Published March 14, 2007
Michael Yon is an independent writer, photographer and former Green Beret who was embedded in Iraq for nine months in 2005. He has returned to Iraq for 2007 to continue reporting on the war. Here is a portion of his first dispatch for FOXNews.com.
Some of the soldiers streaming into Iraq are new to battle; others are serving their second, third and fourth combat tours. Some have fought across Afghanistan, in Africa or in some corner in a secret fight, on a special team of some sort, killing men in jungle camps in South America, in wars few people have heard about.
Around the world, dangerous American soldiers will close in on men tonight and kill them in small battles that will never be discussed. Al Qaeda turned it on but is powerless to turn it off.
Terrorists started this war with killing and are suing for peace with more killing, lashing out at schoolyards, marketplaces and soccer matches, blowing up kids, women and men on their way to work or worship. All to win the battle for headlines, which they are certain to get; the greater the savagery, the bigger the font.
Our soldiers, those from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, France (yes, France) and the United States, are better in all aspects but one: The terrorists somehow manage to beat us in our respective medias. We may own the air, but terrorists own the airwaves.
Midnight in Baghdad. The weather is still cool. Alone with my camera, with time to just think.
Today, there are more than 50 journalists here.
We have an excellent new commanding general, David Petraeus. A big plan is unfolding that will affect the lives of nearly every person reading this, and many more. Soon the weather will change as a long, hot, grinding and sticky year begins, but most journalists will spend little time here. When the weather turns hot, most will go home.
Afghanistan, too, is nearly forgotten. Our troops are slugging it out over there. I believe we are losing the war in Afghanistan, but I have strong hope for Iraq. Nearly all of America and Europe believe Iraq is a lost cause, but there is hope here and it lives in the thousands of stories about this place that are never told because they have not been witnessed by our media, or at least not reported.
Under that strange high moon rising to meet its eclipse, I thought of Ernie.
Ernie Pyle. His was a name I hardly knew just two years ago, except in some vague way I knew he had been a writer, at war.
That changed when people compared my work to his and sent a couple of Ernie's books to me. After reading them, I thought the comparison extremely flattering but not deserved. There are some obvious and even stylistic similarities.
I say "folks" a lot; so did Ernie. Ernie had a particular heart for the infantry; I spend most of my time with infantry. But while Ernie talked bluntly about the ugly parts of war, I simply lack the skills to make anything ugly look pretty.
Where Pyle and I share closest ties is in our knowledge of the value our work has for troop morale, for strategic gains and for ensuring the support of Americans back home. But in Ernie's day, it seems that more of the military leaders knew this as well, and they made it their business to act on that knowledge.