Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Winds of Change

are making themselves felt as they blow through my life, yet I stand still, looking into the harbour of myself, contemplating what I can't seem to comprehend.

I can't see the stars anymore living here
Lets go the hills where the outlines are clear
Bring On The Wonder
Bring On The Song
I've pushed you down deep in my soul for too long

I fell through the cracks at the end of our street
Let's go to the beach get the sand through our feet
Bring On The Wonder
Bring On The Song
I push you down deep in my soul for too long

I don't have the time for a drink from the cup
Let's rest for a while til our souls catches up
Bring On The Wonder
Bring On The Song
I've pushed you down deep in my soul for too long
Lyrics by Susan Enan

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Censoring Iraq

A thought provoking piece by Michael Yon, titled "Censoring Iraq" appears in this week's edition of The Weekly Standard.

If the media battlespace is crucial in winning a counterinsurgency, then it's obvious our enemies are destroying us. But who is to blame for this? The truth may surprise you.
Many blame the media for the estrangement, but part of the blame rests squarely on the chip-laden shoulders of key military officers and on the often clueless Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, which doesn't manage the media so much as manhandle them. Most military public affairs officers are professionals dedicated to their jobs, but it takes only a few well-placed incompetents to cripple our ability to match and trump al Sahab. By enabling incompetence, the Pentagon has allowed the problem to fester to the point of censorship.

Read "Censoring Iraq"

On Censorship, CPIC and Lt.Col Barry Johnson

Dadmanly offers an insightful commentary on Mike Yon's anticipated piece on military censorship.

Yon introduces his detailed critique with as good a description of the Media War, and the dangers posed to the successful execution of that war, by over-eager, incompetent, or turf-jealous bureaucracy.

Yon is a very influential and respected representative of new media, and he’s linked and referenced regularly by CENTCOM PAO, Army Times, and many other official, quasi-official, and DoD-friendly and DoD approved organizations. If he’s getting this frustrated, as a friend of the military, one can only imagine how difficult it might be for an otherwise adversarial media. Not that I necessarily mind that consequence in specific instances (C N N), but still.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The UnVarnished Truth???

Anderson Cooper believes that it dishonors our soldiers to treat their death like statistical numbers and that people need to know what our soldiers go through.

Of course, we also understood that some might conclude there is a public relations benefit for the insurgents if we aired the material, especially on CNN International.

Whether or not you agree with us in this case, our goal, as always, is to present the unvarnished truth as best we can.

Some MIGHT conclude that there is a PR benefit for the terrorists? MIGHT? There's no maybe about this...CNN has yet again proven itself to be the PR agency of record for our enemies.

CNN remains unendlingly biased against our troops, their efforts and their many successes in Iraq.

The Unvarnished Truth................puhllleeeze........... who does Anderson Cooper think he is - Michael Yon??

These comments were posted on Anderson Cooper's Blog at CNN online. These voices are the closest CNN comes to presenting the "unvarnished truth"

I'm an officer in the US Army Infantry, recently returned from a year in Iraq, who lost a soldier to a sniper attack. I don't care about CNN's politics, but I do take issue with your integrity. In what possible way is a self-described propaganda video made by an insurgent group "the unvarnished truth?" The CNN report even states that this group wants to wage a PR camapign aimed at the American public. I'm quite sure that CNN would never run such blatant, screaming propaganda if it had instead originated with the Bush Administration.

Even a video as graphic as this can never even remotely bring home the true reality of combat to those who have never seen it. CNN staffers who have been in combat situations should know that. This is nothing more than a vulgar ratings grab, at best. I hesitate to say what it could be at worst...
Posted By Chris Bowers, Ft Benning, GA : 8:32 PM E

"Whether or not you agree with us in this case, our goal, as always, is to present the unvarnished truth as best we can."

