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On the Trail : AND THAT'S AN ORDER

Top commander tells troops to avoid the political arena

June 28, 2008|Don Frederick and Julian E. Barnes

From troop levels in Iraq to the long-term role of the military in U.S. foreign policy, the differences between John McCain and Barack Obama appear stark.

As a result, few are likely to have their jobs more directly affected by the outcome of the election than Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Mullen knows he cannot tip his hand in the face-off. And early this week, he sent out word to all under his command: neither should they.

"It is a highly political time right now," he told officials who work with the Joint Chiefs. "I am anxious to make sure everyone in uniform stays out of the politics."

In an effort to appear apolitical, some military officers, such as the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, choose not to vote.

Mullen stressed he did not want troops to follow that lead. His message, he said, "doesn't mean don't vote; please do vote. But understanding what the rules are and not being pulled in is critical."

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