Retreat

Retreat

Retreat is the hardest sound a soldier hears.

The bugle calls and pierces a warrior’s heart.

Forward, ever forward! His courage calls!

Moving back is antithetical to everything he knows.

When he is called, however, he goes,

Because a good soldier always does what he’s told,

Regardless of how his heart feels.

“Live to fight another day,” the shrill sound beckons.

“But this was my day to die,” the warrior thinks.

“This was a good day to die.”

– m.j.granger ©2018

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Fixing the VA: What a Disney Approach Could Do

Drastic measures need to be taken with the VA, and the Disney Way may be the best approach.

Beyond the comical mouse & friends, lies the pinnacle of business acumen. Individuals and companies spend big bucks each year to learn the secrets of Disney customer service, management, logistics, maintenance and more at Disney Institute, aka, Disney University.

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Everything about the Disney Company is special, and successful. Of course, it’s all about the people, but then there’s the rub, isn’t it? The people make Disney special as much as the methods do.

I remember my father telling me repeatedly, as we frequently stopped a project to head to Sears for yet another Craftsman tool, “Right tool for the right job.”

One could easily say the same about people, or more specifically, employees. I say, “Right person, right job saves time and money.”

Disney invests in the person. Disney invests training, health care, benefits, frequent raises and vertical movement. Disney means quality. Disney means care. Disney means success.

What part of this does the Veterans Administration not need?

Exactly, they need all of it and more, fast.

Sending VA executives, managers, health care professionals, technicians, clerical and volunteers to Disney Institute may seem unnecessary and overkill, but why shouldn’t our veterans receive five star treatment and customer service? Remember, it’s about people.

Disney could help in other ways as well. The whole VA experience could be Disneyfied, from automated appointment making, to streamlined pharmacy operations; smartbands and housekeeping, parking, cuisine and yes, even entertainment. If the point is to get the veteran to the VA, then why not make it into a place that they want to be?

Short of having Disney characters in costumes at VA hospitals, Disney could infuse a little magic into the experience with state-of-the-art technology, from entertainment opportunities, moving walkways, fresh fruit and vegetable kiosks, petting places (where small mammals could be handled by vets for stress reduction), fitness centers, fitness pools, Jacuzzi’s, spa’s, bowling alleys, movie theaters, restaurants and coffee joints. OK, and maybe a meet & greet here and there?

Too frivolous, you say? Too expensive? How about the honorable veteran who wrote you a blank check for everything up to and including his or her life so that you can stay at home with your family and maybe take a trip to Disney World while he or she was out in the damn boonies getting their arses shot off?

Now whistle Dixie!

How do you infuse a quick fix while we rotate VA staff through Disney University? You activate medical National Guard and Reserve troops. Most medical personnel in the military are Guard and Reserve personnel. These part-time warriors are full time civilian health care professionals and workers, and could easily assimilate into the world of the VA medical system.

In fact, years ago, when I was serving with a US Army Hospital Reserve unit, we worked our drill weekends in the local VA hospital, and sometimes at the local state university hospital. Like fish in water, these reservists would fit right in. One big military family.

National Guard and Reserves typically do one weekend of service each month and then two weeks of training in the summer to meet minimum participation requirements. Why can’t this service be done in VA hospitals and medical facilities?

When I was hired by Disney back in the mid 1980’s for my dream job as a Davy Crockett Canoe ride attraction host, I went through Disney University (orientation). I will never forget the speech we got after watching the Disney Story in a small screening room. The lights came up and the trainer said, “So, what product does Disney sell?” Silence. “We sell happiness!” came the answer. “How do we sell happiness? By treating each person who walks through the front gates as if they were a guest in your own home.”

That was it. That was the secret to the Disney Way.

So, what’s so wrong with giving vets a little something they really deserve? A little happiness along with their health care. Vets have already paid for their E ticket, park hopper and annual pass; what’s left is a little TLC.

