Keep your head ‘up’.
Michael's Dispatches151 Comments
- Published: Friday, 25 September 2009 04:51
By Michael Yon
25 September 2009
The surprise discontinuation of my embedment from the British Army left my schedule in a train wreck. Until that decisive moment, I am told, that my embed with the British Army had lasted longer than anyone else’s; other than Ross Kemp’s. I’ve also been told that I’ve spent more time with the British Army in Iraq than any correspondent. So it’s fair to say, we have good history together.
In the last 12 months, I’ve embedded with the British Army in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, then over to the jungles of Brunei to attend a man-tracking school, and again back in Afghanistan. During that time, I’ve also been with U.S. forces in Iraq, the Philippines, and Afghanistan. I’ve accompanied the Lithuanians in Afghanistan and also been downrange for months without any troops or official assignment.
This dispatch, and many others, should have been about soldiers at war. But it’s not. This dispatch is being written in downtown Kandahar City and I have not seen a soldier in days. The Taliban is slowing winning this city. There have been many bombings and shootings since I arrived in disguise.
In 2006, Iraq was melting down and I had just written twelve dispatches that clearly stated we were losing in Afghanistan. Those dispatches caused a public uproar and the consequences were such that U.S. military refused to let me back into Iraq. Because of the U.S. military censorship in Iraq, I published a dispatch in the Weekly Standard titled, Censoring Iraq. General Petraeus emailed to me immediately, and if not for his intervention, there would have been Censoring Iraq II, III, IV, V…. Ultimately, dozens of dispatches about soldiers have been forever lost.
I returned to Iraq in 2006, and in 2007, I reported that the war had turned around and progress was clear. In 2008, I wrote that we had won the Iraq war. And although recent bombings have grabbed headlines, overall violence continues to decrease.
This brings us to Afghanistan, 2009.
My latest embed with British 2 Rifles, which began in July, was extended on at least two occasions. The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) had recently agreed that I would spend roughly one more month with 2 Rifles. My scheduled embeds with the United States Air Force and Marines were specifically arranged around the British schedule, and I was enjoying reporting on the excellent British troops.
However, on August 24th, with no warning, unseen faces of MoD discontinued my embed from 2 Rifles. The message that I was no longer embedded was emailed to me by Media Ops, just as I returned from an interesting firefight in the Green Zone. Luckily, none of our guys got hit, but I think the British soldiers may have killed some Taliban.
I do not know the reason for the embed termination. My best guess is that it relates to my sustained criticism that the British government is not properly resourcing its soldiers.
Before going further, it is essential to underscore the importance of the “Media Ops” in the war. When Media Ops fails to help correspondents report from the front, the public misses necessary information to make informed decisions about the war. Many soldiers in the British Media Ops are true professionals who strive constantly to improve at their tasks and work very well with correspondents. Their professionalism and understanding of the larger mission—ultimate victory—provide an invaluable service to the war effort.
But there are a few who should not be in uniform and it takes only one roach leg to spoil a perfect soup.
For example—without giving names so as not to tar and feather someone for his entire life when he still has a chance to change his behavior—the British Major running Media Ops at Camp Bastion has been particularly problematic. Even before my embed started with 2 Rifles, his words raised red flags among the correspondents about his priorities.
I had a specific incident with this British Media Ops Major.
The Major and I were driving in Camp Bastion around midday when it was very hot. A British soldier ran by wearing a rucksack. He was drenched in sweat under the blazing, dusty desert. I smiled because it’s great to see so many soldiers who work and train hard. Yet the Major cut fun at the soldier, saying he was dumb to be running in that heat. I nearly growled at the Major, but instead asked if he ever goes into combat. The answer was no. And, in fact, the Major does not leave the safety of Camp Bastion.
That a military officer would share a foul word about a combat soldier who was prepping for battle was offensive. Especially an officer who lives in an air-conditioned tent with a refrigerator stocked with chilled soft drinks. Just outside his tent are nice hot and cold showers. Five minutes away is a little Pizza Hut trailer, a coffee shop, stores, and a cookhouse.
This very Major had earned a foul reputation among his own kind for spending too much time on his Facebook page. I personally saw him being gratuitously rude to correspondents. Some correspondents—all were British—complained to me that when they wanted to interview senior British officers, they were told by this Major to submit written questions. The Major said they would receive videotaped answers that they could edit as if they were talking with the interviewee. (Presumably, senior British officers are avoiding the tough questions, such as, “So, when do you plan to send enough helicopters?”)
When I asked a different Media Ops officer about meeting with a senior British General in Afghanistan, I was told that submitting a CV (curriculum vitae) would be helpful, to which I laughed. A CV? How about this:
Name: Michael Yon
Notes: I will be in and affecting your battle space for years to come. (By the way, you are losing the war. Hiding from correspondents does not change that fact.)
This war is moving fast and there is no time for games. If a general does not want to tell his story, someone will tell it for him. He will have failed by losing another winnable media battle.
On a sidebar, before this article was published I was invited to the Netherlands by the esteemed James “Maggie” Megallas to attend an incredible Dutch remembrance for our World War II veterans.
For those who don’t know him, James Megellas is a retired U.S. Army officer who commanded Company "H" of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. Maggie is the most-decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division, having received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Maggie at 92 and is an extraordinary man. He can give an eloquent speech for an hour without a single written note.
He has spent a couple months in Afghanistan—in the worst places. He’s a true leader and a wise man, known to General McChrystal and General Petraeus. General Petraeus told me last week that CENTCOM had okayed Maggie’s trip to Afghanistan. Maggie is an American treasure. Last week in the Netherlands, “Maggie” was spending time General Petraeus and with European royalty, including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. General Petraeus and World War II veterans stayed several days at the same hotel Maggie and I were in.
In Holland, folks were lining up to honor and pay tribute to our World War II veterans and General Petraeus. I didn’t want to distract General Petraeus with any questions while he was so busy. But on about the third day, there was a tap on my shoulder and I was told that General Petraeus had some time if I wanted to talk.
I asked the good General some tough questions on Afghanistan—the kind that would end discussions with timid people—yet, like normal, he fielded those questions with the candor that I so respect in him and have come to expect. The same has happened to me with the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and other top military leaders. Gates and Petraeus will field challenging, difficult questions and will take what you throw at them. Yet the British Media Ops in Afghanistan wants correspondents to submit written questions so they can provide tidy answers. That’s a sad joke and there are many correspondents, including me, who are not laughing.
More on the trip to Netherlands will be forthcoming, but now back to Afghanistan:
At Camp Bastion there are two tents at Media Ops. One tent is for the Media Ops staff and the other is for the itinerant correspondents. When ever the Internet died in the correspondents’ tent, the Major in question let the journalists use the Internet in the staff tent. That was helpful and appreciated. But he locked the door at night (the tent has a door) and kept it that way until the morning so that no correspondent would wake him with keyboard tapping. Not helpful on transmitting information.
At a glance, that seems trivial stuff, really. But it’s not trivial when you know that these are the same Media Ops people—who do not leave their base or go on missions—who are spooling out “the message” to the media. They are clueless about the state of the war in Afghanistan. For instance, many of the Media Ops officers will insist that we have enough helicopters in Afghanistan. Those officers are either completely oblivious to the actuality of the situation or lying.
General Petraeus told me straight up that we don’t have enough and that we doubled our helicopters in the last four months and are in the process of fielding “two more fistfuls.” (He did not give specific numbers.) Those BS-filled officers who deny the obvious are, in fact, symptomatic to why we are losing the war.
When I deliver good news, out rolls the red carpet. Bad news, and it’s time to fight again. Only now it’s not Censoring Iraq, it’s Censoring Helmand. And it’s not the U.S. doing it this time, but the British government. The British people are demanding truth and they deserve accountability. They aren’t getting it from Camp Bastion.
Some of the Media Ops guys in Afghanistan are good at something such as threatening future access if a correspondent shows “attitude” about being poorly treated. My answer is go to hell. They can take their access and. . . . I work for the soldiers, for the readers, and for the people in general. If Media Ops chooses to be an obstacle, that is their choice.
After being summarily disembedded it took days—due to the helicopter shortage—to catch a helicopter from the Green Zone and head over to the posh Media Ops tent. There I found the same Major still up to his old attitude with some of the correspondents.
Meanwhile, because of the abrupt embed, my scheduling problems were unfolding. The U.S. Marines, of whom I have never seen treat anyone like the British Major treats correspondents, wanted to take me. But the earliest I could embed with them was on 16 September. This fell at the same time I needed to punch out and head to Eindhoven in The Netherlands for the World War II remembrance ceremonies which I had been invited to long ago. The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF) had made arrangements to fly me from Afghanistan to Eindhoven. Disembedded or not, it should have been a simple matter for me to have a few days, even out of pure courtesy, where I could settle some business with the U. S. Air Force and U.S. Marines. But the boss of Media Ops in Afghanistan, Lt Col Nick Richardson in Lashkar Gah, through the Major at Bastion, demanded that I leave the Regional Command South (RC-South) which is under British control.
I said in essence, hold on, partner, are you saying that you are knowingly interfering with my ability to arrange an embed with the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marines? Especially after you abruptly released me as correspondent? Because if that’s what Media Ops was saying, then we were going to have a Texas-sized fight.
The boss of Media Ops in Afghanistan Lt. Col. Richardson has tweaked other peoples’ BS sensors on the helicopter issue, including Daniel Bennett at the Frontline Club. Richardson is doing more damage to the war effort than the Taliban media machine. By perpetrating falsehoods that undermine our combat capacity, Richardson has helped the enemy.
