The Military

Fired for honoring a U.S. soldier and son

They say bad things happen in threes. If that’s true, then the third incident of nannyism occurred over the weekend.

First there was the odd and sad case of a citizen whose house was allowed to burn down as firefighters stood around with their hands in their pockets because the homeowner failed to pay a $75 “fire tax.” Then came the sacking of journalist Juan Williams by “thought police” NPR for his candid (and true) views on how Americans feel when boarding planes.

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Afghanistan and the fog of war

A comely 36-year-old British aid worker, photographed in the romantic poppy fields of Afghanistan, kidnapped by the Taliban. Killed by one of her captors in a suicide vest as a crack team of U.S. Navy Seals stages a rescue mission in the dead of night. You can almost hear the Hollywood cameras rolling.

Because the circumstances of the death of Linda Norgrove are a work of fiction. It was the first version offered to the media by “NATO sources” over the weekend before a second was presented yesterday by the British prime minister, David Cameron. He told reporters in London that Dr. Norgrove “could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the task force during the assault.” It could be that the investigation will show that the aid worker was not even held by the Taliban, but by a criminal group negotiating a ransom.

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Public service

That Americans are dangerously disconnected from their military representatives is an interesting — quite accurate — comment, all the more interesting when the comment comes from the secretary of Defense.

That is the message Robert M. Gates delivered to a Duke University audience a few nights ago. Secretary Gates is the head of the military cadre he complained was cut off from the politics and culture of the country it serves, according to a press account of the speech. The few (less than 1 percent of the population) who have fought our wars are distant from their countrymen since we abolished the draft in 1970. Military service is “something for other people to do.” Our all-volunteer military force has served the country in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, longer than any sustained combat in our country’s history.

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They can’t be serious

Both sides of the aisle like to talk up how much they “love the troops” more than the other side, but yesterday was a perfect example of how politicians prefer political one-upmanship to learning about the needs and plans for the future of our armed forces.

Gen. James Amos, the new commandant of the Marine Corps, spent the day answering senators' questions about gays in the military rather than more pressing questions like: how he will lead the Marines? What will the Marines’ role be post-Iraq and -Afghanistan? How will he handle the transition back to the service’s traditional seaborne role?

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Quagmires remain

On the ninth anniversary of 9/11 we continue, as a nation and as individual citizens, to reflect on what progress has been made since the attack changed our country forever. Are we safer? Will we ever be?

The end of combat operations in Iraq isn't quite heartening — there is no government in place and the security gains made possible by the 2007 surge remain at risk. An invigorated al Qaeda in Iraq is already working hard on its recruiting, paying Iraqis well and reminding them that the Americans are leaving next year for good.

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War without victory: Laughing all the way

The war in Iraq does not end with a victory march. There will be no sailors kissing nurses at Times Square. It ends with discord and dissent at the exact place where it started, Ground Zero. It did not even end. It just stopped.

In some ways we are worse off than when we started. Today when liberals oppose conservatives, they will do so in support of Islamic opinion instead of Marxist opinion, as in the debate today over the mosque near Ground Zero. Islam now has faces of dissent in opposition to the West worldwide with varied degrees of hostility, opposition and territoriality.

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SF Bay Area Veterans Affairs reaches out to help vets

(Sometimes, the best way to support the troops is to support the people who provide that service. In the Bay Area, we have a lot of people really committed to this. Here's something in their own words. /craig)

VA struggles mightily to reach Veterans and their families to ensure they know what benefits they have coming to them — healthcare, education, home loans, jobs, etc. — but it's not easy. Its especially challenging in the Bay Area, where most of our newest combat Veterans are National Guard and Reserves. It’s even hard for them to connect to each other sometimes.

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Play

“The play's the thing,” Hamlet said as he went to work to find out who killed his father, “wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

Play and work. Work and play.

If you Google “play,” you get 1.93 billion hits. If you Google “work,” you get 2.3 billion. Work usually beats play.

If you play at work, you could get fired from your job.

If you work at play, you could turn out to be Eric Clapton.

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Accountability in the military

Many in the world of armchair quarterbacks are giving President Obama high marks for his handling of the Gen. Stanley McChrystal implosion and subsequent resignation. After all, Obama faced a difficult decision; some in the media world were even dubbing it a “game changer” for his presidency. No matter how difficult one scores the “test” Obama faced, the bottom line is he passed.

For my part, I felt Obama only had one option. Insubordination cannot be tolerated, especially within the military and that far up on the chain of command. I would wager that, for many Americans, too, the president really had one option.

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