Category Archives: military news

Hoping that Mattis stays put

This news is distressing in the extreme.

The one individual serving in the Donald J. Trump administration that I want to stay might be calling it a day. Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly, allegedly, supposedly is on the bubble.

He might bail from the administration. It has been reported that the defense boss is unhappy with the commander in chief. Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear,” attributes some unkind remarks from the retired Marine Corps general about the president.

He has opposed Trump’s policy pronouncements, such as the one that bans transgender troops from serving in the military. Mattis also believes the U.S. pullout from the Paris climate accord is a mistake. And, as Woodward reported in “Fear,” Mattis had to explain to the president that the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea is intended to “prevent World War III.”

I will refrain from attaching the “Mad Dog” nickname to Mattis; he reportedly hates the term, so I won’t use it other than to refer to it.

Mattis is a grownup. He is a tested combat veteran who knows full well the consequences of war.

He is mature. He is reasonable. He is measured.

Mattis is precisely the kind of presence that Donald Trump needs close to him in times of crisis.

And, so what if James Mattis is “sort of a Democrat,” as Trump has said? Defense policy should be far removed from partisan politics.

Robert E. Lee: ‘great general’ — who also committed treason

Donald J. Trump just cannot bring himself to say what many of his fellow Americans already know.

He praises Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee as a “great general.” He doesn’t include that Lee was a traitor to his nation.

Lee led the Confederate army during the Civil War, which was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America.

Gen. Lee chose to side with his native Virginia, which seceded from the Union and joined the fight to take down the United States of America.

Yet the president keeps heaping praise on Lee’s military prowess. Sure, he was a brilliant military strategist and tactician.

But … he also was a traitor.

Campaigning in Ohio, Trump took up for Lee in front of an audience ancestors well might have fought against Lee’s Confederate troops. But, hey, he was a “great general,” according to the president.”

You’ll recall that Trump was critical of efforts in Charlottesville, Va., to remove a statue of Lee from a public park. He also then, hideously, condemned the violence that erupted this past year, laying blame on “both sides.” He also said there were “fine people, on both sides”; one of those sides comprised white nationalists, Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis.

So the president circles back to praising Robert E. Lee. A “great general”? Sure. He also betrayed  his country.

Is the defense boss next one to go?

Oh, I was hoping James Mattis could survive the on-going purge of grownups within the Donald J. Trump administration.

It appears the hope is fading.

Mattis is the defense secretary, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, a decorated combat veteran, a seriously competent military expert and a man known to be a bona fide check on the president’s lack of knowledge of damn near anything involving foreign/military policy.

He once was one of Trump’s favorites. He’s no longer among those folks, according to The New York Times.

As the Times reports: In the second year of his presidency, Mr. Trump has largely tuned out his national security aides as he feels more confident as commander in chief, the officials said. Facing what is likely to be a heated re-election fight once the 2018 midterms are over, aides said Mr. Trump was pondering whether he wanted someone running the Pentagon who would be more vocally supportive than Mr. Mattis, who is vehemently protective of the American military against perceptions it could be used for political purposes.

Mattis has become a subject of some chatter of late, given the release of Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear.” Mattis reportedly has actually explained to Trump that U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to “protect us against World War III.” Trump supposedly asked out loud just why in the world do we have those troops on duty in South Korea.

Mattis reportedly has said the president has the attention span of a fifth- or sixth-grader.

Mattis is pushing back

Ah, yes. The grownup speaks a version of the truth about service within an administration run by a man who once claimed to “know about ISIS than the generals.” Actually, he doesn’t … know anything, let alone “more about ISIS.”

There’s this from the Times as well: Mr. Mattis himself is becoming weary, some aides said, of the amount of time spent pushing back against what Defense Department officials think are capricious whims of an erratic president.

This, according to the president, is how a “fine-tuned machine” functions.

Donald Trump is delusional. To the max!

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.