April 12, 2008

Make Michael Yon a Bestseller

Michael Yon's new book Moment of Truth in Iraq is now shipping from Amazon. My copy arrived a few days ago and it looks excellent. I'll let you know what I think once I dig into it.

Michael is the best foreign correspondent working in Iraq. If you haven't been following his work, I need to make his book required reading for you. If you have been reading him all this time, you already know why you need to pick up a copy.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 12, 2008 5:20 PM

I've been reading his dispatches and opinions for about a year now. I think I found out about this site from one of his readers or links.

Posted by: lee Author Profile Page at April 12, 2008 6:12 PM

From Yon's web site:

Signed copies of Moment of Truth in Iraq are nearly sold out. They can only be purchased on this site. Unsigned copies will hit bookstores on 23 April. Please buy a copy today. Your support is greatly appreciated, and absolutely essential.

I got my preordered signed copy a week ago. Have read the 1st 4 chapters and the last one.
Also got a copy for my very liberal daughter.
Haven't heard from her, and I suspect she won't read it - her loss.

Posted by: Tom in Texas Author Profile Page at April 12, 2008 7:27 PM

It's a good book. I'm glad I bought it, and I'd say that even if it wasn't supporting his work in Iraq. That said, though, if you read his web site regularly, you've read a good part of the book. That doesn't surprise me, but it is a bit disappointing.

Posted by: Warhorse Author Profile Page at April 12, 2008 7:54 PM

Yes, Yon is very good, but you're not chopped liver friend. Thanks to both of you.

Posted by: Geronimo Author Profile Page at April 13, 2008 5:26 AM

You, Totten and Roggio have literally made history with your reporting. The previous commenter who said you weren't chop liver either is right.

Posted by: Mark Eichenlaub Author Profile Page at April 13, 2008 11:57 AM

Well, I used to read Michael Yon but stopped because I couldn't stand the purple prose glorifying combat. Based on a glance at his website, this doesn't seem to have changed.

For example, Yon describes cleanup operations this way: "The few remaining serious troublemakers are being hacked off and mulched." What does that mean? I presume American soldiers are not really acting like Sweeney Todd. Yon just likes to use violent metaphors, and that means we don't know what actually happened.

Here's another quote: "Bullets snapp through air, then splap through flesh and men fall. Bodies crumple onto the desert, a fly lands on the lip of an open mouth, fingers twitch as the flesh dies and the winds kick up and dust settles on unblinking eyes."

This is an extreme closeup of the violence that gives us no context about what's going on. Who was shooting and why? It's just a bit of disgusting combat porn.

We need to know what's really going on in Iraq. We don't need combat porn. I much prefer the more matter-of-fact writing style here and I sincerely hope you're not thinking of emulating Yon.

Posted by: Brian Author Profile Page at April 13, 2008 12:20 PM

I'll be interested, Michael, in seeing how you and Bill Roggio review the book. I'd also like to see you two post at least short reviews on Amazon; seeing you two included among favorable reviewers (if favorable your reviews are [EEK! Yodaspeak!], which I assume they most likely will be), would, due to the respect that you two justifiably command on the subject, contribute to deservedly boosting Yon's sales.

Posted by: Salamantis Author Profile Page at April 13, 2008 3:31 PM

Brian, I read the dispatch that you quote from. I feel that he provides plenty of details and contexts. One of his recent entries that explore air to ground combat (involving various drones and aircrafts) was especially informative.

The Americans aren't "acting" like Sweeney Todd. But their projectiles will often disintegrate the targets to pieces. Yon actually provides technical aspects of the weapons that produce the gore. You learn something new everytime you read one of his dispatches. Does he write in a certain cheerleading style? That he does.

Posted by: lee Author Profile Page at April 13, 2008 3:39 PM

Well, I read this article and, while there is some good reporting, there are also sentences like these:

"The Predator was striking the gavel for the Hellfire to deliver justice, but the terrorists apparently realized the verdict a fraction of a second too late."

Holy bad metaphor batman! What kind of person compares the quick judgments about life and death necessary in warfare to the deliberation that happens in a courtroom? There's no trial here. This isn't justice, it's war.

"I thought more likely that the bad guy was al Qaeda, and God was lazing him for Lopez..."

So now he's reporting divine intervention? What is Yon really trying to say here?

"A hunter who doesn’t hunt isn’t a hunter, so the pilots fly ten days on, one day off."