This ending of your story is the biggest outrage of all. It's clear what your 'mission' is in your broadcasting and it rarely has any relation to truth or facts. This sort of coverage does nothing but embolden the enemy. It's of no value to those of us here at home and certainly of no value to those of us who have loved ones serving in Iraq. My husband is also a sniper and he's outraged as I am that you have the nerve to give such headlining time to the enemy, especially this particular faction.
Posted By Stacy San Diego CA : 6:03 PM ET

I'm a U.S. Marine, so those reading should hear me out. All your ridiculous network airs is the negative side of what our forces are experiencing. Of course, we are getting shot at, wounded and killed... it's a war. I've personally escorted home the remains of three of my Marine brothers who died on the battlefield of Iraq. The American public should certainly understand what we are going through over there, but more importantly, they should see the positive side of what we're accomplishing, which far outweighs the negative. Why does your network not air footage of award ceremonies where our brave warriors receive Purple Hearts, Navy Crosses, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, and Air Medals? Why are there not spectacular stories all over your front page about courage in battle, motivation in the face of adversity, and plain old tear-in-your-eye stories of young American Patriots who our forefathers would be proud of? There are more important things than personal safety...Honor, Courage, and Committment to the trust our citizens place in us. We don't want your sympathy; we want your support. Your network should be using it's power to make people stand behind us with steel-like resolve vice turning our entire society into a nation of cowards. Stand up, be proud to be an American, and take your kid to see your local military recruiter. Teach them that character, values, and dedication to a higher purpose are more important than who has the coolest car, newest video game or biggest paycheck. CNN needs to stop being an agent for enemy and start supporting the home team.
Posted By Tim , Woodbridge, VA : 5:52 PM ET

On any day in Irag, your film crews can record horrific scenes of violence: mangled bodies and children screaming with pain at bombing sites, the blood and gore of the military and civilian emergency rooms, the mutilated bodies of terrorist torture victims. But for whatever reason, you generally refrain from showing this part of the "unvarnished truth," which would drive home the reality of the war much more strongly than the sniper videos. So it is simply wrong and misleadingly to suggest that it was necesary to show these tapes to make a unique point about the violence in Iraq. (You could film the hundreds of coffins coming home to America if you want to emphasize the cost of American lives.)
You should have refrained from showing these videos because of the source. Whatever your views on the war and the President's policies, I cannot conceive of any legitimate reason for showing a video provided to you by people who are killing our troops. Did you ever consider that the motivation for the shootings you showed was to get media attention, i.e., the terrorists decided to film a sniper attack and give it the U.S. media to see if they could get it played on nation-wide television? Do you think that playing the tape lessened or increased the risk of additional attacks on U.S. troops perpetrated by terrorists seeking more media coverage?

I strongly oppose this war, but showing the video was a grave mistake and demonstrates a misguided sense of your journalistic responsibilities.
Posted By Joe Wayland, New York, NY : 5:51 PM ET

You people make me sick.
I spent a year of my life in Iraq and my brother is currently in Afghanistan. All you have accomplished is to make our jobs more difficult. I am so upset and angry that I really don't know what to say. CNN should be very ashamed of their actions and shouldn't even have the privilege of calling themselves Americans.
Posted By John, Tahlequah, OK : 5:41 PM ET

My brother, a Marine 1st Lt., recently left for deployemt to Fallujah for the next 6-7 months. Watching the news of American casualties has become an intensely personal activity for me. Showing this "interview" only reinforces my belief that CNN's political agenda has become the forefront of their programming. What I'd like to know is why, of all the footage of this war that I have seen, is it only containing actions detrimental to our own troops? Are our U.S. soldiers and Marines not our neighbors, friends, family, citizens? Aren't they on our side - our team? Why then do we not bolster our efforts in this fight by showing similiar scenes inflicted by our own troops against our enemies the terrorists? This is absolutely crazy that an American network would show this kind of footage without also showing OUR successes - on the battlefield as well as our humanitarian efforts?
Posted By Ed Childers - Nashville, TN : 4:21 PM ET

This helped the insurgents, terrorists, and thugs we are fighting. If it weren't for you their propaganda film would have stayed in the dark corners of the Internet where it should stay. Instead they got free publicity. Wake up CNN. The nation whose privileges you enjoy is at war.
Posted By Jim, Bloomingdale, IL : 4:15 PM ET

One person from the MSM gets it:

I have spent 43 years as a print journalist and the sensational spewings that we call "television journalism" never cease to amaze me. I have dealt with the issue of "whether to publish" countless times and I know this: At any time, any network, any media could jerk coverage up a notch by presenting violent images of the war in Iraq and then back them with a holier-than-thou argument. Since when does CNN consider itself the military patriarch whose job it is to show the American public about the graphic violence of war? Excuse me, Vietnam? I don't like being considered a simpleton by a collection of news-gatherers with cameras and microphones hell-bent on giving Americans what it considers a good lesson in what we're facing in Iraq. I got it, guys. CNN says the tape fit its criteria for newsworthiness. Did someone at any time during that so-called "intense" debate ask the question: "Whose kids are these?" Scaring the hell out of the family of every soldier in Iraq isn't journalism. It's that old oxymoron "TV news."
Posted By Larry Hudson Collierville, Tenn. : 3:44 PM ET

Good job bringing the realities of war home to the American public. You have just helped to defeat what myself and other US soldiers fight for. We fight overseas so the war does not come to our nation, and we try to protect our nation from these horrors. You bring them into the living room of the households across the nation. As I look at going back overseas to fight again for the 3rd time, I thank you for bringing those images to my fiance, and family. I'm sure it helps them to rest easier. Thanks again for bringing them the images I fight to keep from them.
Posted By CPL Barrett, Portland, OR : 3:37 PM ET

You were just preaching to your choir with that video. What you showed was the reality of war, kind of like showing a cop getting shot by a criminal. Keep on praying that the terrorists will win, and maybe it will happen. That terrorist propaganda video will reinforce the anti-war crowd's belief that "people get killed in war" and that the US should "withdraw immediately", which is the message the terrorists are trying to propogate (apparently successfully).
Posted By Matt, Bellevue, WA : 3:36 PM ET

One Question: Would CNN have aired a video of Anderson Cooper, Larry King, or any other CNN employee being murdered by a sniper in Iraq? I highly doubt it.
Posted By Braden Rudolph, Chicago IL : 3:19 PM ET

As an United States Army veteran I am outraged that these videos are being shown on your network. In no way should the deaths of these brave men be shown to the entire world. Yes, these videos are readily available on the internet but you are making them even more accessable though a supposed "trusted" source. You should be ashamed of yourselves for this! Would you like to see your own children shot on television? I also can't help to wonder about the timing of this story in conjunction to our comming elections. So much for unbiased reporting!!!
Posted By Jonathan, Gonzales, Louisiana : 3:19 PM ET

Thursday, October 19, 2006

American Aghori

And now for something completely different.......... an American Cannibal.

Aghor has murky roots. It most likely originated in India, which continues to be the sacred center for Aghor adherents worldwide, although that country has outlawed some of the more extreme rituals followers have engaged in, like human sacrifice. A good deal of Aghoris do, however, still practice human sacrifice. In India, some Aghoris are found in and around the cremation grounds in Varanasi. But there are Aghoris in America, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Australia. In fact, once I learned that Westerners were among the devout, I traveled around the world six times researching this strange belief system. I lived with Aghoris in their ashram in Sonoma, California, and visited with a sect in Mezzago, Italy.

This is the subject matter for the book Michael Yon was working on prior to embedding in Iraq.

Read "American Aghori" a short piece, appearing in this months issue of Vice magazine , where Michael Yon introduces us to Gary Stevenson, a charismatic American cannibal and practioner of Aghor - an extreme sect of Hinduism.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Succinct Thoughts On CPIC & Lt.Col.Barry Johnson, and Censorship

Updated & Related: Blackfive reveals how the US Army is Watching Bloggers.
Perhaps if the DOD spent more time and resources watching our enemies rather than censoring...errr watching milbloggers and embeds.... we might finally win this war!

From Uber Pig who writes at Enlisted Swine:

I have no idea how Walt Gaya, who you can read about here, could be denied embed status by any American military PAO. That really just smacks of incompetence. And Mike Yon may not always have nice things to say about the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he's honest, which is a huge step forward from what we're getting from so many of the MSM prostitutes. Mike is nobody's bitch, though, so I wonder if part of the problem with LTC Johnson is that he just rubbed him the wrong way and wouldn't suck officer cock when he unzipped and flopped it on the table. Well fuck you, buddy: Mike Yon is more effective doing what he does, the way he wants to do it, than most of the military's public affairs officers combined.