Some of the smokescreens are less important but they are demonstrative of the pattern: On 20 August a, CH-47 helicopter was shot down by a Taliban RPG during a British Special Forces mission. Richardson reported that the aircraft landed due to an engine fire. Some hours later, while I was on a mission nearby, the Taliban were singing over the radios about shooting it down. I heard the rumble when the helicopter was destroyed by airstrikes. The Taliban knew they hit the helicopter. So who is Richardson lying to? Not the enemy…unless the enemy is the British public.
Stephen Grey and others have noted the censorship:
“Despite the risk of being blacklisted and refused access to report from the frontline, journalists are speaking out about what they say is the government's attempt to control the news. It is "lamentable", says one Fleet Street foreign editor; the Times correspondent Anthony Loyd describes it as "outrageous"; Christina Lamb of the Sunday Times calls it "indefensible"; it is "redolent of Comical Ali", says the Sun's defence editor, Tom Newton Dunn.
“Almost all journalists travelling with British forces are ordered to email their copy to the military's press officers in Helmand before publication. Many fear that negative coverage could mean trips back to the frontline are cancelled or delayed.”
The Media Ops boys are treating this like a game.
Eventually I had a meeting at the same table with a U.S. Air Force officer, a U.S. Marine officer, and the British Major from Media Ops in an attempt to work out a solution that would get me with the Air Force or Marines. The Major was docile in the presence of the two other officers. The Marine and Air Force officers said that they were willing and happy to help. Despite their goodwill, the scheduling train wreck had other moving issues stacking up, and the British Media Ops weren’t done with playing games.
In addition to the disembed, the British Media Ops were insisting that I leave RC-South at once. Let’s be clear – this was Afghanistan, not London where I can easily hail a cab or jump on The Tube. By their demands, the Media Ops folks were ignoring the obvious truth that it takes time, planning, and much coordination to move anyone, soldiers or correspondents, around Afghanistan.
Also, Media Ops knew that I was waiting for two important packages to arrive at Camp Bastion – packages that took a great amount of time and expense to send for. When I brought this up, the Major said he had checked into the packages and that because there was no FedEx in Camp Bastion, my packages must be in Kabul.
This was a flat out lie. When soldiers hear something that is patently false, they call it “bullshit.” I looked at the Major and said, “Bullshit,” to which he stomped out. He later said I had cursed him, which, if by calling him on his lie he implied that I was cursing him, then so be it; he was right. It was bullshit because there is a FedEx and a DHL in Camp Bastion. Something you would think (and hope) a Media Ops guy would know about his own camp.
The Major said again that Lt. Col. Nick Richardson demanded that I leave RC-South, and that Media Ops would forward my satellite and night vision gear that was in transit. Before the Major had stomped out, I said that I was not leaving Camp Bastion until those packages were in my hands. I told him to call Lt. Col. Nick Richardson at Lashkar Gah—a nearby base—and say that if Richardson wants me gone, he’d need to call the Royal Military Police (RMP). The satellite gear is crucial to the operation and the night vision gear is expensive. I was not going to leave without the gear unless under arrest. I had heard the Major arrogantly tell a correspondent how a soldier had punched another correspondent and “knocked him on his ass.” Bullying apparently had been working for him; he was still doing it.
“Go ahead,” I said, “Call the RMPs right now. Have them come down and flex cuff me and put me on an airplane out of here.” I waited for the RMP’s to arrive and arrest me. At least they would be professionals.
There is the maxim that a customer can judge the cleanliness of a restaurant’s kitchen by the restroom. After much experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have discovered another: Soldiers always treat correspondents they way they treat the local people. When soldiers treat correspondents badly, they treat local people even worse and are creating enemies. Those troops who brag about how they mistreat or detest correspondents are abusing and resentful of the local population, and they cannot win this sort of war. The people will kill them and the media will bash them and they will blame the people and the media. When a soldier alienates sympathetic correspondents, he has no real chance against mortal enemies such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, and they will defeat him. Yet there is subtlety: for “the people,” in the case of Media Ops, is you.
The Major doesn’t deal with Afghans. Afghans are not his target and it is not correspondents who are being denied access. YOU are being denied access. YOU are resented and deceived, and people like Minister of Defence, Bob Ainsworth, wish to separate realities from readers.
The reader is my boss, and my job is to observe, analyze where possible, and report back. When Media Ops or others try to deceive my boss, I fight for my boss. That’s my job and duty.
I told some U.S. Marine officers about issues with Media Ops. The Marines wanted to take me but there was a pesky twelve-day wait before I could start with them, and as mentioned I needed to get to The Netherlands. Luckily, the Marines and Air Force helped me get the packages.
The problem with embedding with the U.S. Air Force, as with the U.S. Marines, was timing. The U.S. Air Force rescue folks, the Pedros, were going home to America and were being replaced but there was a window of opportunity before that happened. The bottom line: Air Force Pedros took me on three missions, but it could have been a lot more.
Meanwhile, the British Media Ops, who backed down from the arrest, made a Plan B. The Major said I must leave the media tent because fourteen journalists were coming and needed space. There were six bunks and two cots, meaning all fourteen spots would be filled. I asked the Major who the journalists were and when they were coming. The Major answered that he didn’t exactly know who was coming or when, but they were (or might be) coming, and they needed space. The Major was easier to read than a five year-old, and too sad a specimen to be angry with. I had been sleeping outside for weeks and would readily continue, but instead contacted the Pedro guys who let me stay with them. Ironically, our Pedro teams happened to be staying with British 2 Rifles at Camp Bastion—and so 2 Rifles welcomed me back.
This was all bizarre. Although the British Media Ops kicked me out, I was now staying in a tent with the U.S. Air Force who were also staying with British soldiers, so I was right back at home.
Word had somehow spread that I told Media Ops to have me arrested. I had not mentioned the confrontation. Word must have gotten out from Media Ops themselves and some journalists soon realized that a fight was on. The correspondents I was talking with did not like Media Ops—not one bit—and support poured in.
An email came from a fellow correspondent with these words:
“During all of this time I was aware that your own predicament was also strained with the Pic [Media Ops]. Rumour reached me in […] that you had told the pic team in Bastion that if they wanted you out then they’d have to get the RMPs to arrest you, and that they were forced to back down! (I don’t know if the story was true or not but it was a huge morale boost to all who heard it in [...].)”
The British soldiers from 2 Rifles were angry with Media Ops for ending the reporting and their families are forever deprived of the dispatches that would have been written. Media Ops said they needed the space, but nobody replaced me in combat, and nobody is likely to. Media Ops lied again.
Meanwhile, British citizens began demanding answers from their government.
A question was asked and Minister of Defence Bob Ainsworth made public his reply:
Ann Winterton (Congleton, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defense for what reasons the journalist Michael Yon is no longer embedded with British armed forces in Afghanistan.
Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 14 September 2009, c2121W)
Bob Ainsworth (Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence; Coventry North East, Labour)
Opportunities to embed with Task Force Helmand are in high demand from across the media—national, regional, print, broadcast, specialist and new media. It is not possible to meet all requests and slots must be time-limited to ensure that the opportunities are shared as widely as possible. A normal embed for a national news organisation will last on average around two to three weeks, including time for travel.
Michael Yon had been embedded with British forces on a number of occasions before his recent visit—twice in Iraq in 2007, and once in Afghanistan in 2008. His latest embed had been scheduled to last for two weeks but it was extended to take account of delays to his arrival.
In all, his stay was extended twice and he was embedded for five weeks—much longer than is normally the case, and longer than had been agreed with him before he went. He was facilitated by British forces in a number of locations and given a high level of access both to the operations and to our personnel. At the end of this five-week period Task Force Helmand ended his embed as they were no longer able to support it given their other commitments, including other media visits.
That’s hogwash, Mr. Ainsworth. Pure hogwash!
The fact that the British Minister of Defence (MoD) would go on record with hogwash is again symptomatic of a much larger problem. Mr. Ainsworth is lying to the British public about the helicopter issue in Afghanistan. Mr. Ainsworth tells the British public that British soldiers have enough helicopters. British troops are suffering—even dying—for those lies. Mr. Ainsworth is, in effect, murdering British soldiers by not resourcing them.
If the British MoD is demanding that I be complicit in their lies to gain access to their soldiers, I decline. I strongly believe that the embed was cancelled due to my criticism of the helicopter shortage. Yet helicopters are just the most obvious issue that needs to be raised and addressed.
This story rings true:
From The Sunday Times
August 30, 2009
Bob Ainsworth, the defense secretary, has been accused of a cover-up over the death of the first British soldier to be killed in action in the Nato operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, by smearing his commanding officer.
The story continues:
“This will prove Bob Ainsworth was trying to cover up the real reason for James’s death. He was trying to shift blame away from the lack of equipment for which the MoD was responsible and negligent,” Philippson said.
Bob Ainsworth is covered in British blood and painfully deceptive. Henceforth, he will always be known as “Bullshit Bob” to me.
My relationship with the British military is not diminished and I would go into combat with their soldiers anytime. My respect for British soldiers is immense and undying. But I’m ready to throw down with Media Ops if they even glance in my direction. I refuse to work with the crew at Camp Bastion.
It’s hard to forget the Major’s cutting insults at the soldier who was training in the heat as a commendable young man. Any combat troop, whether they are pilots, PJs, sailors, special operations, or my favorite—the infantry—should never be the subject of jokes or derision from any military leader of any rank. The infantry soldiers are out there living like animals, taking bullets and getting blown up and, all while the Major sits back in his comfortable tent, playing on Facebook and watching The Simpsons. Those combat troops, British and American, are my family. That Major and his ilk should not cut fun of them.
Bottom line for the bad apples: Nobody is asking for access. This is not a game. Stay out of the way.
[Note: Word arrived that the Media Ops crew has been replaced during a normal rotation.]
You are a guest ( Sign Up ? )
or post as a guest
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThank you Michael for everything. Your reporting of the facts as you see them is raw and real. Bullshit Bob and his kind are on the way out as the internet catches up with the lies that they spew. The days of ‘blacked out media’ are over; they just haven’t realized it yet. Keep up the great work and Thank you. Both of your books were enjoyed and are on the coffee table for all to see. If you haven’t purchased them yet I strongly recommend them.
Keep your head ‘up’.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoSo this is why we all love your reports. They are gritty and real. You put us in there. We all want to catch a plane to Camp Bastion and give that Major a little lesson. Maybe he will catch some heat from the guys in 2 Rifles. The worst of it is the guys on the ground are getting screwed by their own people who are total chickens! Maybe the good Major should be required to go on a few missions and get some respect. We need more reporting like yours Michael. Hopefully Mr. Ainsworth gets enough pressure from the right people to get this resolved. Keep up the good work. Can't wait till your next dispatch.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMike: This is the stuff of legend. I have no doubt that sensible commanders will one day look back on your account and say "What were those Media Ops staff THINKING?!". This is a great story of a cowardly bully, accustomed to treating others badly, who didn't count on a combat veteran calling his bluff. Bravo.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThanks for this Michael bullshit bob is one of the worst examples of our goverment who seam only to lie about whats going on in afganistan my boy was injured in helmand whilst with 2nd rifles thanks god not badly but with noone there doing what you were doing there is no hope of familys getting the truth from there anymore thanks again for all you done. Noel
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoIn relation to a lack of equipment, this article might prove an interesting read: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8274041.stm
It saddens me that men putting their neck on the line everyday have to moonlight when they should be resting with loved ones so they have what they need to come home after their next tour.
One hopes that the ministers do something useful for once and get the MoD to change their ways before it is too late.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI look forward to your reports and like the way you take no crap from the British governments puppies. The disgraceful way the liar that is the defence minister treats our soldiers is nothing short of MURDER, lack of the correct equipment proves that and your reports are bringing it to the forefront, well done and keep up the very good work.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael,
You are an inspiration to all of us - and I'm so thankful to be able to read your reports. Keep the faith, keep up the good work, and keep on challenging the REMF B.S. peddlers. In my eyes, they're just as bad as the Taliban.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoDear Michael,
This is Vietnam syndrom keep them lying around. What kind of soldiers these guys!!!!!!
I really respect on True Wariors, you are one of them.... Pedros, Marines and others Hurahhhh
If you have problem go to Turkish Troops I assure you you are going to see humanitarian site of army
keep us posted, thank you very much
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoTo read that a British officer thinks it is smart to abuse a soldier doing what might keep him alive is contemptuous. If it had been me with him I think I punched his lights out, well tried to anyway, the miserable swine. It is bad enough out there without being abused by unthinking individuals who never leave the safety of the main base. We know Michael that we are being lied to daily by our so called government and its lackeys in the MOD and elsewhere. There are those who try to tell it as it is but overall they are outgunned by the less scrupulous. Once again thank you for your dedication and efforts. Oh by the way, I wrote to the Defence Secretary for an explanation on your sacking, needless to say I was ignored. Clearly Mr Ainsworth is like far too many of his colleagues, devoid of any notion of his duties and obligations to the electorate and those who are doing what we ask of them. I find some of these people loathesome.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoIt's about time we had a little regime change at home. These bloody traitors in Government should hang for what they done to my brothers.
Celer et Audax
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMike, I hope that you respond to my comments. Alas I have had the pleasure of working with Mike in theatre as his Media Officer whilst he was on his emded with 1 Mech Bde on Op TELIC 10 and please do not take this one bad embed as a sign that UK Media Ops is not full of REMFs and Clueless Idiots. I can safely say that Mike had a productive embed with us in 2007 and hopefully recieved alot from it as well as naturally providing the public with the truth. Whilst Mike was in our company we moved heaven and earth for him to travel around theatre and get him to see and do the things that he thought necessary.
However I cannot speak on behalf of what is happening in Afghanistan, just believe me that we are not all REMFS and purveyors of smoke and mirrors.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI see Major Gen Mackay has resigned while saying the same as you Michael. They can't keep ignoring everyone on this, surely?
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI sympathise with your complaints and you make very good points about lack of resources and the high calibre of our fighting soldiers on the ground. As someone who has deployed as part of 'media ops', could I just add that not ALL media ops staff stay on base - some do go out on the ground with the front line troops, and those who do not should and often do make sure they are fully aware of what is truly going on out on the ground. In the same way as any journalist has an editor at home who does not leave the newsroom/office, there have to be some officers who stay on base in the HQ in order to do their job. And there are a great number of media ops operators trying extremely hard to allow the media to gain access to the real story and the facts. This is often a thankless and very difficult job, given the Armed Forces' frequent aversion to having the press around and the pressures from higher command and political quarters on what can and cannot be released.
It is unfortunate that you should have come across one officer in particular who should have tarnished your view of all media ops operators; just as one individual journalist's behaviour can easily tarnish the reputation of many good ones in the minds of the military - something that those of us working hard in media ops try daily to counter and remedy.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael Im glad to read you end up getting your packages mate,sounds like that Major if given the chance would of seen to it that your goods went missing.
I love reading your reports mate,your respect for the soldiers around you shines bright in your dispatches,which makes it hard to read that your getting disrespected,
Anyway buddy,keep reporting and feed our hunger for the truth,
Doing a fantastic job mate.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMike.
keep it up, we (and our service men and women) need all the truth and support we can get.
As you have alredy realised the UK is governed by insects and the only important issue for them, is to save their own skins.
As you make clear, the Brits (and the Yanks) at the grass roots level, still produce great peple and heroes, like those who fought at Arnhem, unfortunately our political leaders are complete SCUM. God help us all.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI can only figure that the Media Ops Major is driven by self interest. I tried to disagree with you on Afghanistan, but the obvious is hard to ignore. I thank you for your honesty. This is the Information Age and the public are not mushrooms to be fed manure and kept in the dark.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMike: Pull no punches. Tell the tale about the chickenshit REMFs. It needs to be told, and fucksticks like that need to know that their lack of honor will be publicized.
God bless, and De Opresso Liber.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThe British Government, are trying to cover up the real story because they don't like what you, a true hero, are trying to tell us - the truth.
Michael, I don't doubt that being called a true hero will embarrass you, but as anyone who has followed your reporting for the last few years will know, going into combat against murderous savages, armed with little more than a camera, for the sole purpose of telling the true story of OUR soldiers (the soldiers of a government elected by us) makes you a hero. Certainly as much of a hero as the soldiers. This does not belittle their status in my eyes in any way. It should be read as elevating your status to what it should be.
Further, anyone who has followed you for some time will also know the truth in what you say, ie that the media battle is a major part of the battle against the enemy. Surely the media ops team should be able to see that. Surely the government minister (comfortable at home, with his expenses claims!) should be able to see that.
As most of the earlier posters have pointed out, the truth will come out and government's lies willl be found out. Even the British tabloid media seem reluctant to only print the "Official" line.
It is a disgrace that BS Bob is able to so blatantly lie, that the Media Ops team were able to treat you so badly, and that our troops are being cast aside like this by the very prople who ordered them to go there in the first place.
To everyone reading, PLEASE support michael and encourage others to do the same. Also, please pass on the website details to all your friends and encourage them to read the truth.
Finally, as always, stay safe, Michae and may your God keep you from harm.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael,
great way to report facts and support the troops. Officers need the accountability not only to their own commanding officers, but also to the public. Consider the Mai Lai massacre.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoSadly this is just another case of the government (and those PC officers wishing to climb the greasy pole) ignoring a war. It seems Britain has slid back into the 1930s and is denying any possibility of a war, or in this case, ignoring we are at war. It saddens me that the Defence Secretary is third lowest in priority in the cabinet, (who's only military experience is being some militant from the trade unions) and Britain doesn't have a war cabinet assembled. Smacks of cowardice on the part of the higher echelons, and only serves to highlight the inexorable decline of Britain through governments who would rather ignore the war, and defence as a whole, and pour money on vote winning policies.
But alas, talk is of another 1,000 British troops being deployed later this year, and the possibility of expanding the British presence to 12,000 next year. There is no doubt in my mind they will be ignored by the government. The excuse will be they'll increase flying hours by overworking what few airframes are out there. Hopefully fine journalism such as yours, and a new hopefully more responsible government, will improve conditions for all troops in Afghanistan and make the war winnable.
Oh and Bullshit Bob is also known by a few other names in Britain; Bob Aintworthshit (my personal favourite), Bob Ainsworthless, Sideshow Bob... the list goes on and on really.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoOOOOOORAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMy blood boils thinking about that unnamed British Major.
The way he's acting is appalling, dangerous and very lower class.
Plus Facebook - ! How many cats does he own? My 17 year old nephew is so over Facebook.
Poor old England - letting out the Lockerbie bomber and cancelling your embed - both are clear signs of corruption.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoPoliticatican's have a duty to themselves you know ---- and that dutu or creed is to never " tell the truth or give the people who elected them what they promosed to give ever ! ---alwasy lie to the People , and come uo with a newer and better lie than before to cover tha last one you told to cover for your indedscersisons at being caught on the first one !......thing like that are not suppose to hppen .... look at kennedt and kerry and obama how many lies have they tole while in office and never been caught ???? kennedy = untold ! kerry - also untold + his military records are still a secret !!!!! obama untold ans his whole life is completely secret ------- right ??????
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael - thank you for recording the details of our government’s lies. We have (almost) all realised now what filth they are. But having it documented by someone of your credibility helps. They will be gone in the next 8 months at most. It can’t happen soon enough, and we have to pray that the next lot will not descend to the same level.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThere is no greater frustration than having to deal with those who are clueless. Thanks for the backstory. Wonder if Lt. Col. Richardson is still in the saddle. He seems to be the real thorn.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoAwesome Michael, simpley awesome. These "petty-Hitlers" drag the rest of the military down and this Media-Ops guy just sounds like a complete Catch U Next Tuesday.
Hope you manage to redress and get back with the US Marines soon. Infantry give the cloest insight into what's happening out there...I'd rather know we're losing this war now, in time to reverse that, than find out after we have to withdraw with out tails between our legs!
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMediaOps...or anyone else for that matter, ought not cross swords with our fierce Mr. Yon lest they be on the receiving end of his pointed observations.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael, I hope this British Major, the MoD, and any other overpaid pieces of trash, standing in the way of of our soldiers' ability to win this war, go straight to hell. You are one of the very, very few journalists I respect because you are not some corporate hack trying to look pretty for the camera or willing to write anything asked of you in return for a salary. Keep up the quality work and know that silent support for you goes well beyond whatever comments you might hear.
I lived in Afghanistan for several months, working directly with the men leaving the wire daily. Most officers living in those air conditioned rooms understand how well they live compared to the real fighters. Most of us also understand that our own senior leadership, military and political, are the single biggest blockade to operational success we have---not the Taliban, not Al Queda, not insurgents. Our own "leaders" are the ones standing n the way! You called it right, saying that the MoD is in essence murdering soldiers. They should not get off lightly due to their distance from the front lines. They ARE murderers! Worse, they intentionally lie and deceive the public AND lower military personnel. Why? Typically the answer boils down to selfish political ambition.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoWherever and whatever Michael Yon goes or does, he will always be respected and admired by us the British Soldier that he has so brilliantly reported on during his embeds, he has shown equal respect and admiration for the British Infantrymen he has shadowed in Iraq and Afghanistan, PONTI Officers and corrupt and incompetent politicians can and will do nothing to come in the way of the mutual respect of one Soldier or former Soldier to another.
Good Luck Michael in your future work.
A British Squaddie
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael , I have been banging on about this for some time and written a number of articles on the Censorship that the MOD is doing here
The problem is that now it has got to the point where the truth is getting out and it is hurting the effort in Afghanistan.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agohttp://diack.co.uk/fitaloon/?s=propaganda
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI saw this type of Major many times in my short service and after, they are expert at getting cushy numbers, they littered Germany filling jobs for the boys. As far as real soldiering is concerned these guys are expert tacticians (they know the right people), they go on dangerous recce's, usually to the ski slopes or the lakes to make in depth studies of recreational facilities and have time to sit in nice offices studying the papers for their promotion exams. The real NCO's Ruperts and Captains have to handle the dirty work which is below the dignity of these jobsworths. The problem is that useless drones are also adept at not being available for hot command positions having made an artform of watching and assisting the downfall of those who stick their necks out above the parapet.
Keep up the reports and stay safe.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael
I'm ashamed of my government. Ainsworth & his cronies should hang their heads in shame. Unfortunately their conduct is indicative of all that is wrong in British politics at the moment, which is completely addicted to spinning the bad news to the point where it becomes laughable.
Keep up the excellent work - you obviously DO have support amongst the British political establishment - it's not often you see journalists being named in parliamentary questions....
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI have spent 20 minutes googling and facebooking and have found a TA Major who owns his own PR company back in UK. Major P Sm*** perhaps he fits the description.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoWhere can we write? This dispatch is great, yet sad in its content. I'm so grateful you are sticking with it.
Truth has a funny way of showing up , you will be vindicated although that is not your motive.
Thanks for all you do for all our guys.
a grateful soldier mom
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoGreat work, I know how frustrating 'chickenshit' can be. Guys like you dont have time for that. Cant wait to hear about your time with the Grunts. Some of the greatest Americans I have ever met.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThe behavior demonstrated by the un-named Major is nothing new with the British military. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was customary for officers to be appointed to their ranks based on how much they were willing or able to pay for it, not based on their ability or experience. This, combined with the stupidity of inflexible adherance to regulations was a major factor leading to the end of the British Empire's world domination. While only a movie, "Zulu Dawn" gave a good example of the latter in the final battle scene wherein the quartermaster sergeant would only allow the soldiers to have one 20 round box of ammunition at a time for their rifles. Naturally, the whole army was overrun by the Zulu warriors.
My friends who served in Viet Nam called "soldiers" like the good Major R.E.M.F.'s. It is sad to see they are still around.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThis labour Government have been lying their way through since the beginning. I am constantly shocked when yet another MP stands up bold as brass and tells everyone we have the equipment we need, we don't. It is so obvious that we don't have it, so why they lie about it is something I can never hope to understand. In my opinion you arrived at a bad time where Brown is desperately trying to wriggle positive press for himself before he has an election in a year or so. He hasn't contributed anything positive to this country that I can see, so is resorting to desperate tactics to try and pull the wool. The average bloke in the UK is not a brain dead idiot and can see exactly what's going on, but he must think we're stupid as he continues on regardless.
