Michael's Dispatches

More Flak from Military Public Affairs

29 July 2011
Over the past seven years, there has been a long string of issues flowing from military public affairs officers.  Most of the PAs have been professional, but on balance the experience has been extremely negative.  This is the opposite of what I've experienced with combat units, wherein the experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

The latest meddling from Public Affairs began yesterday after I published photos supplied to me by the Army.  The images show a young Afghan boy who stepped on a bomb.  Apparently the Taliban made the boy step on the bomb which blew off part of his right leg.  Our people at Task Force Spartan took him in for treatment.  Distant busybodies in Public Affairs, who can’t seem to stand it when the military gets positive press, wanted the story taken down.  (After FOX, Instapundit, and others ran the story.)  They cited paragraph 21 of the embed ground rules.  Perhaps they did not imagine that I would review paragraph 21.  The paragraph is unrelated.  The ground rules are published below.

Importantly, if it were against rules to publish photos of wounded locals, the Army would not have released this photo, which I made in 2005.  Military Public Affairs released this photo (illegally, in breach of my copyright protections) before I did.  Here is the photo of a young Iraqi girl, who died shortly before Public Affairs illegally released the photo:  Little Girl.

And so if releasing this is against the rules, public affairs surely broke those rules when it suited them.  However, paragraph 21 makes no such mention.  There is nothing wrong or illegal against my releasing such images.  Nothing is stated or implied that precludes release.

Distant Public Affairs officers are wasting the time of the busy combat leaders here.  Public Affairs is wasting my time.  Stop.

The outcome of this meddling will be published on my Facebook.

isaf media ground rules-1

Please click to view the entire document.


# asafrench 2011-07-28 20:17
what i understand : it s hard to say for the us that you can leave this place with such atrocities there. leaving this country means al quaeda and friends soon coming back . and who s next for the west and what will western friendly people in middle east will think ?
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# Phyllis Pajka 2011-07-28 20:23
It seems strange to me that Public Affairs would care if a picture was published especially if it's the truth. What's with them? Nothing better to do I guess. Give 'em hell Michael.
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# Dennis 2011-07-28 20:24
I hear ya, brother! I've organized triathlons & motorcycle rides to benefit our service members. Always get great support from units, but PAO is a quagmire of regulations and misdirection that almost stopped some of the events. What is their mission?!? How do they support the military?!? Someone needs to answer those questions! ...honestly...
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+1 # Kriste 2011-07-28 20:27

"21b (4) Permission to interview or photograph a patient will be granted only with the consent of the attending physician or facility commander and with the patient's expressed, informed consent, witnessed by the escort. 'Informed consent' means the patient understands his or her picture and/or comments are being collected for news media purposes and they may appear in news media reports."

Can you produce credible evidence that the child and/or his parents received informed consent and gave their permission for you to publish his FACE?

Comparing this the "Little Girl" does not hold water. All that is visible is a bit of her hair and her feet.

Your motivations for publishing the photos of the boy are transparent. They are utterly self-serving and have nothing to do with making sure we know "The Truth".
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# John - Capt in ANG 2011-07-28 20:30
Para 21 states you won't release pictures of injured without a release from the host nation. In this case, it's a Afghan national, so it would be GIRoA. Are there GIRoA guidelines for the release of injured persons? Hate to say it, but at first glance they seem to have a valid point. If it were a US Soldier, and the US commander/PAO released, you would be in the clear. However: 1) It's a minor 2) It's an Afghan.

I'm at work, so I've only briefly read your thread and the ISAF guidelines.
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# Michele 2011-07-28 20:58
Paragraph 21 clearly states that it applies to "personnel". The photo in question is of a civilian.
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# John-Capt in ANG 2011-07-28 20:58
Also keep in mind you have a different mindset here than in Iraq. Iraq was US, and so US rules apply to include logic.

If there one main thing I learned while training and supporting NATO tools utilized in ISAF (as well as elsewhere NATO operates) is that they are very very very legalistic. You can tactically be 100% right but if you violate a FRAGO or treaty related requirement, everything is set up to be usable in a court. So for example, you're the CJ3 Dir of Ops at IJC and you make a "command decision", they want to be able to recreate WHEN WHAT and HOW you made the decision.