Alabama vs. Villanova: Championship Basketball Recalls Magical 1982 Season

Today’s ‘Bama vs. ‘Nova matchup is more than just another basketball game. Second round NCAA tournament slot be damned, this is Alabama’s National Championship.

The Crimson Tide basketball program has not been a storied dynasty of multiple national championships; in fact, Alabama has never won a national championship in basketball, and advanced to the Elite Eight only once after defeating number one seed Stanford and then Syracuse on their way to losing to eventual National Champion Connecticut in the 2003-2004 season. But over the years it has been competitive.

The program has produced many successful NBA stars, among them, Robert Horry, Antonio McDyss, , T.R. Dunn, Gerald Wallace, and some more notorious than others (Latrell Sprewell). Alabama players have played with 9 NBA championship teams, earned six All-Star selections, six All-Defensive Team honors, and three All-Rookie honors.

The Elite Eight showing and brief number 1 national ranking in 2004 notwithstanding; arguably the Tide’s best was the 1982 team. Their highest national ranking that year was 5, and their overall record of 24-7 was best in the SEC, and they defeated a loaded Kentucky team in for the conference championship.

‘Bama’s Achilles heel that season though was inconsistency and turnovers, something that may haunt this year’s team if they are not careful. But when the Tide was on they were virtually unstoppable. Point Guard Ennis Whatley (1983 NCAA All-American), who went on to play 12 NBA seasons with 7 NBA teams, was magic on the floor and played toe-to-toe with one Michael Jordan in the Midwest Regional Semifinals in 1982. Jordan and Whatley were freshman. Ironically, Whatley later played two years in Jordan’s shadow with the Chicago Bulls before moving on to the rest of his journeyman’s NBA career.

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Ennis could get the most stoic crowd on their feet with his showmanship, no-look passes and incredible ball handling and leaping ability. I have never seen a more physically talented player, although ‘Bama’s current point guard and magician Collin Sexton is inching toward that pedestal. Ennis could and would dunk the ball on breakaways.

At power forward, Alabama had Eddie Phillips, a finesse player when needed, but a Phi-Slamma-Jamma in crunch time who could produce thunderous dunks if left alone for even a blink of an eye with the ball near the hoop. Eddie was the quiet leader of the team and could play with nearly every other best player they faced at his position.

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Another phenom on the team was Bobby Lee Hurt, center, and constant presence in the paint. He could just as soon block your shot as look at you. All-Time leading Alabama field goal percentage leader (63%), he had the sweetest and almost automatic turnaround jump shot I have ever seen, to this day.

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Setting up in the paint with his back to the basket, his too-long arms stretched high above his 6’9” frame, getting him the ball there was an almost guaranteed bucket. His method was always the same if someone was on his back, fake one way with an elbow in the chest, pivot away and then release a high arching, impossible to block, soft-as-a-feather shot which would more times than not elicit a sweet, “String music!” call from long time SEC basketball analyst and announcer, Joe Dean, as it swished through the net.

Bobby Lee frequently got the better of SEC opponent, Charles Barkley, aka the “Round Mound of Rebound,” whenever ‘Bama played Auburn. Sir Charles was confounded and rejected many a time by Bobby Lee, though they were a well matched pair overall.

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Rounding out the frequent starters were Mike Davis, guard and reliable shooter to Whatley’s flash and dash, and Phillip Lockett, a 6’ 11” goal keeper who could match up against the best big men in the paint, but knee issues saw him needing frequent stints on the bench. With Lockett, Bobby Lee and Eddie Phillips on the floor at the same time virtually no other team in basketball at the time could match up.

The Midwest Regional Semi-Final vs. a stacked North Carolina team, who were the eventual tournament champs, included Jordan, Matt Doherty, Sam Perkins and James Worthy. The game was see-saw. When Jordan was out, Whatley and ‘Bama crept in. When Jordan was in, North Carolina pulled ahead, as if shifting into another gear. The margin of defeat for ‘Bama was five points.

