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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Michael Yon

I've mentioned him on my other blog, but here is a good post I stole that is worth reading. I hope the author forgives me, but this is too well done to pass by.

Why You Should Read and Support Michael Yon

by J.R. Head

When I saw that Michael Yon had joined us here at Big Hollywood, I was overjoyed. This is a great opportunity to expand his audience and, frankly, everyone should read his stuff. Yon has been embedding with military units in combat for the better part of the last four years and has been bringing the ground-level truth to those that care to read it.


I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered his writings but it was at a point where he was disagreeing with the spin coming from the Bush White House regarding progress in Iraq. I was disturbed to have confirmation that things were not quite as we were being told but Yon’s critiques, while serious and undiluted, were constructive in nature. I could tell that he was supportive of the effort even though he sometimes railed against the execution of it. Michael Yon pulls no punches and I checked back often to see what else he had to say. Eventually, the network news would catch up and start reporting things that Yon had written about weeks, often months, earlier. This is a pattern that continues today.

As bad as things sometimes got, Michael always kept faith with our troops. He believed, as I did, that the quality of the individual soldiers and Marines would eventually win over the Iraqi people and, if given time, the Iraqis would succeed in building a free nation for themselves.

And things got bad. Day after day… bad news. Suicide bombings. Iraqi civilians, women and children killed. IED and sniper attacks. Politicians in Washington said Iraq was a “total failure.” They said Marines were killing “innocent civilians in cold blood.” “This war is lost.” And the hits just kept on coming. General David Petraeus was targeted by George Soros’ in the New York Times and cast as a liar before he even had the chance to testify before Congress. People who continued to support the effort were ridiculed. Don’t you have any idea what’s going on? Aren’t you paying attention? We’re losing! We shouldn’t be there! People are dying and for what? Retreat. Pull out. Surrender. Defeat.

Some friends who had been supporters of the Iraq mission began to waver. They’d say, “How did we lose this? What are we doing? It’s unwinnable.” I started to despair, as well. I never lost faith in the abilities of our military. Rather, I attributed the failure to the civilian leadership and the purposeful hamstringing of the effort by those in opposition to it.

Thank goodness I started reading Michael Yon again at about that point in time. Michael had been writing about the beginnings of what eventually became known as the “Anbar Awakening.” The change in strategy that General Petraeus implemented combined with AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) overplaying their hand had started to turn the tide. This was mid-2007, mind you. When the “news” we were getting on television, in the papers and from some in Washington was darkest, reading Yon’s first hand accounts of the advances our men and women were making and the relationships they were building with the expanding Iraqi Army allowed me to argue my position with renewed vigor. It inspired me to write to leaders in D.C. and demand that they not abandon our troops in the field. How many others were inspired to do likewise? I’m sure I wasn’t alone. I’m also sure that it had some impact.

YonPhotoLarge Michael Yon’s 2005 photo

Funny, but as late as July of 2008, I was still having discussions with people who were saying that Iraq was lost… a failure. By then, the good news could no longer be contained or ignored and it had started being reported by the major news outlets that Iraq had begun to stabilize but, unfortunately, the meme had been set. In fact, one day I had Yon’s book, “Moment of Truth in Iraq” in my hand (already written and published) and this guy at my agency was telling me that we lost in Iraq. I handed him the book and said, “For Pete’s sake, man, read this book before you fucking vote in November.” He said he would. He didn’t. I received it back after the election, unread. He “never got around to it.” His guy had won. His guy had inherited an Iraq that is on its way to being a free country and, hopefully, a staunch ally. Hopefully he won’t screw it up.

I wonder if it could have happened had Michael Yon come home a year earlier. If I’d had to rely on the major news organizations for my information, I would never have known about the Anbar Awakening. I might not have written any letters to those who hold the purse strings and make policy. I may have lost hope along with so many others. Perhaps, we would have pulled out at the turn of the tide, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We’ll never know.

Now, Michael Yon is in Afghanistan. He’s been there before. When everyone was focused on Iraq, he was warning back in 2006 that we could lose Afghanistan if certain issues weren’t addressed. Now, he’s returned to that country and is, once again, calling it as he sees it. In fact, that may have recently caused him to lose his embed privileges with the British forces he’d been travelling with. I’ll never understand these things.

Please visit Michael’s website. Find out what is going on. If you feel that some information you find needs to be pounded into some politician’s brain housing group, then make a call, send an email or a letter and tell them. Tell them.

Oh, and Mr. Yon gets by on reader donations. This helps defray the cost of putting himself in harm’s way with nothing but his camera to shoot with and his laptop to type with so that he can tell you what others can’t or won’t. Please consider hitting his tip jar.

Semper fidelis,


(Me) (Blacktail Books)