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Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Inside the office, General Hamid had unslung his submachine gun and propped it up against the wall."

Mostly on this blog I rant. This, though, is a rave.

This is, by far, the most incredible, riveting first-person reporting from Iraq I have ever read, seen, or heard.

I've had a "tip jar" on my blog, as a lark, for three or four years now. I don't need a tip jar. I'm taking it down. Right now, in fact, I'm sorta embarrassed to have ever had it up, actually.

Michael Yon is putting his own skin on the line so that you and I and everyone who has an internet connection anywhere in the world can read and see for ourselves what kinds of challenges are facing our fighting men and women in Iraq — and how they're handling them. And the reports from Iraq that he's posting have verisimilitude that smokes, spits, and crackles like ozone off a high voltage electric wire.

You have to pay attention. It's not a simple war, and it doesn't always generate simple stories. But Yon provides the back story you need for context. And if you read Yon's latest report, entitled (without melodrama, but for a damned good reason) "The Final Option," out loud in an empty room, it will eventually, gradually raise the hair on your arms and the back of your neck, the way Hollywood thrillers wish they could do. You might well be afraid to touch a door-knob after reading this report.

There's enough polish to make his writing flow smoothly and seem effortless; and that's deceptive, of course, because that's the kind of polish that actually takes hard work and real talent. But I have the feeling that he's a willing conduit for this story, less a creator in his own right than a faithful conductor of powerful emotional currents bundled in a tough sheath of nitty-gritty facts.

The sentence I've extracted to use as the title of this post, for instance, isn't Yon's dramatic re-creation of something he heard about. It's part of what he saw happen. I could blog for another 50 years and never be in a position to write a sentence that powerful. The photos aren't what some Reuters stringer lucked into; they're what Yon saw through his own viewfinder before his finger pushed the button, and they're every bit as superb as the writing. In fact, in an absolutely literal sense, Michael Yon's camera became a crucial part of this story.

If you've ever given even a passing thought to paying for something you've read for free on the internet — just because you can afford to, and it would be right to, and because the person who wrote it actually has earned a tangible indication of your appreciation, and you don't want to be a greedy tick all your life — then go hit Mr. Yon's tip jar. Whatever you can spare, even if it's just five dollars. It'll take maybe 90 seconds, or less if you already have a PayPal account.

We need to know this stuff, and we damn sure are never, ever, in a million-trillion years going to get it from the mainstream media, and we can't expect to keep getting it from Mr. Yon unless we make sure he can afford to keep working. You could go buy a movie ticket that puts a couple of bucks into some Hollywood nut-case's pocket so he can preach at you from the next Academy Awards ceremony about how crappy Americans are, and at the end of the movie, you wouldn't be any smarter, nor much entertained, and you might even feel sort of greasy. Or you could put the price of that movie ticket into Yon's tip jar and feel not only like you've gotten your money's worth, but, well, proud about the whole dang episode (including your itty-bitty part in it).

If you're sick and tired of feeling confused and depressed and overwhelmed when you read about the war, then read Yon's work. Whatever your views are on the Iraq War, I don't think you can read this stuff without being amazed at the soldiers and Marines whom Yon regularly writes about, and amazed at him for writing it.

Posted by Beldar at 12:47 AM in Global War on Terror, Mainstream Media, Weblogs | Permalink


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(1) Dan S made the following comment | Jun 4, 2007 8:04:15 PM | Permalink

Michael Yon is simply tops on reporting the war. He writes beautiful prose, reports while ducking incoming, and takes pictures the wires envy and the Army steals.

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