Uber Pig's bio describes him as : 1st Platoon, A Co., 2/75 Ranger 92-93 G3 Plex, I Corps 93-94 1st Bde., 25th Infantry 94-96

And from the Chicago Sun Times, October 16th edition comes a piece titled" Frontline Journalists Fading Away"

The number of embedded journalists reporting alongside U.S. troops in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level -- 11.

During the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than 600 reporters, TV crews and photographers linked up with U.S. and British units.

''This is more than pathetic,'' said Sig Christenson, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and president of Military Reporters and Editors.

''It strikes me as dangerous'' for the American public to get so little news of their military, he said.

The story claims that that local Commanders have the final say in accepting an embed. Perhaps so, but that doesn't explain why, when both Mike Yon and Walt Gaya were extended numerous offers to embed, CPIC under Lt.Col. Barry Johnson, continously denied them the right to embed, based on lies that were created by Lt.Col. Johnson, and continued to deny them embeds even after those lies were countered and proven to be false. CENSORSHIP comes in many forms:

The Associated Press' Antonio Castaneda wrote about violence in Dora, a Baghdad neighborhood. ''The day after the Dora story was printed, I was visited by a soldier who delivered the message that my coverage was disproportionately negative,'' Castaneda said. His requests for more embeds in the Baghdad area were ignored until a senior U.S. officer interceded.

On Censorship, CPIC &Lt.Col.Barry Johnson
Open Letter To Lt.Col.Barry Johnson, CPIC
Frontline Journalists Fading Away
Blackfive: US Army Watching Blogs

Sunday, October 08, 2006

War Birds

Life in the sandbox is a melange of extreme danger and threats with bouts of endless boredom. For most troups, Playstations, VIOP conversations with those back home, dvd releases of the latest films or episodes of favorite tv shows like Smaillville or 24, and blogging, provide much needed distractions, but as Christopher Griffin reveals in a piece titled "War Birds" that appeared in American Enterprise Institute

...some soldiers have chosen to pass their time in the most traditional way imaginable--through the appreciation of the natural environment that surrounds them. Fortunately, a few of them have been generous enough to maintain blogs as well several soldiers have spent time exploring the natural environment that surrounds.

During his deployment at Balad's Camp Anaconda from 2004-2005, Sgt Trouern-Trend, of the Connecticut Army National Guard, kept a blog of his birding experiences in Iraq.
Birding Babylon was edited and published under the same title earlier this year by the Sierra Club.

The most powerful theme in Trouern-Trend's writing is how indifferent the Iraqi fauna usually is to the war. While pulling guard duty for a halted convoy across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, he is stunned when "I'm lying on the ground with my eye on some guy racing around in a pickup truck, wondering if he's going to take a potshot at us (which would have been suicidal), while a pair of crested larks were not even 10 feet from me, the male displaying and dancing around."

(...)His journal is a welcome reminder that despite the sturm und drang of war, men and their worries are not the only protagonists in the world's dramas.

Another bird lover Griffin spotlights is a former Special Forces Green Beret

Milblogosphere superstar and confessed birdwatcher Michael Yon describes one occasion when he inquired about a bird's nest in the antenna patch on a battalion tactical operations command post in Mosul:

"Doesn't that nest interfere with comm[unication]s?" I asked the soldier.

"No, Sergeant Major Prosser disconnected that antenna so the birds could nest."

Yon, who alternately named the house sparrows at his base "French Fry Catchers" and "Saddam's Sparrows," recounts that his first serious Iraq bird encounters happened during helicopter trips over rivers and marshes along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers: "As the helicopters approach the marshes, undulated blankets of birds rise into the air, so that by the time the helicopters are over the water, the pilots are forcing hard right or left turns, or pulling up fast to avoid flocks." Most observers at home might imagine that rocket-propelled grenades are the primary obstacle for pilots in Iraq to dodge.

