Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Rand Paul wants to end the draft as a tribute to Muhammad Ali

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

The death of Muhammad Ali has reignited a debate about the outspoken athlete’s legacy, particularly his famous refusal to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.

Now, Rand Paul is getting in on the discussion.

Paul recently introduced an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would end the selective service, which forces men between the ages of 18-25 to register for a military draft that, while still technically in existence, hasn’t been enforced since the 1970s.

Now he wants to do it in Muhammad Ali’s honor.

Sen. Paul wrote in the Louisville Courier Journal, “In honor of Muhammad Ali’s life work, I will introduce the repeal of the draft as stand-alone legislation with his name on it.”

“He was a conscientious objector and practiced civil disobedience, a proud American tradition that runs from the Founding Fathers to Thoreau and all the way through Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ali’s own time,” said Paul.

“Ali said in 1975 that he would like to be remembered, ‘As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him and who helped as many of his people as he could – financially and also in their fight for freedom, justice and equality,” Paul added.

If Paul’s bill passes, it will essentially end the draft, officially making the United States dependent upon an on all-volunteer military, as has functionally been the case since 1973.

“One thing I liked about Muhammad Ali is that he would stand on principle even when it was unpopular,” said Paul, speaking to a slew of reporters in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky this week.

Tying Ali’s opposition to the draft to contemporary disparities, Paul said, “The criminal justice system I say now has a racial justice disparity, selective service had a racial disparity, because a lot of rich white kids either got a deferment or went to college or got out of the draft. I’m opposed to Selective Service.”

Paul’s standalone legislation is called ‘The Muhammad Ali Voluntary Service Act.’

A heartwarming new approach to helping veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Cole Lyle is a 26-year-old veteran of the War in Afghanistan. Upon returning home to Texas, he faced what so many of his fellow soldiers contend with: Unrelenting bouts of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTS) that upended the life he’d known before his deployment.

Burdened with the weight of carrying his experiences and being thrown back into civilian life without his Marine support system, Cole found himself in a dark place. The counseling and medications provided by the Veterans Administration (VA) weren’t quelling his nightmares or anxiety.

But Kaya, a service dog he eventually obtained, worked wonders.

Kaya helped Cole channel his despair into a constructive force, but it took countless hours of self-reflection and grueling work. Last week, the legislation Cole poured his heart and soul into for over two years was finally made a reality when the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act was introduced in Congress.

The bill, filed by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fl.) has 19 original bipartisan co-sponsors. It would create a five year pilot program at the cost of $10 million – a drop in the bucket compared to what’s spent on other VA approved therapies, many of which fail veterans.

The legislation would allow the VA to partner with organizations that already provide service dogs to veterans, giving them the resources to match Assistance Dog International (ADI) certified animals with those in need.

Regarding the bill, Rep. DeSantis said, “As we face an epidemic of veteran suicides, we must make sure that all of our returning servicemembers are honored and taken care of, no matter the wounds they bear.”

Cole’s path toward obtaining Kaya, who inspired him to pursue the PAWS Act, wasn’t an easy one.

In his darkest post-deployment hours, Cole struggled to find his purpose. He opened up about his experiences to Rare, saying, “I knew I’d reached, to channel Reagan, a time for choosing in my own life.”

As he explained, “When they were in the military, veterans had a purpose, had a mission. They get out, and it all gets ripped away from them. And that’s where I found myself.” Said Cole, “I didn’t have my Marine friends to lean on anymore. I got divorced. I didn’t have a job at the time. I had to take a hard look at myself.”

“This sounds crazy,” he explained, “But I locked myself in a room for a day with a Bible and a notepad. I said I’m not going to leave the room until I figure out what I want to do long term and have a reasonable plan to achieve it.”

“What I came up with was public service,” he said.

This led Cole both to Washington D.C., and to Kaya: A perfect pairing that inspired the PAWS Act, and provided him with a mission focused on helping his fellow veterans.

