Michael's Dispatches

Afghanistan & Mexico


2011-09-10-234955cc1000Mission in Afghanistan with 4-4 Cav

02 December 2011

A groundswell continues within the Dustoff community to have Red Crosses removed from MEDEVAC helicopters in Afghanistan.  There is much behind the scenes work on this.  We’ve also set up a private forum to exchange information and ideas.  Numerous encouraging messages have come from loved ones of troops who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was honored when the mother of Chazray Clark contacted me.  I nearly missed it but someone saw her message posted.  Chazray’s loss inspired me to do something about the Dustoff.

I had seen Chazray’s Mom and wife on television while in the tent in Afghanistan.  It was the same tent Chazray had just moved into before the mission.  Chazray was gone now, and I watched on the computer his Mom and wife back in America.  Their courage was inspiring to Chazray’s buddies and to me.

And so it was a great honor when Chazray’s mom posted a couple of days ago, “Thank you for reporting the truth and not letting the military scare you into silence.”

Don’t worry Mam.  I’m not scared.  And a whole heap of Soldiers and Airmen are helping behind the scenes.  We are just getting warmed up.  Thank you for the note.  It is important to me.

I got traffic today from Afghanistan that 4-4 Cav had more serious injuries.  Next of kin was notified.  They are fighting hard.  Chazray also was in 4-4.

On Afghanistan, an invitation has come in to return to Afghanistan in about January.  This would mean more direct combat.  I have powerful opponents in the Army and so it is unclear if the embed would be approved.  My bets are that the Army will do everything possible to avert my coming.  In any case, I’ll return to combat work pending approval.  But I won’t stop on the Dustoff issue and so they surely don’t want me around.

Our withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun in earnest.  Key decisions have been made and the ball is in motion. There are areas of real progress in Afghanistan.  The surge of troops clearly has helped but the general trajectory is not good.  We are pulling out too soon, but by staying in we are at the mercy of Pakistan and others.  If we become engaged with Iran, Pakistan will leverage every ounce against us.  We are not allies.  We need our assets at home.  More attention to Mexico is crucial.

Soon our military departure from Iraq will be complete.  That was a bloody war that many people never will forget.  Our troops are not yet out of harm’s way, but nearly so.

Thousands were lost in combat and we are leaving one behind: Ahmed Altaie is Missing in Action.  All hope is not lost but we know the nature of the war in Iraq.  The pit of my stomach says we will never see Ahmed again.  I will not say Rest in Peace.  There remains a chance.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan combat continues but our trajectory is toward the door.  We can see the ball is dropping and today we are only guessing where it will first bounce.

For me, this means a transition to something more pressing and proximate to the United States: Mexico.  Just today there is a report of yet another tunnel found, and 32 tons of marijuana.  Mexico is has a war on.

I’ve been talking with key people about Mexico and have meetings arranged this month in California, Arizona, and Washington DC.  The schedule of exploratory meetings is jammed.

Insofar as potential for Mexico coverage, I am in with both feet provided reader support is sufficient.  At this time, I do not believe it will be sufficient.  Clearly there is heavy interest, but not enough people have shown enough interest to put down.

If the interest is not there for Mexico, I’ll step back from wars and write books.

And so the plan for the next few months: Continue to explore the possibility of Mexico work.  Return to Afghanistan if approved.  Transition to Mexico, or books, depending on funding.

Bottom line: The war in Mexico is growing.   We are going to have to face it, one way or another.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    David · 10 years ago
    they look like ghosts
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dillan · 10 years ago
    Michael, you really should shoot for Mexico, people need to see what's going on down there, including the illegal immigration and cartel wars.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter · 10 years ago
    How is the camera auction going?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dennis · 10 years ago
    You actually made me laugh out loud, when you said, "Don't worry Mam, I'm not scared." We never doubted that Michael. Looking forward to the truth about our border with Mexico... Vaya con Dios!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Momma · 10 years ago
    My son is with the 4-4 CAV, so reading your comment that they've had more serious injuries has me terribly worried about them all, and their families. The Family Readiness Group won't notify our group until the next of kin have all been notified, so I wait once again for news. My thoughts and prayers to all the soldiers and their families. God bless our Troops and bring them safely home.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Neil · 10 years ago

    If you go to Mexico and tell the truth, as you surely will, you will be in more danger than in Afghanistan. You won't have the protection of the US military. The Mexican police and military have been infiltrated, not by desire, but by receiving an offer they can't refuse backed with huge amounts of drug money.

    If you are effective at exposing corruption and problems, the cartels will come after you. You won't be able to hide in the US. Your work is not done in Afghanistan.

    Please careful about what you say and do.


    • This commment is unpublished.
      Steve · 10 years ago
      I agree but would add that you would be in as much danger from this side of the border. Don't let the ATF, DEA, FBI DOJ, Dept. of State or any other branch of the govt. anywhere near you. They have been hiding there own drug running and gun running operations for years and are now just being made to answer for it. Of course, they are stonewalling and lying to everyone. This is much bigger than you realize and will get you killed and not necessarily by those you may think.

      And no, I'm not a tin foiler, just someone who has been "enlightened". You think the Army gave you trouble, just wait until you meet their bosses.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom Campbell · 10 years ago
    I voted $100 for Mexico a few days ago. It's important, so I just voted another $100. By the way are you a 501 (c)( )?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Fernando · 10 years ago
    I say, come to Mexico. Attention needs to be brought to the fact that our southern border is eroding. We already have a Mexican mayor in Los Angeles, CA.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Warren · 10 years ago
    Mr. Yon,

    The lack of interest on Mexico is due to a lack of your style of reporting on this war...Upclose, personal, factual with real world and real time consequences. People are disconnected from the 10 second blurbs they hear when 5 people are murdered or shootouts occur with paramilitary groups within feet of our border. We need you in Mexico and on the border.

    Through your web site, I have read with much interest, the situational reports by General McCaffrey and as a native Texan, I am alarmed. Texas Monthly magazine has provided outstanding coverage and your voice is needed to spread this to the world.

    This war along our southern border has a far greater impact on the citizens of the US and Mexico than Afghanistan. From a marketing standpoint, if you provided a series of dispatches pertaining to the Drug War and guage the responses, I am confident you will pleased and well supported.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Warnock · 10 years ago
    First off Michael... I am a fan of yours and have been a donor in the past.
    So what I'm about to say is not a negative reflection of your abilities and/or

    However your thoughts of possibly involving yourself in the future reporting on
    the Mexican Drug Cartel dilema is IMHO one that you should dismiss. If you got
    involved with the same gusto that you have shown in other assignments... you
    could easily become a "dead man walking" correspondant and it would only be a
    matter of time (not if) before the Cartel would have you taken down... if you
    get my drift.

    And there are presently media sources such as Stratfor.com etc. that do a pretty
    good job of covering the aforementioned "can of worms" and what's going on down
    there. However... I can't say the same for our involvments in the Mid East.

    But thanks to your presence in Iraq and Afghanistan many of us are better informed
    as a result. I for one would like to see you remain in the Mid Eastern Zone

    Best regards

    Bill Warnock
    • This commment is unpublished.
      jim karthaus · 10 years ago
      I completely agree that
      Mexico would be a mistake for you. The US
      Ceded control of the border. And the Cartels
      Kill reporters and civilians with impunity. If you
      Call for stronger border control you will be
      Branded a racist. If you even arouse the attention
      Of the cartels you will be killed. I think the troops
      And their families depend on you and you sho
      uld stay or keep reporting on Af-Pak until we aroe
      Done there. I have a close friend in Mexico and she
      Is scared to death in Monterey. IMHO. Stay safe!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roger Dane · 10 years ago
    Neil is right. Reporters and even bloggers are dropping like flies in Mexico as the cartels destroy anyone speaking out against them or their operations. As the parent of a Border Patrol Agent I can attest to, as others will, the 'personal' attacks (vs. the often anonymous war ones) on individuals singled out for assault. I have contributed over the years and have bought books and will continue to try and do so. Your reports from the Middle East have been outstanding and exemplary. But I would caution you to think many times over twice about Mexico. Be safe!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike McTaggart · 10 years ago
    Isn't it a sad state of affairs when our border with Mexico could be more dangerous than reporting from a recognized combat area like Afghanistan? I can barely wrap my mind around that concept. Michael, I will continue to support you either way. God Bless you for your continued commitment! You remain as always in our prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Kemp · 10 years ago
    Michael, my stepson is with 4-4 and my wife and I miss your updates and reports. Thank you for all you've done. I'm a retired Navy Command Master Chief and live in San Diego and if you decide to cover the Mexico story and you are in the San Diego area and need a free place to shit, shower, shave and rest your head and grab a bite to eat, we would be honored to have you. My email is jkemp547@gmail.com. Safe travels Shipmate!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Henry Wood · 10 years ago
    Dear Michael,

    I am a long time reader from the UK (btw, that's not just England, Mr. President!) and I have admired you from afar though have only very occasionally supported you with a contribution, usually when something hit very close to home. This is mainly because I am an old retired guy trying to exist on very limited means and every penny means something to me, usually a choice between food and fuel.

    Do you know something? The thoughts of you covering the Mexico issue will hit very close to home for me, not because my home in the UK is in any way directly connected to Mexico, but because of the very simple reason that USA/Mexican border problems relate to UK/Europe border problems. I would love to read exactly what Michael Yon discovers on the US/Mexico border and I do hope it will be as eye opening as Mr. Yon's posts from the battlefields. To put it simply, what happens on the US/Mexico border happens on the UK/Europe border, except maybe the drugs aren't so heavy. Yet.

    Some stories are *bursting* to be told, yet the MSM both here in the UK and over The Pond in the US simply refuse to tell, never mind discuss any of the pertinent details. It is time for a reporter of Mr. Yon's stature to expose the unexposable. Tell the untellable.

    Just wait and see how many of the presently silent MSM are forced to climb onboard the border bandwagon if a courageous reporter like Michael Yon sets it rolling. (And no doubt, they will try and claim all of the glory for *their* titles!)

    God bless, and God speed, Michael Yon.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Steve Peyton · 10 years ago
      What similarities could you possibly be talking about? Have you visited a US/Mexico border town from the Mexican side? Does the number 4,000 mean anything to you? That's the amount of drug war related deaths over a four year period through 2010! Guess what? There's no English channel between us and Mexico. Please describe the similarities, I'm very curious.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sandra · 10 years ago
    I tried to post this morning but for some reason could not do so. I am with you whatever you do. I don't know which would be the most dangerous for you but reporting from the situation in Mexico might wake a few people up in our country. I have not contributed to your cause simply because I am the Starving Artist in today's economy and just have nothing left to contribute. I do own a nice well respected art gallery and would love to show and sell your photos if that would help. The idea of your being on the hit list for some drug cartel is a scary prospect because these people do not kid around. That is also true of the terrorist in Afghanistan. I have appreciated getting your straight from the horse's mouth info over there. The pull down in troops is totally a political appeasement by the current administration to win votes and make good his promise to get the troops home and has nothing to do with proper timing or what is best militarily for the men and the country over there. You just take care from one Floridian to another.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alex Tsang · 10 years ago
    As an Asian reader, I prefer Afghanistan than Mexico.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dick Stanley · 10 years ago
    I'm a fan and longtime donor, and since the Obama administration is withdrawing from Afghanistan there's not much point in staying there. Mexico is a logical choice, though it looks like trying to nail jello to a wall. Where to begin? How to operate. I'd donate for your work there only if you don't turn into an anti-drugs crusader. We have enough of them already. That's the nonsense that has fueled the Mexico situation. You can't stop this new version of Prohibition but you could show how much damage it's doing and why we're never going to win it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan Selley · 10 years ago
    I hope they'll let you come back over here. Mexico is important and will be even more so every day. If you finish your work in Afghanistan and Mexico is still on your radar, it won't take you long to pack your bags and head south. If you come back to Afghanistan the DFAC will always serve Mexican food on Sunday night!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tchirpbird · 10 years ago
    Monsieur Yon, votre " nice pretty picture " c'est comme " une boule de Noel que j'aimerais mettre sur mon sapin de Noel!"
  • This commment is unpublished.
    DJ · 10 years ago
    I am behind you either way you go. Though am more concerned about the stuff lobbed at you from our own government should you decide to start doing Mexico. You covering Mexico puts you into the mix for things like the fast and furious debacle and I think there is plenty of cover up there too. We need some one on the border, I love your stories about Afghanistan and I know that with troops gone there will be "other" americans filling that void. That said - I think we all know that Mexico could be the more dangerous of the two. Behind you either way you go.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BravoBilly · 10 years ago
    What is a real shame is the fact the Mexican drug cartel could not exist were it not for the American Market.
    The cartel protects its market all the way to the user. I ride the buses in Bradenton, Florida which is filled with senior Veterans, and those whose transportation has broken down and they cannot afford to repair it, some are parking it, and then some are using the public transportation to make their drug runs and connections in front of the Court House.

    Mike, The Borders would be a good place to start and I would be very hesitant going to Mexico, solo. Solo into Mexico is a suicide mission. At least in the past you have been embedded into a Military organization and there was some sort of backing or you were backing them. Mexico would be different. Unless, somehow Our country is thinking of sending the military there, which we may as history seems repeat with us...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John House · 10 years ago
    I think it would be worth it to wait a see how much we get involved in Mexico. We need to pull a Columbia down there. But without any involvement on our part, all you have is what we already have. If we send SOF in to help allies in the Mexican government track down the cartel heads and train up their troops to take on the gangs ala Columbia, I think you would be a valuable asset for us.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kurt Olney · 10 years ago

    This is the L.A. Times:

    From the L. A. Times:
    1. 40% of all workers in L. A. County ( L. A. County has 10.2 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This is because they are predominantly illegal immigrants working without a green card.
    2. 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.
    . 75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
    4. Over 2/ of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal , whose births were paid for by taxpayers.
    5. Nearly 5% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.
    6. Over 00,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in Garages.
    7. The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.
    8. Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
    9. 21 radio stations in L. A. are Spanish speaking.
    10. In L. A. County 5.1 million people speak English, .9 million speak Spanish.
    (There are 10.2 million people in L. A. County . )

    (All 10 of the above are from the Los Angeles Times)

    Less than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops, but 29% are on welfare. Over 70% of the United States ' annual population growth (and over 90% of California , Florida , and New York ) results from immigration. 29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens!

    I would love to see you imbed with the border patrol. They have an impossible job to do.
    If you clearly stated your goals and objective, I think it would be easier for you raise money on this front.


    • This commment is unpublished.
      Redacted · 10 years ago
      Ley me guess...they all vote democrat too. This should be common knowledge.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
        This is probably a waste of time, because you have made up your mind. But the reason the illegal immigrant problem is so hard to solve is because of the unholy alliance between two groups that have nothing in common & hate each other normally: US Catholic Bishops Conference and the US Chamber of Commerce. The Catholic Church believes that the US because of its past history with Latin America has a moral duty to allow any person fleeing poverty in Latin America to the US to stay; the the Chamber of Commerce backs the Catholic Bishops for the cheap and no problem labor that they provide. Both oppose repealing that last minute amendment that Sen. Kennedy attached to the 1986 Immigrant Reform bill. Which basically gave any employer a free "get out of jail" card if they were caught hiring illegal immigrants--ie unless they publicly stated they knew they were illegal. He added that amendment because of economy in Ireland at that time. Not because of Mexico.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
    Dear Mike, If you got to Mexico you will die. And probably a horrible death. Many of the Mexican various law enforcement and military units are in the pay of the cartels. You would be killed and they would report it as a firefight with the Drug Cartels. Worst they would turn you over to the drug gangs and you would be found hanging from a bridge. I know you will say this is stupid, but you are safer embedded in Afghanistan. Read "El Narco" before you decided. But if that book can not change you mind, try be embedded with the Mexican Navy Marines. They seemed so far to be the organization that the Mexican drug cartels can not turn dirty. But also think of your family in the US. The los Zetas operate in most major US cities. They have their scouts in the part of the US your loved ones live in follow them and track their every day movement. Then they bring a hit squad in from another city to do the killing. Mike they will not just stop at killing just the adults of your family. They go after kids with no problem. Please do not report on Mexico. Jack E. Hammond
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Redacted · 10 years ago
    Holy crap that's scary!But it MUST be confronted and defeated!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve Peyton · 10 years ago
    I admire your passion for the topic, as it is quite serious -- it has far reaching impact on us in America (far more than that in Afghanistan). But it would be suicidal. Maybe your book should be about how the US funded and supported this mess when they shut down the cartels in Columbia and sent them scurrying to Mexico.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
      While widely believed that is not the problem. things happened. 1> The US shut down the Caribbean drug routes so they went over land. 2> Mexico stop being a corrupt one party state & the President who got elected about 5 years ago, decided to crack down on corruption, & the drug gangs. And totally underestimated how deeply entrenched they were & had corrupted the local police. > US Guns and Ammo. Especially Ammo. The number per square mile of gun shops on the US side of Mexican border near Brownsville, TX is staggering. While ruthless one solution would be when ever a US gun it traced back to a straw buyer that buyer would be extradited to Mexico. With the exception of the military, #1 sellers of Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifles are TX gun shops on the US border. Even with 55k deaths in Mexico in 5 years, nothing will be done. Many say this next election the new Mexican president (only one 6 term) will make peace with the Drug Cartels & return the status quo. Jack Hammond
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
    Dear Mike,

    Another book you should read is Ed Vulliamy's "AMEXICA: WAR ALONG THE BORDERLINE." He is a British reporter for The Observe, who reported on the Mexican Drug War and knew when to leave and write his story. Not many reporters in his club. Most are dead. While not as good as "El Narco" (reports state the Narco Gangs have a hit out on him and his family even in the US) it is a good 2nd best.

    Jack E. Hammond
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jake cobs · 10 years ago
    hope u get some good stuff done whether its on books or focusing in mexico... whatever that means, but dont forget that if there wasnt a demand of drugs from the US people there wouldnt be a drug trafficking ... or cartel wars near the border trying to control the drug corridors to the US side... afterall all that money that flows back to mexico its american peoples money spending on drugs.... and yes its tax free too!!

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