Never before has a war been so immediately documented, never before have sentiments from the front scurried their way to the home front with such ease and precision.
That's "milblogger" Chris Missick, a 24-year-old solider serving in Iraq, as profiled in John Hockenberry's article in Wired, "The Blogs of War." This war, from Abu Graib to military bloggers, is different because it's being transformed by the digital revolution. Soldiers carry digital cameras, they write blogs, they have video uplinks. They are offering a by-the-minute, as-it-happens view of the world, unfiltered by TV news or even the Pentagon.
Milbloggers constitute a rich subculture with a refreshing candor about the war, expressing views ranging from far right to far left. They also offer helpful tips about tearing down an M16, recipes for beef stew (hint: lots of red wine), reviews of the latest episode of 24, extremely technical discussions of Humvee armor configurations, and exceptionally raw accounts of field hospital chaos, gore, and heroism.
For now, the Pentagon officially tolerates this free-form online journalism and in-house peanut gallery, even as the brass takes cautious steps to control it. A new policy instituted this spring requires all military bloggers inside Iraq to register with their units. It directs commanders to conduct quarterly reviews to make sure bloggers aren't giving out casualty information or violating operational security or privacy rules. Commanding officers shut down a blog that reported on the medical response to a suicide bombing late last year in Mosul. The Army has also created the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell to monitor compliance. And Wired has learned that a Pentagon review is under way to better understand the overall implications of blogging and other Internet communications in combat zones.
Milblogs are giving outlets for creativity not usually accomodated in theaters of war. Listen to Danjel Bout, a 32-year-old captain:
The flight over Southern Baghdad was nothing short of spectacular. From 500 feet in the air all the rot that clutters the streets seemed to melt into the background, and the settlements seemed to take on orderliness altogether absent from the ground. The farmland was criss-crossed with canals, dull concrete bulwarks that seemed to triage the fields themselves. On one side of a canal you might find the rich brown of tilled soil and just on the other side you might find dried pools of cracked and blistered mud. There was no order and no pattern to their arrangement, they just were. And through it all there was always the gentle curl of the Tigris in the background, reflecting the sun like a bright pane of shimmering glass.
Here are a few links to the milblogs listed in the article: