Category Archives: military news

Trump — naturally! — blames others for parade cancellation

Donald J. Trump’s penchant for passing the responsibility buck remains intact.

The president wanted to stage a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue ostensibly to honor veterans on the 100th anniversary of signing the armistice that ended the War to End All Wars.

Then the cost of the parade came in. He estimated the cost initially at $12 million. But wait! The cost escalated to an estimated $92 million. Trump called it off, suggesting he might try again next year. Phooey!

Who’s to blame? Trump lays it at the feet of Washington, D.C. officials who — one can only surmise — comprise Democrats intending to stick it to the Republican president.

As The Hill reported: “The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th,” Trump wrote.

“Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” he added. “Now we can buy some more jet fighters!”

Or, how about this, Mr. President? How about putting some of that money into helping veterans who need primary medical care, or who might need counseling to deal with the symptoms of PTSD? Or, maybe you could suggest spending more to combat the alarming rates of suicide among veterans returning from combat duty in Afghanistan, Iraq or other trouble spots where we’ve send our men and women into harm’s way.

What’s more, the president can stop laying blame on others and accept the reality that just maybe he low-balled the cost at the outset, not having an idea what such an ostentatious demonstration of military might would cost.

No parade? Yes! Keep it canceled!

Money does talk. Especially when it represents skyrocketing costs for an event that contributes nothing of significance.

Donald J. Trump wanted to stage a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to show the world just how big and strong the United States military is, as if the world doesn’t know it already.

The cost was set initially at $12 million. Oh, but then came some new cost estimates: They hit $92 million.

The president canceled the parade. The Pentagon said it might schedule it a year from now. Is the cost going to decline? I doubt it strongly. “The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America’s military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I,” said Col. Rob Manning on Thursday. “We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”

Good grief! You can “honor” the vets in any number of ways without traipsing down Pennsylvania Avenue in a parade!

Of course, the president decided to blame “local politicians” for the cost escalation, which made the event an even greater non-starter than it was when Trump pitched the idea in the first place.

Military parades of the type Trump wanted are intended to allow tinhorn bullies and tyrants a chance to show off their hardware, to deter anyone from messing with ’em. You see these kinds of events in places like, oh, Pyongyang or Moscow, Beijing or Tehran.

Do we really need to see this kind of exhibitionism in Washington, D.C.? Of course not.

I’m all in with what the American Legion said about the parade notion. The money that would be spent to show off our hardware could be spent more productively to help veterans’ care.

“There is only one person who wants this parade,” according to a senior military official.

Ridiculous. As in worthy of ridicule.

Trump-McCain feud goes on and on

Oh, my goodness. Donald John Trump spent a lot of time today thanking damn near every veteran in politics for their service to the country. His thank-a-thon preceded his signing a $717 billion defense spending bill.

Oh, I forgot to mention that one veteran did not receive a presidential thank you.

That would be U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I’ll add, too, that Congress voted to name the defense bill in McCain’s honor.

Still, Donald Trump ignored the Arizona Republican while tossing all those bouquets.

There’s much more. Sen. McCain spent more than five years during the Vietnam War as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese after his Navy jet fighter was shot down over Hanoi in 1967. He was beaten, kept in solitary confinement, denied proper medical treatment for his wounds.

However, he and the president don’t exactly get along.

McCain has been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer. And, I should add, he cast a decisive vote against a Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which torpedoed Trump’s effort to remove former President Barack Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation.

I’ll add, finally, that presidential candidate Trump said in 2016 that Sen. McCain was a “war hero only because he was captured.”

CNN anchor Jake Tapper today took a moment to thank Sen. McCain for his service to the country. He said: “One person who wasn’t on that list of people that he thanked? Outspoken Trump critic and the namesake of the bill, Sen. John McCain,” Tapper said. “You know, the decorated war hero who was a prisoner of war and continues to serve as a United States senator, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

Tapper said, “Since President Trump would not do it, let us here on ‘The Lead’ congratulate Sen. John McCain and his family, and thank him for his service to the country.”

Good for Jake Tapper.

Shame on Donald Trump.

Now they’re offering salutes

AMARILLO, Texas — There’s a first time for everything, as in everything.

Those of us who saw duty in Vietnam have been receiving belated — but still quite welcome — greetings from our fellow travelers.

Today, while walking through a grocery story in west Amarillo, a gentleman saw the “Vietnam Veteran” cap on my noggin and snapped a salute, while thanking me for my service.

My thought in the moment? Oh, my. Moreover, the nature of the salute this fellow snapped told me he, too, once served in the military. I returned his salute and thanked him.

Those of us of a certain age know how it used to be in this country. We didn’t the kind of homecoming that vets are getting these days, and deservedly so!

I actually remember the first time anyone said, “Welcome home” to me after learning I had served for a time in Vietnam. That “welcome” came from a former Vietnam War SEAL and a Medal of Honor recipient. It has stayed with me.

But … that’s ancient history. The nation has rediscovered its respect for veterans.

For that, this veteran will be forever grateful.

Nagasaki: That bomb ended it!

The United States Army Air Force dropped a second big bomb 73 years ago today.

That one exploded over Nagasaki, Japan. The first big blast, at Hiroshima, didn’t bring Japan to the surrender table. The second one did.

The atomic age had entered the world of warfare. It was called the Manhattan Project, where some of the world’s most brilliant nuclear physicists worked to perfect the atomic bomb.

They did. It worked.

The United States had been at war with Germany, Italy and Japan for nearly four years. Germany surrendered in May 1945; Italy called it quits in 1943.

Japan was left as the remaining Axis power. President Truman, new to the office he inherited when President Roosevelt died in April 1945, had the most difficult of decisions to make: whether to use this terrible new weapon.

He went with his gut. Yes, drop the bomb and hope to save many more lives than will be lost. That calculation proved accurate, too.

Nagasaki was devastated on Aug. 9, 1945 by an even bigger bomb than the one that leveled Hiroshima three days earlier. Less than a week after Nagasaki was incinerated, the Japanese surrendered.

World War II came to an end.

President Truman said he didn’t regret deploying the bomb. Many of the great men who developed it had second thoughts. The likes of Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein eventually expressed some form of regret for their roles in developing this monstrous weapon.

We all hope never to use them again. Twice was more than enough.

I can recall a quote attributed to Einstein, who once was asked how he thought a third world war would be fought. He said, in effect, that he didn’t know with absolute certainty, but was certain that the fourth world war would be fought “with sticks and stones.”

What do we call those who enlist in the ‘Space Force’?

Space Force? Is that a new military branch?

It’s no longer sufficient that our Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard comprise the finest and most sophisticated military force the world has ever seen.

The Trump administration is taking the first steps toward establishing a new military branch with its theater of operations to be in outer space. Beyond our atmosphere. Somewhere in the great beyond.

Call me skeptical, but I don’t get it.

I have to concur with the skepticism expressed this past June by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who said, “That’s a serious subject. It’s one that I would have a hard time supporting. All of our branches have the space element and it’s working. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

What’s more, what do we call the enlistees? Astro-soldiers, extraterrestrial sailors or Marines, spacemen and women?

There once was a time in this country where we were concerned about the “militarization” of space. We were once locked in a Cold War with the communists in the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Yes, we wanted to protect ourselves against attack from those two powers. President Reagan initiated a Strategic Defense Initiative, aka Star Wars, which established an anti-missile defense system.

Now, though, the Trump administration wants to create a whole new military service. They call it the Space Force.

I recall back in the 1960s, when NASA was considering who should be the first astronaut to set foot on the moon. NASA had been spooked a bit by the Soviets’ concern over reported U.S. plans to militarize the lunar surface. Its astronaut corps was full of active-duty military personnel.

NASA instead chose a civilian astronaut, Neil Armstrong, to take that “giant leap for mankind” as a symbolic gesture that sends the message that the United States had no intention of militarizing the moon.

Now we want to create a Space Force?

As Sen. Inhofe noted, our existing armed forces all have space elements that are working quite well.

Finally, can we really and truly afford the cost of creating this military branch?

Going to thank World War II veterans

I have made another command decision, which I can do now that I no longer work for anyone else.

From this day forward I intend to thank every World War II veteran I see. The only way to know you’ve seen a WWII vet is when you see someone wearing a gimme cap or a t-shirt identifying a member of The Greatest Generation.

I saw a gentleman this afternoon in front of a fast-food joint in Allen, Texas. He was wearing one of those caps. I extended a hand to him and said, “Thank you for saving the world.”

If you do a bit of simple math, you learn about the ruthless march of time. In 1945, the last year of World War II, the youngest enlistees were 17 years of age, meaning they were born in 1928.

That makes ’em 90 years of age today. If they’re still among us.

During the length of World War II, the United States put roughly 16 million men and women into uniform. Many of them were thrown into harm’s way.

Their numbers are diminishing every hour of every day. They need a thank you from their descendants. I plan to offer them whenever I see a veteran from that great conflict.

I have been unable since September 1980 to thank my favorite World War II. My father — who died 38 years ago — enlisted in the Navy in February 1942; he was 20 years old at the time. He wanted to get into the fight. Oh, brother, did he ever … get into it.

The thing is, Dad enlisted and pledged to fight “for the duration” of the war, not knowing when — let alone if — he would be returning home. That, I submit, is a far more difficult concept to embrace than what those of us who served in Vietnam faced when we were called to duty. We knew when we were coming home.

The Greatest Generation’s task was to save the world from tyranny. They succeeded. They came home, returned to their former lives and for the most part didn’t talk much about the hell they endured.

These men and women have earned a heartfelt thank you from those of us who came into this world upon their return.

I intend to give it to them.