What does that even mean?

I don't understand how someone who's seen war close up can write about it in a comic-book style, complete with sound effects. You'd think seeing war up close would have a sobering effect. Hopefully the reporting is accurate, but it sure makes you wonder about him.

Posted by: Brian Author Profile Page at April 13, 2008 7:11 PM

You'd think seeing war up close would have a sobering effect.

Why, because that's how it always affects the characters in Hollywood movies? (well, movies made about WWI, Vietnam and the current batch of unwatched films about Iraq).

Some people (soldiers, policemen, doctors, firemen) spend their careers dealing with sudden violence, unpleasant or panicky people and constant life and death decisions. The descriptions may sound un-nuanced to you, but when these events are a major part of one's life, maybe these descriptions sound about right.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at April 13, 2008 8:02 PM

Yon is ex-SF, and such rough men don't think like you, Brian. But I suspect he could subtract yours and still have a working IQ left.

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at April 15, 2008 2:44 AM


I believe you can attribute his detailed, "gory" descriptions to trying to bring the brutality of war home to you, given it is the written word and photos, and not video/actually being there. I would even suspect it is with the intent to deliver the message that you yourself seem to want delivered: war is brutal (although I don't know that "war" and "justice" are mutually exclusive terms, given war has stopped some truly horrific people in history, but you can make your own call there).
And if it seems like he is cheering on and celebrating the deaths of "serious troublemakers, let us not forget that these are usually people who are nearly inhuman due to their completely disgusting brutality aimed at their fellow man. I find it quite easy to feel their demise to be a good thing.
Finally, if you can't understand what is meant by a straightforward comment such as "A hunter who doesn’t hunt isn’t a hunter, so the pilots fly ten days on, one day off," then I'm afraid you're either woefully unprepared to read anything beyond something as straightforward as "Cat in the Hat," or you are proving yourself to simply be nitpicking because you feel he agrees with the Iraq War. Either way, those are reasons to maybe not try and offer up critiques to those who don't share the same problem.

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at April 15, 2008 8:42 AM

I think Michael Yon is really good, and a fantastic photographer, but his explanation of context is better than his writing. MJT here is, for me, a far better writer.

I'll be buying his book later, tho. I know that much of it is on the web site.

To Brian, ALL justice is war. Every Justice system starts with an injustice, and uses force to punish the guilty / compensate the victims. Most guilty do not accept punishment without force, or the threat of force.

In fact, "Law" starts out with violent enforcement. The AQ version of laws which they enforced, which were even worse than the Saddam enforced laws, seems to be a big reason the Fallujans have flipped against them -- combined with the US support of anti-AQ Iraq gov't so that opposition to Al Qaeda doesn't mean death.

For me, when a murdering terrorist is killed, that IS justice. If there was a genocide-stopping war intervention in Sudan, including the killing of murdering terrorists, I would consider that justice, too. This is what is known as "just war" theory. If you want to discuss justice, you should think about why you think there's such a difference.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at April 15, 2008 10:52 AM

Tom, I think what you're trying to say is that all justice involves the use of force. But there's a clear distinction between arresting someone and making a decision about their fate in a trial where all the relevant evidence can be presented (including whatever the defense can dig up), versus a soldier making split-second decisions about who lives and who dies based on appearances. Even when it's a clear-cut case of someone shooting at you, it could still be a misunderstanding; ever heard of friendly fire?
The U.S. military does more than ever before to avoid collateral damage, they're still never going to be as careful as our actual justice system is about human life. That's why warfare is properly reserved for emergencies where action is more important than always getting it right.

Joe, if the "gory" descriptions are intended to get across the horror of war, it's no more effective than the scenes your typical action movie, especially since elsewhere Yon makes it sound like a fun adventure.

Regarding our supposedly "nearly inhuman" enemies, if thinking of the enemy that way is necessary to get into the mindset to kill people, so be it. But reporters and those of us on the sidelines ought to have more perspective. If you read this blog, it should be pretty clear that not everyone who joined the insurgents was the hard-core bad guy you're thinking of.

re: "A hunter who doesn’t hunt isn’t a hunter, so the pilots fly ten days on, one day off." To spell it out, there's no logical connection between the two halves of that sentence. Would they really no longer be hunters if they worked a five-day workweek? We don't find out the real reasons for that schedule, but I doubt they're anything like that.

Posted by: Brian Author Profile Page at April 18, 2008 2:13 AM
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