Saturday, August 30, 2008

Michael Yon: Making the Transition from Iraq to AfPak

30 August 2008

I blogged earlier about Michael Yon on April 16, 2008.

Mr. Yon is a retired US special forces soldier who has been functioning as a (rare) independent embedded journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004.

In an interview, Mr. Yon said that when he first went to Iraq, “I knew we were losing the war,” and that “it was worse than the news was portraying.”

Mr. Yon was somewhat surprised upon returning to Iraq in 2006 to find morale quite high among American troops in Iraq, though the need for the later troop surge was then evident (for example, single soldiers were manning guard posts in volatile locations such as Fallujah and Basra). Nonetheless, he sensed a shift in momentum at that time, as soldiers on the ground were increasingly optimistic and in good spirits.

Mr. Yon was among the first to describe the turning tide in Iraq (well articulated in his April 11, 2008 Wall Street Journal editorial), which is now quite evident. He frankly described repeated and abysmal policy missteps on the part of US Command prior to the arrival of General David Petraeus (who appears to have systematically remedied these grievous strategic transgressions). But Yon was one of the first to perceive that the tactical errors of the insurgent forces (including in particular the emerging al Qaeda presence) were greater still. That is, the insurgents so greatly alienated the local population that the sympathies of the people (particularly the Sunni minority, as I read events) shifted strongly toward the American and allied forces (who under General Petraeus had initiated a dispersed relationship-building strategy with the local population).

Interestingly, Mr. Yon has concluded that his job in Iraq is now done, and, via a sojourn in Nepal, he is settling in to report independently from Afghanistan and Pakistan (which he refers to in shorthand as "AfPak").

Mr. Yon describes the Afghan conflict as now "coming at our windshield at 100 miles per hour."

My guess is, Mr. Yon will be providing the same kind of independent and insightful reporting on the Afghan-Pakistani conflict that he produced in Iraq.

The effort of reporting independently from the front lines costs him several hundred thousand dollars per year, and he is funded only by book sales and donations.

My advice - help this guy out.

We have bought the book (Moment of Truth in Iraq).

You can do the same, or you may donate here.

Click here for Mr. Yon's overview of the new AfPak mission, "Hurricane Afghanistan."

Click here for Mr. Yon's independent website.

Click here for Mr. Yon's dispatches by series.

Click here for Mr. Yon's January 21, 2008 New York Times interview: "Frontline Blogger Covers War in Iraq With a Soldier’s Eyes."

Click here for Mr. Yon's April 11, 2008 WSJ editorial ("Let's Surge Some More").

Click here for Mr. Yon's three-part 2006 series on the Afghan Conflict, "The Perfect Evil."

Bruce Willis announced a plan to produce a movie based on Mr. Yon's work in Iraq in 2005. I have not been able to find any reference more recent than this story in The Times Online.

On May 2, 2005, Mr. Yon photographed U.S. Army Major Mark Bieger cradling an Iraqi girl wounded by shrapnel from a car bomb. Major Bieger tried to bring the girl to an American hospital to receive treatment but she died on the helicopter ride. The photo was submitted to TIME magazine; it was subsequently selected by TIME website viewers as the top photo of 2005, receiving 66% of the vote (source: Wikipedia).

Mr. Yon's mailing address follows (checked daily; this is the best way to reach him):

Michael Yon
P.O. Box 5553
Winter Haven, FL 33880

Prepare to have your mind expanded.


1 comment:

  1. the truth about that photo: google it "We Used the Kids as Human Shields"

    "I hear from soldiers' mouths about how they pee into empty plastic water bottles and toss them at Iraqi children, or how they give candy to the children not to win their hearts but in order to obtain human shields, or how they shoot into a car or a house for the fun of it.

    The Iraqis will remember this for years to come. The brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of those killed and tortured and raped will remember for years and years to come. This is the stuff of blowback, that no neo-con general or politician or pundit would acknowledge before the war started nor will they acknowledge in the decades to come.

    America will continue to reap what is sown. I can only weep"