A 3rd Milbirdwatcher is Air Force Capt. F. John Duresky who
describes his birding experiences on his blog, The Fourth, and has also created the (also modest) Yahoo Member Group "Operation Iraqi Birds," where soldiers and civilians in the Operation Iraqi Freedom area of operations can discuss the birds that they have seen in Iraq.

Capt Duresky wrote a moving thought provoking piece titled "Forgotton Sacrifice" that appeared in The Washington Post on July 5th.

Christopher elaborates on why these experiences in Iraq are yet another indication of the great accomplishment of deposing Saddam. His insight should prove of interest to Democrats, especially Al Gore, and to those in Hollywood that profess a deep concern for the environment.

After all, in addition to the human rights crimes for which he is being tried, Saddam was one of the past century's most effective environmental terrorists.

The fruit of Saddam's environmental terrorism was the destruction of all but 7 percent of Iraq's southern marshes by 2003, with the area's native inhabitants having fled from their burned villages. Today, almost 40 percent of the Iraqi marshes have been restored, and they are expected to continue replenishing at a rate of about 800 square miles (13 percent of the original size) per year. This progress means that both an ecosystem and the society that it supports have been saved--no mean accomplishment.

Now that most reporting focuses on the burgeoning civil war in Iraq, this environmental victory provides a small glimpse of the country that U.S. policy aims to help create and that many Iraqis want.

Birding Babylon
The Fourth
Michael Yon

Monday, October 02, 2006

On Censorship, CPIC, and Lt.Col Barry Johnson

In response to my Open Letter To LtC Barry Johnson, CPIC, Trevor, who works for CPIC, and has a blog titled The Will To Exist, posted a comment/response which I'll include below. Trevor was merely repeating what LtC.Johnson told him when, after reading my blog, he asked Barry Johnson, for whom he works, why Michael Yon had been denied an embed.

I'm a milblogger who also happens to work for Lt. Col. Johnson. He told me Mike's request was denied due to not having a sponsor and his not having appropriate insurance coverage. Milbloggers are an important voice in the war on Iraq, as are embedded independent bloggers. I wish the path for them to get embedded was an easier one. Perhaps it will be in the future.

Trevor is being lied to by the man he works for. If a Lt.Col. will lie to the people he works with, who else does he lie to??

No one at CPIC, least of all LTC, Barry Johnson, has ever asked Yon IF he had combat insurance. NO ONE. So how can ANYONE at CPIC make the claim that because Yon had no combat insurance he was denied an embed.

Michael Yon has more than enough combat insurance and agreed to sign the indemnification
pro forma signed by ALL embeds regardless of what level of insurance they possess. Mike addressed those lies directly with LTC. Barry Johnson.

With regards to the other lie mentioned about lacking a sponsor - Michael Yon was credentialed/sponsored by The Weekly Standard.

In an email to Trevor, as well as in my previous post, I have provided AMPLE examples of embeds that are neither credentialed nor have combat insurance. And in every example I provided - embeds were granted to these people weeks and months after Yon was denied.

In that same email - I offered up this link to a "blog" written by Chad Hunt - a young photographer who is not credentialed with any major news organization. Chad was given an embed a month back.

A quick review of his "blog" and one sees several OPSEC violations including a full face photo of a terp and details of a mission he was headed out on with the unit he embeds with.

Today I am headed out with the 554th MP Co. based in Stuttgart, Germany, along with members of the 10th mtn division, 3/71 CAV. The mission is to Recon a trail that leads to the village of Kamdesh. We head out in Humvees, dismount and head up the mountain. It reminds me of hiking in the Grand Canyon, only with guns. After we hike for a couple of hours we return to the Humvees. On the way back to base we stop and cross the river to talk to some locals about Taliban operating in the valley. Most Army units operate with "Terps", interpreters that are either local or brought in from the US. Kamdesh has about 10 terps. Below is a picture of "Bob", a terp who is risking his life simply by working with the Americans.

While NOT granting Mike or Walt Gaya embeds, based on lies and false assumptions created by LtC. Johnson, CPIC instead allows the above to happen right under their noses.

