Michael's Dispatches

Calling BULLSHIT on Rolling Stone

244 Comments

29 March 2011

Seldom do I waste time with rebutting articles, and especially not from publications like Rolling Stone.  Today, numerous people sent links to the latest Rolling Stone tripe.  The story is titled “THE KILL TEAM, THE FULL STORY.”  It should be titled: “BULLSHIT, from Rolling Stone.”

The story—not really an “article”—covers Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) in Afghanistan.  A handful of Soldiers were accused of murder.  It does in fact appear that a tiny group of rogues committed premeditated murder.  I was embedded with the 5/2 SBCT and was afforded incredible access to the brigade by the Commander, Colonel Harry Tunnell, and the brigade Command Sergeant Major, Robb Prosser.  I know Robb from Iraq.  Colonel Tunnell had been shot in Iraq.

The brigade gave me open access.  I could go anywhere, anytime, so long as I could find a ride, which never was a problem beyond normal combat problems.  If they had something to hide, it was limited and I didn’t find it.  I was not with the Soldiers accused of murder and had no knowledge of this.  It is important to note that the murder allegations were not discovered by media vigilance, but by, for instance, at least one Soldier in that tiny unit who was appalled by the behavior.  A brigade is a big place with thousands of Soldiers, and in Afghanistan they were spread thinly across several provinces because we decided to wage war with too few troops.  Those Soldiers accused of being involved in (or who should have been knowledgeable of) the murders could fit into a minivan.  You would need ten 747s for the rest of the Brigade who did their duty.  I was with many other Soldiers from 5/2 SBCT.  My overall impression was very positive.  After scratching my memory for negative impressions from 5/2 Soldiers, I can’t think of any, actually, other than the tiny Kill Team who, to my knowledge, I never set eyes upon.

The online edition of the Rolling Stone story contains a section with a video called “Motorcycle Kill,” which includes our Soldiers gunning down Taliban who were speeding on a motorcycle toward our guys.  These Soldiers were also with 5/2 SBCT, far away from the “Kill Team” later accused of the murders.  Rolling Stone commits a literary “crime” by deceptively entwining this normal combat video with the Kill Team story.  The Taliban on the motorcycle were killed during an intense operation in the Arghandab near Kandahar City.  People who have been to the Arghandab realize the extreme danger there.  The Soviets got beaten horribly in the Arghandab, despite throwing everything including the Soviet kitchen sink into the battle that lasted over a month.  Others fared little better.  To my knowledge, 5/2 and supporting units were the first ever to take Arghandab, and these two dead Taliban were part of that process.

The killing of the armed Taliban on the motorcycle was legal and within the rules of engagement.  Law and ROE are related but separate matters.  In any case, the killing was well within both the law and ROE.  The Taliban on the back of the motorcycle raised his rifle to fire at our Soldiers but the rifle did not fire.  I talked at length with several of the Soldiers who were there and they gave me the video.  There was nothing to hide.  I didn’t even know about the story until they told me.  It can be good for Soldiers to shoot and share videos because it provides instant replay and lessons learned.  When they gave me the video and further explained what happened, I found the combat so normal that I didn’t even bother publishing it, though I should have because that little shooting of the two Taliban was the least of the accomplishments of these Soldiers, and it rid the Arghandab of two Taliban.

Some people commented that our Soldiers used excessive force by firing too many bullets.  Hogwash.  And besides, they were trying to kill each other.  Anyone who has seen much combat with our weak M-4 rifles realizes that one shot is generally not enough, and the Taliban were speeding at them on a motorbike, which very often are prepared as suicide bombs.  If that motorcycle had been a bomb, as they often are, and got inside the group of Soldiers and exploded, they could all have been killed.  Just yesterday, in Paktika, three suicide attackers came in, guns blazing, and detonated a huge truck bomb.  Depending on which reports you read, about twenty workers were killed and about another fifty wounded.

In the video, our guys would have been justified in firing twice that many bullets, but at some point you are wasting ammo and that is a combat sin.  The Soldiers involved in that shooting told me that the Taliban on the back may have pulled the AK trigger, but the loaded AK did not fire because the Taliban didn’t have a round in the chamber.  Attention to detail.  At least one also had an ammunition rack strapped across his chest.

This could go on for pages, but Rolling Stone is not worth it, and thrashing them might only build their readership.  I’ve found in the past that boycotts work.  I led a boycott against one magazine and it went bankrupt.  It’s doubtful that Rolling Stone will go bankrupt for its sins, but you can cost them money not by boycotting their magazine, but by boycotting their advertisers.  That hurts.  Just pick an advertiser whose products you already buy, boycott it, and tell the advertiser why you are not buying their product.

Now I’ve got to get back to work.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    David · 10 years ago
    Thanks Mike for bringing that to light. I have send off emails.

    To all those who cry "stop killing civilians!" Guess what? They are all fucking civilians! Thats the problem. When is someone actually going to pull the rod out of their ass a start questioning why they WANT to wear civilian clothes to a gunfight? Or why they want to turn a house full of kids into a firing position? Or why they stockpile ammunition in people's bedrooms?

    I am not condoning what these Kill Team cats did but how many of you could be in a firefight and wait for a kid to charge you screaming and pull a pin from your grenade to kill you and 2 of your mates just because he was 15?

    This is a warzone. The taliban chose to fight in amongst civilians and civilians allow them to do it. Cameras should not be allowed. It would be over by now.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Cass · 10 years ago
    "I was not with the Soldiers accused of murder and had no knowledge of this."

    'Nuff said. I have other sources, and you didn't see these guys. Why would one guy plead guilty and go to jail for 24 YEARS if there wasn't something to it?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    steve buzash · 10 years ago
    I'll never peruse or support Rolling Stone magazine again.
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    timb · 10 years ago
    "Uncle Grumpy"]"Shukri"] "the soldiers involved...deliberately killed a 15 year old kid..." Boo-hoo. Obviously, a 15 year old "kid" with AK-47 poses no threat to anyone, right? "

    Learn to read, Grumpy. The 15 year old kid was chosen BECAUSE he was unarmed. It was murder and the fact that you are too lazy to read the article and just relying on "super patriot" Michael Yon, whose main character trait is believing what he's told, you turn out not to know anything
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    Paul Hausser · 10 years ago
    Sorry to burst your bubble but Stalin employed at gunpoint Tartars Uzbeks Khazars Mongolians etc that had no dog in the fight.

    What I state is 100% relevant.

    The defense of these men is that these folks were untrustworthy and savage like.

    Which based on the German experience from 1941 to 1945 bares witness to what these men say.

    Open your mind man. Eastern front WW2 was not Saving Private Ryan cut and dry.

    Stop being a self hating White American of European heritage.

    The gig is up.

    You still worried about 'Stormfront"

    Roll eyes
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Skytrooper · 10 years ago
    Anyone who thinks the Rolling Stone article is about "The Kill Team" is missing the point. Rolling Stone is trying to use "guilt by association" and "misleading vividness" to paint this entire SBCT and, ultimately, the US Military as a group of psychopathic murderers.
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    timb · 10 years ago
    The story is the thing, not your moronic swallowing of his "rationale."

    Dear RS,
    I read your article on how poorly led US soldiers murdered 4 Afghan civilians and their officers did not know, did not care, and were promoted, but on page 2 I noticed an ad for Justin Beiber and I hate him, so I think this means your credibility on reporting a news story is wrong.

    Signed, Michael Yon, in desperate need for donations from scared white guys who can't read"
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    timb · 10 years ago
    How much do they sell to trailer park denizens in their 70's
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    Kenneth · 10 years ago
    Thank you for that article and explaining what goes through us soldiers/Marines mind in combat and what we're facing. It's easy to Monday morning quarter back events without even knowing just how dangerous a situation is, or how hard it is to protect yourself, your fellow Marines/soldiers, and the Iraqi/Afghan people. I get annoyed when someone who hasn't been in or even trained for combat thinks they know how we should have responded to a situation. We go SOOO far to make sure we don't kill if we don't have to. So far it's cost some Marines and soldiers lives and so I believe a bit too far. Anyways, thanks for this article and trying to educate people on ALL the facts.
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    Skip · 10 years ago
    This kind of shit went on repeatedly in Vietnam. The Army/Marines worked their asses off to keep it below the radar.

    When are you young fools going to realize this is (like Vietnam) an illegal war. We are so fucking brave we can attack a third world country. Why? Because we can. The outcome will be the same...Death, chaos and nothing accomplished. Der Spiegel, the paper who broke the story has 4,000 photos like these. Think they were all the result of a small rogue group of soldiers/Marines? Denial is what people do when they won't do drugs. Get a damn life.

    However the blame doesn't like with the ground pounders, but it starts with the commander in cheap and rolls like shit down hill, all the way through the chain of command. disgusting and sad.
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    RobO · 10 years ago
    Mike - Thanks for the info and all that you do. Stay safe out there
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    Ron Handke · 10 years ago
    I would supose that if we all stood on the shore line around the entire USA we could make believe that other countrys could not fire the ammo over our heads and the USA would be safe. If you want to win the war, you do not wait until the enemy crosses your line, that is what this is about. Got to say I would be one of the first to not play fair, unless I had a death desire. And at age 72 I did serve my time !!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dennis Hanson · 10 years ago
    Thanks for exposing the filthy liars at Rolling Shit
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    5/2 Vet · 10 years ago
    I was on that patrol in the Dab. Thanks for going to bat for us.
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    Franklin Brown · 10 years ago
    Doesn't surprise me, but this takes it to a new level. I see a reader has posted a list of advertisers... I'll start boycotting immediately.
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    Jim Pipkin · 10 years ago
    I've grown so incredibly weary of pseudo-journalists like the hacks at Rolling Stone pulling stunts like this. Thanks for calling them out.
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    Marsh626 · 10 years ago
    You've single-handedly debunked and thoroughly discredited one of the largest and most well known leftist mags in the world. And you do it to an Oscar winning writer no less. Simply fantastic. Play that that little engine that could clip from Major Payne again.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Salgofnir · 10 years ago
    I watched the vid. The paragraph next to it said a soldier can be heard BOASTING "I got it all on camera." There was no boasting. He was responding to the other soldier that stated did you see him drawn down on me. It was just a statement of fact. Since I don't have a bird and my dog is house trained, I don't need/read RS. Would someone please post a list of the main advertisers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary-Ellen Davis · 10 years ago
    RS has always been anti-military and pro-liberal. It should stick to music and entertainment... and a boycott of their advertisers should help them get back to their own genre.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    russki top · 10 years ago
    i don't need to hate (and how do you know what color or continent spawned me? maybe i'm your worst nightmare, you racist piece of krap, an intelligent person of color), it clouds my judgment and throws my aim off when using good fire discipline to headshoot vile, generalizing bigots like you. the less ammo i waste, the more idiots like you i can keep from reproducing. no, i don't worry about stormfront, because they (like you) are a self-defeating genetic dead-end that will self-exterminate soon enough.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    russki top · 10 years ago
    so some murderous soldiers trying to justify their evil equates to your blanket indictment of that many human beings because it somehow 'serves them right'? by that same empty logic, when your daughter comes home raped because of how she was dressed, don't be afraid to tell her that it serves her right, she invited the behavior.....
    did it ever occur to you that maybe afghans and other central asians weren't put on this earth for other societies to try to dominate? and that when their turf continues to be fought over, they take it a little personally? and that no external power ever to try to conquer afghanistan has even tried to help the people who live there, just to dominate and bleed them dry?
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    russki top · 10 years ago
    that jackasses like you and hausser continue to read this blog - are you doing jackass IPB? keeping an eye on the opposition?
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    Blonde · 10 years ago
    Cause no one in that "third world country" had it under the Talibs and I guess to you, sitting in the comfort of your kitchen, THEY don't matter. When people like you talk/whine about an "illegal war," I never hear any of them offer up a reasonable and practical solution to stop more 9-11s. You seem to forget that had the Talibs and their cronies not flown planes into buildings in Manhattan and D.C., we wouldn't be in Afghanistan now. Accept the fact that you aren't in Berkley anymore....but if you want to keep reading Rolling Stone (or Der Spiegel for that matter), isn't it great you have the right to read anything you want? Thought so.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Blonde · 10 years ago
    Would you trust as your source of information on the war in Afghanistan any publication that would put Snooki on the cover? Rolling Stone has become a cartoon of itself.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Upper Middle · 10 years ago
    I will diligently boycott any product or service that advertises in this slanderous fishwrap.