As Cole explained to Rare, after he decided to pursue public service, he also focused on making some other life changes. “I decided that I didn’t want to take pills anymore. I was going to try to seek alternative therapy,” he said. “I asked around. I talked to psychiatrists. I talked to a of number people. They said I should try a service dog, but the VA doesn’t provide them.”

Cole was connected with nonprofits that provide the dogs. But they had wait times of up to a year-and-a-half, and the dogs could cost up to $20,000 each. He knew that was too long of a timeframe, so he took action on his own. Cole ultimately acquired Kaya through a breeder that provides dogs for the nonprofits that do this work. He got her ADI certified. He paid for all of her vet and training bills. This cost him $10,000 of his own money.

But according to Cole, it was well worth it.

“I got Kaya and started utilizing her on a day to day basis in May of 2015,” he said. “Around that time, I saw an immediate decline in symptoms. I’d already had her for a few months before she went to her official training. And even then, before she was trained, I could see there was an improvement.”

“Once Kaya had been trained to wake me up from nightmares, and I could trust that she was there and I had peace of mind that there was somebody to be with me when I was struggling with these symptoms, I saw these symptoms subside,” said Cole.

Amazingly, Kaya was able to help Cole when VA approved medication and therapy didn’t. This experience translated into a passion. And as fate would have it, Cole’s focus on public service and self-improvement culminated in what is now the PAWS Act.

As Cole explained, he was walking with Kaya on Capitol Hill one day, when a Senator noticed and approached them. “He asked me why I had Kaya,” said Cole. “I told him I was a veteran and that she helps me with my PTS.”

Cole went on to describe how he had to pay for her out of pocket. “The Senator told me, in no uncertain terms, that this was crap, and invited me to his office so we could draft a policy solution.”

This set Cole on the path that has become his unrelenting passion. “This is a bipartisan issue. It really doesn’t matter where you are on the ideological spectrum. Everybody agrees that taking care of veterans is an obligation of a congress that sends them to fight,” said Cole.

As Cole has explained to every politician he’s spoken with, “If Kaya has helped me so much so quickly, when other treatments failed, why is it not the VA’s responsibility to give this option to other veterans that are struggling?”

Cole also noted that, based on data from the VA’s own study, 22 veterans a day commit suicide. And this study was only performed in 21 states. The full number is tragically, likely much higher.

It’s also true that many veterans fall victim to addictions that can spiral into dangerous behavior. As a study from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International noted, “One in 6 service members were taking a psychoactive drug in 2010. Researchers identified 25 psychiatric drugs as proportionately associated with violence.”

Given these disturbing facts, isn’t it the VA’s obligation to explore all treatment alternatives? This is what Cole is focused on as he walks the streets of Washington with Kaya at his side. He’s a living testament to the benefits a therapy dog can provide to PTS sufferers. And he’s doing everything he can to share his story, inspiring others along the way.

As Cole said, “I’m not trying to take away other options like medication. But we want to make sure veterans have a wide swathe of options so they have different ways of healing available to them for mental health issues.”

Whether the PAWS Act will gain immediate traction is yet to be seen, but Cole has just begun to fight. He’s working to set up meetings with any member of Congress willing to listen. As Cole told Rare, “ I don’t deal with my symptoms as often anymore because have Kaya. I just want other veterans to have this opportunity.”

“I want to veterans to focus on getting a sense of purpose back. And a dog, on a small, simple level, forces you to wake up in the morning. They need to go outside. They need exercise. It gives you a sense of purpose because it gives you something to love and something to take care of. And that’s something that pills or therapy will just never do,” said Cole.

For more information on the PAWS Act and advocacy around it, you can visit www.PAWSAct.com.

How Rand Paul plans to stop the sale of U.S. weapons to Pakistan

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Senator Rand Paul is about to introduce a creative resolution that would halt U.S. arms sales to the government of Pakistan.

“This power hasn’t been used since the Reagan administration,” Paul told Rare, citing a 1986 push to stop arms salesto Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Paul said it’s dangerous for the U.S. government to continue arming that country, with its long history of human rights violations, particularly against Christians.

