Blogs of War: A Review of Alternative Sources for Iraq War Information

Article excerpt

For better or worse, the information coming out of war zones has increased and accelerated. Along with other technological advances in war fighting and surveillance, the Internet, specifically blogs, has driven this evolution. Blogs, essentially interactive online diaries or journals, have liberated the "common person," giving them the ability to speak and perform eyewitness journalism. No longer are professional journalists and media conglomerates the exclusive information providers in times of conflict and, specifically to this article, the Iraq War. Currently, anyone with an Internet connection can read and witness the graphic descriptions, complex emotions, and varied opinions of bloggers in Iraq. These bloggers range from professional journalists who want to duck the censorship of large media, to Iraqi citizens, to the soldiers themselves.

The beauty of blogs lies in their immediacy and interactivity. Readers can respond to posts immediately via the comments link and see their responses published automatically. Any blog author will attest that this immediate feedback provides fact-checking, stimulates discourse and debate, and adds extensive content. In the case of Iraqi blogs, both soldier and civilian, these posts "also send love, comfort, support, and advice to and from friends and family.

The blog that achieved mainstream attention during the early phases of the Iraq War, entitled "Where Is Raed?," came from a man known as Salam Pax. He was both irreverent and optimistic, scathing in his hatred for both Iraqi and American leaders and what they were doing to his country. His graphic portrayal of daily life, his fear of dying or being maimed, his love of Western pop culture, and his effervescent humanity forged identification with thousands of readers.

One must keep in mind certain aspects of blogs, especially with regard to war blogs. The anonymity of the author often has strong bearing on what is written and how it is presented. Although knowing an author's identity can add to a blog's authority, the ability to mask one's identity through the use of a pseudonym can also free up the writer from worries of retribution for telling the truth. Knowing that the author of a blog from Iraq is a 13-year-old girl adds poignancy to the pictures of kittens that she posts or her stories of being hungry. Salam Pax was a pseudonym used by an author who feared retribution from Iraqi authorities. Demographic information, when available, can also add to the richness of a blog's contents. Unfortunately, with war blogs, this information is often omitted. The reasons are often related to safety and issues of national and international security. Several soldiers' blogs have been shut down because the content was deemed classified or dangerous to the U.S. mission.

By their very nature, blogs that graphically deal with a wartime situation are raw. They often contain political opinion, profanity, brutal images (both textual and photographic), and can ramble on "unprofessionally." However, the war blogs often reflect "street truth"--undiluted, uncensored, unfiltered words and images. By nature, many of the soldier blogs are volatile with their Web presence dictated by troop movement, job placement, governmental lenience, and, tragically, injury or death. We have attempted to select those sites that appear to be the most stable and of the highest quality: The sites we have chosen are in no way comprehensive. We intend this article as an introduction for interested journalists, historians, political scientists, writers, information professionals, and citizens.

General Directories of Iraqi Blogs

The sites listed and described below provide excellent starting places for investigating the scope of Iraqi blogs and bloggers.

The Future of Iraq Portal [http://www.justinalexan der.net/iraq/] is a large collection of categorized, unannotated links to sites that deal with Iraq. It links to nearly 100 Iraqi civilian and soldier blogs. …