Yon: Rolling Stone’s report on “kill teams” is BS

posted at 2:15 pm on March 29, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Michael Yon gets as frank as possible in this detailed pushback to Rolling Stone’s article on allegations of systemic abuse in Afghanistan.  Having served with the larger unit in question, Yon accuses RS of conflating legitimate action against the enemy with the isolated incidents of alleged murder in order to make the entire unit and chain of command look bad, and that it left out important context as well:

The online edition of the Rolling Stone story contains a section with a video called “Motorcycle Kill,” which includes our Soldiers gunning down Taliban who were speeding on a motorcycle toward our guys.  These Soldiers were also with 5/2 SBCT, far away from the “Kill Team” later accused of the murders.  Rolling Stone commits a literary “crime” by deceptively entwining this normal combat video with the Kill Team story.  The Taliban on the motorcycle were killed during an intense operation in the Arghandab near Kandahar City.  People who have been to the Arghandab realize the extreme danger there.  The Soviets got beaten horribly in the Arghandab, despite throwing everything including the Soviet kitchen sink into the battle that lasted over a month.  Others fared little better.  To my knowledge, 5/2 and supporting units were the first ever to take Arghandab, and these two dead Taliban were part of that process.

The killing of the armed Taliban on the motorcycle was legal and within the rules of engagement.  Law and ROE are related but separate matters.  In any case, the killing was well within both the law and ROE.  The Taliban on the back of the motorcycle raised his rifle to fire at our Soldiers but the rifle did not fire.  I talked at length with several of the Soldiers who were there and they gave me the video.  There was nothing to hide.  I didn’t even know about the story until they told me.  It can be good for Soldiers to shoot and share videos because it provides instant replay and lessons learned.  When they gave me the video and further explained what happened, I found the combat so normal that I didn’t even bother publishing it, though I should have because that little shooting of the two Taliban was the least of the accomplishments of these Soldiers, and it rid the Arghandab of two Taliban.

Some people commented that our Soldiers used excessive force by firing too many bullets.  Hogwash.  And besides, they were trying to kill each other.  Anyone who has seen much combat with our weak M-4 rifles realizes that one shot is generally not enough, and the Taliban were speeding at them on a motorbike, which very often are prepared as suicide bombs.  If that motorcycle had been a bomb, as they often are, and got inside the group of Soldiers and exploded, they could all have been killed.  Just yesterday, in Paktika, three suicide attackers came in, guns blazing, and detonated a huge truck bomb.  Depending on which reports you read, about twenty workers were killed and about another fifty wounded.

I hadn’t heard the “too many bullets” argument, but it’s of a piece with the notion that the use of force in war should be measured and reciprocal, which is hogwash of another sort.  When an enemy speeds at your position on a motorcycle while brandishing an automatic rifle in the context of war, you are not under any sort of obligation to only match the attack bullet for bullet.  To do so would be to give up the advantages of both numbers and firepower.  It’s a great way to get more American and NATO soldiers killed.

That kind of concept doesn’t even apply to police work here in the US, let alone in war abroad.  When criminals threaten police or civilians with knives, the police here are under no obligation to holster their sidearms and whip out switchblades.  Police (and civilians, for that matter) have the right to use lethal force when their lives are reasonably under threat.

The crimes alleged by the Army in the case of the handful of soldiers in this unit should be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted if substantiated.  That’s no reason to impugn the other members of this unit, especially by somehow linking the alleged murder of unarmed civilians to legitimate actions against the enemy.

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Is Rolling Stone an arm of Al Jazeera? Just askin’.

NJ Red on March 29, 2011 at 2:18 PM

When criminals threaten police or civilians with knives, the police here are under no obligation to holster their sidearms and whip out switchblades.

I’ve heard that the police rule is to always use a level of force above the perp. He throws a punch, you pull a club. He pulls a knife, you shoot him — twice in the chest and once in the head.

Count to 10 on March 29, 2011 at 2:19 PM

I would question almost anything that comes from the Rolling Stone anymore. They are out to sell magazines. Truth? They don’t need no stinkin truth.

capejasmine on March 29, 2011 at 2:20 PM

Michael Yon has been under fire as of late for some of his reporting, but, he’s still on the front lines doing some pretty amazing and ballsy work, IMHO. Rolling Stone, however, has no one out doing the tough jobs other than rolling the joints that the editors need to help their ‘glaucoma’ issues…….

Sponge on March 29, 2011 at 2:21 PM

I hadn’t heard the “too many bullets” argument, but it’s of a piece with the notion that the use of force in war should be measured and reciprocal, which is hogwash of another sort.

