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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
Finding therapy in an Iraq blog
Former soldier Colby Buzzell's blog My War: Killing Time in Iraq has won the second annual Lulu Blooker prize for the best blog turned into a book. He talked to the BBC News website about his writing.

Colby Buzzell
Blogger Colby Buzzell served in Mosul, Iraq, with the US Army

Colby Buzzell is blunt about his motivation for starting his blog, which he posted on the internet for eight weeks from Mosul in 2004 - boredom.

He was into the eighth month of a year-long deployment to Iraq and was looking for a way to "kill time", when he read an article about blogging in Time magazine and decided to give it a go.

He started posting from an internet cafe on the army base, attracting a wide audience - and a buzz among book publishers - before the military ordered him to close his blog for security reasons.

"For me, it was therapeutic to write about what I was experiencing. It's a pretty lonely experience even though you are always around people and always doing stuff," he says.

"You have this feeling like you are stuck there and never going to come home and days just go on and on...

"Writing about it helped to break up the monotony, gave you something to look forward to each day."

Human face

Buzzell, now 30 and from California, says he was initially shocked by the level of interest and e-mails his blog generated.

US soldiers in Mosul, Iraq, in 2004 (file picture)
Buzzell's blog gave an insight into soldiers' experiences in Iraq

He soon realised that his irreverent, unvarnished accounts were providing the kind of insiders' view that the family and friends of US servicemen in Iraq desperately wanted - but could not get.

"When I was over there, there wasn't a single embedded journalist the whole time we were in Mosul, so in a way I was writing the story for people who wouldn't get it in any other way.

"It's hard to find out what's going on out there, hard to put a human face to the war."

Now, most of the e-mails he receives are from "high school and 20-somethings" who have bought his book because they are thinking of joining the military or are about to be posted to Iraq.

Military control

Buzzell, who is now working as a writer, believes the military's recent clampdown on soldiers blogging and viewing popular sites such as MySpace and YouTube will have a negative impact.

"I think it's going to totally destroy their morale - you have soldiers out there for their second, third, even fourth time. A lot of them have lost fellow soldiers.

"One of the few luxuries you have over there is the internet cafes - it gives you a sense of normalcy to go on websites and follow the news, be in touch with family and friends."

But at the same time, he understands the military's concern that security not be jeopardised by pictures or information posted on the internet.

If the Vietnam conflict was the first truly televised war, he says, Iraq is the first internet war.

"We have people seeing for the first time what's going on in Iraq.

"If you search on YouTube you can see views of soldiers blowing up buildings, dead bodies, people getting shot - it's making the military a little nervous because they like to control what gets out there and with the internet, it's hard."

War book wins Blooker blog prize
14 May 07 |  Technology
Controlling the bandwidth of war
15 May 07 |  Americas
Blooker rewards books from blogs
11 Oct 05 |  Technology
'Best blogs on the web' honoured
15 Mar 05 |  Technology

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