An article by the Associated Press’ Robert Reid nicely sums up the two camps that have formed under the Obama Administration regarding the way forward in Afghanistan. This is the second time this year that the two camps have squared off. The first round was apparently won by the COINdinistas, with some wiggle room, of course. That is not what the title of the article specifically addresses, but in a way it has come to serve as a synopsis of the internal argument in the administration. One side says, “Mission Accomplished,” and the other side says, “If we do more or less what we did the last time, we will have commensurate results.”
We are having real problems learning from past experiences. If a boxer fights another boxer, and whenever he bobs to the left he catches a right cross from the opposing boxer, he learns quickly that he need not bob left against this particular opponent. September 11, 2001 was just such a right cross from our opponent. Many say that we did not pick this fight; many others say that we did. They say that we picked it by taking sides surreptitiously in the Soviet-Afghan War, and that we did it again by abandoning a devastated Afghanistan as they tried to reassemble themselves. We funded and trained bin Laden and many of his cronies, and now he has turned that organization, formed to accomplish ends that we wholeheartedly supported, against us.
Now a group led by Vice President Joe Biden wants to repeat that blunder. Some people in the administration are saying that al-Qaeda is down to 100 full-timers.
U.S. national security adviser James Jones said last weekend that the al-Qaida presence has diminished, and he does not “foresee the return of the Taliban” to power.
He said that according to the maximum estimate, al-Qaida has fewer than 100 fighters operating in Afghanistan without any bases or ability to launch attacks on the West.
“If the Taliban did return to power, I believe we are strong enough to deter them from attacking us again by strong and credible punishment and by containing them with regional allies like India, China and Russia,” said former State Department official Leslie Gelb.
Folks, that’s not what events on the ground here are telling us. Al-Qaeda has recognized that Iraq is a lost cause for them. Yes, there are still local troublemakers trying to regain their lost glory as insurgent leaders stretching out the process, but that is the way of insurgencies. Iraq will not settle completely down this year, but the al-Qaeda cadre has largely left that country and made their way to Pakistan. We have seen that in the level of financial and technical support in the Haqqani elements, the HiG and even the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST). The level of sophistication in the technology of IED’s, for instance, having remained relatively flat for years, has taken leaps. These guys want for us to believe that this is a coincidence. The average Joe on the ground here who has a frame of reference realizes that the Taliban/HiG/Haqqani in Afghanistan have not suddenly and magically reemerged as something radically more capable. Something has been added to the mix.
Coincidence? Uncle Joe, et al, would lead you to believe that. Al-Qaeda is not only not dead; it is only the poster child for a syndrome that is repeatable. We are living in a globalized world. The world has changed, and our thinking has to a great extent not kept up with it. Unstable failed or failing nations can spawn organizations that will wish to influence us and our policies by bringing violence to our shores not via aircraft carriers and intercontinental bombers, but via airliners, tramp steamers, small but far-ranging private aircraft; trains, planes and automobiles. Never before in the history of mankind have small groups had such capabilities. It is one thing for a group to VBIED a U.S. Embassy in a small African country. It is quite another to punch a hole in the Pentagon. Even Mother Russia, with her enormous destructive power, devious KGB and bellicose manners never managed to do that. It doesn’t matter if the name of that group was al-Qaeda or the Hindu Kush Symphony Orchestra. Leaving states like Afghanistan to the whims of radical and primitive organizations is not a recipe for national security.
“Containment.” We have seen what “containment” does. Worked wonders on Iraq, is doing great things for Iran, and has really kept North Korea at bay (missile launches from the last two notwithstanding, of course). So, they don’t see the Taliban taking power again… like anyone saw them coming the first time… but if they do, we can rely on Russia, China and India to contain them? That sounds like a recipe for success now, doesn’t it? We can count on what we are now calling “regional allies” in the entities of Russia and China to look out for our interests and those of our NATO allies? And Pakistan won’t see our reliance on India as a new threat from the east for them, of course. It’s not like they’ve been trying to keep Afghanistan unstable for years in order to provide for their own “strategic depth” in the event of an all-out Indo-Pakistani War.
