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Magazines > Searcher > February 2005
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Vol. 13 No. 2 — February 2005
Blogs of War
A Review of Alternative Sources for Iraq War Information
by Paul S. Piper
Librarian, Western Washington University
and Miguel Ramos
Library Technician, ILL, Western Washington University

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 [] is a large collection of categorized, unannotated links to sites that deal with Iraq. It links to nearly 100 Iraqi civilian and soldier blogs. The portal goes far beyond blogs, including links to Iraqi media, Iraqi political groups, NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), mail groups, civil and social groups, and even recreational sites. Created by Justin Alexander of Development Gateway, the site is kept very current. At the time of writing, The Iraq Blog Count [
had 83 blogs recorded and at least partially described. Some of these were defunct even at press time, but a lot of interesting sites remain, including a number in Arabic. (We describe this blog in more detail below.) Blog Catalog [] has a small but valuable category of Iraq blogs, which are updated regularly. Yahoo!'s Iraq Weblogs [
is a large collection, but the organization of links is somewhat haphazard since many of the blogs are not government/military sanctioned. Still, the Yahoo! folks provide a timely collection, each with a brief annotation. And last, but certainly not least, comes Google's Weblog Directory (via the Open Directory Project) [
. Although the directory has no discrete Iraq blogs category, a search in its Weblogs category retrieved 608 hits on Iraq. These require sorting and scrutiny, but you can still find some excellent resources here.

General Iraq War Blogs

While not all technically blogs, these sites provide a variety of background and analysis, political, social, and economic, as well as reference material on the Iraqi conflict.

Blogs of War [] is an Iraqi war blog featuring news, analysis, political commentary, military events and news, along with an extensive collection of military and Iraqi links, posted by John Little. The site features a "Research Center" with categorized links, including Iraq and Terrorism. The section called Blogs of War "Hot Spot" pages collects Internet resources for countries that are flashpoints in the War on Terror, including Iraq. This site leans to the right. Military Photos [] features extensive photographs of the Iraq War, as well as a forum for discussion [].

The Iraq Coalition Casualty Count [] collects news and statistics on killed and wounded coalition members, while the Iraq Body Count [] collects statistics on civilian deaths. These are both very detailed and up-to-date.

Featuring posts by someone identified only as "wretchard," The Belmont Club [] combines military history, analysis, and links to news stories. The site contains extensive archives from April 2003. IraqNow Countercolumn [] provides hard-hitting commentary and analysis by Jason Van Steenwyk, who leans to the right, and provides archives back to November 2003.

Iraq War News Blogs

News from Iraq has been considered troublesome from the first. Every network and venue was accused of bias, from the embedded journalists to Aljazeera. But more than biased, a large percentage of the news was considered packaged, diluted, and spun for tidy consumption. People looking for authentic, unedited, eyewitness reports were largely out of luck. Several blogs started by reporters were shut down by their employers. Kevin Sites, a reporter for CNN, had his blog shut down. He is no longer with CNN, but his site is back up. Joshua Kucera has not gone back on the air since Time magazine editors demanded that he shut down his blog, The Other Side []. While he obliged, it appears he's switched jobs. The blogs detailed here provide a look into what independent journalists and news bloggers are witnessing, thinking, and writing.

The Command Post Iraq [] is a blog for Iraq War news and puts a positive spin on the progress coalition troops are making. Posts are chosen from a variety of sources, including military sources. This page is part of the Library of Congress MINERVA permanent historical collection on the war in Iraq. The posts are chosen by Alan E. Brain, an Australian, and archived back to March 2003. Warblogging [] was founded in July 2002 by George Paine. "The purpose of the site is to provide another voice in the chorus of Americans calling for a balanced and reasonable foreign policy and a domestic policy that respects the United States Constitution and the rule of law." While this site leans left on certain issues, it attempts to adhere to strict constitutionalism. The site is not dedicated exclusively to the Iraq War, but the war news section, Warstories:CC, is searchable by keyword and can be limited to "Iraq and Gulf War Redux." The site also offers date limiting. When I searched for articles using the above limiter, the search retrieved 9,778 articles. Each article is posted in abbreviated form, with a link to the original article, time, date, source, and a feedback-post option.

