Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on ProPublica.
It was 10 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2018, when the phone rang in Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson's home tucked into a wooded corner of Northern Virginia.
Benson had just gotten into bed, and his chest tightened as he saw the number was from Japan. It was his Navy attorney calling. The lawyer said he wished he had better news, but he'd get right to the point: The Navy was going to charge Benson with negligent homicide the following day.
Benson, 40, stared at the ceiling in the dark, repeating the serenity prayer as his feet pedaled with anxiety. Next to him, his wife, Alex, who'd followed him through 11 postings while raising three kids, sobbed.
Seven months earlier, Benson had been in command of the destroyer the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a massive civilian cargo ship off the coast of Japan, ripping open the warship's side. Seven of his sailors drowned, and Benson was almost crushed to death in his cabin. It was then the deadliest maritime accident in modern Navy history.
Benson, who'd served for 18 years, accepted full responsibility. Two months after the crash, the commander of the Pacific fleet fired Benson as captain and gave him a letter of reprimand, each act virtually guaranteeing he'd never be promoted and would have to leave the service far earlier than planned. His career was essentially over.
Then, days later, another of the fleet's destroyers, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a civilian tanker, killing 10 more sailors. The back-to-back collisions exposed the Navy to bruising questions about the worthiness of its ships and the competency of the crews. Angry lawmakers had summoned the top naval officer, Adm. John Richardson, to the Hill.
Under sustained fire, Navy leaders needed a grand, mollifying gesture. So, in a nearly unprecedented move in its history, the Navy decided to treat an accident at sea as a case of manslaughter. Hastily cobbling together charges, the Navy's top brass announced — to the shock of its officers — that the captains of both destroyers would be court-martialed for the sailors' deaths.
The Navy told ProPublica that “given the tragic loss of life, scope and complexity of both collisions," it had an “obligation to exercise due diligence" and its investigation had “informed charges against" Benson and the captain of the McCain.
To many officers, the Navy had gone too far. “There was a deflection campaign," one admiral said recently, likening the Navy's response to shielding itself from an exploding grenade. “It was pretty clear Richardson wanted to dampen the frag pattern."
Even then, no one, least of all Benson, could have predicted how relentless the Navy's pursuit of him would be.
'What happens after that is out of their control' — Former military leaders and lawyers react to Trump's war crimes pardons
On Friday, President Donald Trump intervened in the cases of three U.S. service members accused of war crimes, granting pardons to two Army soldiers accused of murder in Afghanistan and restoring the rank of a Navy SEAL found guilty of wrongdoing in Iraq.
While the statements coming out of the Pentagon regarding Trump's actions have been understandably measured, comments from former military leaders and other knowledgable veterans help paint a picture as to why the president's Friday actions are so controversial.
Turkey has started deporting foreign ISIS prisoners in Syria back to their home countries — and that's a big problem
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Last month, President Donald Trump made the abrupt decision to pull the remaining US troops out of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.
The move sent the fragmented country into a spiral, disrupting one of its few areas of stability. By withdrawing support from Kurdish forces in the area — which had helped the U.S. combat ISIS — Trump opened them up to an oncoming offensive by Turkey.
Justifying the decision. Trump argued that US forces in the region had already "defeated" ISIS, and that therefore there was no need for them to stay in Syria.
This was, at best, only partly true.
While U.S.-allied forces this year deprived ISIS of the territory it once controlled, the group still has as many as 18,000 fighters quietly stationed across Iraq and Syria, according to The New York Times.
Additionally, Kurdish-led fighters, known as The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had maintained control of tens of thousands of former ISIS members and their families, including about 70,000 women and children in a compound in the Syrian city of al-Hol, according to The Atlantic. Of those detainees, 11,000 of them are foreign nationals, according to the BBC.
This WWII training video on 'How To Behave In Britain' is a hefty swig of nostalgia — and all that comes with it
Oh, the 1940s, the glory days of military training videos: Back when PME's were produced with a Hollywood director's panache, and a cast of leading men were brought in to break down fourth walls with a devilish wink and a nod to the camera before dispensing some sage advice, like how to crack a tank.
While not every pearl of wisdom from retro military training videos withstands the test of time — see the Navy's 1967 video: How To Succeed With Brunettes — a recently resurfaced clip from a 1943 training video starring Burgess Meredith of Rocky fame seems to stand up in a few parts, but not all (more on that later.)
The White House says John Kelly was 'totally unequipped to handle the genius' of Trump in a totally real statement
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Is it just me or does this statement from the White House rebuking retired Marine Gen. John Kelly sound like a piece of North Korean propaganda?
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi jihadist who rose from obscurity to declare himself "caliph" of all Muslims as the leader of ISIS, has died in a raid by U.S. special forces in northwest Syria.
President Donald Trump said in a televised address from the White House that Baghdadi killed himself during the raid by igniting a suicide vest. Test results from the aftermath of the raid had positively identified Baghdadi, he said.
Baghdadi had long been a target for U.S. and regional security forces trying to eliminate Islamic State, even as they reclaimed most of the territory the group once held.
The Islamic State or caliphate that Baghdadi declared in July 2014 over a quarter of Iraq and Syria was notable for atrocities against religious minorities and attacks on five continents in the name of a version of an ultra-fanatic Islam that horrified mainstream Muslims.