Magazine article The Spectator

War on the Web

Magazine article The Spectator

War on the Web

Article excerpt

The pity of war has been well documented ever since we as rivalrous, destructive human beings developed pen and paper. But this latest British conflict against Iraq is the first in which the new possibilities of internet communication have really taken off. Blogs, emails, the YouTube and MySpace websites have given the soldiers out in Basra and Fallujah an unprecedented opportunity to tell not just us back home but the whole world exactly what it's like to be out there, almost as it happens. Just switch on your computer, key into Google and type 'Iraq soldier blogs' and you'll come up with any number -- bootsonground. blogspot. com, justanothersoldier. com -- or at least you could until a number of them were shut down by the military authorities. Back in the Afghan wars of the 1840s, it was only when Dr William Brydon rode into Jalalabad, bloodied, exhausted and almost falling off his horse, that the camp commanders discovered that their army, more than 16,000 soldiers, had been savagely slaughtered by the Afghan rebels a week earlier as they struggled through the Khyber Pass on the retreat from Kabul.

Now it takes only a few minutes for the whole world to know about the latest roadside bomb, and its visceral impact on the brigade back inside base camp. The immediacy, the intimacy, the shocking casualness of the revelations have huge implications for morale, both in the battle zone and back home, and an obvious impact on strategy.

I was hoping that Iraq Online (Radio Four, Wednesday) would give us some insight into all this, and some hope perhaps that there was an upside to this conflict, something we can learn from the first war of the internet age. But at just 30 minutes (why not an hour? ) the programme was not long enough to give us a real flavour of what the soldiers in action have so graphically written about their experiences, and there were no interviews with high-ups in the armed forces, presumably because it's such a sensitive subject. We heard from far more American bloggers than British. Does this tell us something about discipline in the respective forces?

Or the availability of equipment? The US military, we were told, gave their soldiers internet access from the beginning as a morale booster. Has this now backfired on them? It was only after shock-and-awe began that the Pentagon set up a special unit which began checking the blogs to ensure that they reveal no sensitive information and, above all, do not insult the commander-in-chief, GWB. But it's pretty difficult to police the internet, as the Chinese have been finding out. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.