The blog hosted by Christopher Allbritton, former AP and New York Daily News reporter, is called Back to Iraq []. Allbritton is currently freelancing on his third trip to Iraq, where he has stationed himself primarily in Baghdad. Allbritton was the first reader-funded journalist blogger. When we asked Allbritton about the experience, he confirmed that he was "no longer actively soliciting donations. I'm now a stringer for Time magazine and others ... I had to move my career forward." The site contains reportage, commentary, and occasional graphics and video clips. It is extremely well-written, insightful, and contains extensive archives back to November 2003. Allbritton claims to have a daily readership of around 25,000.

Kevin Sites of Kevin Sites Blog [] is a freelance solo journalist currently on assignment for NBC News in Iraq, but this site is his personal blog and is not affiliated with or funded by NBC News. It contains archives back to March 2003. Sites is currently embedded with the Third Battalion, First Regiment Marines. His reports detail daily life in that unit, as well as overviews of the war and general situation in Iraq. His insights into the young men fighting this war are poignant and incisive, as the following quote demonstrates: "They switch from playing imaginary war games on an Xbox in the base rec rooms to living and fighting in a real war. They flip from astounding maturity, trusting each other with their lives, brotherly bonds, to head-shaking juvenile antics — belittling each other's manhood, intelligence, and haircuts."

1000 Words from Iraq [] features posts by an

embedded journalist who calls herself Buffbabe220, and currently resides in Mosul. As an embedded journalist, she has witnessed almost every aspect of military life and traveled extensively within Iraq. Her posts are honest and often brash. The site features archives back to July 2004 and contains a commanding list of war blog links. Stuart Hughes, a world news producer for the BBC [], kept a blog that seemed defunct as of June 28, 2004, but still contains a rich archive starting in February 2003. Stuart lost his leg from a landmine on April 2, 2003, while covering the Iraq War in the Kurdish north of the country; his companion journalist was killed.

Designed to provide an overview of Gulf War redux, as well as the American government situation and civil liberties issues in the U.S., Warblogs:cc [] is a left-leaning site. A Soldier's Blog [] features items clipped from news sources, as well as references provided by Patti Bader. This site has a distinct right-wing Christian and optimistic flavor. Daily War News [], defiantly anti-war, keeps track of war casualty stories, pulling from major news sources and networks. It also has a collection of maps of Iraq — topographical, political, ethnic, oilfields — as well as several maps of Baghdad.

Milbloggers (Soldiers' Blogs)

The idea for this article came after reading Jarhead by Anthony Swofford, which told the story of a marine who fought in the Gulf War. Reading his words and insights led to an interest in U.S. soldiers' stories coming out of Iraq via the Internet. At the time of writing, there were far too many of these to document, so we have chosen what we feel is a representative sample with respect to quality. These blogs function in many ways, serving as communication conduits for family and friends, soapboxes, personal diaries, confessionals, and centers of discourse. The writing styles and abilities of these young men and women vary, as do their political beliefs, their passions, their perceptions, and their experiences. The blogs are a mirror held to the hearts and minds of the soldiers fighting and serving in Iraq.

Certainly one of the greatest features of blogs is their interactivity. Many of these blogs have substantial readerships, and each post often generates a large number of responses, some of which lead to passionate discussion.

Certain soldiers have been pressured to close down their blogs. The reasons vary, and, while there does not appear to be any large-scale overall filtering of soldier blogs, sporadic censorship does seem to exist. The Operations Security (OPSEC) prohibits disseminating information on exact troop location, troop movement, weaponry, intel, and anything else that could potentially compromise the effectiveness of warfighting and cause loss of lives. Many soldier bloggers choose to remain anonymous.

Most of the blogs mentioned here contain links, sometimes copious, to other soldier's blogs, as well as Iraq-related blogs and Web sites.

Finally, as one soldier pointed out in his blog, "It's true what they say that the first casualty of war is innocence. You watch war movies about the heroes that fought in previous wars and wish you could have been fighting with those brave men. Until you live it for real. I've found the hard way that war is not glamorous. You quickly lose the idea of being a man fighting for his country when you have to carry your comrade who has been wounded in a gun fight. That nobility is lost quickly. When I go back to Iraq or even when I was there, it quickly went from freeing a people and fighting for my country, to just plain trying to stay alive." [] The power of the observations and commentary in the following blogs ranges from the mundane to the truly profound.

