A seasoned British war correspondent who has been embedded with American combat troops is aghast at the conduct of Daily Telegraph reporter Nick Meo. As reported here and elsewhere, Meo recently accompanied our troops on a mission in Afghanistan. When the mission turned deadly, the uninjured Meo wangled an escape on board a Medevac chopper, and later filed an error-filled report that took pot-shots at the very troops who saved his life.
Until now, public outcry against Meo has been limited to the American milblogging community (whom I have dubbed The Pitchfork Brigade). Yesterday, however, I learned that certain members of the British media are rummaging through their own garden sheds in search of some multi-tined, manure-shifting implements to use upon Meo. The most outspoken is a highly respected journalist who accompanied U.S. troops into combat in Iraq. The journalist spoke to me only on condition that I conceal his identity. I assure you, though, that I have vetted his bona fides, and he is thoroughly legit.
The journalist read Meo's original article and also viewed Meo's on-scene video. His reaction:
"I was appalled. It was a crappy piece of work."
The journalist took issue with Meo on a number of points.
"I read what Meo reported, and I saw the video. It did not sound like the soldiers were going crazy with firepower [as Meo described]. It didn't even sound particularly chaotic to me." It was, if such a thing is possible, a normal combat scene. "It was nothing other than what you would expect."
The journalist scoffed at Meo's comparison of our National Guard to the U.K.'s Territorial Army. "The Territorial Army in Britain is kind of a joke. It's nothing like the National Guard. Meo doesn't appear to understand what the National Guard is. He has no clue."
The veteran reporter was dismayed by Meo's behavior and attitude. High on the shamefulness scale was Meo's scramble to get the Hell out of Dodge when things got too hot for comfort.
"He flew back to base in a Medevac because he was too scared to ride in the convoy." One thing Meo seemed to forget: "The troops don't have that choice."
That incident alone violates the unspoken creed of serious combat correspondents. "If you're embedded, you live and maybe die with the troops."
Meo violated other tenets of the creed, as well.
"The whole thing about being embedded presents a minefield of what you report and what you don't. The last thing you want to do as a reporter is to put down your notebook or your camera when something interesting happens. But when you are embedded, you are being protected by the troops. They feed you and take care of you. They do their best to make sure you are safe. In return, there are rules. A primary rule is, you don't film casualties until the next of kin are notified. And you don't use that protection to take advantage of the troops or to take hits against them."
Nor do you show disdain for the dead. "I read about Corporal Dimond, the man who was killed. He was a very interesting man. A good man. Meo could have written a nice tribute piece to him, with quotes from the family." Instead, Meo wrote only that he was glad he had not bothered to get to know the fallen soldier. "I doubt now that anyone from Corporal Dimond's family would even speak to Nick Meo or the Daily Telegraph."
The journalist did not like the tone of Meo's articles. "I hated the 'it's all about me' angle in his story." Worse yet, though, was that Meo took cheap advantage of prejudice and misconceptions directed at American soldiers.
"I spent a lot of time with American troops, and I can tell you without hesitiation, I have tremendous respect for them. There is a smug British conceit, though, that British troops are precise and that they only take 'aim shots,' whereas American troops are cowboys who use overwhelming force at every opportunity. That's bullshit."
Meo apparently failed to detect the fetid smell surrounding the conceit. "Meo pandered to the view that Americans are brutes. That's an easy shot to take in Europe. No one will challenge you if you take that shot."
Was Meo trying to undermine American troops or their mission?
"He was probably under pressure from his London office to file something, and he came up with that crappy piece of work. He's a pretty small fish at his newspaper. He's not particularly well thought of. The self-aggrandizing article was an attempt to boost his status in-house."
The attempt backfired. "He clearly did not know what was going on."
Note: Neither Nick Meo nor the Daily Telegraph responded to requests for interviews.