I hope this doesn't stop you from future embeds with us. We love reporters who tell the whole truth.
Best of luck,
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoDisembedded? Good for you! Nobody takes embedded journalists seriously, ever wondered why?
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael
it makes me ashamed to be British until I remember it is only the politicos and the small part of the media infected by them which seems to be JHF and Media Ops who play these games. The rest of the army is fantastic and their actions and attitude are inspiring to all of us at home.
The point is we all know they censor the truth and none of us believe them so we turn to reporters like yourself to find out the truth. I am not sure the politicos in power at preent who are known as the kings of spin realise how much harm it does them in the eyes of the british public. For a number of years now , about eight, it seems that they believe they can fix an issue by sending out a positive story as opposed to really fixing the issue. We do not and will not trust them over any issue as we instantly think oh its just their spin,.That a control freak in the army should try to further his career by pandering to them and that the Lt Col should do the same is a disgrace but perhaps they are looking for friends post army career. You should name and shame.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agohttp://helmandblog.blogspot.com/
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael,
Thank you for your detailed and telling accounts, which you seem to produce day after day. Your efforts are making a difference and helping in this war effort. We're behind you!
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThanks Mike for the insightful reporting. You have strong followers who are spreading the truth to others. Be safe, send our blessings to our troops, please tell them we say thank you every day. We do support theirs & your effort 100%.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThis post might interest you: http://divadaniel.blogspot.com/2009/09/hackle-for-victory.html
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoWhy does everyone assume those of us who serve in Afganistan or Iraq but don't have a job that involves firefights should be afforded less respect? I have spent 5 out of 12 months abroad for the last years away from my wife, kids, family and friends but because I have never had a round fired directly at my head I should really just be grateful that I have a shower and a pizza hut because that makes up for everything doesn't? Maybe mr Yon just didn't get the thrust of the Majors comment, we all know how different the American and British sense of humour can be, especially regarding irony. Maybe this is just the petty rant of a self important journo who can bring himself home when ever he chooses and hasnt got his own way. 5 weeks embedded rather than the usual 2 sounds pretty good to me. So wheres the cut off, how many rounds do you have to fire/have fired at you before you can say you were 'there'? There are thousands of people away from their families you seem to be happy to calm REMFs. Come and say it to our faces if you believe it.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agohttp://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/MOGV_ProfileMagazine_Feb_Mar_09.pdf
Nice pair of safety glasses in every shot.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI've been waiting for over a month for the details of your disembed. Pretty much what I expected. You've once again demonstrated your writing skills and shown that the pen is indeed mighty. Hopefully the REMF major will get his just desserts down the road. Looking forward now to what you do best;
showing the faces and lives of the "Queen of Battle" and the "Grunts" we send in harm's way...
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThe Taliban, Al Quieda, terrorists, and the ilk are all identifiable enemies that can be defeated. Bad leadership is a disease that strikes from behind and lingers far after the battle is over, just waiting to rear it's head again. I'm struggling with the same frustrations. I spent 8 years on active duty and had, with only two exceptions, great Senior NCOs and Leadership (O-4 and above). I went back in after 9/11 and it's been really frustrating. When I went twice without a paycheck for 6 weeks, leadership was more worried about, "making our servicing Finance office look bad," then fixing the process that allowed a service member to not get paid on multiple occasions, for long periods of time, without any recourse. I'm in the process of leaving the US ANG, but the leadership is still there. To any (Paul) who take comments out of context, Michael is just giving one example. It's just a symptom supporting the diagnosis of a disease. This Major has moved on to create unnecessary problems in other units, just as my leadership continues to have huge turnover and never once disclosing the results of the AF "Climate Survey." This is of note because in my 13+ years in the AF, I've never seen a unit fail to make the entire unit completely aware of how it did on a climate survey. Can you excuse this example? I'm sure someone can, but when you put it into the context (not always needed to write a dispatch or post in reply) it shows a pattern which educated readers can infer.
Keep doing what you do.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoContinue to kick ass and take names, Mr. Yon.
Our Troops and our Allies deserve to have their stories told, and those who love them and support them, as well as those who are otherwise uninformed, need to hear all.
Thank you for being the Ernie Pyle of this generation.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMr. Sykes, thank you for your service.
Did My. Yon hit a nerve with you?
He didn't label all those who don't face combat as folks who don't deserve respect; he has singled out and named specific individuals for their conduct.
Those that have access to hot showers and pizza, and who support the mission and those who are facing bullets should take no umbrage with Mr. Yon's words.
Sounds like you're the self-important one, and I dare say that Mr. Yon would not hesitate to tell you to your face if indeed you acted as the Major in this dispatch has acted.