Keeping that in mind and also ISAF is 42+ nations with varying roles of engagement will be staffing their PAO and other positions. So today a US or Brit OF-3 (Maj or Lt Cmdr) might be cool with your photos and interpretation but next month the slot is filled by an Austrailan or Canadian who takes issue.
Hopefully that helps someone somewhere who deals with ISAF and gets confused.
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# brat 2011-07-28 21:02
It may not technically, strictly speaking, be against any legal rules, or embed contracts you may or may not have signed BUT to me - not related to any military - it is against any moral code to publish dead children - same as the close-up picture the other day of the child who was hanged.

WHO does it serve to publish such atrocities? A good writer can paint any picture they choose - with WORDS, no disrespectful photographs required. A good writer, who has respect for the work he does, and for the families of the dead children.
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# Michael Yon 2011-07-28 21:08
John- Capt in ANG

You wrote: "Para 21 states you won't release pictures of injured without a release from the host nation. In this case, it's a Afghan national, so it would be GIRoA."

No where does it state this. You magnificiently managed to misquote something that is right there above for all to see.
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# Kriste 2011-07-28 21:13
I suspected that would be your response. So is it, then, your contention that local children are not due the same level of dignity and respect as are U.S. personnel? That the "spirit" of these guidelines do not apply to them?
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# T.Lum 2011-07-28 21:15
If the U.S. Military was half as good as the ISI or the Taliban in promoting the value of our being here, then we wouldn't need you risking it all to tell us what is going on during those patrols. "Gooood Morning Vietnam!!!" The military is good at many things. Winning hearts and Minds isn't one of them. BTW, my sources tell me 95 KIA at the INTERCON, very close to what the Taliban and their ISI mentors stated.
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# D. Laudermilch 2011-07-28 21:17
Re: Kristi & Cpt. John comments, Military speak is always obtuse. However, I will make the case that all sub-paragraphs to 21 are in reference to military personnel only. ie wounded Soldiers. Of course PAO will interpret as they choose. God help those of us who must deal with military verbiage. I could bid a $1B power project with less contractual trash than the military requires to clean toilets.
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# Ethan 2011-07-28 21:20
Appreciate what you are doing! I just recently discovered your blog, and my only disappointment is that my discovery didn't come sooner!!! I have spent the last several days reading all of your post, and I have to say each one is like trying to put down the best book! It is actually nice to read a non-bias media coverage from the front line, not some cozy studio!!! Keep up the good work, and please tell those brave fellows THANKS FOR THEIR SELFLESS SACRIFICE! God bless and y'all are in my prayers.
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# Daniel 2011-07-28 21:35
Good work Yon!

The rules could be clearer. When they mention "personnel" are Afghan civilians excluded? If not, then 21.(b)(4) would seem to apply. But ¶(4) says "facility commander" along with patient. Is that just military patient? In earlier media rule version ¶ 21 was ¶ 22.

V 1.1 Media Ground Rules

21. ... the following procedures and policies apply to coverage of wounded, injured, and ill personnel.
(b) Media will not be prohibited from covering casualties provided the following conditions are met:

(4) Permission to interview or photograph a patient will be granted only with the consent of the attending physician or facility commander and with the patient's expressed, informed consent, witnessed by the escort. "Informed consent" means the patient understands his or her picture and/or comments are being collected for news media purposes and they may appear in news media reports.
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# matt 2011-07-28 21:38
the Taliban detonated three VBIEDS in Uruzgan yesterday. Their target was the governor's office. Of the 17 victims 12 were women and children. This is the way they roll.

Sounds like you're either defending Rear Echelon PAO's or have other motivations.
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# Michele 2011-07-28 22:00
Ummm ... The comment you've replied to was written by me, Michele, NOT Michael.

And I would say that these guidelines do not apply.
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# Kriste 2011-07-28 22:15
...you still haven't answered the question. So let me repeat it:

Is it your contention that local children are not due the same level of dignity and respect as are U.S. personnel? That the "spirit" of the guidelines do not apply to them? If now, why?
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# Venado 2011-07-28 22:16
The photos were supplied "by the Army" to Yon. It looks like the 5 sections apply to "service members" to me, therefore the MPA is blowing smoke. Hang tough Michael.
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# peter 2011-07-28 22:20
Michael, hang in there. Sad to say, but whoever is complaining, doesn't want this stuff on Fox news. If more of these photos were shown, the conflict would definitely tip to the Republicans!!
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# Kriste 2011-07-28 22:23

REMF PAO's don't need me to defend them nor do I feel any motivation to do so.

If you want to keep drinking Yon's Koolaid, hitting his PayPal button and ignoring the man behind the curtain, have at it. It's understandable, given he makes P.T. Barnum look like a rank amateur. There's one born every minute, Matt.
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# matt 2011-07-28 22:32
that is a pretty bitter assessment. He nailed Menard and called the Surge pretty accurately.