Local PC has gone war-fighting-PC. It will kill us all.

Schadenfreude on March 29, 2011 at 2:21 PM

Why do I get the feeling that stories like this give the people at RS a hadron?

Aquateen Hungerforce on March 29, 2011 at 2:21 PM

The progs and islamists try to push their ‘proportionality’ crap on Israel as well, suggesting that ‘palestinians’ throwing fist-sized rocks cannot be dealt with by anything more lethal.

We’d still be fighting World War II under their rules of engagement.

slickwillie2001 on March 29, 2011 at 2:22 PM

“Police (and civilians, for that matter) have the right to use lethal force when their lives are reasonably under threat.”

Unless if you are a Border Patrol Agent

… Oh, wait!

Seven Percent Solution on March 29, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Was it Rolling Stone that bought Newsweek? It looks like they share the same writers.

Left Coast Right Mind on March 29, 2011 at 2:23 PM

it’s of a piece with the notion that the use of force in war should be measured and reciprocal

That’s how liberals want war to go when they didn’t start it or support it.

On the other hand, when it’s their own neck on the line, things are much different. Gun. Knife fight.

ButterflyDragon on March 29, 2011 at 2:24 PM

I thought telling the truth was Journalistic Malpractice.

Tommy_G on March 29, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Too many bullets…

Our rounds are outdated, they were partially designed to wound the enemy. One of the theories was, it takes more enemy soldiers out of action to carry away or tend to their fallen comrade.

When you have an enemy that does not value human life in any way, shape or form, that all goes out the window.

reaganaut on March 29, 2011 at 2:25 PM

RS seeks to put “adult” political material within it’s pages with Justin Bieber or a practically naked Rihanna on the cover so it will sell to the grade school set. The last time I picked it up (delivered free of charge to “Great Clips” throughout the nation I’m sure) it was as thin as a pamphlet.

I find US Magazine, published by the same liberal kook Jann Wenner, to be just as egregious. Who can forget “Michelle: Why We LOVE Barack” one week followed by (with a copy specifically sent to her campaign) “Sarah Palin’s Political and Personal HORRORS”, or something like that.

Marcus on March 29, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Given the option of believing these left wing rags and the local trolls or believing Yon, I’ll take Yon every time.

rplat on March 29, 2011 at 2:31 PM

If you’re in the process of killing me on the battlefield, and I have no chance, use as many bullets as you can, please. Use a tank shell if possible.

RBMN on March 29, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Given the option of believing these left wing rags and the local trolls or believing Yon, I’ll take Yon every time.

sleepy-beans on March 29, 2011 at 2:34 PM

This is a simple case of one party talking out of their a$$ about something of which they know nothing about versus another party that knows their stuff and actually does know what they are talknig about (bcs Yon is THERE).
I often encounter this very thing when I meet people & they learn my husband & I are ranchers.
They think they know everything about the process, what’s going on etc., bcs they read about it, knew someone who knew someone who told them about it, etc.
RS is full of CRAP & is basically the National Enquirer printed on slick paper.

Badger40 on March 29, 2011 at 2:34 PM

The reason for too many bullets has been the type of bullet being used. Hopefully this is being integrated to all units in theater.

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2010/02/marine_SOST_ammo_021510w/

TugboatPhil on March 29, 2011 at 2:35 PM

After visiting Yon’s website, I found a brand new admiration for the man.
He is awesome.
And so are his stories & pictures.

Badger40 on March 29, 2011 at 2:36 PM

The RS article is close to sedition. It’s a smear that’s almost indistinguishable from a Taliban propaganda release.

The article smears an entire Army Brigade based on unconfirmed accusations against a few soldiers. The article employs every negative Army stereotype imaginable, too: our troops are (i) mentally unstable and cracking under the pressure, (ii) bloodthirsty savages, (iii) a bunch of flunkies the Army had to take for want of manpower, and (iv) led by Army “brass” engaged in a coverup. And, to top it off, the accused soldier is from Wasilla and knew Sarah Palin’s children. SCORE!!

We should call for a boycott of RS’s advertisers. It’s one thing to report the truth, even if the truth hurts. It’s another thing to engage in a pattern (this is what, the 3rd or 4th time now?) of recklessly smearing the troops and using underhanded tactics to destabilize Army leadership. Enough is enough.

Outlander on March 29, 2011 at 2:40 PM

What does the rolling stones story have to do with Rock n Roll? Oh that’s right, they don’t care about music anymore.

jeffn21 on March 29, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Ah, the not-so-old notion that war is like a Japanese baseball game. One side scores, one side reciprocates, they remain tied because they don’t want to compete, and at the end of nine innings they go home – when it’s apparent a clear loser or winner must not be declared.

