After four years in Iraq, the U.S. military has redefined how it communicates in a war zone. From action-packed videos on YouTube to blogger conference calls with key commanders, the military is providing more access to what’s going on in Iraq than during any other war before it.
While the military gave traditional journalists access to the battlefield from the start of the war in March 2003, only recently has the same courtesy been extended to ordinary bloggers.
In fact, it wasn’t until last November that the first Pentagon-credentialed blogger, Mark Finkelstein of NewsBusters, traveled to Iraq. While others who have gone may have done blogging, Finkelstein actually listed his profession as “blogger,” causing some in the military’s credentialing office to do a double-take.
In the months that followed, popular conservative blogger Michelle Malkin embedded with Army troops at Forward Operating Base Justice in Baghdad. Upon her return, Malkin wrote, “I came to Iraq a darkening pessimist about the war…. I left Iraq with unexpected hope and resolve.”
It’s that type of experience that has prompted other bloggers to forsake the comfort of America for the uncertainty in Iraq. In the coming days, bloggers Victoria Coates and Jeff Emanuel of RedState will make the trip to Baghdad. The pair raised $10,000 from readers to pay for their expenses. “The last thing we want to do is to ‘spin’ events to meet our perceptions, hopes, or expectations; what we want is, like many others, to know and to convey the truth as it really is -- not as we want it to be,” they wrote last month for Human Events.
Some bloggers can’t seem to stay away. One of them is Michael Yon, a Special Forces veteran who went to Iraq in December 2004 as a writer who knew little about blogging. Yon embedded with a British unit after being shunned by the Pentagon. At first, he avoided the blogger label. But as blogging became more accepted, so too did his work.
Then there’s Michael Totten. He edged out Yon as The Week’s Blogger of the Year. Totten won the honors for his reporting in Iraq and the Middle East, giving “Boots on the Ground” blogging an even higher profile.