March 23, 2007

Why Is CENTCOM Kicking Michael Yon Out Of Iraq?

Michael Yon has provided some of the best reporting on the ground in Iraq. He embeds with the troops, reporting honestly on the ups and downs of our efforts there. He has proven himself courageous under fire and keeps returning to give Americans a clear view of the status of our mission. Now, however, Yon may find himself booted out of Iraq:

A general emailed in the past 24 hours threatening to kick me out. The first time the Army threatened to kick me out was in late 2005, just after I published a dispatch called “Gates of Fire.” Some of the senior level public affairs people who’d been upset by “Proximity Delays” were looking ever since for a reason to kick me out and they wanted to use “Gates of Fire” as a catapult. In the events described in that dispatch, I broke some rules by, for instance, firing a weapon during combat when some of our soldiers were fighting fairly close quarters and one was wounded and still under enemy fire. That’s right. I’m not sure what message the senior level public affairs people thought that would convey had they succeeded, (which they didn’t) but it was clear to me what they valued most. They want the press on a short leash, even at the expense of the life of a soldier.

Some readers might recall that LTC Barry Johnson denied my embed requests in 2006, but after I wrote “Censoring Iraq,” somehow the door opened up. Strangely, a couple days ago, LTC Barry Johnson invited me to be a panelist at a symposium in Washington D.C. on ”the role of blogs and bloggers in the news environment today. The intent is to help PAOs better understand the issues involved.” Call me suspicious, but my whiskers tingled on that one.

Colonel Austin Bay says it best:

This is stupid. Michael Yon and Bill Roggio are the best out there. Telling Michael Yon to exit the theater is the WWII equivalent of telling Ernie Pyle to quit filing dispatches.

Does the Army want to build honest support for the mission here at home? Or would they rather play bureaucratic games with one of the few journalists willing to go wherever our soldiers go? Someone needs a reality check at CENTCOM. (via Shaun Mullen at TMV)


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» A JOURNALIST'S VIEW OF IRAQ from jeffreymark
Journalist and blogger Michael Yon, posts some pretty objective news concerning Iraq. A high school buddy's death compelled Yon to get involved. Yon studied cults and seems to comprehend the impetus for baneful actions in various religions. Furthermore... [Read More]

» "Let's send Ernie home." from Bill's Bites
Michael Yon threatened with expulsion by a generalAustin Bay (Hat tip: Jules C) This is stupid. Michael Yon and Bill Roggio are the best out there. Telling Michael Yon to exit the theater is the WWII equivalent of telling Ernie [Read More]

» CENTCOM Woes - Michael Yon May Be Forced Out Of Iraq from Webloggin
If Mr. Yon can’t be allowed to be honest about the state of affairs on the ground then nobody but the military is to blame for the distrust that the mainstream media has for the information coming from the front. If we are to win the war of misi... [Read More]

Comments (25)

Posted by mariselapmorris [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 7:35 AM


Posted by mariselapmorris [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 7:41 AM


Posted by sam pender [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 8:16 AM

If kicked out of US forces, then why not embed with Iraqi Security Forces instead?

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 8:26 AM

There is always somebody out there who can't tolerate the notion that they aren't in absolute control of everything and everybody in sight. Journalists, especially the good ones, are professional irritants to the control freaks of this world. If they aren't pissing somebody off every day, hopefully with the truth, they aren't doing their job.

Michael has been through this before and he'll be through it again before his career is over. He'll be fine!

The control freak in the woodpile will just have to be told to get over it, and he'll be Ok too - eventually.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 9:08 AM

BIG mistake if Yon gets booted. I don't trust the MSM outlets to report from theater. They have proven untrustworthy and too agenda driven too often. Has Yon? Not that I've seen. Good or bad, he seems to get in the thick of things and provides honest reportage with his own flair. It would be idiotic to dump him unless he was providing battle plans to the enemy like Geraldo Rivera.

Even strong supporters (well, me anyway) of OIF would become highly critical of this particular expulsion and more suspicious of the effort in Iraq generally should Yon be abandoned.

Are these Generals (or this one) so foolish to dispense with such a powerful voice for the cause when everyone knows that it takes more than arms to win a war? Americans understand that the theater needs to be controlled, but Yon is an ally... both for the field soldiers and for the American public.

Again, big mistake if Yon goes.

Posted by BD [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 9:43 AM

Second Lew's notion.

