War journalist and active blogger, Michael Yon, has been disembedded from US forces in Afghanistan. As the saying goes, what goes around, comes around…while Yon offers a valuable hearts and minds service to families of deployed service people, his conduct as a precious prima donna with a predilection for shooting from the lip has obviously not made him any friends in GEN McCrystal’s headquarters.
The saga unraveled on Facebook (the dates may be a little out owing to the dodgy datestamps that Facebook applies to posts):
10 April. Got word from military today. Am being disembedded as of 30 April. No idea why. Not a big deal. Not going to fight it this time. Will cover Battle for Kandahar from outside the wire from the Afghan perspective. (Still some dispatches in the pipeline.)
Lunch with Afghans was not so good today. Just bread, rice and taters. The beans usually are good but they were out. Insofar as being disembedded, it’s been said that I’ve spent more time with the military at war than anyone in U.S. history. I do not know that this is true but it sounds good. It’s been a long road that I’ve been lucky to survive. Am looking forward to more work outside the wire.
11 April. Have sent a message to Public Affairs:
Response from military re embed cancellation just arrived. Important to consider that I invested heavily in time/expense to stay with 5/2 SBCT to the end. I came at invitation of 5/2 SBCT and they understood that I was coming for a long embed. Having done this work more than anyone during at least the last two wars, I strongly believe that this decision had to be blessed by a General officer. Will say it clearly: I do not trust General McChrystal or his PAO staff to honestly report to the American public.
I must leave Afghanistan to get a visa and will come back alone. Important to bear in mind that though I am best known for my work with troops, have spent a great deal of time outside the wire. Have written far less about that time, but it has informed my writing and the record is clear that I have called the trajectory of Iraq and Afghanistan as well or better than anyone, and typically far ahead of the pack. This comes from hard work and constant study of the people involved. (Not studying what they say, but what they do and who they are.)Operating with combat troops is very, very dangerous. It is in fact a relief to me (if unfortunate for readers) to get the boot; my chances of emerging from the war with all my arms, legs, eyes and life are probably 5x higher when going alone. There is a journalistic-swagger to going alone which is perpetuated by those who refuse or mostly refuse to go into combat. Reality is that danger and discomfort typically are far higher with combat troops. I know the military side very well. Contacts are vast and varied. Going alone will hardly diminish my access to intelligence, opinions, and operations. I just won’t be getting shot at or picking up arms and legs after a bomb.
So this is Adios to combat with the military, and Hello to streets of Afghanistan and elsewhere, and to halls of influence in power centers around the world where the decisions are made.
This email just in from Public Affairs:
First, thanks for all the great work you’ve done since arriving in February. I hope the three months you’ve spent here was what you hoped for and that you’ve gotten all the support you’ve needed. Unfortunately, we have an extremely long wait list of other professional journalists (81!) that we need to give an opportunity. We’d love for you to come back at some point and I wish you the best in your remaining time here and safe travels in the future.
12 April. Got messages today from high level that military reversed decision on my embed and can stay. Unfortunately I have already made definitive moves to leave. To change now would be expensive and would likely upset others. This work is expensive in every way. Not smart to change directions so quickly. Too late. Also had to kindly decline to go back with British. Carpet has been pulled out from my feet for final time.
13 April. Email just sent to General McChrystal’s Media Man:
Rear Adm. Smith,
I’m a writer embedded with U.S. Forces in RC-South. RC-South PAO recently apprised me that the embed was ended. This happened precipitously and for dubious cause. Cited cause: embed overcrowding. I rarely see journalists. Those journalists I see have been doing drive-by reporting. Having embedded before, the PAO pattern is familiar and predictable.
Am with 5/2 SBCT. It was agreed, as prerequisite of my coming back with infantry, that I would stay with 5/2 to RIP. As a matter of business, these moves are expensive and time consuming. When the military fails to uphold its side, persistent problems are created from air.
After extracting from the field to KAF after PAO notification, was told by 5/2 Commander that I am welcome to stay. I am considering this offer but need assurance by your office that PAOs will go through you before disembedding me.
And so it’s down to you, Sir.
Shall I stay or shall I go?
15 April. Response came in from Rear Admiral Smith (General McChrystal’s Media Man): Michael, I understand both the IJC and HQ ISAF PA shops are aware and working to resolve. They should be back to you shortly. ATB, GjS
McChrystal’s crew has spoken: Embed is ended. This comes from McChrystal’s own spokesman (through one CPT Jane Campbell USN cc RADM Greg Smith and COL Wayne Shanks USA). This lends confirmation to ideas that the disembed came from McChrystal’s crew. (If not before, 100% now.) McChrystal cannot be trusted to tell the truth about this war. Packing my bags.
The disembed from McChrytal’s top staff (meaning from McChrystal himself) is a very bad sign. Sends chills that McChrystal himself thinks we are losing the war. McChrystal has a history of covering up. This causes concern that McChrystal might be misleading SecDef and President. Are they getting the facts?
Bottom line? Good riddance… Michael Yon needs to go away for a while, get a life and consider his relationship with the hand that feeds him. Maybe all the adulation from his fans has gone to his head and he actually has begun to believe that he is some kind of water-walking super-journo but he’s had his three strikes and then some with his public attacks on US allies in Afghanistan like Canada and Spain, his recent attacks on President Karzai (he is probably right but there are limits to what am embed can write), and his accusations of dishonesty in the highest echelons of GEN McCrystal’s keadquarters. While I don’t agree with the current Cursed Earth strategy in Afghanistan, it is a big leap from there to the dishonesty and corruption claimed by Yon.
Perhaps when Michael Yon grows up a little, he may realise that the easiest way to deal with a thorn in one’s side is to rip it out and discard it. All the good Michael Yon has done promoting the human side of this war, has been undone by his inability to bite his tongue and see a bigger picture and a world that does not revolve around him. In time, I hope he does come back, but wiser and stronger…
Edit: Michael Yon has pointed that my original Tui on his disembedment gave the impression that he had stated “I am a victim” which he had not so I have amended the ‘billboard’ accordingly.