There are many people who are adding their voices to the din at this point. Some point out that population-centric counterinsurgency, or pop-centric COIN, was ultimately successful in Iraq. Many will contend with that, choosing instead to attribute success to a myriad of factors all exclusive of changing our behaviors, including that the Iraqis were somehow suddenly sick and tired of killing each other. Those who were on the ground at that time, both military and civilian, will tell very different stories. Many of those civilians, and some of those military, have now joined us on the ground here with plans of using lessons learned (not necessarily specific TTP’s) to have similar effects in Afghanistan. Those who argue that the Iraqis somehow magically became more amenable regardless of any changes in our behavior do so, from my perspective, for their own reasons.
Some of the greatest proponents of this argument do so out of what appears to be the politics of personal injury. Some had their young hearts broken in Vietnam and later suffered further loss in this war. Nothing short of an immediate existential threat is a good enough reason for war to them. Some have found themselves left out of or even severely criticized by the narrative of the Iraq Surge. They have lashed out, personally injured and offended, and have wound up on the opposite end of the spectrum in positions now so entrenched as to be nearly a caricature of the overall argument. Some fear that a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan will lock in military counterinsurgency as the cornerstone of national foreign policy for decades. These conversations are now becoming years old. Add to that a public that, while it ignored Afghanistan, somehow assumed it to be morally right and relatively straightforward and easy to understand. Low casualties and this assumption of moral and political simplicity led them to assume that it was not in the least bit as complicated, dangerous or confusing as Iraq.
Then came the divide and conquer tactic: Iraq bad; Afghanistan good. Obama was not weak on the subject of national defence. He only wanted out of the “bad” war so that he could actually devote the proper resources to the “good” war. His supporters parroted this call, as I saw repeatedly in online debates. It allayed the fears of millions that Obama would retreat in the face of adversity. Well, now that the American people have started paying attention to the “good” war, it turns out to be much less simple. As I’ve said, it makes their heads hurt with its complexity. The people, heads all sore, begin to waver. Joe Biden, who is at huge odds with Hamid Karzai (he once, as a Senator, stormed away from the dinner table during a meeting with him), has wanted from day one to make this a Special Forces/drone mission in Pakistan. The looming reelection of Karzai has not tempered that attitude, I am sure. So Team Biden wants to solve our problems by invading Pakistan with with Special Forces, drone strikes that Obama supporters railed against during the election, “credible punishment” like 63 cruise missiles, and containment by India, Russia and China.
One question… has Pakistan agreed to any of this, or is invading a sovereign country only a bad thing when a guy’s name starts with “B”? From everything I’ve heard, Pakistan has refused to let American troops try to chase down al-Qaeda or Pakistani Taliban on sovereign Pakistani soil. The standing Pakistani Army is larger than our own. They are a proud, sovereign country and while their ISI has been singularly unhelpful in Afghanistan, I don’t believe that just doing whatever we want in Pakistan without their approval would be the “right” thing to do. It would almost certainly destabilize Pakistan further. Our alignment with India as one of our strategic containment partners will surely help the Pakistanis feel somewhat more secure, but there is a small chance that they won’t like it at all. Maybe not so small, really. Okay; they would absolutely hate it and feel very threatened.
The Biden Plan reeks of simplistic Rambo thinking. It is also a return to the same types of behaviors that left us with this festering sore on the face of Central Asia and a smoking hole in New York City. It’s amazing that it’s even being considered… unless it is the administration’s straw man. It’s practically an idiot-check. What next; a gravel angel contest? If I were the President, I’d ask all of my advisers who bought this argument and fire everyone who raised their hands for incompetence.
The people who are saying that the answer is to not continue to repeat the mistakes of the past are the people, both military and civilian, who are and have been closely associated with the Afghan question. Those who are claiming that al-Qaeda is in effect finished are not now and never have been intimately familiar with Central Asia. It could be argued that they have a political viewpoint and not a strategic viewpoint. What could possibly be the political pull strong enough to get otherwise intelligent, educated men to forget the lessons of the 1990’s and the foreign policy assumptions of post WW-II anti-communist paranoia that have led to the birth of non-state actors with global destructive reach and goals?
This is the opportunity to reverse the ill effects of the outmoded superpower behaviors of the past. This is an opportunity to begin to practice the types of foreign policy behaviors that will prevent failed and failing nations from becoming such a personal threat to Americans. The true example of Afghanistan is not in our military involvement but in the “civilian surge.” It is in the capacity-building arms that we are developing within our State Department, USAID, and other organizations. It is moving from John Candy in “Volunteers” to the types of foreign policy behaviors that will support and uphold societies who have been broken at their cores to stand back up according to their own needs and values. It is learning the lessons of “The Ugly American”. That is what we are deciding to continue or abandon, because in this very dangerous country we have let it slide to the point that nothing less than a full effort will permit these development efforts to occur. It is, in effect, all or nothing, and that’s something that Americans seem to have lost the ability to comprehend. We complain about the Afghans sitting on the fence, but we need to look at ourselves for sitting on the couch. Now is when we decide to take the easy out or to do the hard right thing.
Now is when we decide whether dad finishes the job, or if his son is left with an even larger problem.
Michael Cohen is at it again, trying to tear away at the War in Afghanistan, selecting seemingly random information and using it out of context to support his fear-driven position. He is afraid that if we succeed in COIN in Afghanistan, it will become a cornerstone of American foreign policy. We have a word for actions that are driven primarily by fear: cowardice. Michael Cohen’s writings concerning Afghanistan and counterinsurgency are the most cowardly things you are likely to find in print this week.
First of all, we don’t all agree that we’re engaged in a counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. Indeed, I’m pretty sure President Obama would not agree that we are engaged in a full-fledged counter-insurgency campaign. (Perhaps COIN-lite or Skim COIN).
Huh? We are fighting against insurgents in Afghanistan. That means that we are countering insurgents. That means counterinsurgency. What the hell does he think that we’re fighting? Whether or not we are doing it well is open to discussion… and I frequently do… but contending that it is not counterinsurgency is absolutely ridiculous. It’s the type of outlandish stuff that a coward would utter to back up his reason for running away from whatever threat he may find.
The fact is that the new strategy for Afghanistan announced less than two months ago lays out more of a counterinsurgency than we’ve actually performed in the past seven years. I didn’t see Cohen arguing that Afghanistan wasn’t a counterinsurgency two years ago. Cohen’s analysis starts out with this ridiculous assertion and goes generally downhill from there. It is the rhetoric of desperation and fear. When called on this fact over at Abu Muqawama, Cohen states his fear of success clearly:
“look COIN works – let’s do it elsewhere”
This is his greatest fear, and what drives his analysis. It’s the most clearly you will ever really get him to state his fear. This is what beats in the heart of the coward. He’s afraid, and it drives his thoughts and his actions.
Cohen later follows up Chris Mewitt’s question of what objection he’s using to reason against COIN with this:
To answer your question Chris, both. It doesn’t work and it’s bad policy. But if you don’t show that it doesn’t work – it will become policy.
Notwithstanding the fact that as a military analyst he is completely unskilled, but he attempts it to avoid his phobia… that COIN will become a cornerstone of American foreign policy, by misusing worn-out talking points about Iraq; discounting the effects of the surge as having any influence on the outcome there. Half-informed twisting of that history may sound like informed analysis to those who wish to believe such fallacies, but each has his or her own reason for wishing to believe. Generally, the motives for wanting to believe such a version is self-serving. Self-serving analysis is just as flawed as fear-based (or cowardly) analysis; just as intellectually dishonest.
Cohen then answers Abu M’s post with an even more ridiculous and poorly constructed argument, claiming that Exum countered his post poorly; which is just silly. Cohen spews a load of hurt feelings all over his site. It’s really not hard to insult the man. Cohen is not only compelled by his phobia into blundering into an area where he is truly ill-equipped, but he is very thin-skinned.
What Cohen fails to realize is that his proponency of failure is in direct opposition to the national security of the United States. Note the International Crisis Groups’s evaluation of the results of failure or premature withdrawal from Afghanistan in their April report. It is simple, it is concise, and it is, to my understanding, accurate.
Withdrawing international troops with the threat that any regrouping of jihadis or al-Qaeda can be countered by air power and special forces would simply return the country to the control of jihadis. Air power has not proven successful against insurgents or terrorist bases. Neglect would allow the region to descend into further chaos, as it did in the 1990s.
Cohen advocates doing what even the Brussels-based peace advocacy says should not be done, and advocates against what even they say should be done. History will prove Mr. Cohen to be a very flawed thinker. Those who are driven by fear usually are. Now, Mr. Cohen will object to this characterization of his position, but I’m standing by it and I believe that it will be borne out by the events of the future.
