I'm going to start this one with some admissions of ignorance by Yon, in his own words. I'll then look at how he went from praising General McChrystal, to calling for his head, and examining where Yon's vindictive headhunting took him.
So Yon has been covering the wars for years, and claimed in 2006 that we were losing the War in Afghanistan, but in May of 2010, he still doesn't know who the Taliban even are. That could be a post of its own. I don't expect everyone to understand who the Taliban are, but I do expect the expert combat Journalist, who makes a living by asking people to donate money to his time in country, (and his extended vacations in Thailand) to understand who the Taliban are. I'll bet readers here could educate him.
But Yon also admits he doesn't know what's going on in the bigger picture. You know, I could give him this one, if it weren't for the fact that he had been prolifically declaring the General who does know is "incompetent." I've never "blogged" from a combat zone as has Yon, but I've served as a Warrior in more than one. I know that it's difficult to focus on the forest while also seeing the tree. When you're taking small arms fire, it's hard to care who's watching on the big screen in Bagram, or what they think of how your piece fits into the strategic picture.
Our own reports, at War On Terror News, on Afghanistan need the analysis of putting together the pieces of the puzzle. We provide the box of pieces, but a search in the upper left will put all the FET (Female Engagement Teams) pieces in one pile, and all the Marjah pieces in another pile, so someone could see the bigger picture. By clicking on the category "Afghanistan" to the right or above, one can get a daily picture of what's going on today, yesterday and this week. Or by clicking on the "Hardened Warriors," category to the right one can see that Our Troops are committed to doing good things for unarmed civilians where ever they go: Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand, the Philippines, and elsewhere!
And I didn't just take exception to Yon being clueless on the ethnicity that is Arab, I lambasted him for being a writer unable to use a dictionary, or too lazy to look it up. I can understand that an average American reader might be confused on this, but Yon has been a Journalist and blogger in the Middle East for years, before he finally got a headache trying to figure it out. It's his bread and butter, literally, to know that. These may not be simple terms for a reader, but they should be easy definitions for the "expert" that has spent years writing about it.
But what did Yon have to say about General McChrystal before he began the attack on an ally?
He "senses" the American Leadership is strong! He quotes General(Ret) McCaffrey as saying that General McChrystal is experienced and qualified, without any exception by Yon to that analysis. As of the very day he begins his crusade against BG Menard, he has made no issue against the General that he'll later claim as his second scalp. It won't take long for this attitude to change, and we really are left to wonder what the true motivations are for that change of opinion. I have an opinion, but what does the evidence show?
Just as he focused his attention on BG Menard and continuously pointed out Menard was a Canadian to whom American Colonels reported, so too does he show his true beef with General McChrystal on several occasions. It appears, quite frankly, that he believes General McChrystal personally ordered his disembed. Yon rejects the official reason for his disembed, as well as the speculation by milbloggers that it was due to OPSEC violations.
Milbloggers that had propped up Yon's reputation for years, searched for a reason on why he might have so suddenly disintegrated. Several privately asked him to consider that he had simply been at war too long. When things continued to go awry, they publicly stated their previous support, but that they could no longer recommend him.
Milblogging.com still lists him as one of the top 3 milbloggers, while even the nicest guy in milblogging attempts to distance himself from the dispute, and distance himself from Yon. JP, of Milblogging.com cannot be considered unfair. He spotlights as many Veterans that want to speak out as he can find, without regard to politics or personal opinion. JP is the granddaddy of milblogs. He coined the phrase, I believe. He took a chance when the military was still leery of such things.
But why did the Military disembed Yon? Officially? The military could not have found a more benign excuse. Yon was no longer the only Journalist or blogger who wanted to cover the war. They had a backlog of embed requests, and Yon had already been extended multiple times. Is that the real reason? The primary reason? Or did other factors play in? It is a valid excuse, but I'll agree with Yon, that he probably showed his butt one time too many.
He may have attacked Uncle Jimbo of Blackfive for saying that he "heard there were other reasons," but Yon himself stated several times that he didn't accept the official reason. Yon regularly complained that the disembed cost him too much money. As far as I know, there is no charge to Journalists to sleep in Military Housing at KAF, to go on patrol, to ride in military vehicles, but I'm pretty sure they have to pay (cut-rate) prices for their food, some of the time. They do have to get themselves to Afghanistan or Iraq and back, but that's a small price for the free lodging.
Yon complained that his plans to leave KAF had cost too much to reverse, when he claimed he was given an offer to stay. He complained that he had to turn down an embed with the Brits. He claimed he was going to take the "safer" path of going disembedded. He had a beef that the offensive in Kandahar was about to begin and he wouldn't be there.