IMO, most of the brass think dealing with the press is a "no win" proposition and at least "a few" of them are scared to death of embeds.

Think about it: in a nice, safe press conference, they get to decide who's put out to talk, they decide what information the pressies will get, etc. - maybe they aren't going to get much in the way of positive press coverage that way, but at least they 'minimize' the damage.

With an embed, on the other hand, the message is out of control from the start. The embed is going to see whatever happens, and the enemy has a say in that. Embeds will see some things the brass would rather they not see and (the brass is afraid) they'll take it where they see fit, whether the brass likes it or not.

They don't fear just the embed who sees something and slants it to do the maximum amount of damage to the military & the mission. Even in victory / success, ugly things happen and they'd rather the primary focus be on victory / success (for some, the price paid to attain victory is ennobling; for others, any price is too high, so even discussing it weakens our resolve).

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 9:58 AM

Michael may have done something very bad -- not revealing the complaint in the e-mail but only revealing its arrival seems suspicious. He's been slapped in the face and is venting a bit of steam himself, as the general did.

The general is reminding Yon of his rank. But even the general knows that in many important ways a civilian is equal in rank to a general officer. The general can order that Yon leave theater, and his command would force Yon to comply, but if the complaint is unfair, the general has made a very big mistake by sending an infinitely repeatable e-mail to a blogger. If the general's complaint is petty, his career would be forever damaged if the content of the e-mail were disclosed.

So, we have two possibilities:
a) Content is petty, but Yon thinks general is overall doing good job, or
b) Content is a legitimate complaint, in which case either
I) The general is not doing his job because Yon is still in theater, or
II) The general has decided to give Yon a second chance.

With regard to facilities for reporters (the majority of the complaint in Yon's missive linked by the Captain), he's asking for stuff Ernie Pyle never would have asked for -- that the Army provide infrastructure for his comfort different from what they provide to the common soldier. That's a bit of prima-donna primping there. I note that Mr. Yon seems to have no difficulty in filing his dispatches, so what's the real beef?

We are missing the vitial information it takes to judge the seriousness of this situation and whether the e-mail reprimand was deserved -- the content of the e-mail itself. This kind of reportage is similar to the stuff we get from the LA Times.

Come on, Mr. Yon, you can do better than that!

Posted by PersonFromPorlock [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 11:07 AM

It might be worthwhile knowing what flavor of General we have here. Given their head, Brigadier Generals sometimes turn out to be loose cannons who retire rather quickly.

Posted by Right2thePoint [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 11:37 AM

Uncle said
I note that Mr. Yon seems to have no difficulty in filing his dispatches, so what's the real beef?
Sir Mike has been having nothing both grief in trying to get dispatches out.

The wireless connections are intermittent and he is just asking for an unclassified landline connection.

He has had to in some cases relay his post voice via satellite phone to Dean Barret over at Townhall to get small reports out.

Since he is also working with Fox now I would hope they could assist with a satellite data link.

Posted by tgharris [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 11:41 AM

Regarding Mr. Yon and the weapon in combat...

FWIW, I believe Yon is ex-special forces. Its not like Joe Shmo with a "Press" card went trigger happy. Read "Gates of Fire" sometime. The incident Yon refers to was intense small unit urban warfare. And he was right there. Which is why we get the straight scoop from him.

IMO, booting an HONEST, pro-victory journalist out of Iraq is as bad as selling your vote on war funding for a little pork. Different sin, same result.

Posted by Jeffrey Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 12:12 PM

Yon is valuable precisely because he ISN'T a slanted journalist. He's a talented, ex-military writer and the civilian public should be grateful and supportive of his work. It's not because, he's a "pro-victory" journalist, as tgharris calls him in his comment. It's because he writes real-time, non-political, reportage. And that's a rare thing.

Posted by JD [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 1:34 PM

PAO's are the only thing I loath even more than military lawyers or the Joe Friday wannabees in CID. When I think of PAOs the mildest terms that come to mind would never make it past the language filters in most blogs.

I come by my biases honestly, due to several occasions I had to speak/deal with this subset. Hmm if I might jokingly make a comparison. The concept of PAOs seems to be if you have a cretin of a journalist bugging you then put a cretin in charge with dealing with him.

So I'll give Yon a pass until it's proven he somehow made some major error. I know the breed he's dealing with and he's a far better man than I am for putting up with their BS.