Mr. Cohen also describes himself as a warrior, and yet nothing in his bios that I can find online mention military service in any way. Just giving yourself the title of warrior just because you feel like it is like proclaiming yourself a Ranger and tossing a tab on your shoulder without ever having gone to Ranger School. Whatever, Michael. I’ll humor you the same way that I humor a child with a nerf gun who pretends he is a warrior. “Sure, Mikey. You’re a warrior, and a tough one, too. Here’s a cookie. Go have fun!”
But we really know that people who are motivated by fear are not warriors. Warriors experience fear, but they think and act in spite of it, not because of it. No, Cohen is not a warrior. Calling himself one is absurd. It would be insulting to real warriors if it wasn’t so ludicrous.
What continuously slays me about Cohen is that he totally misses which side his bread is buttered on. The civilian capacity-building capabilities that are necessary for success in the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan are exactly the types of capabilities that Mr. Cohen advocates as some primary tools of foreign policy. Afghanistan gives us the strong motivation and the proof to develop such capabilities. Mr. Cohen’s disconnect from reality is that developing such capabilities and employing them before insurgencies develop, or early in them, could help prevent such conflicts and/or involvements in the future. Afghanistan gives us the interest and motivation to actually develop such capabilities as part of the counterinsurgency, giving us skilled civilian government employees with experience in such matters. This expertise, developed in war, could help prevent war elsewhere. By arguing against COIN, Cohen weakens his own advocacy. His unreasoning fear, peeking out from behind really poor analysis, is really shooting himself in the foot.
Trying to refute what has obviously become more of a counterinsurgency than it has been in the past seven years as being not a counterinsurgency or “COIN-lite or Skim COIN” blah blah blah is just ridiculous. More really poor analysis. By setting up such obvious straw men, nobody who knows anything follows him any further. Cohen’s advocacy for the civilian capacity-building, which would be really good foreign policy that helps to avoid military involvement in COIN in the future, suffers as a result.
Cohen is his own worst enemy. He’s not doing the rest of us any favors, either.
Now there is another installment of the penny-dreadful British “journalist,” Nick Meo. The Telegraph has printed Meow’s retort in a screed entitled, “Nick Meo hits back at Afghanistan battle report slurs.” I encourage you to read it, because I am going to dissect his outraged cry of “injustice!”
I would like to personally thank all who have written to Nick and to the Telegraph to voice their outrage at Meo’s self-serving article. I will also ask that any further correspondence with either of them remain civil, yet uncompromising. Perhaps you can consider this an open letter to Nick Meo and the Telegraph.
Nick, there has not been enough justice done in this case. You could have taken the high road and taken your well-deserved spanking with reddened cheeks. You could have printed a clarification, admitting to your faults and some well-made points. You could have copped to the melodramatic flair with which you portrayed this traumatic event. You could have reclaimed some semblance of dignity earned through humility. No, you chose not to do that. You have chosen to wriggle again; to justify an article so self-centered that even though a good man actually did die, the title of your article is all about you.
No, not enough justice has been done because you are still being printed in a publication which has lost yet another notch on the scale of journalistic integrity by not following up on these complaints and Telegraph’s editors have not sought conversations with those who have thrown the bullshit flag at your feet. Instead, they allow you more ink with which to dig your hole deeper. You have taken up your shovel with gusto, and I am going to do my best to fill the hole in with you in it. I was not one of those who called for your sacking by the Telegraph, but now I am joining that call.
You have, by not taking your well-deserved black eye with humility and thereby gaining some grace, made yourself an object of study. The Telegraph has fallen down on their responsibility by not performing this study on their own. Had they, I assert, they would have fired you posthaste. I encourage them to correct their mistake now.
Perhaps with a little help from my friends, it will work.
The title of your latest article uses words like “hits back” and “slurs.” Nick (et al,) a slur denotes a denigration that is undeserved. These were not slurs. You deserve every bit of ire directed at you. By not taking action to resolve this issue, the Telegraph is complicit. You all deserve this.
Your article begins with the words, “Last week the Taliban tried to kill me.” Again, such self-centeredness. Yes, Nick; you are so valuable an asset that the Taliban have put a price on your head.
More likely your next job offer will be from Al Jazeera.
While your initial article contained some uncalled-for insults, such as your unflattering attempt at petty humor in the description of an American officer’s haircut, I’ll largely let your bitchy little slaps go and focus on your “factual” depiction and other assertions. However, I would like to point out that these and other lines in your first few paragraphs did set a negative tone, positioning you for your later lies. Flowing from your self-centered lie at the head of it all, the melodrama runs thick here.