Live from Iraq

In News from Baghdad [], a soldier named Jay shares his "views on my day-to-day life in Baghdad. Just some personal views on the politics and public views in this war that has been too oftentimes tainted by the sensationalism of the media." His reporting of life with his platoon is heartfelt. The Questing Cat [] features introspective, up-to-date reports by a soldier serving in the northern sector. Although preferring to remain anonymous, he serves in the 1st Infantry Division, is 22 years old, and has served in the army on active duty for a year and in the National Guard for about 4 years prior. The blog features archives back to April 2004. A Candle in the Dark [] comes from a soldier who calls himself Combat Doc. He is currently a medic assigned to an Infantry battalion in Mosul with the Army's new Stryker Brigade. This blog is largely a soapbox for the author's views on military and American politics, and how they intersect with this war. He is, however, an intelligent and articulate writer. The author of Iraq Calling [] is also in the medical field. He is married and, while in Iraq, missed the birth of his fifth child. The author, an accomplished writer, has seen a lot of action. He is studying Arabic and Iraqi culture, so his posts often contain information about that environment seen from a Western perspective. The archives stretch back to March 2004 and he typically posts at least once a week.

A different venue for information out of Iraq comes in the form of The Greenside [], where the father of Lt. Col. David Bellon, USMC, posts his marine son's letters. These letters are up-to-date reports of warfighting and daily observation and retain the intimacy and personality of letters. Another site that uses the format of letters is Letters from Baghdad []. A soldier who calls himself "kuri" sends information on his deployment in the form of letters home to his wife. These letters contain details of a soldier's life in Iraq that one would share with a spouse. While there have been no posts since August 11, 2004, the site contains extensive archives beginning in February 2003.

Dagger Jag [] details a soldier lawyer's life in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd (DAGGER) Brigade. The author is literate, articulate, and includes numerous facts and details about Iraqi culture, military law, and daily life in Iraq. The site contains archives starting in January 2004. A different take on Iraq comes from a soldier who has clearly not found God in a foxhole. The Atheist Soldier [] signs his posts "kinser." While primarily analytical, the blog carries numerous links to statistics and continual rebuttals of media claims. He makes a grand attempt to debunk what he considers the myths of this war and emerges as a truly independent thinker.

A Line in the Sand [] is the blog of Chris Missick, a sergeant with the 319th Signal Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserves. He previously served in Afghanistan and, while serving his National Guard duty, was shipped to Iraq. He remains a committed soldier and hosts an archive extending back to April 2004. OIF [] features posts by SPC Joseph M Meadows, 449th AG Co. The blog contains good detail and insight into daily military life. A quote of Meadow's demonstrates the power of these blogs, and the two-way communications medium they establish: "The support of Americans, even those who may not agree with the war, for me and my comrades, is amazing." SPC Meadows posts frequently and often includes photographs. The site contains archives starting on December 7, 2003. Whitney Deployed [] contains posts by Michael Whitney, a noncombat officer (NCO) with the Army who listens to System of a Down, has a wife and three children, and is deployed in Taji, Iraq. The site contains archives back to June 2004.

Operation Truth [] is a nonprofit (501c4), nonpartisan Veterans' organization that seeks to amplify the soldiers' voice in the American public dialogue. This organization believes that American servicemen and women have a voice that deserves to be heard and that the issues and hardships troops face merit attention.

Women Soldiers' Blogs

Women in the military are prohibited from participating in combat, so the duties they are assigned run from medical corps to mechanical. These blogs give some insight into what they experience, think, and wish.

Life in This Girl's Army [] features posts by a soldier who calls herself Sgt. Lizzie. Her posts are heartfelt and perceptive. Archives date back to August 2004. Deployed in Baghdad, Ambotchka [] carries posts from a soldier who calls herself Amber. She's been a blogger for a long while and has archives going back to April 2001.

The name of her blog, A View from a Broad [], portrays the brash sense of humor of the soldier who calls herself "ginmar" and is on a 1-year deployment in Iraq. The blog is a candid look at a woman soldier's perspective from a self-described "Unabashed blue collar — as opposed to college — feminist with an interest in debate and/or bitching."

Desertdiet [] features posts from a 27- year-old hospital corpsman and laboratory technician. The posts are very graphic and colored by the emotional tones of someone involved daily with the injuries and casualties of war. The site contains archives beginning in July 2004.

Censored Blogs

My War [] is a Web site run by a soldier with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team, who calls himself CBFTW. He is actually Army Specialist Colby Buzzell. The site has received a lot of press lately and was finally closed down by the military. Currently, posts are irregular and infrequent, and seem no longer written by Buzzell, which is too bad, for Buzzell is a raw and talented writer and had a gift for conveying the verve and chaos of this war. A fellow soldier blogger commented that CBFTW "captured the soul of what's actually happening on the streets." An archive still exists back to June 2004. leviraq [] states on his site, "Sorry folks, I've been advised to stop blogging for the time being." The archives have been taken down as well.