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Only a freshman at the time, Jordan was obviously the best player on the court, and probably in all of the NCAA, if for no other reason than his leadership, as he was mature and confident beyond his years. The Tar Heels lost two games that season, and only beat Georgetown by a point in the championship game, but Jordan was Mr. Refuse-to-Lose. Dominant, defiant and breathtaking.

The college game has changed however, since 1982. It is faster, brasher, more entertaining with current hairstyles (Alabama obviously leads this category), super talent and acrobatic displays unlike any before.

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Alabama has perhaps two of the best players in the game today, both freshman and both with nothing to lose. Collin Sexton and John Petty can explode and blow open any opponent.

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But taking care of the basketball will be an essential key to defeating a Villanova team that just does not make mistakes.

Villanova is not big, and ‘Bama can go bigger (6’9” Donta Hall, 6’11” Daniel Giddens, 6’ 9” Galen Smith). Villanova is not deep (tending to stick to a seven man rotation), and ‘Bama has depth, experience and talent. Villanova can and does shoot the three point shot well, and ‘Bama tends to rely more on penetration and opportunity shooting inside the three point line. Good team defense on both sides should help add up to a classic tournament nail-biter.

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Historically, this is usually as far as an Alabama basketball team gets. But these are the days of surprise and opportunity. Alabama is scrappy, impossible to intimidate, and just might put together something special this afternoon, for this is their championship game. A win today would propel this team into the stratosphere of Alabama Basketball, and then everything else after would just be gravy on the biscuit.

I know, I know, one step at a time. But having watched that 1982 ‘Bama vs. NC tournament game, and having attended the University of Alabama from 1980-1985, I have Alabama basketball on the brain, and it’s been that long (2004 notwithstanding) since I have felt this excitement.

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Roll Tide, ‘Bama! Make us proud!

Fisher House: Shut Down Doesn’t Mean Troops Will Be Shut Out

Unless special provisions are made, families of fallen soldiers whose death benefits will be suspended could be hit especially hard during the current government shutdown. These benefits include vital monetary support for dependents of fallen soldiers who suddenly, and unexpectedly, find themselves facing financial hardship at one of the lowest moments in their lives.

In 2013, the Fisher House Foundation stepped in to cover the lost benefits and last Thursday night, the Foundation announced that they will be stepping up to do it again. Below is a statement from CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, Ken Fisher and a release from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

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Ken Fisher Statement: Government rules and regulations can often prevent it from doing what is best for our military. A perfect example of this occurred during the 2013 government shutdown when DoD could not pay the death benefits earned by service members through their ultimate sacrifice. Fisher House Foundation was there to fill the gap for grief-stricken military families. The Foundation volunteered to help the federal government meet this need and, though the crisis ended quickly, wound up providing $750,000 in grants to 30 families.

According to Ken Fisher, “Families like the ones we helped in 2013, are very deserving. They are deeply dedicated to overcoming the challenges they confront. Helping them isn’t charity but rather this nation’s solemn duty. In these very tough situations, they don’t quit. Neither should we.”

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Senator Manchin has worked with the Ken Fisher, to make sure these families are taken care of in their time of greatest need.

Senator Manchin Release: The Fisher House generously agreed to offer the families an advance grant until the government can make reimbursements at an appropriate time. The Fisher House will also cover flights, hotels and other incidentals for family members.

“Today I spoke with my good friend Ken Fisher who generously volunteered to help our military families and ensure there is no funding gap during a time of unfathomable loss,” Senator Manchin said. “I applaud Ken and the Fisher House for their dedication to serving our soldiers and their families during their time of need and especially as this senseless shutdown looms. It’s shameful that our military families could bear the consequences of this shutdown and that’s part of why I will never vote to shut down the government. I’m grateful for Ken’s leadership and generous spirit.”

Fisher House Foundation is best known for the network of comfort homes built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers nationwide and in Europe. Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members as well as the Hotels for Heroes program using donated hotel points to allow family members to stay at hotels near medical centers without charge. The Foundation also manages a grant program that supports other military charities and scholarship funds for military children, spouses and children of fallen and disabled veterans.