I would also point out that a writer can choose from any number of adjectives to set a tone for a piece. You are not a rookie, and you know exactly what you were doing. You probably chuckled warmly to yourself when you read it before you submitted it for publication. You knew what you were doing, and it was taken in exactly the light that it was intended. Your problem is that there are a lot of people who have done that job and who knew as soon as they read it that you were full of it. Then the question becomes, “why?”
We’ll get to that.
A wise person once told me that when you get multiple stories about the same occurrence, there is a lie (or lies) involved. It’s not enough that in this case there are multiple stories regarding the same incident. Some of the inconsistencies are in your own piece, where you refute yourself.
That means that there are definitely lies involved. Yes, I have just called you a liar. As a “journalist,” you are so dishonored that you should only be employable by propaganda machines such as Al Jazeera. There is no room for liars in the world of honest journalism. You are one of the reasons why journalists are held in only slightly higher esteem than used car salesmen. That may have changed with this. You may just have single-handedly lowered the trustworthiness of the media to below that of the purveyors of pre-owned conveyances.
Now, to your depiction of the facts; you claim in your article that as you were still inside the inverted Cougar, there was the far-off thumping of a heavy machine gun. You stated that this indicated a Taliban ambush to you. Later, you attempt to portray the Americans as banging away at nothing. You have pointed out your own lie.
You portray a young American soldier as looking as scared as you felt when he assisted you in evacuating the vehicle in which you rescued your camera but left two soldiers trapped upside down in their harnesses. You were too afraid to leave the relative safety of the IED crater. I would point out that he left the safety of cover to reach you. Some were exposed enough to be standing in the light of their headlamps, as your own video shows.
You then claim that the Americans are pouring out thousands of rounds, but your video does not demonstrate this. I did see the young soldier in the headlights; I did not see the “hammering furiously.” As a matter of fact, their fire seemed to be selective and if not carefully aimed, at least aimed at a particular site.
You further editorialize what British soldiers would have thought of the volume of fire and put the round count in the thousands. You actually used the words, “trigger-happy.” Nick, what conclusion is it that you are working your readers towards?
At this point you begin to question the incoming fire, where before you had heard the far-off thumping of a heavy machine gun. You are so disjointed that you are torn between portraying yourself as being in mortal danger and your attempt to discredit the Americans who were protecting you.
You admit being directed by a soldier to cease filming, so you climb into an undamaged Cougar to, as you put it;
“…be safe from any enemy fire – and from the panicky soldier if things got nasty.”
Ah, yes; because when Americans panic, they often kill foreign journalists who are embedded with them. That’s why you needed so desperately to get on that MEDEVAC bird, isn’t it, Nick?
But, after being directed by an American soldier to cease filming, you surreptitiously filmed while you were inside that Cougar, didn’t you? You can’t be trusted in combat by those who would gladly let you shelter in their armored vehicles, who took care of you under fire.
You claimed that the Americans didn’t have any night vision “cameras,” but then suddenly there is an NCO with night vision directing fire against a bunker “although God knows what it really was.” God knows that you sure didn’t know what it was, because you couldn’t see it. But you can sure cast doubts on the man who did see it with night vision.
“My mouth was dry, so I drank a bottle of water. Then I needed to urinate, but when I got of the vehicle I was so scared of being shot I couldn’t go.”
That’s a well-documented fear reaction.
“I wasn’t wounded, except for bruises, but I didn’t want to take the same road back, so I asked to go aboard the Black Hawk if there was room.
That’s another fear reaction. The rest of those soldiers couldn’t just bail out in mid-mission on the nearest convenient helicopter. Normally, MEDEVAC birds don’t carry the unwounded, either; so they reported you as wounded. You didn’t just stroll out and hop on without any discussion. You told those soldiers that you wanted out, and they made sure you could go.
It was pointed out on Neptunus Lex that journalists don’t sign up to get shot at.
You know, journalists – whatever they may think of themselves – didn’t sign up to get shot at. There’s no particular dishonor in non-combatants bugging out when the rounds start to fly. But you’d think they’d have the common sense and humility to be just a little less condescending and sneering about those who’ve volunteered to turn to the sound of the guns, rather than flee from them.
I guess every man is the hero of his own tale.
