Information Warfare: The Most Photographed War in History

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January 10, 2006: The Iraq war is probably the most photographed war in history. That is largely thanks to digital cameras, and troop access to the Internet. In Iraq, and most parts of Afghanistan, troops can get daily access to email. That's the combination that has created a flood of photos from the front. Daily emails to and from home, which result in requests for photos, got the flood going, and keeps it going. The digital cameras, of course, need no film or developing, so the troops attach each days digital pictures to their emails. In some units, commanders have had to limit the amount (in megabytes) of digital pictures being emailed back home, because on some nights, they clogged the relatively narrow pipe the troops used to access the net. The troops also had digital vidcams, but most of these vids were shipped back on CDs or in flash memory drives.

Historians are slowly becoming aware of the huge trove of pictorial material available on the war, not to mention all those emails. Troops are writing much more than earlier wars, if only because it's easier to do, and delivery is rapid and certain.

All this communications with the folks back home should, in theory, present enormous security problems. But this has not happened. During earlier wars, officers had to read, and if need be, censor, letters written by their troops. Some of that double checking is still done, but by software, not overworked officers. More paranoid commanders s till fear a major security breech because of the freely available email access, but a major incident has not yet occurred. For the truly paranoid, one has to also consider the cheap (a few cents a minute) telephone calls back home. No problems there yet either. Historians will be able to get their hands on the the troops talking as well, after a fashion. Some troops have sent home videos with sound tracks of the soldier describing what is being shown.

The end result will be a very different view of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, if only because more views were provided by all those gearhead troops.

 


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