A national guardsman named Jason started the blog Just Another Soldier [] and, in the author's words, was "informed that I have violated operational security and additionally that I am smearing my unit and the Army. I, of course, strenuously disagree." As an alternative to his blog, he started a mail list, and his archives are available via e-mail. Recently, he has begun another blog [] and re-posted his archives extending back to September 2003. e-rocky-confidential [] is another blog that received attention from the press recently. Considering that the author discusses and links, in his last post (August 11, 2004), to two other blogs recently shut down by the military, he has probably succumbed to the same fate. The author is an anonymous outspoken PFC in the army. His archives extend back through January 2004.

Back in the USA

The author of turningtables [], identified only as a lower-ranked Army sergeant, calls himself "moja" and is now back in the U.S. The blog features archives from June 2003. Posts to this blog are now infrequent, but reflect, as all these sites do, the contrast between life in the U.S. and life as a warrior in Iraq. Boots on the Ground [] depicts the daily life of a soldier in the Army who was stationed in Baghdad, returned to the U.S., and, as of this writing, is scheduled to return to Iraq. Posts are regular and typically no more than 7 days apart. The site contains an archive dating back to October 2003. Doc in a Box [] is the blog of Sean Dustman, a Corpsman with a Marine Helo Squadron. Dustman is no longer in Iraq, but this blog features great archives dating from January 2004. Many of the current posts, however, are fairly mundane renditions of a day-in-the-life stateside.

Koka Sexton, an army reservist from the 341st Military Police Company who has returned to California after a 14-month tour in Iraq, is the author of A Walk Through the Valley of Death [], a blog now dedicated to analysis and news of the war and related issues, particularly terrorism.

Iraqi Blogs

Reflecting regular people's lives in Iraq, these blogs offer insights into the daily situation of life under U.S. occupation and the messiness of attempting to transition from a dictatorship to a democracy. Most of these bloggers reside in Baghdad, and all of them appear to be well-educated, professionally employed, upper-middle class citizens. From pro-American to highly critical, these blogs offer unfiltered opinions and accounts of life in a war-torn country.

Where Is Raed? [], the most "famous" Iraqi blog, was the first to come to light. First launching on September 9, 2002, and calling himself Salam Pax, the blogger claimed to be a 29-year-old Iraqi architect and quickly won the attention of thousands for his sense of irony and humor in the face of extreme adversity. Peter Maass of calls him "the Anne Frank of the war...and its Elvis." The site has not been updated since August 2004, but Salam has collected many of his posts in a recently released book entitled Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi. Salam was present in Baghdad before, during, and after operation "Shock and Awe" and his blog contains archives from December 2002.

The blog Iraq Blog Count [] features contributions from 12 separate bloggers, providing disparate views of life in and about Iraq. Not all of these bloggers currently reside in Iraq. Those that do are self-identified as students living in Baghdad and Mosul. The site updates frequently and has archives dating back to November 2003, as well as links to over 100 other blogs. Posts are largely anti-war in nature.

Written by three brothers, two employed as dentists, one as a doctor, all born in Baghdad and currently living in Iraq (Samawa City, Basra, and Baghdad), Iraq the Model [] is frequently updated and features archives dating to November 2003. One of the brothers recently helped form and register the "Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party," which will participate in the upcoming elections. The authors are pro-American, pro-democratic, and very happy that Saddam is gone.

Another of the better-known Iraqi blogs, Baghdad Burning [], is authored by a woman who calls herself "Riverbend." Riverbend identifies herself as a 23-year-old engineer living in Baghdad. She is a potent and articulate writer and not sympathetic to the current military action in her country. Archives are available from August 2003. A Star From Mosul [] is the blog of a 16-year-old Iraqi girl living in Mosul. She writes about her experiences in school and her hopes for further study at a university, as well as the disruptions of wartime life (the electricity being shut off for 35 hours) and her take on the current political situation. She also seems to have a lively on-going dialogue with many of those who post comments to her site. Baghdad Girl [] is written by 13-year-old Raghda Zaid, a school girl in Baghdad. This pink-colored blog is primarily full of photos of cats and accounts of Raghda's family and school life, punctuated every few posts by brief accounts of what it's like to live in a war-zone. The innocence of this site accentuates the violence that surrounds her and other children in Iraq and their attempts to remain ordinary kids.