He is a great blogger… much more successful than I, no doubt. I do disagree with him on one point; journalists who embed do, in fact, sign up to get shot at. They certainly have no reasonable expectation of not being shot at.
Other embeds have had close calls before. Other embeds have lost their rides and found a way to stay embedded. Can you imagine Yon hopping a MEDEVAC bird just to get out because he didn’t want to take that road again?
No. No one can imagine that.
Now for some serious lying;
“As I walked towards the terminal, not quite able to believe that I was back to safety, a young woman in army uniform introduced herself as Amy Bonnano, the Public Affairs Officer who had arranged my “embed”.
“It’s great to see you,” she said. “We had you listed as Category A.”
What did that mean? “It’s the worst scenario. It means deceased.”
Now here’s where it’s time to get real, Nick. 1LT Bonanno wrote you a letter about that, Nick. She was the other party in that “conversation,” and she says that it didn’t even occur. Did you read that letter that she wrote you? What made you think that she would keep your dirty little secret? What made you think that she wouldn’t let others know that you are a liar?
The note about being reported as KIA? Yeah, she threw the bullshit flag at you on that one, too. Great high drama, Nick. Total lie. Called on it by the officer on whose desk that note supposedly resided; yet you protest.
Now let’s look at the matter of your protestation, again self-centered in the extreme;
The small unit then fired thousands of rounds blindly into the night – from automatic rifles, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns — in an area where there are many villages, as well as Taliban guerrillas.
More denigration of the unit who saved your lying life so that you could write penny-dreadful self-aggrandizing lies about them. Even though your video demonstrates a measured rate of fire, you insist on portraying the American soldiers as the perpetrators of an Iraqi Death Blossom. You then go on to give a lecture on US doctrine with is also a complete lie. You have no idea what you are talking about, and real American soldiers, including myself, are adding to the massive pile of bullshit flags adorning your feet.
More shining character here;
There was also reaction from family members of soldiers involved in the attack – they knew, for instance, that I had been told to stop filming and were angry that I hadn’t, although as an embedded journalist I was entitled to do so and was not hampering operations.
A man dies; his compatriots say that the fun and games are over with for now; they have a body to recover and you are now filming a death scene, which is inappropriate when they say it is. No wonder the family is pissed. But it’s really not about them, is it? It’s about you, as demonstrated in this line;
Things got nasty even during the incident because the soldiers, clearly badly shaken, didn’t want to be filmed and demanded my camera. I didn’t hand it over because such footage of what happens in the aftermath of a bomb attack is rare.
You wanted the rare footage. The soldiers just lost a man who they have served with for years, and you want to film their reactions; and you’re disturbed that they’re not okay with it. You are truly a noble bastard, aren’t you? What a journalistic champion.
Not. What a self-centered, self-serving little cat of a man. You are a soldier’s nightmare; not because you are a champion of the truth but because you are the duke of lies. Why would you lie? Why? We’ll ask that question again; but let’s table it for now.
I’m not finished with you.
Following an ambush it is standard US military procedure to switch weapons to fully automatic and pour out rounds. This is called suppressive fire and does not involve careful aiming. It kills attackers, saves soldiers’ lives and keeps the heads of ambushers down.
But such devastating gunfire also kills and wounds civilians. Hundreds of Afghans have been hit in the past two years in such incidents.
I’ve never seen a less cogent, less informed depiction of a “React to Contact” drill. You, sir, don’t know what you are talking about. You then go on to spew pablum about caring so much about “peace-loving Afghans out there in the dark.” Nick, the walls of an Afghan house are feet thick. I know; I’ve searched a lot of them with my ANP. A .50 won’t penetrate a khalat wall. The Afghans who are peace-loving go to bed pretty much when the sun goes down. It’s pablum, designed to evoke sympathy for your righteousness from civilians who don’t have any idea the nature of your lies.
the US military prefers to highlight the courage of their soldiers — men such as Scott Dimond, the father of four who died because, like all Easyrider volunteers, he wanted to stop terrorism. I certainly did not want my story to dishonour his death.
For not wanting to dishonor him, you did a great job of dishonoring him and his team. I suspect this is a lie, too. The fact is, you never gave it a second thought. 1LT Bonanno pointed out in her letter to you that you wouldn’t even do the man the simple dignity of attending his ramp ceremony… but you did ask to film it. When you were denied permission to do that, you wanted nothing more to do with it. Class. Sheer, unadulterated class you demonstrated there.