Walmart’s Military Showcase Offers Officially Licensed Military Products

Last month Walmart launched a vetted showcase where customers can shop to salute the nation’s military, veterans and their families. Walmart.com/usmilitary features an assortment of officially licensed products across all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces — U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard. The showcase launched with an initial assortment of nearly 3,000 products offered across a variety of categories.

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“As a 31-year U.S. Army veteran I’m proud to wear my Army gear, and I’m thrilled that Walmart is providing a way for all of us to shop for officially licensed military merchandise with confidence and convenience,” said retired Brigadier General Gary Profit, Walmart’s senior director of military programs. “It’s a privilege to be part of such important efforts to remember our service members, veterans and their families every day.”

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Since Memorial Day 2013, Walmart has hired more than 188,000 veterans and promoted more than 26,000 to roles of greater responsibility. The company is well on its way to reach its hiring goal of 250,000 veterans by 2020. Interested veterans can contact their local Walmart store or visit https://corporate.walmart.com/global-responsibility/opportunity/veterans-and-military-families for details.

“The trademark licensing program leverages the importance of pride, performance and personal development to build brand awareness and create multiple touch points for Americans to show support to the U.S. Army,” says Paul Jensen, director of U.S. Army trademark licensing.

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Each military branch independently determines which quality products and vetted suppliers are deserving of their respective licenses. These official licensees may then apply to be included in Walmart’s Online Military Showcase.  As more suppliers join this program offered through Walmart Marketplace, a broader range of assortment will provide shoppers even more choices.

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When asked what the inspiration was for the showcase, BG (Ret.) Gary Profit said, “The Walmart.com Marketplace team, which includes a few veterans, one an Army captain and one a PO2, saw an opportunity to provide an online destination where our customers could shop with confidence and convenience for officially-licensed products.”

The curated products for sale through the Walmart.com showcase are sold by individual sellers authorized by each U.S. military branch. Walmart worked directly with representatives from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to gather input on top categories and popular products that our customers shop for and purchase to include in this showcase.

The online Military Showcase is specifically designed as a single destination for customers eager to show their support for the U.S. Armed Forces through products that represent each branch, and even specific units. These products are officially licensed so that customers hoping to purchase items benefitting the military can do so with ease. Walmart.com/usmilitary is filled with officially licensed merchandise with the goal to continuously expand the assortment to meet customer demand, and be a place where customers come to discover those hard to find items.

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While many of these licensed products are for sale in Walmart stores, they are organized and shelved differently due to Walmart’s effort to have stores reflect the needs of the community. On Walmart.com/usmilitary Walmart is able to offer a much larger assortment of officially licensed military merchandise. While Walmart stores near U.S. military installations tend to have more military-specific products, the curated digital space for officially-licensed merchandise is an online concept at this time.

Many of the suppliers of products in the Military Showcase are veterans or have a personal connection to the military community through a family member. Walmart is eager to support service members, veterans and military families during all stages of their service journey, including through potential supplier partnerships.

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In fact, Walmart recently hosted and sponsored VetSource, a first-of-its-kind event created by the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business (CVOB) supporting the success of veteran and military spouse-owned businesses by connecting them to Fortune 500 procurement opportunities.

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Walmart’s Military Showcase is special for other reasons as well. The military branches are authorized to expend the excess of the licensing fees after expenses to morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) activities. The MWR program provides military members and their families quality of life programs and services aimed to boost morale and resiliency, with benefits such as fitness centers, libraries, parks and picnic areas, restaurants, family child care and youth and school-aged services.

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BG (Ret.) Gary Profit shared, “In 31 years of military service, my family and I have personally experienced the value MWR programs bring to military communities, enriching the lives of all they touch. I believe that MWR programs are essential to the long term viability of the all-volunteer force.  That’s why I am excited that Walmart is able to provide a way for all of us to shop for officially-licensed military merchandise with confidence and convenience.”

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And talk about commitment!  To help address challenges many veterans face when returning to everyday life, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have pledged a total of $40 million for veteran reintegration programs through 2019. The funding supports job training, education and innovative public/private community-based initiatives.