Posted by Jack is Back [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 3:14 PM

You mean there is some PAO out there that doesn't want a qualify small arms expert (ex-SFO) to help out in close fire-fight because he is now a blogger/journalist? And he is on our side? We really are the opposite of how the Jihadi's and Al-Jazeera and the MSM work together.

Posted by crosspatch [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 3:31 PM

My guess is that it is a partisan General. Imagine the stink that would be raised if he gets kicked out. It might erode support by some on the right for our war effort. General officers are political animals and both parties have their partisans in those ranks. Who gave this guy his first star ... Clinton or Bush?

Posted by Mike Hendrickson [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 3:46 PM

Look, here's my Marine Corps infantry officer take (for what its worth) on the journalist with a weapon thing:

I love Michael Yon but as an inde combat journalist that used to be a fire-breathing snake-eater (ie Green Beret). His objectivity is the best (and most effective) thing about his role as a journalist.

He looses all of that when he picks up a weapon and joins the offensive role of a combat participant. Sure Joe Galloway did it in the Ia Drang, but he was a civilian. There is a huge difference.

When a journalist who was a Green Beret in another life picks up a weapon, he ceases to be a journalist ever again. Any credibility that he had as a veteran of combat is eroded by the perceived idea that he is a willing participant, not a reporter objectively observing the battle space.

Of course that is just my opinion, but there is a related side-bar: Journalists are specifically forbidden to join the fight (and agree to as much) as a pre-requisite of entering the AOR. They let him get away with it once. Maybe he brought down the brass wrath one time too many.

Semper Fidelis.

Posted by tgharris [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:42 PM


You miss my meaning. I'm not saying Yon is biased in his reporting. Quite the contrary. You will note I capitalized the word "honest" in my post.

My point is that Yon, like a 21st century Ernie Pyle, wants the United States to win in Iraq. I'm afraid too many of the journalistic breed would rather we lose.

Mike Hendrickson: I see your point...Its just that from my civilian point of view, I find it hard to judge Yon over the weapon. Perhaps he was too quick to cross the non-combatant line. Perhaps not. I can't believe though, that there's never a time when someone like Yon is justified crossing that line.

Of course, like I said....this is a civilian talking. And rules (like 'em or not) are still rules.

Posted by crosspatch [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:46 PM

"Journalists are specifically forbidden to join the fight (and agree to as much) as a pre-requisite of entering the AOR."

That makes sense. If a journalist picks up a weapon and joins the fight, it makes all other journalists targets in the minds of the enemy. Once a journalist joins the fight, it places all other journalists in the theatre at risk of attack by the enemy because the enemy has no idea which journalists are "just" journalists and which ones will shoot at them so all journalists would be treated as just another soldier and be fair game for attack.

So in that respect, I can see where Yon might not make many friends with his 100% civilian journalist friends because he might have put them at greater risk of attack and stripped them of any credible defense that they are "just reporters".

Posted by Jeffrey Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:57 PM

Well, Mike Hendrickson, I fail to see the logic in your argument. How does Yon's action in using a weapon to defend himself and the soldiers he's embedded with compromise objectivity? Objectivity isn't even an issue here. Who's he supposed to be objective about - the insurgents?

His skill as a reporter isn't diminished by his common sense to act when action is needed. And I'm curious about where your opinion that "a journalist who was a Green Beret in another life picks up a weapon, he ceases to be a journalist ever again" comes from. Besides that fact that the sentence lacks coherency, how did you ever arrive at that rather odd point of view?

TGHARRIS: I understood your point. I just disagree that with that pro-victory/pro-defeat tag. While there are lots of people, including me, that hate the fact that we're in Iraq at all, I don't know of a single opponent of the war who actively desires a U.S. defeat. To go back to Yon, in my opinion, his talent as a writer and his honorable behavior as a man would be intact whether he personally thought that "victory" in Iraq was possible or not.

Posted by tgharris [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 5:54 PM


We'll have to agree to disagree.


Posted by crosspatch [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 5:59 PM

Once he joins the battle, he is a participant, not an observer. Anything he writes is the writing of a participant, not an observer. He can try to be objective, but to be completely objective is hard enough to do, you need to be nearly like Mr. Spock. That he decided to participate means that he made a judgement call and pure objectivity is free from judgement even if it means wactching everyone else around you slaughtered. If one is simply reporting an event, then their being there shouldn't influence the outcome. He influenced the outcome. He took sides in a fight rather than reporting on the fight.