Healing Iraq [] is written by Zeyad, born of Sunni Muslim parents in Baghdad. Currently a dentist in residency, his was the first Iraqi blog to open a "Comments" section. His stated aim is to present the positive side of Iraq. He regularly posts eyewitness accounts of the chaos and violence that surround him while he tries to go on with his studies and his life. Another dentist blogger authors Iraq at a Glance []. Living in Baghdad, this writer is optimistic about Iraq's future and has some interesting analysis of the influence of clerics and insurgents, the way that American soldiers behave in Iraq, and the role of kidnappings in funding terrorists. The blog's tone is one of hope for Iraq's future. Written by an engineer in Baghdad, The Mesopotamian [] is also very pro-American and pro-democratic. Many of the posts come in the form of offering advice for the U.S. military, how best to use their forces, where attention needs to be paid, and explanations of the Sunni and Shiite relations. He advocates a military approach to "quelling the armed and terrorist revolt."

Raed in the Middle [] is highly critical of the U.S. presence. Raed (the same Raed who contributes frequently to Salam Pax's blog) brings together news reports from diverse sources and adds his own commentary to what is occurring in the Middle East. Knowledgeable, informative, and opinionated, Raed's blog offers a critical look at Iraq's state of affairs. A Family in Baghdad [] is written by a mother and three sons (including the Raed of "Raed in the Middle"). This blog is characterized as a family's diary, though most of the posts are written by the mother, Faiza. She links to her son's individual blogs as well. Faiza is clearly a strong, independent woman, and she writes both about the continuing war in Iraq and about her daily life, such as moving from one residence to another, or what it's like when a bomb goes off near where you are buying vegetables.

Written by an engineering student, Sun of Iraq [] has infrequent posts and is unpolished in comparison to other Iraqi blogs. This blogger is pro-democratic and is trying to both understand and explain the tensions in Iraq and the ways that his country can move forward. And finally, Iraq Humanity [] is a sparsely posted blog by a 20-year-old medical student at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdadwho offers an interesting view of life in war-time Iraq — that of the hospital. With reports of explosions, exam results, and fellow student debates about the American presence, this blog could prove of great interest as the U.S. extends its stay. Hopefully Dr. Saif will write more.

Critiques of the Iraq War

These blogs look at the war from progressive or legal viewpoints to offer critiques of the U.S. administration's handling of Iraq, as well as other foreign policy decisions and policies.

Intel Dump [] features military analysis on the situation in Iraq, written by former Army officer Phil Carter. This blog offers an in-depth, intriguing look at the military, often from a legalistic viewpoint: "A daily record of America's post-9/11 impact on the world."

The War in Context [] consists of articles, often with comments from blogger Paul Woodward, primarily about the war in Iraq, as well as other locales in which America exerts its influence. This blog serves as a compilation of reports and critiques. Woodward's take is critical of the U.S. administration's decisions and direction. With archives dating back to October 2001, this blog offers a historical, focused view on U.S. hegemony.

Informed Comment [] is written by a professor of history at the University of Michigan. This blog clearly serves as a critique of the Bush administration and "neocon" policies that have embroiled the U.S. in war. Informed, passionate, and provocative, this blog (winner of the 2003 Koufax Award for Best Expert Blog) is a good place to check out progressive thought on where the U.S. is headed and how we got where we are.


As extensive as the preceding collection of Iraqi blogs is, it represents only the tip of the iceberg. The phenomenon of blogging is growing dynamically. Ordinary people are motivated and energized by technology that allows their voices, insights, observations, and opinions to be broadcast worldwide. Given the short time the Internet has existed and the oppressive controls of conventional media outlets, blogging is truly a miracle. And there is no question that it will represent a significant journalistic force in future conflicts, disasters, and events. Blogs have also begun to contribute significantly to public discourse.

There is a refreshing lack of pretension and dishonesty in most of these blogs. Whether one agrees with the views of the authors or not, the candid depictions can often be disarming. We found ourselves, again and again, connecting with the authors as people and secondarily responding to their viewpoints. We are optimistic that the power of these blogs to galvanize us as human beings and world citizens will allow us to respect even those with whom we disagree.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there is no organized archiving of this information. A task for librarians and archivists and historians and news source devotees awaits.

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