Category Archives: military news

Trump raid on military projects produces bipartisan ire

So, the president of the United States has done it.

Donald Trump declared a national emergency where none actually exists. He wants to build The Wall. He is intent on erecting that structure along our southern border to, as he said, stem the flow of human traffickers, drug dealers, murderers, terrorists and assorted riff raff he insists are “pouring” across the border.

That isn’t happening, no matter what the says.

There’s more, though. He wants to pilfer money already appropriated for defense projects to pay for construction of The Wall. That move has produced criticism from unlikely sources, such as from Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Panhandle congressman who once chaired the House Armed Services Committee. Thornberry, now the ranking member of Armed Services, says wall construction is not part of the military mission. Thornberry, who isn’t prone to criticize the president, opposes this initiative.

Congressional Democrats are going to contest the emergency declaration. Of course they oppose Trump’s decision.

The president, though, appears to be miffed that members of Congress who should have stepped up didn’t do as he wished. So he’s conducted this end-around.

The current chairman of the House Armed Services panel, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said this: “It is utterly disrespectful of U.S. national security and the needs of our men and women in uniform, and it further undermines his credibility in requesting the upcoming defense budget.”

That’s the president’s modus operandi. He says he “loves” the military and the men and women who defend the country. However, he is quite willing to undercut their work so he can build The Wall.

Central Command not consulted? Well, what’s new?

I guess none of us should be surprised to hear this bit of news from near the very top of the U.S. military chain of command.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commanding officer of the nation’s Central Command — which has authority over deployment of personnel in the Middle East — told Congress that Donald Trump didn’t consult with him before announcing his decision to withdraw our forces from Syria.

The president, though, did declare the Islamic State to be “defeated badly,” which was his seat-of-the-pants justification for leaving Syria and turning the fight over to . . . Syrian resistance forces.

The non-surprise comes in the form of those idiotic 2016 presidential campaign boasts that Trump made. He told us he was the smartest man in human history, that he knew the “best words,” had the “best mind,” would surround himself with the “best people” and, here’s my favorite, how he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.”

Trump knows all

The tragedy of it is that the Republican presidential candidate persuaded just enough voters living in just the right states to score an Electoral College victory to be elected the 45th president of the United States.

So he now gets to govern without consulting the “best people” who ought to include Gen. Votel, a combat Army veteran with vast knowledge of the Islamic State and the threat it still poses in the region and around the world.

According to Time.com: When Trump announced his decision to pullout on Dec. 19, it sent shock waves through Washington and the rest of the world. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won.” 

But did we? ISIS has claimed responsibility for terror attacks after the announcement, suggesting to many of us that the Sunni Muslim terror outfit isn’t “defeated.”

However, Donald Trump is wired to be all-knowing all the time, or so he would have us believe.

Except that I don’t believe a single word that flies out of his mouth.

So long, Chief . . . and well done

I used to call him Chief. Jack Barnes was a retired Navy chief petty officer. I made his acquaintance while I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

Barnes hailed originally from Perryton, then spent a couple of decades defending the nation.

I was saddened recently to learn of Barnes’ death in December at the age of 68. I heard he suffered from an aggressive form of cancer. I am not going to comment on the end of this patriot’s life, but rather on what he did to enrich the lives of other patriots.

Barnes was the driving force behind a project called “Honor Flights.” He declared it his mission to shepherd World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to tour the memorial erected in these veterans’ honor. And to show them as many other sights as they could squeeze into a brief visit to the nation’s capital.

He worked tirelessly with Southwest Airlines to arrange to transport these veterans from Amarillo to Washington. Over time, he expanded his mission to include Korean War and then Vietnam War veterans. Given that the Korean War began only five years after the end of World War II, it became imperative, as Barnes saw it, to bring veterans of that war to D.C. to show them the Korean War memorial that honors the sacrifice of those who fought on the Korean Peninsula.

And, of course, the Vietnam War veterans also were invited aboard these Honor Flights. We, too, are getting a bit long in the tooth these days and Barnes wanted to treat the men and women who served in Vietnam to the same honor he delivered to the World War II and Korean War veterans.

Jack occasionally would ask me if I wanted to take part in an Honor Flight, given my own meager experience in the Vietnam War. I never found the time to take him up on his generous offer.

