the Web Editors 02-23-2016

Vice President Biden and President Obama with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Screenshot via White House

President Obama promised to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility at the beginning of his presidency. Seven years later — nearly to the day — he released a plan to do it.

“For many years it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay does not advance our national security,” Obama said.

“It undermines it.”

the Web Editors 02-22-2016

Image via /

The Pentagon plans to submit a report to Congress on Feb. 23 detailing how to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the plan will call for the closure of the prison and offer several different ways to go about doing so.

Image via  / Shutterstock

Our class studying terrorism found itself under terrorist attack.

You might expect these military men would be first in line calling for the use of force. You would be wrong. Veterans of the first Iraq war, they, like Gen. Colin Powell, warned that starting a war would be easy, but accomplishing anything good by the use of force in the region would be hard. Military attacks would "rearrange the rubble" and incite retribution and further cycles of violence. They urged other responses — political engagement, diplomacy, [and] legal and financial instruments.

As advisors to the U.S. Catholic Bishops, we also urged using “just peace” methods. Pope — now Saint — John Paul II urged President Bush not to invade Iraq but to pursue a just peace. The U.S. invasion would de-stabilize the entire region, cause worse bloodshed, and do more harm than good.

Today, as then, the military and religious leaders agree. We ought to notice.

Simon Oh 09-11-2015

Image via /Shutterstock

My friends and colleagues are generally aware that before I began working at Sojourners, I was a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for six and a half years. What most of them do not know, however, is that I interviewed for that job — a five-minute drive from the Pentagon — on September 11, 2001.

Early that morning, I decided to take the Metro rather than drive to the USPTO’s offices in Crystal City, Va. I reasoned that if I got the job, I would want to get some idea about my future daily commute. This would prove to be a fortunate decision later on.

Even before the end of my trip to Crystal City, I had already heard news of the first World Trade Center tower being hit. When I arrived at the office, I hoped the interviewer would remember me after our conversation. He did — but considering the significance of all that happened that day, my concerns about employment now seem minuscule in hindsight.

David Cortright 04-01-2015

The battle for hearts and minds continues, 50 years later. 

Jim Michaels 09-08-2014

An overhead view of The Pentagon in 2008. Photo via David B. Gleason/Wikimedia Commons.

The Pentagon on Sept. 5 confirmed that the leader of al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked organization in Africa, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia this week.

The leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was targeted Sept. 1 in an airstrike that hit a vehicle and compound in a militant stronghold south of the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab has been linked to a number of attacks in Africa, including the bloody siege at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 that killed 67 people.

“Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabab,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

At the time of the strike, the Pentagon said it could not confirm Godane’s death.

Military experts testify on Wednesday at a House Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Lawmakers peppered Pentagon officials on Wednesday about claims that military chaplains have faced discrimination for their beliefs, and time and again, chaplains and personnel officials said they were unaware of any bias.

Virginia Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, told the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel that she could not cite specific instances where chaplains had to preach a sermon or oversee a ceremony that conflicted with their beliefs.

“There’s absolutely nothing in policy or code that prohibits a chaplain from praying according to the dictates of their faith,” she said.

Candice Quinn 05-11-2013

Local governments push for Pentagon spending cuts.

Army Chaplain Capt. Joseph Odell baptizes a fellow soldier on the field in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy RNS.

Christian conservatives have grown increasingly alarmed in recent weeks over reports and rumors that the Pentagon is considering new policies aimed at discriminating against Christians and disciplining or even court-martialing those who share their faith.

But the Department of Defense on Thursday sought to debunk that speculation, saying that while aggressive proselytizing is barred, evangelization is still permitted and the rights of all believers – and non-believers – will be protected.

“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement. “The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.”

QR Blog Editor 05-03-2012

From Politico:

American soldiers learned the hard way not to walk down enemy trails in Vietnam — and certainly not twice. But here come the House Republicans, marching into the sunlight by shifting billions from poverty programs to the Pentagon, all within hours of adopting an entirely new round of tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year.