That and your real character. Oops; your slip is showing.
What happened that night on the Kandahar road was not part of a struggle between square-jawed good guys and bad guys wearing black turbans, as the bloggers perhaps imagine the war to be.
This is the “pompous ass” passage. Nick, I’m going to clue you in to a little something. I don’t have to imagine war. I don’t even have to imagine Afghanistan, or even Taliban. You see, I’ve met Taliban, I’ve been shot at, and I’ve lost good men in IED strikes. You are such a pompous ass that you haven’t even bothered to read the blog behind the post that punched you in the mouth. I left the theater in April after spending a year there. Bouhammer was there, too. We both worked with ANP. We lived that life. Imagine the war, you say.
One more quote:
The US military has not challenged my reporting and the bloggers’ criticism is vague.
This author does not believe himself to be vague in this post. If I’ve not been specific enough in my criticisms of your lies, let me know.
The military is challenging your future as a reporter, Nick. Good luck with that. Good luck with finding decent assignments there. You might be better off covering the dog shows. I don’t know exactly what definition of challenge you are using there, but when the officer who was responsible for embedding you writes a complete refutation of what you wrote, that is a challenge.
Now; why are you such a liar? Why did you write outright lies, some of which are evidenced by your own video? Is it to cover your cowardice? The other possibility is that your behavior during the fight was so poor that you were warned not to stay and you left in an act of self-preservation.
In any case, you definitely made a concerted effort to cast a poor light on my colleagues. You attempted to cast men who have successfully operated in Afghanistan’s most violent province for over six months as boobs and yourself as an expert critic. You have attempted to cast myself and my fellow milbloggers as those who “imagine” a war that we served in at the dirt level and know intimately. Finally, you mouth words about honoring the dead when you wouldn’t even attend the ramp ceremony for the actual dead while you write about your own near-death experience.
I’ve got news for you, Nick; you are the boob. You are the panic-stricken liar who bailed on his assignment, and who tried to film men reacting the death of a comrade as some journalistic feat when all you were doing was being disrespectful in the extreme to their loss. Then you wrote an article about an event that was the end of a good man’s life, and even its title was all about you. What a callous ass.
I would never take you into combat with me; you’re a liability. I’ve seen men like you, and they’re not welcome in groups of tried and tested men. You are a liar, a slanderer, and a coward. I detest you, all that you stand for, and all who stand with you. I am only one man, but I am a man who knows what it is truly like. I recognize you because of that; and if you are wrapped in a flag, it is the bullshit flag.
Note to Telegraph; correct your mistake and salvage some honor. Is this the type of man who you employ? Is this the type of man with whom you choose to associate? We are painted by the company we keep. You are currently painted an ugly shade of Meo.
Dear readers; I ask once again that you take a moment and send a note to Nick Meo and the Telegraph. You don’t have to join me in my call for Meo’s job, but please let them know of your disapproval of this type of yellow journalism.
When you are called by a brother in arms, you answer the call. Whether it is O calling from an ambush on Route Vermont, the Marine ETT’s asking for escort to respond to a call to blow up a suspected IED, our ANP reporting that they were under fire, or when characters are being assassinated, it’s the same; you respond.
Shoot at one, draw fire from all.
Especially, for me, when it’s ANP mentors putting out the call. Grab your helmet and body armor, check your weapons and fuel, grab your terp and mount up; we’re riding out.
Recently, a British journalist named Nick Meo from the Telegraph embedded with a PMT (Police Mentor Team) in Helmand Province, one of the hottest parts of Afghanistan. ARSIC South (Afghan Regional Security Integration Command – South) was responsible for coordinating the embed. One night in the past week, the team left Kandahar Airfield to head back to their AO (Area of Operations,) heading out into the darkness of the Afghan night in Helmand Province. I’ve done plenty of night moves in Afghanistan. While they can be spooky, sometimes it actually felt safer than traveling in daylight. If you stay out of each others headlights, it’s harder to tell what you are, making ambushes more difficult to time properly.
Nick Meo rode in that convoy. He rode with Major Becker, the team leader, and two other soldiers; Mitch Chapman and Scott Dimond, in a Cougar MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protective) vehicle. The combat patrol was struck by an IED and apparent ambush about an hour later.
This is where the story takes a left turn at Albuquerque.
