by Jenn Jarvis
WATERLOO (KWWL) - Wars are often defined by the technology that records them.
The Civil War was the first to be photographed. News reels brought images of World War II back to America. The Vietnam War was broadcast into our living rooms. And the Gulf War was the first to bring us live satellite reports.
Operation Iraqi Freedom, now being dubbed the iWar, is no different.
The Pew Internet Project conducted a study about the Internet and the Iraq War. Their research shows 77 percent of Americans have used the Internet in connection with the war.
All sides are using the Internet to inform and recruit. The multi-national force in Iraq has a Web site to inform the public of the official side of the war. Everything from photos of VIP's in Iraq to transcripts of press briefings, come directly from the military's mouth. Even the insurgents, calling themselves the Islamic Army in Iraq, have a web site detailing attacks and recruiting members.
Americans disturbed by reports and videos on some insurgent sites have formed online coalitions of their own in an effort to convince service providers to remove the content.
The Internet is giving users a glimpse into the minds of those on the ground. Everyone from soldiers to Iraqis are creating Internet journals.
One of the most famous blogs, called Baghdad Burning, started in 2003. With a simple post, the still anonymous author introduced herself as a twenty-something Iraqi who had survived. She wondered who would read her blog, and now her blog posts have been compiled in a book. Identified as River Bend, her last post was in 2007 when she relocated to Syria. But her blog still has an avid following.
Some soldiers have also chosen anonymity, while others are very open about what they post. The military limits what soldiers can say, much like they do embedded journalists. Posts can't include anything that would give away a position or endanger troops. Some bloggers like 1st Lt. Matt Gallagher, have a commanding officer approve their blog posts.
Others choose to remain nameless, like the Usual Suspect. He's the author of one of the most well-known and gritty soldier blogs called the Unlikely Soldier. The blog carries photos and uncensored thoughts. And the author warns the content is not suitable for everyone.
A little closer to home, an ex-interrogator for the U.S. army living in Iowa City is using the Internet to connect with others. Joshua Casteel is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He writes about his experiences as an interrogator at Abu Ghraib and his eventual discharge as a conscientious objector. He and others at IVAW use the Internet to organize veterans and express their opinions.
The Internet is also connecting families. Instead of waiting weeks or even months for pictures and letters, soldiers can sit in their tents and write an e-mail to let family know they are safe and sound. In larger camps where broadband is available, Web cams allow soldiers to see the faces and hear the voices of spouses and children.
A Waterloo-based project called Operation Noble E-mail is working to connect families. Anyone without Internet access and a family member in the military can apply for a free computer and free Internet access. Since its launch in 2004, the project has helped more than 250 families.
The Internet also shows the lighter side of life in Iraq. Soldiers post videos on YouTube that show everything from these Iowa National Guard members having a dance party to this Iowa soldier dared $55 to eat a dung beetle.
A NewsBreak article on InformationToday.com claims there is no definitive Web site for information about the Iraq war. Because there are so many opinions, there cannot be one site to meet everyone's needs. Listed in the article are 15 sites it considers the most informative from different perspectives.