Read more about this story here

Omar Sacirbey 04-30-2012
Image via Zurijeta / Shutterstock

Image via Zurijeta / Shutterstock

The Pentagon is investigating whether military officials ignored complaints from senior officers about a course that was found to have inflammatory and inaccurate content about Islam.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, ordered the inquiry on Tuesday (April 24), the same day he canceled "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism," a training course that asserted that Islam was at war with the West. The course had been offered as an elective at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., since 2004.

Roughly 20 officers have complained about the course's content, although it's not clear when, or to whom, or what kind of action was taken. "We don't know what was done with those objections," said Cmdr. Patrick McNally, a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman.

Duane Shank 01-06-2012

President Barack Obama made an unusual appearance in the Pentagon briefing room Thursday with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to release a new Defense Strategic Guidance, essentially the strategic plan for the U.S. military.  Recognizing the end of the war in Iraq and the pressure of deficit-driven budget cuts, the plan outlines a smaller and more focused military.

Meanwhile, December unemployment numbers out this morning, and show a drop to 8.5 percent.  That’s obviously good news, but don’t get overly excited.  The unemployment rate for minorities was virtually unchanged – 15.8 percent of African-Americans and 11 percent of Hispanics remain unemployed.  And the broader measure, including what are called “discouraged workers” – people who want to work but have stopped looking and those working part time because they can’t find a full time job – is 15.2 percent.

the Web Editors 01-05-2012

Huffington Post: An Interview with United States 39th President Jimmy Carter, Religion News Service: Romney’s Evangelical Problem Starts with Theology, Huffington Post: On Scripture: Mark 1:4-11: Does Baptism Make for Better Presidents?, Huffington Post: Obama Fails on Minimum Wage Pledge, Slate: NAACP Condemns Rick Santorum’s “Black People” Gaffe, TPM: Defense Secretary Panetta: Defense Cuts Come With ‘Additional But Acceptable Risk’, CNN: Controversial Catholic program for gays begins in Connecticut, CNN: What happens when candidates called by God drop out?

Cathleen Falsani 08-29-2011

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was standing in the bathroom of my apartment outside Chicago, about to hop in the shower, when I heard the phone ring and then my husband call my name.

"It's Roger from the desk," he called, sleepily, invoking the name of the morning assignment editor at the Chicago Sun-Times where I was a reporter at the time.

I padded down the hallway in my pajamas to the living room and picked up the phone.

"How quickly can you get down here," Roger asked.

"I dunno, an hour, maybe," I said. "Why? What's up?"

"A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York," he said. "They think it's a terrorist attack."

Aaron Taylor 07-20-2011

It's funny the things that you remember. I can remember one time when I was a teenager watching an episode of the Montel Williams show. I don't remember the topic, but I do remember Montel criticizing the U.S. government for spending too much money on military defense and not enough on domestic needs. I remember thinking to myself, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." In the world that I knew, the idea of slashing military spending was absolutely, totally, utterly UNTHINKABLE! I personally had never met anyone who thought that way, so I assumed that anyone who would suggest such a thing had to be either a) naive; b) stupid; c) a tree-hugger; or d) unAmerican.
That was then.

I don't know if it's because I changed or because America has changed (or both), but for years it seemed like the only ones who suggested slashing military spending were groups that few Americans could identify with: like hippies, pacifists, environmental and civil rights activists, and conspiracy theorists. Today, the idea that a significant portion of the nation's economic woes is due to wasteful Pentagon spending can be found both on the left and on the right ends of the political spectrum. It can also be found in the Pentagon.

Meet "Mr. Y."

Nathan Schneider 06-06-2011
One might think that three wars -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya -- would be enough. Apparently, for the United States military apparatus, it's not.
David Cortright 03-14-2011
The clock is ticking toward a July decision by President Obama to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, as he has promised.
Jim Wallis 03-03-2011

In a credit to both Republicans and Democrats, Congress just passed a measure that will avoid a government shutdown for at least the next two weeks. This means that there is still time to protect the poor and most vulnerable during the budget debate.

Jim Wallis 02-24-2011
The current budget and deficit debate in America is now dominating the daily headlines. There is even talk of shutting down the government if the budget-cutters don't get their way.