A few years ago I wrote a book on the history of the visualization of war. Today, writing a book on blogging, I see a striking differences between two “blogs of war,” that is, first person accounts of a battle in the Middle East.
Then: In c. 1300 BCE, the pharaoh Rameses II and his army fought a battle against a Hittite army at Kadesh, in what is now Syria. The battle was a draw; in fact, the Egyptians ended up retreating. But Rameses’ memorial temple–an instance of massive communication–shows on its 100-foot walls pictures and hieroglyphics of the great ruler as victorious. As originally painted, Rameses is bronze skinned, broad shouldered, long armed, resolute of face, wearing the twin crowns of upper and lower Egypt, and many times larger than the Hittites and his own men–a superman in the anthropological as well as comic book sense. (Rameses became the “Ozymandias” who, in Shelley’s poem, demanded that all “look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.”) In the written records accompanying the images, Rameses boasts that he personally routed “every warrior of the Hittite enemy, together with the many foreign countries which were with them.”
In contrast, the pharaoh blames his own men for early problems in the battle: “You have done a cowardly deed, altogether. Not one man among you had stood up to assist me when I was fighting. . . not one among you shall talk about his service, after returning to the land of Egypt.” In other words, here was the mighty-thighed Pharaoh announcing that his own men were cowards and he won the battle single-handedly. I have often wondered whether some veteran of Kadesh, walking by the tableaus, did not squint up, shake his head, gnash his teeth, and growl to his wife, “The lying bastard, it was his bad generalship/leadership that lost the day, not our cowardice.” But of course we don’t know; foot soldiers in Pharaoh’s army didn’t carve or write their campaign memoirs; and no scribe or stonemason interviewed them.
But now the dogs of war blog. Rather than expound on how blogging can put us in the action, live from ground zero, in hearts and minds of those who are there, in their own voice, let me simply reprint a recent post from the battle front in Iraq by CAPT B of “One Marine’s View.”
SMOKE EM IF YA GOTEM!
Friday, November 25, 2005
Another fine day here in Iraq. Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are that much closer to getting outa here. The holiday was nice although it was the same as every other day here as we maintained vigilance and on guard for attacks and concluded operations. The chow was hot chow……..It resembled turkey, really it did…..kinda….….oh well I digest. It was hot chow and I am thankful for that. As I remember back in Afghani living months on MRE’s, yes it was hot chow and Im damn glad to have it. On our Thanksgiving some of my guys were wrapping up a convoy as they would on the typical day here when they were ambushed and hit with an IED. Probably an 81mm mortar size. Because there were many civilians in the area they weren’t able to fire into the crowed where the known triggerman was hiding within. No Marines were injured due to their training, gear and armor hummers. Its was the fourth IED for us. Not a lot compared to others but about four too many, trust me one was plenty and I have the T-shirt Im good to go.
Now we race down what we call the “White Knuckle Express” It’s a road to our destination similar to others with names like ambush alley, dead mans curve and the gauntlet. I really hate this road and respect it a lot because of how dangerous it is. The second time we were scheduled to travel this route I rewrote some items in a “last letter” to my family the night before……..just in case the worse happened because this is where it would happen. I did this because the first time really got my attention if you know what I mean. We maneuver down the bare street (never a good sign) and have to jump the curb to go around an M1 Tank that is protecting our flank. M1’s are great to have around as they bring a lot of fire power to the fight. “Watch the bag on the right with wires” says truck one, as we continue our movement through the dirty trash covered streets. What doesn’t look like an IED at this point??? Everything you see looks like it could hide an artillery shell underneath it. A pack of 5 dogs begins to chase truck 2 in the street as the other trucks continue their paths. We aren’t moving or stopping for anything. In this area its survival of the meanest as these same dogs are probably some that have been seen feeding on dead enemy, a real pleasant sight.
I could explain every detail to you about it but you wouldn’t feel the sneaky eyes peeking around corners with cell phones calling trigger men ahead waiting to try to blow you up or you wouldn’t feel the weight on your chest as you swerve to miss the crater holes and the radio chatter is calling out the probable IEDs spotted. Its very surreal because while this is going on small kids are waving hello at you on the sidewalks. I guess that’s better than them mashing their thumbs down imitating the act of detonating an IED like they sometimes do. This place is crazy. As we drive Ive now counted at least twenty IED crater holes in the road and have lost count there are so many. However, this fear keeps you razor sharp and alert with adrenalin pumping in your veins to where it takes an hour or so to chill the hell out. Smoke em if ya gotem!
Just as we enter the friendly lines a large IED goes off behind us. It was triggered too late to hit us and no one was injured, well that was number five says one of the Marine, 6 if you count the one we discovered and detonated ourselves. As we pull in to our destination, prayer begins and the familiar Arabic chant is broadcasted throughout the area. You remind your Marines of where not to position themselves because of past sniper shots claiming warriors. The Marines are fired up and have lightening reflexes ready for anything. It’s a good thing because I think if “Bambi” the deer ran across them now the little thing would be vapor.
We conduct our mission on scene and adjust to do the run again. Its another fine day here in Iraq.
Semper Fi, time for a cigar!
POSTED BY CAPT B AT 9:29 AM Comments (23) | Trackback (0)
How far such communication is from the days of Rameses! I agree with the anonymous commenter who wrote CaptB that he “Felt like I was there with you Capt, through your riveting account. How did you ever learn to write like that? It is an amazing gift! We can never thank you and your Marines enough for the outstanding service and sacrifice you are providing America every day. You are all in our hearts and prayers.”
The ordinary soldier can now tell his story, in his own words, even with his own pictures. And by doing so, he is changing the world of media and politics.
Originally posted November 26, 2005 at PolicyByBlog