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Sorry, The Presidential Salute Isn't A Real Thing
Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, flew to New York City today to speak to the United Nations about a range of issues from climate change to the war he just started against ISIS militants in Syria. But many of the headlines were focused on something far more trivial. Obama debarked Marine One with a cup of coffee in his hand, and when he went to salute the Marine standing by the helicopter, he kept the cup of coffee in his hand.
A video from the White House Instagram feed captured the moment:
The internet lost its mind, especially the Marine Corps community, responding to perceived disrespect from the president. ABC News wrote a report calling it the “latte salute.”
Writing for former tea-party congressman Allen West’s website, Michele Hickford, the site’s editor-in-chief [ed. note: shouldn’t that be Allen West?] writes:
If there was ever any doubt how this Commander in Chief really feels in his heart about our men and women in uniform, this should seal the deal. We have warriors engaged in harm’s way, and he does THIS? The latte salute. And he has the nerve to publish it on his Instagram account. Disgraceful.
But here's the issue: There's no regulation that stipulates presidents must salute the troops. In fact, for the first 192 years of our republic, it didn't happen. None of the first 38 commanders in chief did it. And some of those dudes had some serious military experience. Eisenhower? Grant? I mean, Teddy Roosevelt was a war hero. Surely he felt compelled to click his heels together and cut a perfect knife-handed salute when he passed a uniform service member, right? Wrong. It was literally something that Ronald Reagan made up one day.
In Rachel Maddow's 2011 book "Drift," which offers a fascinating look at how modern presidents commit the military to war, Maddow describes how upon entering the White House in 1981, Reagan began saluting every uniformed service member he saw. One of his military aides, a Marine officer named John Kline, who is now a Republican congressman from Minnesota, worried that Reagan’s new ritual was inappropriate. He voiced his concerns directly with the president. Maddow writes:
Soldiers were supposed to salute their president; the president was not supposed to salute the soldiers. No modern president, not even old General Eisenhower, had saluted military personnel. It might even be, well, sort of, improper. Reagan seemed disappointed at this news. Kline suggested he talk to the commandant of the United States Marine Corps and get his advice, and the commandant’s advice ran something like this: You’re the goddamn president. You can salute whoever you goddamn well please. So Ronald Reagan continued saluting his soldiers, and he encouraged his own vice president and successor, George H.W. Bush, to do the same. And every president since has followed.
And that's it. Now all the presidents do it because of the theater of the office. And because the media and pundits would take offense if they didn't. Presidents salute the troops to avoid the very mess Obama just stepped in.
So now thousands of people got their jimmies rustled because the busiest and most important man in the world forgot to switch his pumpkin-spice latte from his right hand in following an imaginary protocol on his way to address the United Nations about a war he just entered. I can't imagine what possibly could have been on his mind.
This isn’t the first time Obama has botched the salute. Last year, the president boarded Marine One without saluting the Marine by the door. Realizing his mistake, he quickly debarked and shook the young corporal’s hand, telling him, I assume, how profoundly sorry he was for offending him. For the past six years, the Obama administration has been plagued by accusations of being everything from treasonous to unpatriotic and distant from the military community. It’s a largely partisan critique of a liberal president, and Obama’s critics have often bent history to pretend his predecessors behaved differently and that the president has failed to meet some sort of standard.
What is more disrespectful, saluting with a latte or a Scottish Terrier? Discuss.AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File
In the summer of 2001, George W. Bush saluted the Marine One crew chief with his Scottish Terrier Barney under his arm. It looked absolutely ridiculous. No one, however, questioned Bush’s patriotism. No one said that his dog salute meant that he lacked respect for the Marines or hated the troops in his heart.
But recent presidential history hasn’t been kind (or fair) to the president.
When Maj. Gen. Harold Greene was killed in Afghanistan earlier this summer, critics blasted the president for not attending his funeral. Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis claimed that Obama “bucked tradition” since Richard Nixon attended the funeral of Maj. Gen. John Dillard when he was killed in Vietnam in 1970 and George W. Bush attended Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude's funeral when he was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. But for one problem — Nixon didn’t attend Dillard’s funeral, nor did Bush attend Maude’s. Davis later said that he was kidding and baiting Obama critics.
Similarly, a story that has plagued the Obama administration is that he failed to visit the D-Day memorial in Normandy on June 6 every year. The story claimed that there were only four occasions in 69 years that a president failed to visit the D-Day memorial on D-Day, and all four were in the Obama administration. In reality, however, no U.S. president visited the memorial at all until Reagan did it in 1984 (he was a real trend-setter). And it had only been visited by an American president six times in total, including a visit from Obama in 2009.
If someone deserves blame for this, it’s the operative behind the White House Instagram account who posted the video in the first place. Why post a video of a sloppy salute? Isn’t that just begging for the criticism? It was sloppy, ignorant to the sensitivities of the criticisms this president faces, and absent of the high standard created by social media in the 21st century.
But it wasn’t disrespectful.
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(Reuters) - In the summer of 2004, U.S. soldier Greg Walker drove to a checkpoint just outside of Baghdad's Green Zone with his Kurdish bodyguard, Azaz. When he stepped out of his SUV, three Iraqi guards turned him around at gunpoint.
As he walked back to the vehicle, he heard an AK-47 being racked and a hail of cursing in Arabic and Kurdish. He turned to see Azaz facing off with the Iraqis.
"Let us through or I'll kill you all," Walker recalled his Kurdish bodyguard telling the Iraqi soldiers, who he described as "terrified."
He thought to himself: "This is the kind of ally and friend I want."
The US military quietly pulled 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan over the past year without a peace deal
The U.S. military has pulled about 2,000 troops from Afghanistan over the past year, the top U.S. and coalition military commander said Monday.
"As we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we're always looking to optimize the force," Army Gen. Austin Miller said at a news conference in Kabul. "Unbeknownst to the public, as part of our optimization … we reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here."
"I'm confident that we have the right capabilities to: 1. Reach our objectives as well as continue train, advise, and assist throughout the country," Miller continued.
The New York Times was first to report that the U.S. military had reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan even though peace talks with the Taliban are on hiatus. The number of troops in the country has gone from about 15,000 to 13,000, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.
Separately, the U.S. military is considering drawing down further to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a broader political agreement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Oct. 19.
"We've always said, that it'll be conditions based, but we're confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations, if you will," Esper said while enroute to Afghanistan.
So far, no order has been given to draw down to 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. official said.
After President Donald Trump cancelled peace talks with the Taliban, which had been expected to take place at Camp David around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. military has increased both air and ground attacks.
In September, U.S. military aircraft dropped more ordnance in Afghanistan than they have since October 2010, according to Air Force statistics.
However, the president has also repeatedly vowed to bring U.S. troops home from the post 9/11 wars. Most recently, he approved withdrawing most U.S. troops from Syria.
On Monday, Esper said the situations in Syria and Afghanistan are very different, so the Afghans and other U.S. allies "should not misinterpret our actions in the recent week or so with regard to Syria."
DOHUK, Iraq/KABUL (Reuters) - The Pentagon is considering keeping some U.S. troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to help deny oil to Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday.
U.S. troops are crossing into Iraq as part of a broader withdrawal from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, a decision that allowed Turkey to launch an offensive against the SDF which for years was a U.S. ally battling Islamic State.