He plans to take advantage of a little-known procedural maneuver that allows senators to object to arms sales. “I object to continuing to feed the arms race in that area of the world,” Paul said. “Once we give planes to one side, the other side will need more planes,” he added.

Paul noted Pakistan’s holding of Asia Bibi, a Christian, is troubling. “[Bibi] is on death row for supposedly criticizing the state religion. I think that’s a human rights violation to such a degree that we shouldn’t be subsidizing arm sales to a country that is persecuting any Christians,” Paul said.

Bibi has been jailed by Pakistan for five years for breaking that country’s blasphemy laws.

Paul also noted his opposition to U.S. taxpayers subsidizing this endeavor to the tune of at least $4 billion. Paul says he’s concerned because Pakistan’s behavior hasn’t been reliable.

Rare asked Sen. Paul what he believes those who support arming Pakistan expect to get from it. He explained that, “They say it’s a way to fight terrorism. But frankly, Pakistan has been an uncertain ally as far as the War on Terrorism goes.”

“There are some allegations that the ten years Osama bin Laden spent in Pakistan, that could have almost never have occurred without their knowledge,” Paul noted.

The senator noted that some politicians believe the United States influences Pakistan’s behavior by giving them weapons. Paul doesn’t buy it.

“Not only is Pakistan’s imprisonment of Asia Bibi wrong, they imprisoned Dr. Shakil Afridi, who helped us get bin Laden,” said Paul.

“Until they release those [two prisoners], I will be forcing votes on any arm sales to Pakistan,” the senator insisted.

For Sen. Paul, who since leaving the presidential race has been focusing on reelection in his home state of Kentucky, the issue also comes down to a matter of priorities.

“As I’m traveling around Kentucky and I see the looks on the faces of people who are out of work, and we have a lot of people who have lost their jobs in the coalmines, it saddens me to think of where they are, and their situations. Yet then we’re sending money to Pakistan.” Paul said.

“We don’t even have enough money take care of our people at home,” he added. “We have no business sending hundreds of millions of dollars overseas, and fueling an arms race at the same time.”

Sen. Paul said that he expects that his objection to arming Pakistan will be heard on the Senate floor during the week of March 7th.

Donald Trump’s muddled foreign policy is not libertarian

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

As a libertarian Republican, I know how it feels to be outnumbered, especially in a post-Paul presidential primary. Saturday’s GOP debate brought that to light more than ever, featuring very little in the way of discussing limited government.

Rand Paul always said that debt is the number one threat to our national security. Now, we have to settle for John Kasich citing the $19 trillion behemoth once or twice. And we have virtually no voice when it comes to the crucial matter of foreign policy.

So I can understand why some libertarians were pumped when Donald Trump took the fight to Jeb Bush over the wrongness of invading Iraq. As Trump said, “It took Jeb Bush, if you remember at the beginning of his announcement, when he announced for President, it took him five days … five days before his people told him what to say, and he ultimately said, ‘It was a mistake.’” After Trump noted that the Middle East is currently destabilized thanks to Bush’s actions in Iraq, Jeb retorted by defending his brother’s judgement and goals.

Amid understandable excitement about an exchange where the Bush foreign policy is challenged, libertarians should remember that a broken clock is right twice a day. Sure, it’s nice to hear someone running as a Republican tell Jeb Bush his brother’s administration mishandled the Iraq War. But the way Trump went about it, particularly with his signature authoritarian bravado and reliance on personal insults, should lead reasonable people to reject him as a spokesperson (though this cycle has been admittedly strange on that front).

Trump’s behavior and lack of knowledge beyond “The Iraq War was bad” makes me miss the intellectual clarity of Rand Paul. Paul smartly called out the Bush administration for bungling the Iraq War and mishandling both intelligence and visa enforcement at the time. But he never stooped to personally blaming President Bush for 9/11 in the classless and vapid manner that Trump did.

Yes, Trump may be right every now and then. There are examples of each Republican on that stage occasionally being correct from a libertarian perspective. But it’s important to remember that Trump isn’t presenting any kind of cogent realist or non-interventionist approach to foreign policy. To the extent there’s a discernible philosophy in what he’s saying (and I’m not sure there ever is), he’s promoting a strange type of strongman isolationism. Perhaps this appeals to some segments of people who supported the Pauls. But it’s far from what either Paul believes.

