• via Youtube

    Frozen

    Why These Marines Are Hot for ‘Frozen’

    When a video of Marines singing along to a Disney song went viral, most viewers thought it was cute. It was really a lesson in how the military treats sex and violence.

    At first glance, it seems sweet: Young Marines in a barracks watching Disney’s blockbuster film, Frozen. Snuggled together on a couch, rippled shoulders touching, they bounce along, loudly singing the film’s hit song “Let It Go.” But then, as the song reaches its climax, the Marines explode. Arms go up in triumph, the bouncing turns to bucking, and the song’s final notes are overpowered by the aggressive sounds of the Marine Corps’ trademark war cry: “Ooh-rah!”

    Once the video was posted online, it immediately went viral. Viewers cheered on the “Adorable!” Marines in their moment of “true emotional liberation.” But they had missed the point entirely. Emotional liberation is not what’s going on in the video. It’s the sexy cartoon princess that has the Marines so worked up.

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  • Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki takes his seat to testify before a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on VA health care, on Capitol Hill in Washington May 15, 2014. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

    VA Scandal

    Obama Ducking Scandalous Deaths at VA

    Democrats can dismiss Benghazi and the IRS as pseudo-scandals, maybe, but 40 veterans have died, and where has Obama been? Totally absent.

    Up to now, President Obama and congressional Democrats had thought “so-called” scandals involving Benghazi, the IRS, and Operation Fast and Furious were largely behind them. Nothing to see, just Republican witch hunts designed to embarrass the president and perhaps land blows against Hillary Clinton. But recent revelations about shoddy care at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the country have brought bipartisan condemnation from Capitol Hill that should worry a commander in chief whose reaction to the brewing tempest has been muted at best.

    What is most surprising about the present controversy surrounding the substandard treatment at the VA, in which at least 40 veterans lost their lives while awaiting treatment, is that House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) had alerted the president to trouble nearly a year ago. In a letter dated May 21, 2013, Miller began:

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  • U.S. Army PFC Lawrence S. Gordon was killed in Normandy on Aug. 13, 1944 in Normandy. He was mistakenly buried as a German unknown soldier in a cemetery in France. His family produced exhaustive research that pointed to Gordon’s whereabouts, but the U.S. military didn’t act on the case. Instead the French and German governments moved forward to exhume Gordon and identify him with DNA. (Courtesy of Gordon family)

    Finally Home

    The WWII Hero America Abandoned

    For more than 50 years, Army PFC Lawrence S. Gordon was mistakenly interred as a German soldier in a cemetery in France. The U.S. never corrected the mistake.

    U.S. Army Private First Class Lawrence S. Gordon—killed in Normandy in 1944, then mistakenly buried as a German soldier—will soon be going home to his family.

    But don’t thank the American military for this belated return. The Pentagon declined to act on his case, despite exhaustive research by civilian investigators that pointed to the location of his remains.

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  • Chris Keane/Reuters

    Sex & the Military

    How Did the General Get Off?

    A top Army officer faced life imprisonment on sexual assault charges and other crimes but walked away Thursday with a minor reprimand. How did that happen?

    Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who had been charged with sexually assaulting a female captain who worked for him, walked free Thursday.

    Sinclair received a surprisingly light sentence given that he had originally faced life imprisonment and his own defense lawyers seemed resigned to some jail time, asking this week that he not be imprisoned for more than 18 months. Instead, in a decision that surprised many, Sinclair was docked $20,000 in pay and received a letter of reprimand, but was allowed to remain in the military and keep his pension and benefits.

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  • Two F-22 Raptors fly over the Pacific Ocean. (Getty)

    Pentagon Not Ready for Cold War 2

    The U.S. military spent decades pivoting away from its Cold War stance. Now the Pentagon is less prepared than it has been in generations for a confrontation with Russia.

    There’s an old saying in the military that we’re always training for the last war, so fixated on the lessons of our most recent conflict that we’re blind to the emerging threat.

    For years, that last war was the Cold War, and the emerging threat was the insurgents of Iraq and Afghanistan. Slowly, painfully, eventually, the military reoriented itself. The result? After more than two decades of post Cold War re-alignment, the military is less prepared than it has been in generations for a confrontation with Russia.

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  • Kevin Dietsch/UPI, via Landov

    Sexual Assault Bill SNAFU

    The New York Senator may have lost the vote to move prosecution of sexual assaults outside the military, but she’s still a champion in certain circles who will continue to maintain a watchful eye on reform.

    Legislation that would have transferred the decision to prosecute sexual assault in the military from commanders to lawyers outside the chain of command failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the senate Thursday. The 55 senators that supported New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act included all but three of the 20 women currently serving in the senate. Those three, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska backed legislation crafted by McCaskill, which cruised to an easy victory after two hours of emotional debate.

    Except for the glaring difference in how women in the still male-dominated senate voted, pigeon-holing supporters for either bill along ideological or partisan lines proved difficult. The pro-Gillibrand vote had a more progressive caste overall with Democratic newcomers Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Cory Booker in her camp. But she also won over iconoclastic Republicans Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley, a coalition that is rare for a Democrat in Washington today.

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  • Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

    National Security

    Now the Military Needs to Be Fixed

    The shutdown is over but its harm to the military still needs to be repaired. Marine veteran Andrew Borene calls for the politicians responsible to own up and fix the situation.

    The epic embarrassment of our government’s shutdown has finally ended but in its wake we’re now faced with a serious national security deficit. Unlike our political leaders, America’s enemies didn’t take the last two weeks off to fight amongst themselves. Even with the government reopened our military and national security agencies can’t just get back to work as though nothing happened, first they have to repair the considerable damage caused.

    If a foreign power had crippled American national security and defense readiness by neutralizing 72% of CIA civilians and taking much the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s civilian staff out of action by nefarious means, our nation would justifiably have declared war. When that kind of devastating attack comes from within, it’s just called “politics.”

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  • U.S. Army soldiers carry the flag-draped transfer case containing the remains of U.S. Army Pfc. Cody J. Patterson during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base on October 9, 2013 in Dover, Delaware. According to reports, Patterson, who was from Philomath, Oregon, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Benning, Georgia, was killed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan. Since the U.S. government shutdown, a benefit called the 'death gratuity' that helps families cover travel and funeral costs for fallen soldiers has gone unpaid. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

    Left Unpaid

    The Death Benefit Scandal

    The $100,000 payment to the family of a fallen service member—which is supposed to be a first and immediate installment on an unpayable debt—is being withheld in the shutdown. Michael Daly on the outrage.

    Three days after the government shut down and two days before he was killed, 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Collins Jr. went on Facebook.

    “Get it together Obama and not to mention Congress. Jesus! Make up your minds,” Collins wrote on October 3 from Afghanistan. “I will protect…my country with my life, but do not go fucking with the men and women that protect your sorry asses.”

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  • Richard Ellis/Getty

    Military Pain

    The Shutdown’s Hidden Cost

    Politicians may be trumpeting that service members are being paid during the shutdown, but other military services are in the crosshairs, reports Jacob Siegel.

    With the news that Pentagon employees are being paid again, the military seems to have been saved from the troubles caused by the government shutdown. But there’s just one problem: it’s not true.

    The truth is that the military is not working like it’s supposed to, and things will only get worse if the shutdown isn’t resolved soon.

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  • Gary Sinise, center with glasses, at the Dedication ceremony for the NICoE Satellite Center at Fort Belvoir. (fallenheroesfund.org)

    Healthcare

    Private Funding to Treat Veterans

    Private money is funding veterans' medical treatment ignored by Washington. Rachel Rose Hartman reports.

    FORT BELVOIR, Va.— On Sept. 11 as bikers circled the outlying highways and flags flew at half staff 20 miles away from the nation’s capital, organizers at Fort Belvoir in Virginia cut the ribbon for the Army base’s new traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress (PTS) center.

    The 200 assembled guests heard stories of recovery from severely wounded veterans and learned how the absence of government assistance had necessitated the privately funded $11 million center—which has been gifted to the government.

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  • People stand in line to speak with representatives from the US Department of Veterans Affairs about US military veterans benefits during a Veteran Career Fair and Expo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2012. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

    VA in Crisis

    Veteran Advocates Turning On Obama

    As the benefits system for veterans has bogged down on Obama’s watch, in spite of his promises to fix it, advocates who had been allies are running out of patience with the president, reports Jamie Reno.

    America’s 23 million veterans are facing an unprecedented crisis as the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has grown to nearly 1 million—more than double what it was when President Obama took office.

    The situation has reached a tipping point. Newspaper editorial boards and magazines call it a “national disgrace” and insist VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is calling for the resignation of Allison Hickey, the VA’s head of benefits.

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  • Michele Flournoy in 2009. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

    Perfect Fit

    Smashing the Pentagon’s Glass Ceiling

    As speculation swirls about Defense Secretary Panetta’s likely exit, Michele Flournoy ranks high on the short list. Eleanor Clift on the woman who could be just right for the job.

    It was just a year ago that Michele Flournoy stepped down as under secretary of Defense for policy, the third-highest civilian job at the Pentagon. As the first woman to hold such a senior position in the testosterone-laden military community, Flournoy’s decision to leave for family reasons raised some eyebrows. But she spent the time well, reclaiming her home life after three demanding years in the administration, and serving as a surrogate on foreign policy and national security issues for the Obama campaign. Now, as the president contemplates his second-term team, Flournoy is on the short list to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of Defense.

    Her qualifications are impeccable. There are the requisite degrees from Harvard and Oxford, a stint at the Kennedy School and the Army War College. During the Clinton administration she worked at the Pentagon, tasked with developing and overseeing strategy and threat reduction. In 2007, she cofounded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think tank whose stated mission is to “develop strong, pragmatic, and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values.”

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  • President Barack Obama salutes cadets as he arrives in Falcon Stadium for graduation ceremonies for the Air Force Academy Class of 2012 graduation ceremonies on Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Mark Ries / Getty Images)

    What War?

    Troops MIA at Presidential Debate

    The troops didn’t rate a mention at Tuesday’s debate. Marjorie Morrison on the opportunity we’re missing.

    Two presidential debates and no real mention of our troops, despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

    Here’s why: 68 percent of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is going somewhat or very badly, and the same percentage thinks we should withdraw entirely or start drawing down troops now. Compound that with less than 1 percent of Americans serving in the active-duty military, so much of the nation feels no real stake in or connection to the war effort. That disconnect and distance helps explain how, at this time of collapsing support for the government, the press, and other institutions, three of four Americans say they’ve maintained their confidence in the military.

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