News is news and in a world where the MSM does a poor job of reporting on events that are shaping our world every honest voice that has something useful to say is valuable.
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+1 # Lorraine 2011-07-28 22:48
Kristen, differing opinions are welcome but tone down the self-righteous air.
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# Valerie Gottschalk 2011-07-28 22:56
Probably has something to do with the current administration not wanting the anti war people seeing anything that they can make a problem with. Nothing is going to make them happy til we vote them out, and somebody remembers what war is...
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# Bob Hankinson 2011-07-29 00:45
Publication is in the public interest, to increase awareness of a barbaric act by our enemies.
The comment by Kriste criticising the use of the photo of the murdered boy is misinterpretati on of sloppily drafted rules.
The rules are "For the safety and security of ISAF Forces and embedded media, media will adhere to the below established ground rules." The publication of a photo of a murdered boy when the military had specifically released the story cannot affect the safety or security of ISAF forces.
21a is solely about ISAF personnel.
21b1 and 21b5 are specifically about ISAF personnel.
21b2 is written to imply ISAF medical facilities.
21b3 refers to "personnel" and implies ISAF personnel. If the word "people" had been used, this implication would not be so plain.
21b4 in this case depends on the "attending physician" and the next of kin. The unfortunate child's parents are the only people in a position to represent the child's consent.
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# Bob Hankinson 2011-07-29 00:50
21a which governs release refers to "soldiers", "coalition members" and "name tags". 21a is clearly written to relate to ISAF personnel. It is so poorly drafted that it does not even cover civilian staff supporting ISAF. That's because the rules are all about safety and security of ISAF, not Afghans.
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# Andrew 2011-07-29 01:01
Kriste - near as I make out the NATO contract concerns NATO service members only, and doesn't refer to or imply inclusion of Afghans. All the verbiage is about getting the service member's informed consent, or their next of kin's if killed, and none even makes reference to anyone else. So the agreement doesn't apply to anyone other than NATO personnel. Unless the Afghan boy was somehow a service member then the PAO agreement isn't in force.
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# Lydia 2011-07-29 01:34
I agree with Kriste. I draw the line at graphic photos of dead kids. I understand that Yon wants to show just how bad things are (and a picture says a thousand words), and I do not believe Yon is an evil money grubber looking for ways to exploit the dead. But I also believe they deserve more respect than that. Everyone does, civilians and military alike.
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# matt 2011-07-29 01:50
the only reason to publish such a photo is to draw attention to a horrible reality. As our government winds down its involvement in Afghanistan, the scum we are fighting have continued a policy of predation on their own people that is barbaric.

Hekmatyr, the Haqqanis, and the others are using the same tactics as the Mexican drug lords.

As America turns its head, the horrors have escalated. It's not propaganda. It's a wake up call to what we will once again leave behind in my humble opinion.
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# Michael Yon 2011-07-29 01:57
Note: Differing opinions always welcome. Americans are entitled to their own opinions but none are entitled to their own facts. For instance, milblogger Jim Hansen (from the Blackfive blog) accused me of being disembedded from Canadian forces for OPSEC violations. He made these accusations repeatedly to national audiences in writing and verbally. It was untrue, and he knew it to be untrue; I've never embedded with Canadian forces. Jim Hansen was caught cold with no wiggle room. His reputation was destroyed and those he continues to work for sustain reputational damage by his presence.

Though differing opinions are welcome, propaganda and outright falsehoods (or gratuitous vulgarity) are about the only things that will get a commenter banned from this free website. A couple of commenters on this string have followed the path of Jim Hansen. Jim Hansen is fortunate that banning is all that occured; libel, slander, and defamation are serious matters.
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# Dave 2011-07-29 02:47
Thanks Michael for all you do to show the world the truth, not candy coated. I for one appreciate your work.
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# Gregg 2011-07-29 03:07
1. It sounds more like the Taliban lobbyist in Washington are putting the pressure on Congress to make themselves look like the good guys.

2. Yes the children deserve respect and that's what Michael gave back to them since the Taliban took all their respect from them by killing and hurting them.

3. Stop bellyaching. If you want to preach, take your soapbox to Congress. Congress destroyed our ability to fight the war in Vietnam and they are trying to do it again in the war against the Taliban and Al Quida. The Taliban and Al Quida Lobbyist in Washington continue to fatten the bellies of Congress while our troops are trying to win the war.
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# Gregg 2011-07-29 03:19
Quoting Kriste:
...you still haven't answered the question. So let me repeat it:

Is it your contention that local children are not due the same level of dignity and respect as are U.S. personnel? That the "spirit" of the guidelines do not apply to them? If now, why?