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In addition to supporting veterans, Walmart assists active service members and their families through collaborations with organizations dedicated to providing support and services in times of need. Recently, the Walmart Foundation granted $500,000 to Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance program to help meet the unique and urgent needs of military families affected by the 2017 hurricane season. The funding supported financial needs for military family members struggling to make ends meet in areas impacted by disaster, including hotel costs for those displaced from their homes, car repairs, utility bills, housing costs and groceries. The grant will also help those service members who deployed to help with recovery efforts that may have a shortfall in income due to their time away from work.

During Memorial Day 2017, Walmart announced major changes to its military leave of absence policy. The enhanced policy now offers differential pay to associates for ANY military assignment, including basic training, allowing associates who are considering enlisting in the armed forces to do so without fear of losing wages.

Lastly, Profit says, “Through our Military Family Promise, Walmart guarantees a job at a nearby store or club for all military personnel and military spouses employed by the company who move to a different part of the country because they or their spouse have been transferred by the U.S. military.”

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Please visit Walmart.com Help Center at https://help.walmart.com/

For assortment recommendations: USMilitaryProducts@Walmart.com

To apply as a Marketplace Seller: marketplace.walmart.com

First Marine Killed in GWOT Remembered

IMG_1633[1]38 years ago, on November 21, 1979, United States Marine Corporal Steven J. Crowley, who was guarding the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was shot and killed by radical Muslim extremists, becoming one of the first casualties of the Global War on Terror.

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Muslim extremist “students,” having heard a false story about the U.S. occupation of the mosque at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, gathered weapons and then boarded buses that would take them to the embassy.

Once at the compound, the Islamists stormed the complex and then set fire to debris collected on the first floor of the main building.

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CPL Crowley was shot once through the head, just above his left ear, at approximately 1:10 p.m. local time, while on duty protecting the embassy from the roof of the main building. He was taken into the building and then brought to the safe room, or vault on the second floor.

At approximately 3:25 p.m. CPL Crowley was pronounced dead in the embassy vault, after an oxygen tank that was providing his threadbare connection to life ran out.

This group of Islamist “students” was later to be funded by none other than Osama bin Laden himself.

Steven was a tall, fit, blond-haired blue-eyed, chivalrous and cordial 19 year old graduate of Comsewogue High School, in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, New York, who loved to run on the Cross Country and Spring Track Teams and who was a member of the Chess Club.

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Steven Crowley Park, in Port Jefferson Station, was named for this brave neighbor of ours, and by cleaning up the park each fall we honor him and his brave and selfless service to our country. Cub Scout Pack 120 (Boy Scouts of America) has been cleaning up the park each fall at least since my 22 year old Eagle Scout son was a 6 year old Tiger Scout, 16 years ago and counting.

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We tell the boys about Steven and his sacrifice to his country and to all of us.

Steven is a hero to all the nation, and his death marks one of the very first casualties in the Global War on Terror. The incident that precipitated Steven’s murder at the hands of Islamists shook the Muslim world just the day before, on November 20, 1979.

Overzealous Wahhabi’s seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca for about two weeks. Saudi Arabian commandos, with the help of French and American intelligence, eventually retook the mosque, ending the incident. But the erroneous story that the U.S. had seized the mosque incensed hordes of Islamists throughout the Muslim world.

The incident at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was merely the first in a series of events that eventually led up to the attacks by Islamists on the United States on September 11, 2001, killing more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, or died at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Since then our enemies have mutated into the current Islamic State, but many other Islamic terrorist groups have emerged as well, each one determined to eliminate Israel, kill all infidels, and establish a worldwide caliphate.

In Steven’s memory, and for us, and for generations to come, we must fight the forces of evil that continue to harm us and our allies. Until all Islamists are dead, or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves by any means necessary.

Thank you, Steven for your service, loyalty and sacrifice. We shall never forget your chivalry, integrity and self-less service to this great nation. Amen.

What if NYC Terrorist was bin Laden?

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The question is asked because even though President Donald Trump initially said that the man who killed 8 and injured about twice as many in an Islamist rampage on the Lower West Side of Manhattan bike lane using a rental truck should be sent to Gitmo and tried as an enemy combatant, but then later changed his mind, saying it would take too much time compared to a Federal prosecution.

He had it right the first time.

If the NYC terrorist is an unlawful combatant in the Global War on Terror, then he belongs at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (a.k.a. Gitmo).

The problem is Obama’s 2009 Military Commissions Act, which gives unlawful combatant detainees accused of war crimes virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a Federal court of law. That’s why it’s taken years for several accused detainees to come to trial.

The Law of Land Warfare (U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10) and the Geneva Conventions allow accused war criminals only the same rights as an accused U.S. soldier would have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Giving accused terrorists (unlawful combatants) an opportunity in U.S. Federal Court to be read Miranda rights, go free on technicalities, go to a Federal prison where they can spread their rhetoric and recruit other inmates and then eventually be set free puts us all at risk. Expediency should never come before security.

Gitmo is legal, and it is a small but essential piece to the big puzzle of how we defend ourselves in the Global War on Terror.

Trump needs to get Gitmo right and use Gitmo as a tool in our efforts to defeat the Islamist threat. He is fence-sitting, and it doesn’t suit him or his objective of winning the Global War on Terror.

Imagine for a moment that Osama bin Laden had been captured instead of killed in a raid. Would the President believe he should be tried in Federal court or a Military Commission? Why?

If Osama bin Laden had been captured it would have been the ultimate test of legal and political wills.

We are either at war or we are not at war. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) provides the legal permission to wage war against terrorists. It allows us to capture, interrogate and retain detainees. Once captured, the Law of War and Geneva take over as guiding edicts on treatment and privileges for those detained and those accused of war crimes.

Would bin Laden have been tried in Federal court or a military tribunal?

His status as the leader of al Qaeda and the planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, would make him the top commander for the opposing forces. Surely if anyone could be tried for war crimes it would have been him.

Why then is there even a debate about the status of those who followed his example and perpetuate the jihad against the infidels?

Lawfare and politics.

Using the liberal legal system of the United States against us is not a new tactic, and has been practiced vigorously by our enemies since the very beginning of the Global War on Terror, shortly after the attacks of 9/11/01.

An al Qaeda manual captured by British intelligence prior to 9/11 revealed our enemy’s protocols if captured. They should lie about their treatment, claim they were abused and tortured, disrupt detention operations, threaten and harass guards and demand a lawyer.

That last part has proved most advantageous. The result? 730 Gitmo detainees have been released. None have been executed, beheaded, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive, all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.

Never mind that at least 30 percent of released detainees are either confirmed or suspected to have returned to the fight. My concern is more about the 70 percent of released detainees we don’t know about. Where are they, your neighborhood, trying to rent a truck?

Even in a game of Capture the Flag the jailer knows not to release captured members of the other team until the game is over. Why then has our strategy been to release unlawful combatants before the end of hostilities? That’s not a winning formula, and it sends a message to the enemy that we are inferior and weak.

Some released detainees have been paid off by their governments of origin and profited from published book proceeds. So, if you survive the jihad and get captured by the Americans, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Former Gitmo detainees were allowed to claim habeas corpus, even though precedent dictated that even lawful combatant POW’s could not challenge their wartime status in civilian court. How then did we get from there to here, where an obvious and confirmed case of jihad has been turned almost matter-of-factly into a civilian crime? Expediency?  Convenience?

My patience with the POTUS on this one is running thin.

If your gut tells you that the NYC terrorist should be held and tried at Gitmo then so let it be done.

If bin Laden would have been taken and then tried at Gitmo, then so too, should the lowest member of the group.

If not, then we are not at war with unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us; we  are victims of random, disconnected violence, and should study the childhood of every terrorist and attempt to empathize with their disadvantaged upbringing and feel sorry for them and others like them, and then bear our throats for beheading.