President Donald Trump's affection for the military runs so deep that he has repeatedly served as an advocate for service members accused or convicted of murder.
Not only has he pardoned a former Army lieutenant who was convicted of killing an Iraq detainee, the president has also voiced support for two other service members accused of murder while their cases are still pending.
On May 6, the president pardoned Michael Behenna, who had served prison time after being convicted of killing an Iraqi detainee in 2008. Oklahoma's attorney general had requested a pardon for Behenna last year, arguing that prosecutors had withheld evidence supporting Behenna's claim that he killed the detainee in self-defense, according to the Associated Press.
While the president acted within his Constitutional powers, he also risks creating the impression that the United States condones war crimes, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rachel VanLandingham, a former military attorney who now teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
"Killing a prisoner you've stripped naked and threatened with a gun ain't a moral or lawful act: It's murder," VanLandingham told Task & Purpose. "One pardon of such a war crime isn't a pattern, and hopefully such pardon will be the only such condonation of a war crime that many, many other soldiers and Marines and sailors in Behanna's shoes had greater moral courage and integrity not to commit."
It may be too soon for your friend and humble Pentagon correspondent to submit an embed request for Operation Venezuela Libre, but the Pentagon is certainly thinking about what's going on south of the border.
On April 30, it appeared as though Venezuela's dictator Nicolas Maduro was about to fall when opposition leader Juan Guaidó appealed to Venezuelan armed forces to join him.
However, almost all of the metrics used to measure successes and failures in Afghanistan have either become classified over time or are no longer collected, Sopko said on Wednesday. The Afghan government has also asked the U.S. military to stop publicly releasing the number of Afghan troops and police who have been killed.
It's time for your friend and humble narrator to have a mid-life crisis. Should I, for example, post a video of myself doing the 22 Pushup Challenge whilst clad only in a thong? Probably not.
On Sunday, this reporter turns 40, the pinnacle of midlife. It's a moment where God looks you in the eye and says: "It's all downhill from here. From diapers you came and to diapers you will soon return."
For nearly half of my life, I've covered the military: First as a local reporter in Easton, Pennsylvania, and then full time in Washington, D.C. In that time, U.S. troops have been stuck in a never-ending nightmare of wars without end, made all the worse by an indifferent Congress, which ceded any authority it had over the use of military force in 2001 and never looked back.
If wisdom comes with age, then one thing this reporter has learned from covering troops for years is this: There are no turning points. That means anyone who claims Afghanistan has "turned the corner" or "a dark and painful era" in Iraqi history has ended either doesn't grasp the nature of the post 9/11 wars or is too afraid of failure to tell the truth.
Your friendly correspondent wishes he could boast that no news escapes his cold, dead gaze, but the truth is the Pentagon is turning more opaque than the fetid Potomac River whence our nation's Godforsaken capital sprang.
Now, you probably think that this Pentagon reporter is a whiny, self-fellating diva who loves to complain. That may be true, but the crux of the issue is Task & Purpose represents all of the troops, military families, and veterans who can't be in the Pentagon every day to plead their cases.
You deserve answers from the higher ups, who seem obsessed with making your lives more complicated. The Pentagon briefing room isn't big enough for you to hold the military brass' feet to the fire; so by God, they will answer to me.
Well, there are a couple of problems with that: First and foremost is that the service does not exist. (To be clear, the word "exist" applies to things that are real in the literal sense as opposed to goals, dreams, aspirations, and success in Afghanistan.)