I’m not sure who I would compare Michael Yon to. Maybe he’s roughly equivalent to the legendary WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle. Yon’s a writer and photographer who has been imbedded with troops in Iraq probably longer and deeper than any other journalist.
In fact, he’s just gone back to Iraq after a trip home to the United States, and he’s writing today about the inertia of perceptions about Iraq in the American media as opposed to the considerable changes that have taken place there. He finds the contrast disturbing:
I was at home in the United States just one day before the magnitude hit me like vertigo: America seems to be under a glass dome which allows few hard facts from the field to filter in unless they are attached to a string of false assumptions. Considering that my trip home coincided with General Petraeusâ€™ testimony before the US Congress, when media interest in the war was (Iâ€™m told) unusually concentrated, itâ€™s a wonder my eardrums didnâ€™t burst on the trip back to Iraq. In places like Singapore, Indonesia, and Britain people hardly seemed to notice that success is being achieved in Iraq, while in the United States, Britney was competing for airtime with O.J. in one of the saddest sideshows on Earth.
No thinking person would look at last yearâ€™s weather reports to judge whether it will rain today, yet we do something similar with Iraq news. The situation in Iraq has drastically changed, but the inertia of bad news leaves many convinced that the mission has failed beyond recovery, that all Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, or are waiting for us to leave so they can crush their neighbors. This view allows our soldiers two possible roles: either â€œvictim caught in the crossfireâ€ or â€œreferee between warring parties.â€ Neither, rightly, is tolerable to the American or British public.
Today I am in Iraq, back in a war of such strategic consequence that it will affect generations yet unbornâ€”whether or not they want it to. Hiding under the covers will not work, because whether it is good news or bad, whether it is true or untrue, once information is widely circulated, it has such formidable inertia that public opinion seems impervious to the corrective balm of simple and clear facts.
Yon’s an independent journalist, working for no one but himself. So if you appreciate what he’s doing, there’s a link at his blog from which you can send him some dough.