Really, folks. This kind of crap’s getting old.

Ryan Anthony on March 29, 2011 at 2:42 PM

I read the Rolling Stone article and Yon’s response; they’re both right to some degree.

I think the point RS was making was that it’s against Army policy to share pictures and video of dead enemy combatants and that members of the same brigade were violating that policy.

The shooting itself appears to be legit (note the ammo bandoleer on one of the dead Taliban), and as such didn’t have any bearing on the “Kill Team” soldiers who were in a different unit and were alledgedly murdering unarmed civilians.

Hollowpoint on March 29, 2011 at 2:44 PM

Journalistic malpractice

Or as the MSM calls it, “Tuesday”.

The Mega Independent on March 29, 2011 at 2:47 PM

I had a look at the Rolling Stones photos and videos yesterday.

I could tell is BS all the way, and even they recognize it by saying “even if was a combat action, the fact that this pictures were made public is a serious breach of the war conduct…” blah blah blah.

Fxxx Rolling Shiites, and wish them all to perish in an islamic suicide. I suppose the jihadis needed some stuff to revigorate their recruiting quotas, and they choose Rolling Shiites as a conduit.

And yes, I know that at least one US soldier did a wrong think there in another situation, and I really don’t care. Kill away!

Rookie on March 29, 2011 at 2:57 PM

I really wish an edit button…

wrong think

?

Rookie on March 29, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Why do I get the feeling that stories like this give the people at RS a hadron?

Aquateen Hungerforce on March 29, 2011 at 2:21 PM

As in Hadron Collider?

cartooner on March 29, 2011 at 3:01 PM

Be sure to let Jazz Shaw know about this, mmmmkay, Ed?

He was awfully worried that The Stone was onto something here….

MrScribbler on March 29, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Jazz Shaw..hmmm….sounds familiar…RINO type fellow?

EnochCain on March 29, 2011 at 3:07 PM

“Anyone who has seen much combat with our weak M-4 rifles realizes that one shot is generally not enough”—It still amazes me that we send our guys out to fight with that little .223 varmint round.

WarEagle01 on March 29, 2011 at 3:12 PM

“too many bullets”

Anyone who brings that up has never had their fat ass on the line. They are the same one’s that claim you can shoot a weapon out of someones hand.

GarandFan on March 29, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I guess the only thing shocking about leftist trash producing propoganda for the enemy is that they’re still doing it when their guy is in office.

As for the “shocking” pictures of dead combatants that most of us probably find as sick? They’re been around probably as long as cameras in troops’ hands. There’s nothing new. My grandpa had a few of buddies posing with dead Japanese in WWII. If just their way of coping, with sick humor, trying to keep their sanity amidst the horrors of war.

MNHawk on March 29, 2011 at 3:17 PM

The U.S. military should revoke Rolling Stone’s press credentials. How many hatchet jobs on the Army will they let them get away with? As in Abu Ghraib, the Army found out and began investigating before the press waltzes in and “discovers” cover-ups of evil wrong-doing! BTW, the MSM did much the same thing to us in Vietnam.
Oh, and since I’m at it, our ammunition is not designed to wound rather than kill, the 5.56mm has some badass ballistics that makes it punch a devastating exit hole. If you get hit in a non life-threatening area, the wound will be worse than with other small arms rounds. The 5.56mm was designed for firepower giving the individual rifleman the ability to carry more ammo than he could with the 7.62mm ammo.

cartooner on March 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Their Psyop article was crap too.

Both were promoted my MSNBC.

freedomplow on March 29, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Thanks, Ed. I saw the Yon piece and it makes good points. Rolling Stone did apparently try to “sex up” the narrative through editorial malpractice. Someone is hoping to get a script in front of Oliver Stone, would be my guess.

I don’t know of anyone in the services who would condone what the indicted members of the “kill squad” did — which is why the Army has been investigating and court-martialing since last summer. The word in the Stryker community is that the brigade leadership was deeply flawed: one particular colonel seriously at odds with the COIN mission in general. The Army will sort that out, and will do it better without Congressional posturing and witchhunts to deal with.

J.E. Dyer on March 29, 2011 at 3:24 PM

cartooner on March 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Our 5.56 ammunition does not have good ballistic characteristics. It does not make “a devastating exit hole” – and saying the wound will be worse than “other small arms rounds” is meaningless, since that can be said of 9mm pistol rounds as well. (It wounds worse than a .22 pistol round, after all.)

There have been many stories out of Iraq and Afghanistan of 5.56 performing very poorly, punching through insurgents and terrorists and not even causing them to stumble.

There’s a lot of talk about replacing 5.56 with the 6.5mm Grendel or 6.8mm Remington SPC.

apollyonbob on March 29, 2011 at 3:28 PM

“Anyone who has seen much combat with our weak M-4 rifles realizes that one shot is generally not enough”—It still amazes me that we send our guys out to fight with that little .223 varmint round.

WarEagle01 on March 29, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Though you can shoot .223 with an M16/M4/Ar15, it isn’t the same as a 5.56mm round. Having shot the M14 7.62mm and used the M16 in Vietnam, I’ll take the M16/M4 over an AK47 any day. Yes, an AK is extremely durable, but it’s made for fire power–full auto at close range. Not even close as acurate at distance as the M16.

cartooner on March 29, 2011 at 3:28 PM

The crimes alleged by the Army in the case of the handful of soldiers in this unit should be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted if substantiated.

Already being done. Just like with the Abu Ghraib photos, the system was moving along when the press decided to jump in and sensationalize matters in order to attack servicemembers.

A U.S. soldier was sentenced to 24 years in prison Wednesday after saying “the plan was to kill people” in a conspiracy with four fellow soldiers to kill unarmed Afghan civilians.

Military judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks said he initially intended to sentence Spc. Jeremy Morlock to life in prison with possibility of parole but was bound by the plea deal.

http://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2011/03/post_3.html

malclave on March 29, 2011 at 4:03 PM

I hadn’t heard the “too many bullets” argument, but it’s of a piece with the notion that the use of force in war should be measured and reciprocal, which is hogwash of another sort.

Thank you Mr. Morrissey for bringing that canard out to the curb.

thegreatbeast on March 29, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Very good reason to PULL out all the troops! Enough already…pull them out of other countries and move them to the border in our country!

will sass u on March 29, 2011 at 4:46 PM

I have never counted the Rolling Stone as reliable for anything but reporting on rock-star’s paternity cases, and what drug cocktail fueled their latest bout of bizarre behavior.

Slowburn on March 29, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Rolling Stone is a liberal rag where they present what they want to believe rather what the facts dictate. Yon is at the point of attack and his integrity is evident in his reporting. Rolling Stone has taken a very serious situation that is being handled judicially and associated it with incidents that reflect yellow journalism instead of the truth to destroy the image of the American military. You can be assured that the military will deal with any and all grievious acts of savagery that are outside the bounds of combat. Rolling Stone while being correct on one atrocity are just fabricating hit pieces as propaganda with the others.

volsense on March 29, 2011 at 5:12 PM

Rolling Stone- and the far left in general- are trying to portray this war as analogous to Vietnam (insurgency notwithstanding, i.e. are troops are trying to kill civilians indiscriminately, which, never happened deliberately or by orders from commander (the Mai Lai massacre was a response to the killing of a senior NCO, there were never explicit orders to take out the village).

One other thing I notice is that the pointman is almost firing blindly and astonished that the enemy was coming, which attests to the fact that this was Taliban the hit team and not the other misconstrued way around.

I’m glad Yon is keeping them honest, wish he would get more airtime on TV. He’s doing a great service for his country.

Thank you Mr. Morrissey for bringing that canard out to the curb.

thegreatbeast on March 29, 2011 at 4:43 PM

I’ve actually heard that before. The belief is that more than 3 is overkill. Ironically, it comes from the anti-war left (and some ex-soldiers who identify them for their own agendas), who were never in a combat situation in their life and have probably never fired a gun before.

Though you can shoot .223 with an M16/M4/Ar15, it isn’t the same as a 5.56mm round. Having shot the M14 7.62mm and used the M16 in Vietnam, I’ll take the M16/M4 over an AK47 any day. Yes, an AK is extremely durable, but it’s made for fire power–full auto at close range. Not even close as acurate at distance as the M16.

cartooner on March 29, 2011 at 3:28 PM

I’ve never been in combat, but I’ve read reports, such as Black Hawk Down, Fallujah etc, where soldiers would put 3-5 rounds in an enemy and he still wouldn’t drop (because they were invariably on drugs). I know the M16/M4

Cr4sh Dummy on March 29, 2011 at 5:16 PM

I know the M16/M4 accuracy is superb, but they could replace it with a stronger round (like the 6.8).

Cr4sh Dummy on March 29, 2011 at 5:17 PM

There’s nothing new. My grandpa had a few of buddies posing with dead Japanese in WWII. If just their way of coping, with sick humor, trying to keep their sanity amidst the horrors of war.

MNHawk on March 29, 2011 at 3:17 PM

This.

Badger40 on March 29, 2011 at 5:29 PM

No Pulitzer for you RS. Maybe they should all be embedded for the rest of the conflict.

Kissmygrits on March 29, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Roiling Stoned- Journalism for the incredibly credulous.

profitsbeard on March 29, 2011 at 6:43 PM

When an enemy speeds at your position on a motorcycle while brandishing an automatic rifle in the context of war, you are not under any sort of obligation to only match the attack bullet for bullet. To do so would be to give up the advantages of both numbers and firepower. It’s a great way to get more American and NATO soldiers killed.

“Proportional response” is the worse war crime the libs ever invented. It only prolongs war, it even encourages it, when a weaker foe knows that their stronger neighbor cannot respond forcefully. It prevents the destruction of one or the other of the combatants. It allows for “safe havens” and it is the main reason terrorism is as effective as it is, when Hamas can spend years shooting missiles into Israeli cities (or Fatah bombing Busses) but Israel is lambasted for taking 5 weeks to try to deny Hamas the ability, that only insures that the missiles (and bus bombs) will continue.

Gwillie on March 29, 2011 at 8:21 PM

If you are planning to kill your enemy, there is no such thing as too many bullets, but there by God is such a thing as too few. If you can’t be certain that one bullet will get the job done, why fire one? If you are reasonably sure that five bullets fired will destroy your enemy, then fire nine to cover the spread. When all of the opposing forces are prone and unable to present even the smallest threat, it still isn’t time to stop firing. A single tap to the brain pan makes sure there’s no possum-playing.

Trying to measure a wartime response is playing a prevent defense. Any sports fan knows that the prevent defense only prevents victories.

Freelancer on March 29, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Rolling Stone liars can kiss my ass!!

Dollayo on March 29, 2011 at 9:55 PM

I read the Rolling Stone article and Yon’s response; they’re both right to some degree.
I think the point RS was making was that it’s against Army policy to share pictures and video of dead enemy combatants and that members of the same brigade were violating that policy.
Hollowpoint on March 29, 2011 at 2:44 PM

Ah, no.
RS is claiming the footage was from a US Army head mounted camera.

“The video was taken on patrol with a helmet-mounted camera; at one point, the soldier shooting the images can be heard boasting, “I got it all on camera.””

How do they (RS) know it was shot with a helmet-mounted camera? Where are the ID tags on the video telling us who’s camera that was?

If it was from a helmet-mounted camera how does the guy “know”

“I got it all on camera.”

?
Do helmet-mounted cameras have a view finder on them? Can they be replayed?

There is tons of video shot by troops on the web, shot on personnel cameras. Does RS know a lot of cell phones also have cameras.

RS second point was that it was against the rules to release “official” I would call it “gun camera” video, yet there’s tons of that as well on the web.

All we have is RS claim it was a US Army helmet-mounted camera without any proof and a lot of questions, along with RS claim that it was against the rules to release “official gun camera” video, yet there’s tons of that as well on the web.

I would call RS claim highly suspect.
Does anyone know about these US Army helmet-mounted camera’s?

DSchoen on March 29, 2011 at 10:38 PM

Oh, and since I’m at it, our ammunition is not designed to wound rather than kill, the 5.56mm has some badass ballistics that makes it punch a devastating exit hole. If you get hit in a non life-threatening area, the wound will be worse than with other small arms rounds. The 5.56mm was designed for firepower giving the individual rifleman the ability to carry more ammo than he could with the 7.62mm ammo.
cartooner on March 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

The problem with the 5.56x45mm is when it is fired in a short barrel rifle like the M-4 or any other carbine.
It has to do with how fast the powder burns how many twist are the groves yada yada it’s a touchy round.

Basically they got the dimensions right the first time, all attempts to improve it have been failures.

Do you remember back in your day the XM177? The XM177 had a shorter 10 in it was a failure.

The next attempt was the Colt MARS, 11in barrel and the round was changed to 5.56x30mm. No one bought it.

Speaking of getting it right the first time, the “new” open-tipped “SOST” round.

Lets see, a FMJ round that the “jacket” is cut off the top to expose the soft lead core (not a hollow-point) isn’t that the original Dum-Dum round from the 1890′s!

“our ammunition is not designed to wound rather than kill”

The claim “wound rather than kill” is based on European warfare where it is believed if you kill a soldier you take 1 soldier out of the battle, if you wound a soldier you take 3 soldier out of the battle, the wounded soldier and 2 to carry him out.

The misconception is based on the reference of the 5.56x45mm “wound characteristics” as opposed to the more common “stopping power”

DSchoen on March 29, 2011 at 11:28 PM