Quoting Lorraine:
Kristen, differing opinions are welcome but tone down the self-righteous air.

Kriste, the discussion thread is based on the Ground Rules. Your moralistic attempt to inject a totally different basis of discussion is disgusting. Michael has given back, to the children, the respect that the Taliban took from them. He's allowed us to collectively grieve and pray for them. That's a lot more than the Taliban gave them by killing them. Michael enhanced the Rules by telling the truth. A truth that would appear you don't want told, therefore, we can only conclude that your simpathies and support are with the Taliban.
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# Peter 2011-07-29 05:09
About pictures of child war victims:
The linked photo, of a crying baby in the ruins of Shanghai after a 1937 Japanese bombing, was IIRC an important motivator for support for rearmament and then war by the American public. Pictures can have a much, much more powerful effect than words. Thus it would seem appropriate to publish such images where more than mere entertainment is at issue.
Of course, they can also be staged, such as recently with polar bears, baby seals, and in 1937 IIRC, the Shanghai baby. (The photographer borrowed the baby and set him in the street- the tears were most likely for separation from mama.)

(I should add: please don't take the above factoid as a comment about Michael Yon. Although I do not always agree with him I see him as a person of high integrity who would not stage anything. My point was the impact of the 1937 photo, staged or not.)
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# Peter 2011-07-29 05:13
Some gremlin ate the link. I'll clip off the html header for this second try:
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# Violette 2011-07-29 08:49
Don't you understand people ! ! !
I really believe that is a taliban lobby in DC
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# Azalee 2011-07-29 09:19
My heart is boiling in my "turban"
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# Mike 2011-07-29 11:04
For those who disagree with this publishing, I urge you to get your news from elsewhere. This is most unfortunately, one of many ugly sides of war that many troops see far too often. The distinct utility to be gained by readings from journalists such as Yon is that you will see things from the Soldier's perspective more often. If these things are not what you want to see (in other words, you want war updates, not stories), then just get your news from CNN, FOX, etc like most of America. They'll do a good job of keeping you posted on raw statistics, but if you want to know what those statistics LOOK like, here you go.
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# Mike 2011-07-29 11:15
I wanted to add on the PAO specifically. They do have a job to do and one of them is to ensure the Military doesn't come off as having a political agenda in any way.

This is likely what they acted on here. Yet when everything seems to have been done correctly and its already approved and published, what are you doing?
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# peter 2011-07-29 15:23
I never knew that picture of the baby in Shangai was staged!! That picture has rolled around in my head for 40+ years!! OMG! Well, not surprising, one of the most famous picture ever was staged--the raising of the Flag On Iwo Jima. The original was done BEFORE any photographer was around. Stage or not, IT DID HAPPEN, and is GREAT picture. Also, to remind everyone, Michaels pictue of the boy with his leg blown off was GIVEN to him the the ARMY, and the boy was NOT DEAD!!
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# Chris 2011-07-29 15:48
Michael: I, for one, would like to thank you for putting your life on the line every day to bring us the facts from the ground. You are a true patriot.
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# Kriste 2011-07-29 16:52
No, Greg, treating this child and his family as less deserving of the same level of dignity and respect as American's and coalition forces is disgusting.

Please do conclude that my sympathies are with the Taliban. They are not at all with the man I love more than anything on this earth --or his Team- who will be deploying to Afghanistan in a few short weeks. A man whose Team has done far more than Michael Yon ever can or will for the women and children of Afghanistan.

Yes, I'm sure that anyone who expresses an opinion that does not toe Yon's line must be a Taliban sympathizer and worthy of your scorn.

My question is quite valid. Why was this child and his family not granted the same dignity and respect that is granted to American's and NATO forces? Are they somehow "less than"?

