I have been a huge fan of Michael Yon for years. He risks life and limb as an embedded reporter to report the news in Iraq from the soldiers' point of view and he is honest in his assessment. That honesty has often been met with scorn and resistance by some decision makers in the military who in my assessment have been their own worst enemy when it comes to getting the word out about progress as well as the hardships endured by our fine fighting men and women overseas.
But Michael knows the importance of giving a voice to the voiceless heroes that protect our shores so that we at home may tuck our children in to sleep peacefully at night. For this reason Michael provides us an alternative, more rounded message; a beacon in the darkness of the mainstream media's one sided narrative.
This is a battle that Michael Yon has been fighting since he landed on the ground. In 2005 Yon wrote about a recurring question that was asked of him by soldiers:
In late February 2005, as I was interviewing the combat soldiers with whom I’d spent an intense seven weeks, I was struck by a question I was asked over and over again.
“How much,” soldiers from 1st ID wondered aloud to me, “do the people at home know about the progress we have made over here?”
As I consider this whole manufactured controversy about my intentions in saying, then and now, that Iraq is in a civil war, and whether or not I used the right definition, and even, ridiculous as it seems, whether I have been hijacked by forces that oppose this war, what strikes me as most telling, and truly as most sad, is that, still, more than a year later, almost every soldier I’ve met in Iraq and most recently Afghanistan, still has to ask that same question: Do the people at home know about the progress we have made over here?
Sadly the answer to that question today is still no. Possibly worse however is that the mainstream media has done such a horrendous job of reporting on the war that many consumers of the news don't consider al-Qaeda as a primary major factor in the continuing hardships endured by the Iraqi people and coalition forces. I often speak to people who have been watching the war distractedly from the sidelines of the MSM reports who seem to think that the problems in Iraq would be solved if the American forces simply left or amazingly that the problems in Iraq began when the war started in 2003. Left out of the MSM narrative is much of the true cause and affect as reported by Yon and others who have first hand experience from their embedded positions on the ground.
It may not be pretty but you understand from early on that Yon's assessment is honestly written. Many of his thoughts that would be cut to the side by editors in the MSM are left in tact for all to absorb. This is the beauty of blogs.
Today Al Qaeda (AQ) is strong, but their welcome is tenuous in some regions as many Iraqis grow weary enough of the violence that trails them to forcibly evict AQ from some areas they’d begun to feel at home in. Meanwhile, our military, having adapted from eager fire-starting to more measured firefighting, after coming in so ham-fisted early on, has found agility in the new face of this war. Not lost on the locals was the fact that the Coalition wasn’t alone in failing to keep the faith of its promises to Iraqis.
Whereas we failed with the restoration of services and government, AQ has raped too many women and boys in Anbar Province, and cut-off too many heads everywhere else for anyone here to believe their claims of moral superiority. And they don’t even try to get the power going or keep the markets open or build schools, playgrounds and clinics for the children. In addition to destroying all of these resources, and murdering the Iraqis who work at or patronize them, AQ attacks people in mosques and churches, too. Thus, to those listening into the wind, an otherwise imperceptible tang in the atmosphere signals the time for change is at hand.
These are words and thoughts that we simply don't hear in the New York Times, CNN and most other major news outlets. Yon takes them to task.
For far too long our media and government have failed to fully inform us–even to the point of lying–about Iraq. I came to this ill-begotten war searching for people who knew the truth and would tell it. After those early embeds in places such as Diyala Province, back when I first began a five month embed in Mosul, I attempted to trace what had gone right and wrong with Nineveh Province during 2003, 2004, and 2005. Nineveh is a reasonable microcosm of an ethnically, religiously and culturally divergent Iraq–clearly affected by the whole, and affecting the whole–and I got in with one of America’s best fighting battalions, the 1-24th Infantry Regiment. They were at war. Out of the battalion of about 700, the soldiers were awarded about 181 purple hearts. And they were winning, clearly winning, in their tough battle space. I traveled around to many units in different provinces, but nowhere was the pulse of this war as palpable as it was with the 1-24th, also called the “Deuce Four.” Importantly, even perhaps presciently, feeling that pulse with my own fingers in 2005 led me to a specific person: David Petraeus, the first Coalition military leader in Nineveh, a general whose many successes in Iraq were at that time already behind him.
These are stories you never read about in the mainstream media and you can feel Yon's frustration. But he keeps doing his self assigned duty to tell you what others will not. That is why I bring your attention to thoughts that will never be uttered by the press.
During 2006, people finally began to admit that there was Civil War in Iraq, and that it was growing, but as 2006 drifted into 2007 without any measurable response to increasingly untenable conditions on the ground, my confidence was eroding rapidly. At the rate things were going, I figured I might soon be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with deeply and richly experienced people like Joe Galloway, who thinks we should be out of Iraq yesterday.
Some folks attack Joe for his opinion, saying he was never a soldier, what can he know? But that argument is facile at best. There are deep reservoirs of wisdom from people who never wore uniforms; in fact, most people never were soldiers. And there are few journalists who know more about the American military in the last four decades than Joe Galloway, who’s been on enough frontlines to know things usually only combat soldiers know. Furthermore, this is not a “soldiers only” matter. Most of the people who will be affected by the outcome will never wear a uniform.
But today, based on what I know first hand about this war, I respectfully disagree with Joe and the crowd of people who share his view that this war cannot be won.
The dispatch in full is a must read. Michael Yon isn't a shill for the military and he certainly does not speak for the politicians or their supporters in the media who single mindedly write Iraq off as a loss before the last chapter is even begun. He just does the job that the MSM won't.
Terry Trippany is the editor at Webloggin.
Nothing is certain. I am here and have been all year. We are in trouble, but we have a great General. The only one, I have long believed, who can lead the way out of this morass. Iraq is not hopeless. Iraq can stand again but first it must cast off these demons. And some of the demons must be killed. - Michael Yon, Be Not Afraid