. A co-blogger there would post his final entry on Andrew's own blog - an entry in which Andy announced "I'm dead. That sucks," and "I died doing a job I loved."
One who knew him better than I addressed the overwhelming attention that post received:
I think Andy would be astonished at the amount of attention his last post received. He could be pretty self-effacing that way... He'd be embarrassed by all the fuss, and genuinely surprised, but deep down, I think it would have meant the world to him. I just wish he could be here to see it.Andrew Olmsted had prepared his final post before he deployed, when the fighting at Iraq was at it's worst, as was a different sort of fighting back home. And in it he also left this message for the world:
I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support.Guess what, Andy... we won.
More to follow...
Awesome series of posts! Not sure where you and Mrs G find the time, but the efforts are so appreciated.
And just to add a bit to your thoughts on Bill Roggio's work at Long War Journal (LWJ): who's been writing for 2+ years about the the slow unraveling in the parts of Pakistan that border Afg ? Bill Roggio.
And since I'm a vocal member of the unofficial Mudville AND LWJ fan clubs, I encourage any appreciative reader to consider making a donation to Mudville and a tax-deductible donation to Public Multimedia Inc, the non-profit that funds LWJ's embeds and web reporting.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the last few years would have been very different (I shudder to think) without milblogs and embedded reporters - I'm particularly partial to Mudville and LWJ, but Totten and Yon are on my reading and donation list too.
Just sayin.Posted by Lisa in DC at July 18, 2008 02:55 AM
Let's see how many backflips and twists Obama will have to make in crediting his vote against the surge and new tactics and strategy that came with it for the victory.
We all know the media will lend him every assistance.Posted by Sam at July 18, 2008 07:28 PM
pause for a moment, please. The surge added how many troops? It was to do what? gain time so Iraq army could take over. Now, you say: we won. Why not come home then and truy to do something about the mess the Iraq distraction caused in Afghanistan.
If we have won and the surge worked then why or why do we still have more troops there than before the surge had begun:? and yes we will take some more out because we are seriously losing in Afghanistan and we need to do something there.
seems to me you are using the surge etc as a political thing instead of focusing on a disasterous war where over two millions have fled their country, where infrastructure a shambles, and where factions continue to argue and refuse to allow Americans to go home.Posted by ned ludd at July 18, 2008 07:47 PM
"seems to me you are using the surge etc as a political thing"
Who are you imagining yourself talking to here?Posted by Greyhawk at July 18, 2008 08:20 PM
I wish Andy had been here to see this. I wish Mike Stokely had been here to see this. I wish Casey Sheehan had been here to see this.
I wish a whole lot of good strong Young Men and Women had been here to see this. But they aren't. We are the poorer for it, the Iraqis are the richer.....
and their lives will always have the greatest of meaning and respect for those of us left behind, and for those who are now taking up their own bitter fight against tyranny.
For the sacrifice of a little over 5000 Men and Women over 7 years, over 350 million lives were saved, brightened, and protected.
That's some strong angels watching over us. And they all wear US and Coalition unifoms.
God bless 'em all.
SubsunkPosted by Subsunk at July 18, 2008 08:33 PM
You bring the wrong mindset with the wrong information to the wrong battlefield. Custer would have approved of your style.
So I suggest you take that 2006 calendar down and catch up on what's really been going on in Iraq. And maybe learn about the tactical changes that were quintessential to the victory in Iraq.Posted by Chad at July 18, 2008 10:00 PM
Just back from a reunion (509th PIb/R) at Ft Benning last week, where we were guests at the latest graduation at jump school. Got to talk to a lot of people recently back from the Middle East, or on their ways back. All of them have seen the changes....We're not there yet, but one can see the road ahead in Iraq. And then you mentioned Andy Olmstead, and I broke down a little bit again.I think he's got a smile and maybe some hope to bring us still from wherever he is. To Our Fallen Comrades.Posted by Matt at July 19, 2008 12:11 AM
Y'all stoopit. The Eyerak war is a kwagmar. I seen it on the Tee Vee.Posted by Ned the Sped at July 19, 2008 01:26 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(8) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)