Monday, August 22, 2005

Michael Yon on "Why Do We Only Hear Bad News From Iraq?"

If your view of the progress of Coalition and Iraqi forces against the terrorists in Iraq consists only of "so many Iraqis blown up in the streets today + so many Coalition servicemen killed", who is to blame for that? The MSM?

This weekend, Michael Yon put a great deal of the responsibility for it on the shoulders of the American military:

The answer is simple. Often I am asked to withhold information due to the immediate sensitivty. And so, I never release the slightest hint. But then somebody in Baghdad--three steps removed from the action here in Mosul-- releases it to CNN and the rest of the world. What is seen on television and in the papers is practically always inaccurate, or is at least poorly framed. But I rarely waste a breath trying to correct the information. It's too late. Life is busy here.
Just why the military considers some information "classified" while other information gets the "go ahead, write it" shrug, is not based on logic, science, or even one of those absurd but iron clad rules that codify so much of the military. Many explanations for the military's requests not to publish certain information, do not hold up well to scrutiny.
If we aren't keeping it secret from the enemy--and we can't keep it secret from them--who do we protect by keeping quiet? These are not illegal operations. These are examples of the effectiveness of our forces. In Mosul alone there are daily events where the Coalition gets things right, that I never write about.
The higher-ups also seem to have a disconnect with what the media eventually does with Coalition successes. I kept silent for days on the Zarqawi-letter dispatch, ready to post what was probably the single most important piece of insider information to drop into our hands in quite some time. I requested clearance several times per day, each time being asked to hold back. I complied. But then, without even giving the leaders at Deuce Four a head's up, a typically entralling military press release went out to major,mainstream, media outlets. We all learned of it on CNN. The Zarqawi-letter story was almost unrecognizable. Because, in the hands of a network that hasn't had a body in the field in Mosul long enough to get their bearings, the best the media could do is paraphrase the military press release. So what should have been a front page banner headline story ended up buried on page 6.
Every one, even a "higher up" deserves the benefit of the doubt, and should be entitled to one mistake. But how many times, and how many major stories have to be mangled into meaninglessness before someone connects the cables and lets the information flow in a direction other than down the mainstream media drain Meanwhile, by the time you read this, the US Army and the ISF will have launched offensive operations in Mosul and I will be in the middle of it. Maybe this time I will be able to write about matters while they still matter.

It appears Yon is losing patience. In a postscript he says:
The operation has begun. The Commander of Deuce Four, LTC Erik Kurilla, was shot three times in combat yesterday in front of my eyes. Despite being seriously wounded, LTC Kurilla immediately rejoined the intense and close-quarter fight that ended in hand-to-hand combat. LTC Kurilla continued to direct his men until a medic gave him morphine and the men took him away. I was right there. When I returned to base, I was actually "ordered" not to write about the fighting until given clearance, and was told that my phones could be confiscated. I will ignore such "orders" at my own discretion. I am preparing a dispatch now.

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