The Military

Thank you to our soldiers

War is confusion. War is detached horror.

I mention this only to point out that those Americans who grappled with man's worst did so to preserve man's best. As we approach yet another Memorial Day, it hardly seems enough to remember these soldiers in clichés of gallantry.

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Killing them softly

There’s been quite a bit of chatter in the media this week about the use of drones in the surveillance of American cities, with conservative commentators like Charles Krauthammer lining up to say they should be banned.

But where is the conversation about the legality of their use outside the United States? What about the border areas of Pakistan and other places such as Yemen, Somalia and Libya? There was only a blip of public awareness after the targeted killing of al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last September, but only because he was American-born. The attorney general, Eric Holder, took five months to justify Awlaki’s killing on foreign soil. He eventually said there was a three-point test under which the government must determine that an American citizen poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States, that capture is not feasible, and that the killing would be consistent with laws of war.

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Mitt Romney/Bill McRaven 2012

Myth runs deeper than history because myth more deeply expresses where we come from and how we got here. It has its own form and parameters. Two features of mythical principles as they form history: History likes to start at round numbers and all historical periods end and begin again with a military commander (Washington, Grant and Eisenhower). So it is the fate of those who come to power in the last days, the 1990s, to be forgotten as were the 1890s and history will seem in time to have begun again around the year 2000. Because it did. 2001, exactly, and no millennium since the birth of the Christ has begun with such dramatic events. History started again on 9/11 with the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The Twin Towers in particular — our millennial portal — was the perfect symbol for the attack upon we the people. The perp, Osama bin Laden, will live in our mythic mind as long as Judas. Just as the soldier who gunned him down, Adm. William McRaven, will live in heroic honor.

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Have we lost our minds in this country?

After reading the headlines about the U.S. soldier who shot up Afghan civilians, I couldn’t help noticing an irony. There is all this clamor to try this guy quickly and execute him, never mind his having suffered a traumatic brain injury while in the service of his country.

Yet this Maj. Hasan, who shot up Fort Hood while screaming, “Allahu akbar,” still hasn’t stood trial, and they are still debating whether he was insane, even with the clear evidence regarding his motive: slay as many infidels as possible.

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The end to a long and needless war

History was made at the White House on Monday, Dec. 12.

Standing side by side in the South Court Auditorium of the Old Executive Office Building, President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proclaimed the end of the war in Iraq.

Only 6,000 American combat troops remain in Iraq, down from a peak of 170,000. Those remaining 6,000 will be out before Dec. 31. And the long, bloody, unnecessary war will be over at last.

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Big fundraisers for vets and military families

Recently, two groups that really help families and vets held fundraisers, and I attended parts of both.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation featured Jon Stewart as emcee; they vet and fund a growing network of nonprofits that help out directly.

The Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America advocates and provides lots of support for vets. (I'm on their board.)

Here we see Stephen Colbert accepting a civilian work award for his support for vets.

Stephen Colbert

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What's best about our country, rests on our veterans' shoulders

We often do not observe Veterans Day as it should be. It's a day where we actively remember our ancestors, our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones and our family members who have served for the betterment of this great nation.

The thing to remember about war is that there are very few moments of individual gallantry. The individual combatant rarely dwarfs his surroundings. No John Waynes to ride through a hail of enemy fire to save the day.

In fact, those one-dimensional embodiments of masculine striving are usually the first to die. Moments of war rarely allow for clarity.

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The GOP's foreign-policy quandary

On the heels of the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and President Obama's announcement late last week that U.S. forces will soon be pulling out of Iraq, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is accusing the president of making military and national-security decisions based on politics. "I would argue Iraq and Afghanistan is being run out of Chicago, not Washington, in terms of decisions," Graham said on Fox News Sunday.

No surprise there — we knew President Obama can't get credit from Republicans for his foreign-policy and defense successes, no matter how many he piles up. But the real news from Graham's comments is his concern that GOP presidential candidates may be giving the president a free pass. "To the Republican Party: National security matters; step up on it," said Graham. "We've got a jobs problem. We've got a national-security problem that is growing by the day."

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Early autumn headlines

Under the headline “Why We Need a Third Party,” Washington Post columnist Matt Miller condemns both the Democratic and Republican parties for being “prisoner to interest groups” whose chief aim is “to win elections, not solve problems.”

Some deep thinking there. Miller goes on to list unemployment, the budget, healthcare and education as problems “we need to truly fix,” then quotes the late Sen. Pat Moynihan saying, “If issues can’t be discussed, they can never be advanced.”

What’s needed to bring about “a new politics of problem-solving,” writes Miller, is a third party that would offer “candidates with the vision and nerve to fill today’s void.”

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Serious innovation from the VA

Over the last two years or so, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been doing some seriously innovative work on behalf of the troops. I've seen this firsthand, focusing on efforts like working at the grassroots worker level and with private-industry vendors. This really does serve vets better, and looks like taxpayers get better return for tax dollars.

VA is also using social media to help vets understand how VA can help, in forms including the VA blog and outreach via social media including Facebook.

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