Nick Meo was uninjured in the IED strike. MAJ Becker and Chapman were injured, strapped upside down in their seats. Meo released his seatbelts and made his way from the vehicle, leaving the two injured soldiers hanging upside down in their belts in the mine-damaged vehicle. Scott Dimond, a 39 year old father of four from New Hampshire, was crushed under the vehicle when it flipped over from the force of the blast; a common danger for turret gunners on combat vehicles.
Nick Meo began doing what he thought he was supposed to be doing, shooting video of himself, soon after leaving the stricken vehicle. Shortly thereafter he was safely ensconced in another, undamaged armored vehicle while the American soldiers he was accompanying dealt with the deadly situation outside. He had been asked not to shoot video by this point, a directive that he flouted. It’s clear to me that the video he shot inside the vehicle was shot surreptitiously.
I’ve seen uninjured people hop on MEDEVAC birds before. The man who did it in Tag Ab did it not once but twice, and everyone considered him a coward for it. Meo, uninjured, did not want to be on the ground any longer. I guess embedded journalism isn’t as much fun when you are actually under fire. In any case, Meo lost his taste for the assignment and begged a ride back to Kandahar on the bird.
This is where the fun begins, and I suspect Meo’s justification for his panicked flight from his assignment.
Meo wrote an article, filled with contradictions and published in the Telegraph, that was exceedingly unkind to the men who he was with and who kept him uninjured on that fateful October night in southern Afghanistan. Meo crossed the line in so many ways in his incredibly self-serving article, criticizing everything from the Major’s standard “high and tight” Army haircut to the fire discipline and overall professionalism of the team of men who had functioned successfully in Helmand for over six months. These same men who successfully got him MEDEVAC’d without injury were pretty thoroughly panned in his article.
I would ask that you read the article and view the embedded video. Then ask yourself if those sound like “thousands of rounds” being expended in the background or if the soldier speaking to higher on the radio sounds fearful or like a man who is agitated by having one of his own crushed to death under a vehicle, two more who require MEDEVAC, and a jerkweed reporter in the back seat who won’t follow directions and is trying to be sneaky about filming things that he shouldn’t be filming. Watch the soldier’s movements as he sends up an FBCB2 (Blue Force Tracker) Spot Report on a system that shouldn’t have been filmed by a foreign national reporter and judge if his actions are panicked or the actions of a man in combat doing what he is trained to do.
Now consider this; Scott Dimond, a 39 year old who had already lived a career as a police officer in his home state, a soldier who was described as “stellar,” died that night. First, Meo brags about having the good fortune to not have spoken with the man prior to his death. Then, back at Kandahar, he refused to have the respect to attend the ramp ceremony for this hometown American hero unless he could film it (which is a big no-no for ramp ceremonies out of respect for the dead.) That’s what we in the business call, “class.”
Please read the above linked posts, including Meo’s despicable article. Then please take a minute to do two things; write Nick Meo and his boss a quick note and let them know that you don’t appreciate his slander and his self-aggrandizing. Nick Meo took the worst day of several men’s lives, and the last of one’s, and made it his personal “legend-story.” Even the title is all about him.
Here are the emails for Nick Meo and the Telegraph:
On a dark night in the “Indian Country” of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, a small group of Americans experienced the ultimate nightmare; they lost one of their own. One man rode with them; an outsider, a “journalist” whose safety they took responsibility for and whom they delivered back to Kandahar unscathed by the event that took one of their lives and left two others injured. The work that these men do and have done for over six months has been unheralded, dirty, frustrating and dangerous. No one knows of their daily struggles, grinds, disappointments, or successes. Now this one self-important blow-hard takes it upon himself to trash their names and their actions after riding away on a helicopter meant for the wounded and dead, refusing to honor the man who gave his life that night, and congratulating himself for having been spared the emotional pain of having had even one conversation with the honored dead while he stood on earth.
All, apparently, to cover for his own cowardice in hopping uninjured onto a MEDEVAC helicopter when he lost his nerve to stay on the ground and continue doing his job.
Please don’t let him get away with it. Many say, “support our troops.” Here’s an opportunity to do so. It won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. These aren’t just anonymous “troops;” they’re real men. Show them that you care. Show Scott Dimond that you care about his sacrifice by taking the time to shoot off a couple of emails, or even one with both addresses, and condemn the behavior of this coward who justifies his abandonment of his assignment by slandering good men.