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Beloved readers: Your friend and humble is taking a break from covering service members accused or convicted of war crimes. In the spirit of Veterans Day, I am focusing on some exceptional people who have worn the uniform.
Since the end of the draft in 1973, those who have served in the military made a choice to serve a greater good. And since fewer and fewer Americans are able to meet the military's physical, legal, and other requirements to join, veterans are by definition exceptional people.
Unlike many Americans who "almost joined the military" – or who have no appreciation of the sacrifices made by the heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery – veterans understand the meaning of this Bible verse: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"
This Veterans Day, I am paying tribute to some of the veterans whom I've had the honor to know or cover over the years. They were outstanding people and my life has been richer because of them.
Your friend and humble narrator will never claim to be the smartest person in the room. Recently, for example, this reporter wrote that Conan – the heroic military working dog that was injured on the raid that killed ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – appeared to be a female dog, based on a picture of the canine tweeted by President Donald Trump.
Days later, the head of U.S. Central Command revealed that Conan is actually a male. This reporter apologizes to Conan. My eyesight is not nearly as good as it used to be. (And I really looked.)
More importantly, some readers have voiced objections to last week's column about the erratic and chaotic movement of U.S. forces as part of Operation Turn The F**k Around and Go Back to Syria.
A few of you felt this reporter was being unfair to the president by arguing that Trump appears to be improvising his Syria strategy as events unfold. Others took issue with your normally friendly Pentagon correspondent for criticizing the U.S. military's lack of transparency over how many service members are deployed to Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere downrange.
Beloved readers: After a week filled with more twists and turns than this reporter's lower intestines, your friend and humble narrator has no idea where the hell troops are withdrawing from or going to.
In past wars, it was possible to mark the U.S. military's positions with flags on paper maps. But we live in the age of Twitter, and since the commander in chief seems to be visited by the Good Idea Fairy every 15 minutes, there is no way to have an updated map of where U.S. forces are.
With regards to Syria, the U.S. military isn't leaving. It's repositioning forces because the mission has changed from fighting ISIS to protecting the oil. (This also may make the first time a sitting president has not tried to camouflage sending troops to protect oil by claiming the United States was liberating oppressed people.)
The book "Strange Defeat" details how France was conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940, but it could just as well describe President Donald Trump's record as commander in chief.
For someone who crows about winning all the time, the president seems to lose quite a bit. Since October 6, he has given Turkish President Recep Tayyip everything he has ever wanted by abandoning the U.S. military's best allies in Syria, allowing Turkey to establish a safe zone along its border with Turkey that expels all Kurdish forces, and withdrawing most U.S. troops from northeast Syria – allowing Russia to fill the vacuum.
What did he get in return? He gets to gloat that he made good on his campaign promise to end one of the U.S. military's commitments overseas and bring the troops home. (Although, a better way of saying it is that he allowed Turkey to chase out U.S. forces, who had to leave Syria so quickly that they did not have time to take high value ISIS prisoners into custody and they had to bomb one of their own ammunition dumps.)
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
A $250 million military assistance package to Ukraine was the spring that set in motion the possible impeachment of the president of the United States – and the Defense Department wants to be as far away from this quagmire as humanly possible.
"As I said on many occasions, I'm trying to keep DoD out of politics, and obviously that's all of the news today, and so we'll address that at the right point in time," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sept. 25 when a reporter asked him if the White House's decision to temporarily withhold military aid to Ukraine had harmed national security.
But as much as the Pentagon wishes it could be on a different planet right now, the Defense Department is trapped on the ground floor of a two-story outhouse from which there is no escape.