    Money talks, BS gets published in Rolling Stoned
  • This commment is unpublished.
    morgan · 10 years ago
    As usual, you give no quarter on either side. I will gladly boycott every company in compliance with any magazine who would publish that video as part of that story. Those two things are in no way related. Thanks for your hard work and clear insight! We are with you!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Axeman · 10 years ago
    Ok, timb, you can't have it both ways. Who now is believing just what he's told? People like you whine and cry about not trusting what anybody involved with our military has to say, but lapping up ANYTHING spewed by (insert leftist's name here) as the God's honest truth. I would trust Yon a long, long time before buying in on Rolling Stone's drivel.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John House · 10 years ago
    Tank you Michael for trying to keep RS honest and supporting fairness in reporting on our military. We expect nothing less of you. I am boycotting every Rolling Stone advertiser I become aware of and notifying them of my intended boycott, until such time as they influence RS to retract or correct their slanderous and false story.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Danny · 10 years ago
    Helen, That is a very ignorant remark. Our President has nothing to do with what media stories get the most attention. President Obama has been no worse a Commander-in-Chief than President Bush was. Whatever your views on domestic politics are, not everything in this world is an Obama-related conspiracy.

    As for why these killings haven't gotten as much attention as Abu Ghraib, I think honestly the American people are just tired of hearing about the wars. It's been 9 years since we began fighting the war on terror and the American people have probably just gotten used to hearing bad news. Also, I'm sure all the news about Japan and Libya are occupying a lot of the news agencies' resources.

    [quote name="Helen"]the lack of attention most likely has more to do with who's president than anything else. [quote]
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Danny · 10 years ago
    Grumpy, You obviously never read the Rolling Stone article about the murders Bravo Company committed. You're just a 'drive-by headline reader' who saw that Rolling Stone mislead readers regarding the motorcycle video, and you automatically assume that the story about the murders committed by Bravo Company is false.

    Wake up! The US Army has been investigating the murders and the cover-up for months and is already prosecuting the soldiers who committed the murders. So it is not some leftist made-up story. It is fact.

    And just because Rolling Stone made the story public does not mean that they are un-American. The killers are un-American. And you don't hold a patent on patriotism!
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    Danny · 10 years ago
    Trying to increase awareness about PTSD and military suicides is not an attempt to erode public confidence in our troops. It is an attempt to get better mental health services for our toops!

    They DESERVE better mental health care.

    It is people like you who keep the stigma of mental illness going strong and put fear in troops who think about asking for help. PTSD is not some made-up liberal conspiracy.

    Oh yeah, and nobody cares about John Kerry anymore. You're just as bad as the liberals who keep whining about Bush. It's not relevant anymore!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 10 years ago
    [quote name="5/2 Vet"]I was on that patrol in the Dab. Thanks for going to bat for us.[/quote]

