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July 2nd, 2012
12:21 PM ET

Beau Biden: Many troops targeted by predatory financial practices

U.S. troops readily put their lives in danger to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy, and their challenges often aren't over even after coming home from the battlefield.

Service members and their famlies are often the targets of predatory financial practices, and many face problems ranging from debt to foreclosure.

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, an Iraq war veteran and the son of Vice President Joe Biden, is leading the fight to protect American troops from financial dangers at home.

On Starting Point today, Biden explains why service members are targeted by financial scams and outlines the measures that need to be imposed to address these issues.

Filed under: Military
May 30th, 2012
12:17 PM ET

Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Wahid Hanna says military intervention not an option in Syria

With the UN Security Council convening today on the deteriorating situation in Syria, Century Foundation fellow and member of the Council on Foreign Relations Michael Wahid Hanna believes that the current strategy in the country is suboptimal but "it's the only one that exists at the moment."

Hanna cites complex sectarian and ethnic grounds and a divided opposition in Syria for the difficulty in creating a clear plan of resolution. "More importantly," he tells Soledad on "Starting Point", "there is a divide in our international community which limits the range of options which can be brought to bear." Hanna says that a plan of managed transition and Alawite control of the security sector may be the best way to get cooperation from Russia and those in Syria that fear what a regime change could bring.

"It's not a clean concept. I would only say all the other options are very bad," Hanna continues. "If this fails, we're looking at protracted, bloody, sectarian civil war that could have regional impact in terms of Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries and so this isn't something we should be discarding very lightly."

Military intervention is off the table, Hanna says, and he believes all diplomatic possibilities should be exhausted.

Hanna states that fissures in the al-Assad regime and Syria being isolated from the international community are the keys to bringing change to the riotous nation. "Obviously Russia abandoning Assad would be an important prerequisite but I don't think in and of itself it can solve the situation."

May 28th, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Gen. Martin Dempsey talks Memorial Day and progress in Afghanistan and Syria

On this Memorial Day, Gen. Martin Dempsey discusses honoring our fallen servicemen and women, the progress in Afghanistan and the ever deteriorating situation in Syria.

“This is a day where we memorialize our dead,” Dempsey says. “I drive to work everyday past Arlington Cemetery and there’s 260,000 small American flags planted at each of these gravesites today. So, I just want to make sure they know we will never forget.”

With almost 2,000 U.S troops killed in the war in Afghanistan, Dempsey believes that success will come when “the Afghan security forces are capable of maintaining stability inside of their own country and that the central government of Afghanistanis able to provide governance.”

Speaking on Sen. John McCain’s concerns that the plan of withdrawal in Afghanistan will pose a security threat, Dempsey believes there is some validity to his fears.

“Well, I think they’re somewhat valid because there are multiple faces of the Taliban,” he says. “I think there are probably Taliban who will never reconcile. I will say the Strategic Partnership Agreement that we entered into with Afghanistan should give pause to the Taliban that they just can’t simply wait us out.”

With the situation in Syria growing more deadly each day, with 108 peopled killed in the town of Houla-49 of which were children-Dempsey says that “the military option should be considered” but he would like to see the international community come up with ways to increase the pressure on Al-Assad to “do the right thing and step aside.”

May 18th, 2012
11:42 AM ET

Haitian refugee and Coast Guard cadet to patrol the same waters where he was rescued

Orlando Morel was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard in the waters off the Florida coast when he was a 6-year-old Haitian refugee.

Now 24, Morel is heading back to Haiti for a tour of duty after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

Morel joins Starting Point this morning to discuss what he remembers about his rescue and to explain why he chose to join the Coast Guard.

Filed under: Military
May 16th, 2012
10:45 AM ET

Rep. Kinzinger: A 'bigger task force' needs to be assigned to investigate F-22 safety

In light of recent reports of pilots getting sick while flying the Air Force's premiere fighter jet, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta mandated yesterday that all F-22 flights "remain within the proximity of potential landing locations" to ensure the ability to recover and land should a pilot run into "unanticipated physiological conditions."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who has been fighting for action to be taken to address the issue, calls Secretary Panetta's decision a "good first step" on Starting Point this morning.

Although Kinzinger notes that he believes that the full resources of the Air Force are being used to address the safety problems, he says that he thinks a "much bigger task force" needs to be assigned to the investigation.

"I think what’s disturbing about this is that with all of the intensity people have put into finding [the issue], we haven’t been able to pinpoint the problem yet,” Rep. Kinzinger says.

Filed under: Military • Safety
May 8th, 2012
01:17 PM ET

Rep. Kinzinger on giving whistleblower protection to pilots who question safety of F-22 planes

The Air Force is fighting back this morning against pilots who say the F-22 "next generation jet" is making them sick, and putting them at risk for serious accidents. The Air Force says it will keep using the jets.

It's the Air Force's most sophisticated and expensive aircraft, at $400 million each. But two captains say they and others have become too disoriented to fly them.

The commander of Air Combat Command, General Mike Hostage says "Right now, we believe that risk, although it's not as low as we would like it, is low enough to safely operate the airplane at the current tempo."

Congressman Adam Kinzinger is giving those pilots who speak up whistleblower protection under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. He explains why to Soledad this morning.

Filed under: Military • Safety • Whistleblower
May 8th, 2012
09:32 AM ET

Serving for 'God and country' – former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell on his new book 'Service'

Marcus Lutrell was the "sole survivor" when a Navy SEAL team was ambushed in Afghanistan. That's the day three seals were killed when their rescue helicopter was downed by an RPG, killing eight more Navy SEALS and eight U.S. Army operations aviators. Less than a year later, Lutrell went back to war, this time in Iraq.

Lutrell talks about the journey in his new book "Service: A Navy SEAL at War" and joins Soledad with his dog Mr. Rigby to explain why he chose to go back to war.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • Navy SEALS • Service
April 23rd, 2012
12:49 PM ET

Bordeaux family: It's not like Kelli to go AWOL

Kelli Bordeaux's siblings Matt Henson and Olivia Cox on the latest in the disappearance of their sister.

Filed under: Military • MIssing person
April 10th, 2012
11:10 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Marine who posted critical comments on President Obama speaks, defends his right to free speech

Should members of the Armed Forces be allowed to use social media to voice political opinions? The answer to that question could decide the fate of Marine Sergeant Gary Stein this week, who is facing a "less than honorable" discharge for comments he made on Facebook criticizing President Obama.

Despite repeated attempts by Sergeant Stein to halt the process, a panel voted 3-0 last week to recommend he be discharged from the military – a move that would render him ineligible for veteran's benefits.

In a "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" exclusive, Marine Sergeant Gary Stein and his attorney Gary Kreep, Executive Director of the United States Justice Foundation, explain to Soledad why this case cuts to the heart of the First Amendment and one's right to free speech.

There were two comments that were potentially in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which Stein claims were made on a closed forum on Facebook. He writes that President Obama is "a domestic enemy" and says "as an active duty Marine I say: screw Obama."

"I do believe that my words were somewhat tasteless, and I could have used better words," Stein says. "But the same point the principle behind it or the thoughts behind it thinking that the policies that the President has put forth in the last three and a half years have been crippling our economy, that's my personal opinion as Gary Stein. And it's my every right to say that."

His attorney argues that Stein can't be thrown out of the military for his actions, claiming the military violated their own rules in the way they are enforcing conduct rules on the case.

"I'm here to protect the constitution," Stein says. "I'm here to uphold and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And I never disobeyed an order."

Kreep says if they lose the Friday hearing on this case, they will file his case with the Ninth Circuit court.

Watch the interview above.

Filed under: First Amendment • Military
March 26th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Military wives Eckhart and Johnson: 'We can see ourselves' in Karilyn Bales

Military wives Jacey Eckhart and Vicki Johnson discuss their support of Sargent Bales' wife Karilyn and explain that there is an "important distinction is between deployment and combat" when it comes to the impact that war has on families.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Military
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