Trump repeated on Saturday that we should invade the Middle East to steal their resources, saying America should “attack the oil, take the wealth away, attack the oil and keep the oil.” If you’re a libertarian who believes foreign policy actions have blowback consequences, this is a disturbing policy position to endorse. Trump has also called for the execution of Edward Snowden for revealing that the NSA is spying on Americans.

No trial. Simply, “kill the traitor.”

It’s clear that, overall, Trump is presenting himself as a dictatorial alternative to the status quo, not as a libertarian interested in limiting government. When moderator Kimberly Strassel told Trump on Saturday that his plans were scored by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget as requiring $15 trillion in new government spending,Trump characteristically shrugged the question off, responding that this new spending isn’t problematic because he’ll magically “make our economy great again.”

This will apparently be achieved by instituting tariffs, which will choke the middle class even further by inevitably passing costs down to consumers. If you desire an authoritarian strongman for President who has no respect for economic freedom or constitutional separations of power, Trump is your guy.

I hope that libertarians, in our desperation to be heard, don’t fall for Trump’s showmanship. If we think a lifelong leftist – who behaves like an Internet comment section come to life – will be a coherent foreign policy spokesperson, we’re as naive as the immigration hawks who believe Trump will make Mexico pay for a border wall.

Don’t allow yourself to be seduced by the rantings of a would-be strongman because he sounds correct on occasion. A principled libertarian approach, as Ron Paul always says, calls for the opposite.

“Assassination”: New whistleblower shows how America has become addicted to drones

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

The Intercept
, a publication founded by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the journalists to whom Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the NSA, published a new series called “The Drone Papers” on Thursday.

This multifaceted project reveals the classified inner-workings of President Obama’s drone program, a military operation his administration has increasingly relied on in lieu of additional boots on the ground in foreign hotspots.

According to Jeremy Scahill at The Intercept, the information they’ve published was obtained through an intelligence community source who has chosen to remain anonymous due to the government’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers.

The source explained that he decided to reveal the details of the White House’s drone program because “It’s a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“But at this point, they have become so addicted to this machine, to this way of doing business, that it seems like it’s going to become harder and harder to pull them away from it the longer they’re allowed to continue operating in this way,” the source added. As Scahill wrote, “Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination.”

“While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, Congress has avoided legislating the issue or even defining the word ‘assassination,’” explained Scahill. “This has allowed proponents of the drone wars to rebrand assassinations with more palatable characterizations, such as the term du jour, ‘targeted killings.’”

The Obama administration has only loosely defined its terms of engagement around drone use, claiming drones are employed only when the targeted individual or group represents “a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.” As Scahill points out, however, the administration has remained unclear as to the processes used to determine whether someone should be assassinated by a drone absent an indictment or trial.

A wealth of information detailing how the administration utilizes drones has now been made public thanks to this leak. As Julian Hattem wrote at The Hill, “The documents cover the years 2011 through 2013, when President Obama released for the first time a set of guidelines and standards to cover drone warfare.”

Added Hattem, “Among other conclusions, the documents appear to indicate that unintended casualties of drone strikes sometimes far outweigh those of the intended targets. In one five-month period, for instance, just one in 10 people killed in airstrikes was the declared target.”

Among the myriad materials obtained by The Intercept is a “cache of secret slides” that, according to Scahill, “provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations.” The Intercept also published a top-secret rendering of the way in which the “terror watchlist” appears to individuals conducting drone strikes, including information on how these personnel geolocate their targets.

“The Drone Papers” are ultimately quite extensive, including an eight-part article series detailing all aspects of the top-secret drone operation. As The Intercept noted, all governmental departments contacted for comment on this matter declined to provide details. A Defense Department spokesperson simply said, “We don’t comment on the details of classified reports.”

If you’d like to read The Drone Papers for yourself, they’re all available on The Intercept’s website. As Edward Snowden said: