June 1, 2010

Saving Their Own Skins?

Back from a Memorial Day spent aboard my maritime home, celebrating Memorial Day with half a dozen ‘Nam and “other places” buddies. To us, celebrating is the proper word, for we do indeed celebrate… the lives and times, the bravery and the selfless patriotism of friends and comrades who died while putting themselves willingly in harm’s way for our great country.

There were surpluses of good food (I had the modest affair “catered” by an excellent local eatery I frequent), Jack Daniels, both black and green labels, Sam Adams and Anchor Steam Beer and their dy-na-mite Porter (three of the better American brands, since imports wouldn’t be right on a day honoring fallen American heroes) and a lot of heartfelt toasts to good men gone.

This post is also on the topic of war, in this case an injustice that is apparently being done by Big Brass to cover their own asses by kicking the truth to the curb.

Many readers of Hard Astarboard are probably familiar with war correspondent Michael Yon, an ex Special Forces guy who has covered the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as an embed who, unlike most of his “colleagues”, actually gets in there and covers his beat, risks be damned, then reports things as he sees them, without the political bias of mainstream media reporters. With his own military background, again unlike his “colleagues”, he is eminently qualified to comment knowledgeably on that which he encounters.

That said…

The military has cut short a war correspondent’s embed, and there may be evidence that the decision may have been part of a smear campaign against the writer.

Michael Yon, a former Green Beret, has been covering Iraq and Afghanistan for six years. He has also covered conflicts in Thailand, the Philippines, and Nepal. Following a string of events covered by Yon that cast a negative light on two top NATO commanders, the military decided to terminate Yon’s embed prematurely, citing reasons that didn’t add up.

ISAF’s reason for disembedding Yon was “embed overcrowding.” Yet in an email to Admiral Gregory J. Smith, an ISAF public affairs officer, Yon wrote, “I rarely see journalists. Those journalists I see have been doing drive-by reporting.”

Yon states that he has forwarded to his attorney “compelling evidence” of a smear campaign perpetrated by members of Gen. McChrystal’s staff. He says that the general’s staff have released official statements that are “defamatory and libelous.”

“A writer must be able to spot libel just as a soldier must be able to spot IEDs,” writes Yon. “It’s part of the job. If you can’t spot it, you will get hurt.”

So here they go, members of the military top brass, purportedly looking to save their own skins by using a technique favored by propagandizing, low life commie liberals “progressives”.

Sweep the man under a rug, render him inoperable in hopes of preventing him from imparting the truth to the people.

In March, Yon began investigating a possible weapons mishap by Canadian Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard, the top Canadian general in Afghanistan and also Commander of Task Force Kandahar. Reports say that Menard nearly shot Canada’s Chief of the Defense Staff, Gen. Walt Natynczyk while preparing to board a helicopter at Kandahar Airfield. According to Yon, Menard didn’t acknowledge the incident until ISAF learned that Yon was looking into the matter. Menard was found guilty of negligent discharge and fined $3500 on Tuesday.

Menard has operational control over three battalions of U.S. Army soldiers. And as Yon points out in his website that “while Canada increasingly shies from combat, American units under Canadian command will spill blood under Canadian military leadership that answers to Ottawa.”

The Canadian general’s defense counsel stated Menard “accepted full responsibility.” But in a separate incident just days before the shooting, Menard took absolutely no responsibility for a fatal incident on a strategic bridge near Kandahar when a suicide bomber killed a U.S. soldier.

On the morning of March 1, a suicide car bomber attacked a U.S. convoy as they crossed the Tarnak River Bridge leading to Kandahar. The bridge is a chokepoint on a crucial route between Kandahar Airfield and the town of Kandahar, and on out to Helmand Province. The bridge was damaged in the attack, which killed U.S. Army Specialist Ian Gelig, several Afghan civilians, and wounded several other soldiers. Numerous missions were canceled as the river could not be crossed.