Not saying that is *wrong* ... but saying thats how I see the way it *is*. and I am not sure anyone can be a purely objective observer under all conditions. If a child were in danger and I were in a position to avert that danger, I would do so rather than watch the event unfold and report a tragic death. Mike apparently did the same thing here in helping protect those soldiers. But the end result is a loss of objectivity because the event you are reporting is an event you created, not one that happened on its own.

Posted by Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 6:26 PM

crosspatch, tgharris, Mike. First the statement "If a journalist picks up a weapon and joins the fight, it makes all other journalists targets in the minds of the enemy. Once a journalist joins the fight, it places all other journalists in the theatre at risk of attack by the enemy because the enemy has no idea which journalists are "just" journalists and which ones will shoot at them so all journalists would be treated as just another soldier and be fair game for attack." is moot. Since day one, Al Queda has simple rules about journalist neutrality. Kill them, Kidnap them. Period. To them, killing journalists is a GOOD thing. Take a look at the stats for journalists killed. The 'Enemy will respect Journalists because we are neutral' is a myth.

Mike, if you read his report about the incident, you will see that he had two choices at that moment. He could (A) defend himself. Or (B) be dead. Remember, he is not the first journalist to pick up a weapon to defend himself in the middle of a firefight.

This reminds me of an incident early in the war. A Embed journalist looked over to his right and saw an Iraqi about to shoot an RPG into the vehicle he was riding in. He 'reported' this breaking news to the fellows in the Bradley. And was condemned roundly for it by other Journalists, saying that it destroyed his journalistic integrity forever. Gee, reporting news to the wrong people is a crime?

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 7:41 PM

This is also up at INstaPundit. With a great link to Michael Yon's photographs. Something that took two days for him to transmit!

I just wish I knew how to let the dolts in the pentagon KNOW that I've got General Vincent Brooks' NUMBAH.

He's as incomptent as the two-star that got tossed out of Walter Reed.

So good things can come from the NET!

What is General Brooks up to in IRaq? Start with this. He's got a very fancy media office. And, he is BLOCKING Michael Yon.

At some points, Michael's stuff is tossed out in the mud. Then, when "someone" tugs at a short hair or two on an idiot general, things improve a bit.

If you look at the photos, you'll see Michael Yon has no Internet access. And, all his expensive gear is wide out in the open. The only thing, so far the IDIOT, General Vincent Brooks has NOT done; is put on sign on the precious cargo Michael Yon carries around, saying "steal this stuff."

AS SOON AS AN INCOMPETENT LIKE GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS gets exited "home." And, the faster the tongue-tied president in the White House gets cracking, so much the better.

TIME FOR THE INTERNET TO GET TO RUN INTERFERENCE FOR A GREAT REPORTER. In Iraq. Where it's the incompetents who arrive with pentagon blessings, and big, big offices, that stand in our way.

I'm really disgusted.

You can save the neck of an idiot like AG Gonzales. I don't care either way. If it makes the president feel good? Fine.

But Bush sure lets a lot of turkeys hop about in DC. WHo then can use paper to chase the good guys away.

Gee, I wonder if General Vincent Brooks ever heard of Wesley Clark, and what happened to him, when Americans got to know him better?

Ah, yes. Michael Yon did dispatch, through Fox, who is NOT PAYING HIM A DIME, some of the most nitty gritty stuff to come out of Iraq.

Why not force General Vincent Brooks to kiss Nancy Pelosi? I'd pay to see that, ya know.

Posted by msr [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 8:51 PM

Well, personally I think what Mr. Yon did was understandable, approaching heroic. Beyond that, in a legal sense, wasn't he totally in the wrong? His best argument is that he took up the gun in the heat of the moment to save his own life.

Otherwise, wouldn't he be in violation of Articles 4(2)(a) & (b) of the Third Geneva convention? Was he in a military uniform? Was he taking orders from, a clearly recognized chain of command?

Isn't this exactly what we've been arguing for three years now constitutes a terrorist? Someone who claims civilian status one minute, and then pulls out a weapon? The brass are probably spitting mad that he could get the whole lot of OUR side up for an Article 5 hearing.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 24, 2007 2:56 PM

We still have some Hillary generals who need flushing from the system.

Posted by kyleaatala [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 25, 2007 1:08 AM

new update must be noticeable