4 years ago
Michael Yon calls Rolling Stone out on journalistic malfeasance.
Seldom do I waste time with rebutting articles, and especially not from publications like Rolling Stone. Today, numerous people sent links to the latest Rolling Stone tripe. The story is titled “THE KILL TEAM, THE FULL STORY.” It should be titled: “BULLSHIT, from Rolling Stone.”
The story—not really an “article”—covers Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) in Afghanistan. A handful of Soldiers were accused of murder. It does in fact appear that a tiny group of rogues committed premeditated murder. I was embedded with the 5/2 SBCT and was afforded incredible access to the brigade by the Commander, Colonel Harry Tunnell, and the brigade Command Sergeant Major, Robb Prosser. I know Robb from Iraq. Colonel Tunnell had been shot in Iraq.
The brigade gave me open access. I could go anywhere, anytime, so long as I could find a ride, which never was a problem beyond normal combat problems. If they had something to hide, it was limited and I didn’t find it. I was not with the Soldiers accused of murder and had no knowledge of this. It is important to note that the murder allegations were not discovered by media vigilance, but by, for instance, at least one Soldier in that tiny unit who was appalled by the behavior. A brigade is a big place with thousands of Soldiers, and in Afghanistan they were spread thinly across several provinces because we decided to wage war with too few troops. Those Soldiers accused of being involved in (or who should have been knowledgeable of) the murders could fit into a minivan. You would need ten 747s for the rest of the Brigade who did their duty. I was with many other Soldiers from 5/2 SBCT. My overall impression was very positive. After scratching my memory for negative impressions from 5/2 Soldiers, I can’t think of any, actually, other than the tiny Kill Team who, to my knowledge, I never set eyes upon.
The online edition of the Rolling Stone story contains a section with a video called “Motorcycle Kill,” which includes our Soldiers gunning down Taliban who were speeding on a motorcycle toward our guys. These Soldiers were also with 5/2 SBCT, far away from the “Kill Team” later accused of the murders. Rolling Stone commits a literary “crime” by deceptively entwining this normal combat video with the Kill Team story. The Taliban on the motorcycle were killed during an intense operation in the Arghandab near Kandahar City. People who have been to the Arghandab realize the extreme danger there. The Soviets got beaten horribly in the Arghandab, despite throwing everything including the Soviet kitchen sink into the battle that lasted over a month. Others fared little better. To my knowledge, 5/2 and supporting units were the first ever to take Arghandab, and these two dead Taliban were part of that process.
The Rolling Stone video is remarkable for its boring content. Rolling Stone waxes breathless as they exclaim “The video was taken on patrol with a helmet-mounted camera; at one point, the soldier shooting the images can be heard boasting, “I got it all on camera.”
And so what is the big deal with the video, or getting this particular engagement on video? We are left to wonder. It looks to me like about one hundred thousand other such engagements that occurred in Iraq from 2003 to 2008. Remember Recon by Fire? If I have no problems with that, I certainly have no problem with what the Rolling Stone video depicts.
It looks to me like several insurgents violated cones or otherwise came up on the team in a threatening manner. That’s what happens when Soldiers are under threat. Michael was right to call Rolling Stone out on this, but there is another point to be made. If Rolling Stone is breathlessly reporting on things that make no difference, what is going unreported that needs their attention? Right? Got the question? If they are wasting time on irrelevancy, why? Can they not tell the difference between this and real reporting and analysis?
I didn’t even need their report on General McChrystal. Neither did Michael. I knew he had to go before Rolling Stone’s silly report on him and his staff, and for reasons other than what they called out. And I didn’t even have to talk to McChrystal’s staff to figure this out. Journalists? I think not. I can do better and I’m not being paid for it.