    You are most welcome. Thank you for your service. 5/2 fought well, hard, and honorably. It is my duty to tell the truth just like it's your duty to kill Taliban. (Make no mistake -- if I came across that Kill Team I would have outed them. I just reported what I saw.)
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    Mommie · 10 years ago
    As the mother of one very dedicated soldier, I appreciate your honest reporting of the situations our soldiers experience in the field. Most Americans don't have the slightest clue what it's like to be in a war zone, let alone an actual combat situation. Yet they judge harshly and flail misguided opinions without hestation. You speak with experience, and that's what counts in my book.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Shawn Alladio · 10 years ago
    Wearing the uniform is a sacrifice. It's a harsh reality, the job is to fight a war, and it's Hell in that fight. RS is not presenting journalism to viewers or readers, they are a discredit to the profession. RS is misrepresenting their sponsors, and the clients who purchase those sponsor products by altering reality and selling a cheap shot at our Nation, our warriors and their families. RS needs to restore Honor or get out of the way. We cannot afford weakness in American any longer. Fight for what is right and not ignore what is wrong and allow the wrong to go unaccounted for. That's what allows free speech is not free, and neither is freedom. Michael Yon protects that standard and I thank him for that.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mitch · 10 years ago
    well i am in the same company as the soldiers in that video and can tell you for a fact that they did have a weapon and the guy on the back did try to bring it up to shoot and in fact may have tried to shoot as for the video footage on RS it seems doctored from the clip that i have seen from the people who took the video
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mitch · 10 years ago
    the issue isnt with that part of there story its with the inclusion of video footage from units that had no contact with the soldiers on trial both the motorcycle video and the thermal videos were shot from units in my battalion 1-17IN while the soldiers on trial are from 2-1 IN
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    mitch · 10 years ago
    i personally met mister yon on the ground in afghanistan and he went on patrol with platoons from my company countless times and lived with us for a while so no he doesnt just believe what he is told he lives the same stuff that soldiers do
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mitch · 10 years ago
    i was part of 1-17IN the unit whos videos were wrongly included in the RS story and i can tell you squad leaders have tons of control and such i cant count the number of times i went on patrol as a squad with out any officers or people out ranking my squad leader so yes they can be that autonomous
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    mitch · 10 years ago
    as a soldier in the unit whos video this is of i commend you for this comment becuase unless it was your life on the line you have no idea how many bullets were justified and in fact you can hear cease fire called in the video
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Raine Walker · 10 years ago
    I will boycott any product or service that advertises in RS.
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    Jean Kary · 10 years ago
    :sigh:: If it walks like a duck ane it talk like a duck then it is a duck. I will boycott any products and service that advertises in RS. In my opinion they fear the truth so they twist it. What is there agenda or goal?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Haakon Dahl · 10 years ago
    I'm so mad I could swear a blue streak. instead, I'll make it my business to point up the anti-American hostility which has enveloped the Rolling Stone. I don't care if they did it just for the readership; I know my enemy when I see him, and I do not care why he is my enemy.
    Fire in the hole.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Corey Mondello · 10 years ago
    At about 5:20, a soldier on the upper left side looks as if he is slicing open the dead man's face. This must be what i done prior to extracting the skull to keep as a trophy. I can almost smell the burning timbers of the next 9/11-like attack the USA deserves again.
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    Lazybum · 10 years ago
    Good article. The only surprise to me is they wrote it about Obama's war, and Obama's military.Although, I am sure somewhere, some how the blame Bush.
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    Frank DiMeo · 10 years ago
    Keep up the good work, Mike!
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    1-17 IN BN Vet · 10 years ago
    I was with 1-17 IN BN in the Arghandab River Valley and people back here in the states have no idea what it was like to be there. To go out and wonder if you were gonna come back alive or be leaving in a bag. Thanks Mr. Yon for your no bs reporting on our unit, it is greatly appreciated.
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    Joseph Meissner, POA · 10 years ago
    Michael

    Rolling Stones may do some good with its articles, but it also has done a lot of harm. It really is a question of trust and betraying trust for a "story that sells."

    Keep writing. Keep your head down.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A Concerned Citizen · 10 years ago
    Who cares? They killed a bunch of muslims. It's not as if they were killing people.
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    angryvet · 10 years ago
    This is preposterous. The video is over 40 minutes long from start to finish. The guy riding on the back of the bike raises an AK in his right hand. If you watch the complete video you clearly see the taliban were wearing chest racks and the weapon was recovered from underneath his body. I know because I was there..or you could ask the reporter from the seattle times who was there too. Pictures are taken to show the bodies as they lay WITH all evidence untouched. It keeps us infantry guys out of trouble. They are not meant for distribution but sometimes people do not dispose of them accordingly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    angryvet · 10 years ago
    You hit it spot on. The Buffalos of 1-17 IN did good work. It is absurd to link any of our combat operations to the kill squad by posting legitimate combat operation videos in the article.

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