"Allowed us to collectively grieve." Could you be any more arrogant? That is a decision to be made by the child's family, not you, not Yon, not anybody.
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# peter 2011-07-29 17:16
Kriste, I am sorry your husband is set to be deployed. Thank you for your sacrifice. I do want to remind you, that Michael Yon's picture was supplied to him by the ARMY. They in essence gave the go ahead to publish this. "....The latest meddling from Public Affairs began yesterday after I published photos supplied to me by the Army.", as stated in his blog.
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# Bob 2011-07-29 20:19
Your motivations for publishing the photos of the boy are transparent. They are utterly self-serving and have nothing to do with making sure we know "The Truth".
We have been getting such watered down spoonfed media for so long. We forget that it is the hard truth that makes things change. I have read Michael's posts since the beginning and I really haven't seen the 'self-serving' motivations you refer. Does he have to sell product to pay for what he does and make a living? Sure he does. But he was paying for everything out of his own pocket when he first went and he does risk his life to tell the story so I hope he makes a ton of money doing it, IMHO he deserves every penny. I pray for your husband and team for a safe return, thank you Kriste and your husband for your service.
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# Gregg 2011-07-29 21:09
Kriste, I don't believe a word you say; especially about the "man you love" being deployed. You come on too strong and your theme is a broken record.
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-1 # Kriste 2011-07-29 21:20

My thanks to you (and Peter above) for your kind words.

I would elaborate --factually- as to why I find Yon's actions self-serving. Unfortunately, it would be a waste of my time. I've already done so and Yon chose to censor my comments, along with those of several other subject matter experts who raised valid, fact-based concerns.

ie He deleted them, claiming they were "propaganda and outright falsehoods" and, yet again, started carrying on about Jim Hansen and the Canadians.

Diversionary tactics and censoring dissent are his ideas of Speaking the Truth. If you haven't figured that out by now, I'm afraid there is nothing I will be allowed to say in this forum that would enlighten you.
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-1 # Kriste 2011-07-29 22:47
Nice. You stay classy, Gregg.
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# takemetotheriver 2011-07-30 03:57

FWIW, I have seen a lot of quibbling between good people over stupid stuff. I Have also learned to expect unexpected retaliation from unexpected sources for Canadian Eh's!

So while at first glance the photo may not be that big of a deal, a good PAO can have his outreach enhanced or degraded by a photograph. Perhaps this was the case. Then Mr Yon is owed a calm and precise explanation and not some Authoritarian Screed and suggestive hints about..., shh! something else...!

Michael provides a valuable service, cheap.
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# Comrade Rasputin 2011-07-31 17:50
Your mention of the political involvement in Vietnam is sobering. As a Canadian and a policeman, I have to agree with your characterizatio n of the political interference.

We have a lost a lot of good Canadians over there. Our politicians love to create new euphamisms to spare the public the truth.

Politicians and some of our"leaders" are the biggest threat to our democracy.Their lies damage all our credibility.

Apparently their oaths before God are only convenient when the pay cheque arrives.

This blog is important to democracy. Between the law society that grants terrorists legal protections and rights and the high levels of drug corruption in Canada I am very concerned for our future.

God Bless you Mike and all our American brothers and sisters.
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# Steve Stibbens 2011-08-01 17:59
Michael, How do the PA types get away with it? But, then, I spent five years in Vietnam (1962-67) as a correspondent for 1) Pacific Stars & Stripes, 2) Leatherneck Magazine, then 3) Associated Press. And, we thought we had troubles. Keep the faith, my friend. They will drown in their own crap. :cry::
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# Carolyn 2011-08-03 06:08
During WWII, censorship was extremely tight for filings from the front along with troops' personal correspondence. There wasn't a choice, so what several correspondents, such as John Hersey, did during the war was to take time off and write what they couldn't release from the war theatre so it wasn't forgotten by them and others.It helped to maintain some semblance of sanity at times.It was only, later, they published the work. So hang on to whatever you can get.Ignorance proliferates- inside and outside of battle.
I'm sorry, they are hassling you so unnecessarily.
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+1 # Disappointed 2011-08-10 15:32
Michael, I am a long time admirer of your work but you or your webmaster are eroding some of that goodwill you have earned by your censorship of those with opposing view points. The repeated deletion of Kriste's comments is shameful. Her husband is fighting on the front line for precisely the freedoms such actions take away from his wife.

I may not personally agree with her message but I do believe she should not be silenced is she chooses to voice it. You can't always be right but you can always be respected if you let your readership challenge and decide for themselves.

Thank you for all your work.
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# Dawn 2011-08-15 14:28
Public affairs and everyone else who sits up in a cubicle somewhere, take note reality,and the truth ,,,will not be silenced. This is war stop trying to micromanage things that cant be. Keep up the great dispatches and know that you are doing a great job.
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# RE: More Flak from Military Public AffairsBill Lemon 2012-03-23 00:57
I here that the Marine Corps is actually cutting back on their public affairs organization. Apparently they finally decided it was too expensive to play journalist and media escort
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