Yes, we’ve seen ‘fire and fury,’ Mr. President

You no doubt remember when Donald John Trump threatened North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un earlier this year with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Kim had issued some threats to the United States. The president was having none of it. Well, the president isn’t exactly a student of history, as we know.

Seventy-three years ago today, one of Trump’s predecessors, President Harry Truman, issued the order to release a new kind of “fire and fury” on a nation with which we were at war.

A U.S. Army Air Force B-29 bomber took off on Aug. 6, 1945, from Tinian Island and headed for Hiroshima, Japan. It dropped a single bomb on Hiroshima. It killed tens of thousands of Japanese citizens in an instant. It was the first time the world saw a nuclear weapon deployed in a hostile act. It wouldn’t be the final time.

Three days later, another bomber flew over Nagasaki, Japan, and repeated the destruction.

The Japanese surrendered five days later, ending the world’s greatest, bloodiest and costliest conflict.

President Truman took office in April 1945 upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. The new president knew only a tiny bit of information about the Manhattan Project, where scientists were working on this terrible new weapon way out yonder in Los Alamos, N.M.

President Truman was briefed fully not long after he took office. The military brass told him, in effect, “Mr. President, we have this weapon under development that we believe will bring a quick end to the war.” The president agreed.

He would say many years later that he harbored no regret over using the atomic bomb. I have saluted President Truman many times over the years for the decision he made, based on the evidence he had at the time — and the lives he saved by persuading the enemy to surrender and allowing us to forgo an invasion of Japan by sea, air and land forces.

Fire and fury? There it was.

Remains come home; now comes the task of ID’ing them

Vice President Mike Pence flew to Hawaii and welcomed the delivery of remains that U.S. officials hope — and believe — are those of Korean War veterans who were lost in that bloody conflict nearly 70 years ago.

We all join in the hope that the families of the men who were lost can obtain some closure — finally — to the grievous loss they suffered in the early 1950s.

“Some have called the Korean War the forgotten war but today we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home,” Pence said at the ceremony where officials received the remains.

Read The Hill’s account here.

Yes, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un delivered on at least this one pledge he made when he met with Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

There now lies ahead the painstaking task of conducting forensic testing to determine the identities of the remains that have been delivered. U.S. officials today received 55 caskets. Each of the remains will be identified in due course.

Allow me a moment to put some of this tragic issue into some perspective. U.S. families and officials are rightly concerned about the loss of those who perished in wars abroad. They often pale in comparison to the agony that those on the other side also endure.

In 1989, I had the pleasure of touring Vietnam with other journalists. We traveled from Hanoi to Saigon, meeting with officials, many of whom were in office during the Vietnam War that claimed more than 50,000 American lives. It also has produced a missing in action list of some 2,000 or so Americans whose fate have not yet been determined.

We brought that issue up with a Vietnamese official, who then scolded us — politely, I must add. Vietnam needs no lecture from Americans on accounting for those who are MIA, he told us, adding that Vietnam (in 1989) had about 300,000 men missing from what the Vietnamese call “the American war.” I don’t know how many of those missing Vietnamese fighting men have been recovered and identified.

The point is that no matter how much anxiety we feel on our side of these conflicts, we also ought to extend a bit of empathy to those on the other side who, as fellow human beings, are enduring the same agony.

Only their numbers far exceed ours.

Still, I welcome Vice President’s pledge to ensure the return of these missing warriors. As the vice president noted, “Our work will not be completed until all our fallen heroes are accounted for and home.”

Military taking a big bite out of its own hand

Donald Trump must really mean it when he implies that America should become an immigrant-unfriendly place.

The New York Times has published a story that tells of how the U.S. Army is ordering an increasing number of legal immigrants out of the military service. Why? According to one of them — an immigrant from China, with a business degree, a wife and a small child — they are deemed “unsuitable.”

As the Times noted in its story, the Army is booting out an increasing number of immigrants even though it cannot meet its recruitment goals for 2018.

The program, adopted during the Bush 43 administration, is designed to allow legal immigrants a fast track to citizenship. The Trump administration seems to see little value in the program.

What a disgraceful display of un-American treatment of men and women who come here to this country on their volition and want to serve in our military.

The irony is so rich you can taste it, given that the commander in chief sought to avoid military service during the Vietnam War by obtaining a series of student and medical deferments.

Take a look at the NY Times story here.

I am reminded of a time when this country granted automatic citizenship to immigrants who enlisted in the armed forces. How do I know that? My own grandfather, George Filipu, became an instantaneous American by enlisting in the Army in 1918. He wanted to fight in World War I. But then the war ended in November of that year. He didn’t get into the fight — but he retained his U.S. citizenship.

That’s what service and commitment to our country is all about.

The young man who might now be deported to China — after swearing an oath to “protect and defend the U.S. Constitution — now might be punished in his home country simply by enlisting in a foreign military organization.

That’s how you “put America first”? I don’t think so.