But, the military pointed to an irrefutable fact. Yon had been embedded and extended in his embeds longer than SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) afforded. More than once, they had invited him to re-apply.
Many times in the next year, Yon would tell fans that he was on the verge of landing a big interview with an international leader, or on returning to Afghanistan, and recently told another journalist that he might see him in Iraq. Yon has made subtle (and not so subtle) requests for money from his readers on many occasions, but his plans seem to fall through or simply never materialize.
But, as Yon attacked General McChrystal on leadership, his principal complaint was that McChrystal wasn't media savvy, which is probably true. The Yon comment, to the right along with many of Yon's comments, imply that any war without Yon is already lost. "We were losing in Afghanistan," until Yon showed up. We didn't even know "we were losing in Iraq," until Yon showed up. Yon's time on the ground corresponded to turning the place around and "winning the wars." But you know, one blogger isn't the reason why things went from dire to sustained success. Not even one General is solely responsible, but a General in Charge can have a big impact, even if one blogger at the bottom can barely influence the perception.
Yon's complaints about the information war included McChrystal as a target, but were also focused on the Public Affairs Officers(PAO), who manage the embed system. Honestly? The publication of information has not been as efficient as it could be, but it has improved considerably since 9/11. It's still not perfect, but it has always been accurate, if conservative, in what it puts out. PAO's will use "suspected insurgent" instead of "terrorist" and many are loathe to actually publish the body count of enemy KIA. PAO's are factual and we use their reports often. They do a pretty good job, even as they attempt to avoid allegations of being a propaganda machine.
They did not deserve Yon's attacks on them as "crazy monkeys." And Yon was not well served by launching an attack on the very people who decide where he's allowed to go. Still, it appears to me that the PAO's turned the other cheek. They chose not to use their authority to disallow Yon from a future embed. No, they invited him to apply for a new embed, from the beginning.
Yon does not seem to understand why others do not blindly endorse his opinions and actions. He doesn't seem to understand why it's detrimental to attack the very people who determine his future. He doesn't seem to understand that despite his previous popularity, as the near lone Journalist reporting, it has waned as MSM Journalists joined him in reporting, and it is the PAO's job to get them embeds as well, since they are finally taking note. Yon does understand, but does not state, his readership and his donations are shrinking. He does understand that his readership saw a brief spike amidst the General Menard controversy, but perhaps not, that, along with the McChrystal attacks resulted in his readership shrinking to its lowest levels in years.
Yon seems to have become a conspiracy theorist at some point. The difference between him and those that write conspiracy theory novels, is that the professionals in the field provide evidence that's not connected, while Yon presents no evidence of his allegations. His only evidence is that people no longer trust him. He regularly publishes private emails, including official military email addresses, sending his fanatics to spam those email accounts. And he seems to think that's okay. He calls for others to do the same.
Yon does not seem to understand that people can come to the same conclusions, without collusion, based on the evidence they all see. In this case, they saw his own words and actions. They saw him self-destroying. Many were truly concerned for his mental health. They saw him attacking a General, whose only "crime" was not believing the hype that is Yon. Sure, they had questions about his claims of time in the military, but while he was acting as a Journalist, they had no reason to challenge his background.
When a former E5 is reporting on the Honor of Our Troops, his long tab isn't really the question. Many a civilian has done what Yon has. His veteran status earned him early trust, but trust is fragile. Few questioned his claims or looked too deeply at the character of his service while they had no cause to do so.
When a former E5 believes his non-combat service makes him more knowledgeable than 90% of the Army and the Generals that run war, his short stint in the Army comes into question. When a former E5's less than 5 years of peacetime service causes him to challenge a retired Senior NCO's honorable service, his own time in court, and questions of why he didn't make the grade expected of his position, are certainly ripe for scrutiny.
His January 2011 activities attacking Uncle Jimbo and CJ Grisham may have been designed to pull in readers. He may have thought that a new controversy would spark interest in his site, and he did note a spike in his Facebook Fanpage, but that doesn't translate into new readers and new donations. A hot story can cause a spike, but if there's nothing to keep readers coming back, they won't. And those attacks were more likely to send readers away from a bully than to convince people that he still had it. Much of that spike was caused by people looking for evidence of their suspicions. I guarantee you neither I nor CJ tickled his Paypal account.
But his escapades at BlackFive and elsewhere may not have been designed so much to gain readers as to develop the basis for a lawsuit. He has threatened several, and actually has had cause for a few. Main Stream Media and Hollywierd types have used some of his best pictures, unlawfully, to enrich themselves. On the other hand, he has pre-authorized the media to use his work in recent years, for the simple price of a link to his site.
I am not legal counsel for CJ, UJ or Michael Yon, but I have come to the belief that Uncle Jimbo and CJ Grisham have cause for legal action, but have seen no evidence that Yon does. I'm betting his legal counsel has told him that "as a public figure," his basis for a libel suit is reduced, that it is the right of individuals to speculate about his motives and his mental state, as well as the causes of his disembed. I'm also betting that he was told more than once that he was a "disgrace to the uniform," probably in the aftermath of the manslaughter charges.
Yon's lack of credibility is not based on things said by others on the Liddy show. His lack of credibility is based in his unsubstantiated claims and allegations. His lack of credibility goes all the way back to Tarnak, his false allegations there, his false claims to the "glory" of getting Menard fired, and his vendetta against McChrystal for not blindly heeding his greatness. His lack of credibility lays in calling McChrystal incompetent for his disembed, and claiming "glory," not his to claim, in Obama's firing of McChrystal, when he had nothing to do with that either. Yon's lack of credibility is based in attacking those that had once supported him, and alleging a conspiracy between "crazy monkeys" and "milkooks." Yon's own hubris is what brought him down, not anything anyone else did. Yon, Here's Your Sign!
You see, everyone makes mistakes, and there will always be people that don't like you. It's a sign of integrity to man up to one's own mistakes, as did Uncle Jimbo on the Liddy Show. But, no matter how many people dislike you, if you're doing the right thing for the right reason, no one will have the evidence to prove you're an incompetent idiot. And if you prove your assertions, with more than "because I said so," even those that don't like you will consider the weight of the evidence. But when you spray and pray with ad homonym attacks on every one that doesn't bow down at your feet, you invite new parties to return fire.
Part of the reason Yon's readership is less than 10% of what it once was, is due to others now reporting on the same issues, but this does not account for the bulk of the diminished readership. Part of it is that he isn't reporting from the war, but again, that doesn't account for the fact it was already greatly diminished from his highs by more than 50% at its 2010 peaks. No, his diminished numbers are the result of his attacks on others that are also reporting on Afghanistan, his attacks on Soldiers with PTSD, and his attacks on Generals without evidence to support his claims. "Because I said so," works in some cases, but not as the basis for all outrageous claims.
I may not always agree with Uncle Jimbo or CJ Grisham. I may not like every individual or milblog site. I may even have disagreements with PAO's. But there is room for all in milblogging, and more to enter the space. Even Blackfive's 20 Million+ visitors has not reached 10% of all Americans, and they're pretty much the leader in the group. Reading Blackfive does not preclude someone from reading War On Terror News, or This Ain't Hell, or Assoluta Tranquillita, or Bouhammer, or A Soldier's Perspective, or Afghan Quest.
When these sites disagree on the issues, it presents healthy debate. And when they agree, they provide reinforcing fire. Most times, they simply provide different perspectives and levels of discussion on similar issues. Not everyone is going to like the way Uncle Jimbo presents his arguments, or the way I do, but reading these other sites gives you greater insight into what is real, and why it is important to get the Veterans' Perspective on things. But until every one of those sites is getting 100 Million US hits/day, there is room for growth. One doesn't have to be a Veteran to have valid opinions on the way things are, but Military Experience lends a different perspective and greater chance to get it right. That civilians are also getting it right means they've been listening to the right people.
Unlike some, I've never endorsed Yon, but have been forced by Yon's hand to examine his actions. He wanted me to research him, and I have. He won't like the attention he got, but he wanted my attention. My conclusions are less savory than I will publicly state. But I trust my readers to examine the evidence, and I don't believe it is beneficial to throw out claims without evidence to back it up. I can't live on the premise of "trust me because I said so," and I distrust those that do.
The Tarnak Saga:
1) The Bridge Over the River Tarnak Looking at Fact and Fiction of the incident
2) From Tarnak Bridge to Bruhaha Looking at Yon's obsession for Menard
3) The Tarnak Scalp That Wasn't Looking at Yon's claims of scalping Menard
4) The Yon Conspiracy Over Tarnak: Looking at Yon's Conspiracy Theory Origins
5) Overview of the Michael Yon Saga
1) Yon OPSEC Violations: It can't be more blatant but some are in disbelief
2) Yon Publicizes Video of American Soldier Losing Legs.
3) Banned By Yon!
4) Yon's Attack on PTSD as insanity
5) The Banning of an Angel