Endless incompetence aptly describes CPIC. And endless incompetance leads to censorship, either inadvertantly or deliberately.

During Mike's time in Mosul, as he was writing his most riveting, evocative dispatches, the PAO engaged in deliberate and systematic attempts at intimidation and retribution as they tried to prevent him from writing "Gates of Fire" , and continued to antagonize him even as Gates of Fire was receiving major accolades from the MSM, the Military, and the blogosphere, not to mention Hollywood celebs.

CPIC also engaged in what appears to be malicious and intentional censorship surrounding a dispatch he wanted to write about the now famous letter from Al Zawahiri to Al Zarquawi.

After denying him the opportunity to write a dispatch -which would have provided detailed context about this letter- by claiming this letter would never be released even to the MSM - several days later, letter was in fact released to CNN. In conversations with LtC Kurilla, Mike kept insisting he was being censored and that this letter would find its way into the MSN.

I kept silent for days on the Zarquawi-letter dispatch, ready to post what was probably the single most important piece of insider information to drop into our hands in quite some time. I requested clearance several times per day, each time being asked to hold back. I complied. But then, without even giving the leaders at Deuce Four a heads-up, a typically enthralling military press release went out to major, mainstream, media outlets. We all learned of it on CNN. The Zarquawi-letter story was almost unrecognizable. Because, in the hands of a network that hasn’t had a body in the field in Mosul long enough to get their bearings, the best the media could do is paraphrase the military press release. So what should have been a front page banner headline story ended up buried on page 6

Both LTC Kurilla and Col.Brown were furious, not just about the release of this document to CNN but no doubt about having been "played" by the PAO. They apologized to Mike Yon ensuring him they'd "make it up to him" by providing him an opportunity to write about some highly important mission.

Michael Yon was deliberately censored by the PAO - and when he refused to back down with regards to writing "Gates of Fire" days AFTER MaryAlice Kurilla was notified of Eric's injuries, and days after the news had begun to filter into the media - the PAO continued trying to intimidate and bully Michael as a form of retribution for one line he wrote in "Proximity Delays" and for writing "Gates of Fire".

One such example: Michael was forbidden from entering the mess tent without a military escort. Claiming this was now "procedure" and claiming that terps and contractors also needed escorts, Mike continuosly witnessed both terps and contractors entering the mess tent without escorts. The soldiers were angry that Mike needed an escort, they questioned what was going on. Some days Mike went without eating. When asked by the soldiers why this was happening, Mike told them that he sensed it was because of one sentence he had chosen to include in "Proximity Delays".

And then CPIC engaged in Copyright Infringement of Mike's iconic photo of Major Beiger and Farah. Coincidence......I'll leave you to decide.

What made Mike Yon's reporting so damn important was that it was unbiased and credible because he was independent. Once Mike found out he needed to be credentialed in order to return to Iraq - the Weekly Standard credentialed him, agreeing not to edit or alter his work. Mike wrote a dispatch for The Weekly Standard.

Let me remind CPIC of what a Marine PAO officer had to say:

Quoting Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, public affairs officer for the 2nd Marine Division about Mike Yon:
"His reporting was objective, credible and compelling. But most of all, it was independent," Pool said. "He didn't have to worry about some editor back in the States altering what he wrote before it got published. Plus, he had no competition from other news sources to churn out a 'marketable' product on a day-to-day basis".

Mike Yon is not the only person to have had problems with CPIC and LTC. Barry Johnson.

Walt Gaya, a two time purple heart recipient who served with Deuce Four, was also denied an embed. He was also credentialed by a major news organization. Walt had intended to go back to Iraq, in order to tell the stories that warrant attention but are still rarely being told.

Below is a comment posted on Pajamas Media from another embed:

David Axe :

Yon is right, LTC. Barry Johnson at the Baghdad Press Information Center is incompetent. I have embedded with U.S. and U.K. forces in Iraq five times (currently on my sixth with the Brits). Johnson suppresses media, not assists them. With people like him running the show, media access to the U.S. military in Iraq will remain limited.