Michael Yon was embeded with the British 2 Rifles in Helmand in the past weeks. Despite the problems with the gear he was able to post wonderful dispatches with superb pictures from the fighting zone. After the latest dispatch Bad Medicine was posted this morning, Michael sent an e-mail to subscribers with the short sentence:
The British Ministry of Defence canceled my embed after today’s dispatch.
What’s the surprise. Michael’s dispatches about the British troops evoked a lot of sympathy – British soldiers are in the middle of the serious fights everyday, they have lost lot of fellow soldiers in the past months, their equipment is not as good as e.g. U.S. forces have, but they still keep fighting. Admirable.
But in the meantime, other „hot front“ was opened back home in Britain. British Ministry of Defence (MoD) is facing an accusations that due the defficiencies in acquisition programs the combat troops are not supplied with the proper gear. So one would not be surprised if some people back in London would be nervous a little bit and do not want to see too much embeded journalist around the troops. Or the truth is different and much more simple. I do not know. But I know Michael a little, so I asked him. He is also not sure what was the reason of canceling but:
They say it’s just due to crowded conditions for embeds — but I hardly saw anyone else!
Michael Yon is one of the greatest war correspondents of our time, not only because his profesionalism and enthusiasm but also because he was one of the first who took advantage of the virtual world for posting the regular dispatches from the warzones. Virtually, he opened this doors for the others and explore nascent world of Web 2.0. And what is more, he is able to do his job while he is not sponsored by the corporations. He is sponsored just by his readers.
He begun in Iraq in late 2004 and I had a luck that we met there in January 2005 while we were embeded with the „Big Red One“ (1st Infantry Division) in Baqubah. We are in sporadic contact since. I am his fan because he is doing great job – he is providing the readers who are willing to read his dispatches with the first hand information about the ordinary soldiers in the field whom we are sometimes tending to forget due the „fights“ we are „waging“ at home.
Mike is honest man and I am interested to know why his embed was canceled. He is changing the unit and going to be embed with the U.S. Forces. Looking forward for the next dispatches.
UPDATE: Mike sent me another e-mail in which he is decsribing his feelings about the issue:
MoD is giving the reason that my long stay is prompting uproar among journalists who cannot get embed slots. I’ve embedded longer in Iraq with combat troops, for instance, than any journalist of any sort. I don’t buy their backpedalling now that this is public, but even if they are being truthful the truth itself is lame reason to stop me embed…
The main problem for him was that MoD cut his embeding without warning which is not quite fair and can cause a logictical headaches and rise the costs.
I greatly enjoy writing about British forces. In fact, the combat soldiers are like my own brothers. That will always stay with me and I have made lifelong friends among them. Given the treatment from MoD, however, I do not foresee embedding with British forces in the future. The world is too big to play games with a few nameless bureaucrats. I will continue to write about the British in Afghanistan from time to time, yet in future articles the MoD will not be afforded a chance to comment. If they wish to comment, they can do so separately in the form of a rebuttal, or however they chose.
Mike is not buying the MoD claim about the embeding slots and he could be right. Current problems of MoD are deep:
I can also say that as a litmus-test trustworthiness, you can ask British officers one simple question: „Are there enough helicopters in Afghanistan?“ If they answer „yes,“ the best that can be said is that they are ill-informed and should have answered, „I don’t know.“ But if they have served here and are still saying „yes“ — that there are enough helicopters — they cannot be trusted. British soldiers are being shafted by gear shortages. One soldier was killed by an IED for lack of a ladder to climb over a compound wall. He tried to walk around and was killed, according to an officer who was on scene. I can say with certainty that British forces are fighting courageously, they are fighting well, and the war is being lost. My thoughts and prayers are with British forces. I would never hesitate to go into battle with them.
UPDATE 2: Just tip-off on the comment which appeared on Kings of War under the headline Yon v. MoD:
…Back to Yon then – does he still believe the MoD gave him the boot? If not, he ought to clarify. In his latest update, he writes simply that ‘My embed with British forces has ended.’ ‘Ended’ is somewhat different from ‘cancelled’, of course.