A New Battlefront: Cyberspace
Just as the first televized presidential debate in 1960 changed the way political candidates campaign for office, and the graphic video footage of the Vietnam War changed the way American media cover military conflict, the role of cyberspace in Operation Iraqi Freedom (as the Iraq War is officially named) is marking a technological change in the way the general public is able to gain access and insights to world news events.
Military personell and rogue journalists are reporting first-hand from the trenches and posting it on their blogs for the whole (developed) world to see. Inqusitive U.S. citizens are logging on to al Jazeera's English-language Web site for a Middle Eastern, and often-times less-filtered, perspective on the Iraq War and the War on Terror. In January, millions of people visited YouTube and other video-dissemination sources to view the uncensored footage of Saddam Hussein's hanging.
Today, the Star Tribune announced the U.S. Military has launched its own YouTube channell, featuring footage of firefights, raids and other day-to-day military tasks from a "boots-on-the-ground perspective." I found the videos shocking, enlightening, humanizing, discomforting, and at times disturbing. There is footage of soldiers bantering between one another like the 18- to 22-year-olds that they are as they shoot off weapons that look like they belong in a video game. Then there is footage of the same soldiers scrambling for cover as they take fire from Islamic insurgents. This is not video you would see on the nightly evening news ... it is being captured by the soldiers themselves carrying hand-held videocameras as they go through their daily procedures. If it is edited or censored heavily, I can't imagine the kind of content that has been extracted.
Regardless of the political leanings one has over this war, it must be said that the Military has succeed in offering the public a first-hand account of what it is really like on the ground in Iraq. That transparency is commendable. I don't presume these videos have the ability to change one's beliefs over the war, but they certainly can make us all more invested. That is the power, and advantage, of cyberspace in this new age of war.