The Stryker Brigade that Yon was embedded with was tasked with keeping the roads open. And the British Royal Air Force is responsible for much of the ground around Kandahar Airfield, including the land around the bridge. And the Afghanistan National Police, mentored by U.S. military police were guarding the bridge. However when Yon investigated the matter, he was informed by multiple officers that Menard was ultimately responsible for the bridge at the time of the attack as it belongs to Task Force Kandahar.

“Menard ultimately had responsibility for the bridge,” Yon stated in an interview. When Yon investigated the matter, he was informed by multiple officers that the bridge at the time of the attack belonged to Task Force Kandahar. Menard tried to pin the blame on his supervisor, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter. Yet during a meeting with ISAF officials, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Ben Hodges took full responsibility, although Yon did not believe him.

When asked why the U.S. military would possibly cover for Menard, Yon replied, “I think the cover was in the interest of Coalition warfare. An American putting it to a Canadian would have had political ramifications.”

I’ve followed Yon’s reporting and photo-journals for a long time, now, and, even though he was a blanket-head in service (that’s what we used to call those Army dudes with the berets back in my time), he was still a member of the elite community of warriors and one whose word I would take over some self-serving career officer’s line of lube any day of the week.

Yon has stood alone in his criticism of Menard and received heavy fire for doing so. He called Menard incompetent and said he needed to be fired. He also stands alone saying the same about McChrystal. Yon recently wrote, “This is clear as day: General Stanley McChrystal will lose this war.”

“The reason stated for my disembed was ‘overcrowding.’ Clearly this is untrue,” Yon said. “The war is going poorly and it is widely known that I will call the ball where it lands. We are losing the war and it seems likely that McChrystal and staff don’t want me in combat reporting their failures.”

So with the upcoming operation in Kandahar – which would be commanded by Menard – it seems entirely possible that ISAF wanted Yon out of the theater. His criticism of not only Menard but of ISAF commander Gen Stanley McChrystal could well be the reason behind the ending of his embed.

While the military may view Yon’s dispatches as controversial, the American people deserve the truth. And as Kay Day from the US Report says, “No one reporting on the Global War on Terror has done a more effective or honest job than Michael Yon.”

Past statements by Yon were initially viewed as controversial – such as being the first journalist to say the “Surge” was working, or that Iraq was experiencing a “civil war.”

However, these events would soon become conventional wisdom. Could his assessments of Gens. Menard and McChrystal soon become conventional wisdom as well?

Perhaps a comment from a reader at the United States Naval Institute sums it up best:
Frankly, I trust Yon more than I trust McChrystal at this point.

The man who took part in the cover-up of [Army Ranger and former professional football player Pat] Tillman’s death has lost quite a bit of credibility. In fact, McChrystal admitted as much – years later – before the Senate.

Yon, meanwhile, was right about Iraq. He was right about Afghanistan. He was right about Petraeus. He was right about Menard.

And I suspect he’s right about McChrystal.

The Tillman link above was added by me, to refresh the memories of anyone who may not recall any of the details.

Hell, to my way of thinking, while Michael Yon is a proven force in his area of endeavor, General McChristol is, as I said, a career officer and, more to the point, he is acceptable to President Barack Obama, or he wouldn’t be there.

Now, knowing how we at this blog feel about the lack of scruples and the paucity of American patriotism present in the Obama Administration, what kind of a reference is that?

by @ 12:15 pm. Filed under Afghanistan, Good People Punished, WTF!!!!?
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2 Responses to “Saving Their Own Skins?”

  1. Thibojeaux Says:

    I’ve seen some of Michael Yon’s work, mostly from his time embedded in Iraq, and it was good stuff.

    Unlike the left wingers in the mainstream media, Yon actually posted articles and pics that showed the side of our involvement in Iraq that wasn’t all doom and gloom and “Bush lied”, the many positive things that came of our showing Saddam the door.

    I hope Yon fights this and wins it, because having a real correspondent on the scene always beats having a bunch of worthless horses’ behinds there with a common liberal political agenda and no guts for going where the real bullets are flying.

  2. Chuck Says:


    I was familiar with him, as well, when he was embedded in Iran and have followed his work, at least loosely, since.

    I’d also like to see him press this issue and KA/TN! :-)