I lost contact — more or less — with Barnes after I resigned from the Globe-News in August 2012; we would see each other on occasion, at the grocery store or at a public event. But I surely knew of the work he continued to do to honor our World War II veterans.

Of the 16 million Americans who served during WWII, only a diminishing fraction of them are still with us. They’re all in their 90s now. Time is not their friend.

Barnes, though, was dedicated to these men and women and sought to honor them the best way he knew how. He honored them greatly with his diligence in escorting them to Washington, to see the memorial that is dedicated to their service in the fight against tyranny.

Jack Barnes was a proud man who spread his pride generously. His work should live on forever.

Rest in peace and well done, Chief.

PR stunt? Of course it is! They all are!

Donald Trump canceled a trip overseas by Nancy Pelosi, contending that her visit to Afghanistan is a mere “public relations” event.

Wow! No sh**? Of course it was intended as a PR stunt. I mean, the speaker of the House wanted to visit with our troops who the commander in chief thrusts into harm’s way. She wanted to tell them the nation supports them and that despite the partial shutdown of the federal government that the politicians who run the government won’t let them down.

Sure it’s a PR event. However, there is inherint value in it.

It’s as much of a public relations production as the one that the president and first lady performed when they flew to Iraq right after Christmas. The president took selfies with troops, schmoozed with them, hugged their necks, told them he loved them. Then he and Melania flew back home to the chaos that awaited them.

Yeah, these trips are PR events. That’s what commanders in chief and other leading politicians do when they fly into combat zones.

I won’t get into the goofiness of Trump’s cancellation of the Pelosi venture, which looks for all the world to be a retaliatory strike in the wake of Pelosi’s request that Trump delay his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union speech before a joint congressional session.

However, for the president to say that the speaker of the House’s planned visit to our troops serves no useful purpose other than it being a PR stunt denies the obvious benefit it brings to the troops who get to see and talk directly to the politicians we elect to ostensibly “run the government.”

I call this ‘devotion to duty’

This picture says it all for me. It is not a statue. It is a living, breathing U.S. Army soldier. He is standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.

Yep, it is snowing. It is bitterly cold. But there he is, along with the rest of the garrison assigned to stand watch over one of our nation’s most sacred memorials.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted this picture on Facebook. I share it here to join the governor in saluting these men — indeed, the rest of our military force. “God bless our military,” Gov. Abbott said.

One more quick point: These men are assigned to perform this intensely precise duty in addition to their regular duties while stationed with the 3rd Army Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer, Va. They do not perform this duty exclusively. Their infantry unit is required to maintain its fitness for combat duty in the event that they would get such an order from the commander in chief.

They stand their watch at the Tomb of the Unknown — no matter what!

POTUS takes on another general

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal is back in the news. This time it’s because he happened to say what many of us believe about the president, that he’s, um, a liar.

What is Donald Trump’s response? He fired off this tweet: “General” McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!

Amazing, yes? Well, I think so.

Trump is right that President Obama relieved Gen. McChrystal of his command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal had been critical of Vice President Joe Biden and other civilian officials. Obama would have none of it, so he demanded McChrystal’s resignation.

Now, was his assignment a “total bust”? No. It wasn’t. Not at all.

However, the retired general has decided to re-enter the fray by questioning Donald Trump’s leadership ability. Given his experience at a high level of military command, he is qualified to discuss what he perceives in the commander in chief.

McChrystal has questioned Trump’s decision to militarize the southern U.S. border. He told an ABC News interviewer that he wouldn’t work in the Trump administration because he values honesty at the highest levels of government. He said the president doesn’t fit the bill. He also has spoken positively of Hillary Clinton’s service as secretary of state, which in Trump’s mind makes him a “Hillary lover” and, in his mind, not qualified to discuss anything of substance.

So, here we are . . . again! A president who pretends to respect military men and women is challenging another one who once served at the highest levels of command. Remember how he denigrated retired Admiral William McRaven for not killing Osama bin Laden sooner than he did? McRaven was special operations commander when the Navy SEAL team killed the al-Qaida leader on May 1, 2011.

Trump’s petulance knows no bounds. This thin-skinned chicken hawk should toughen up if he’s going to seek to be thought of as some sort of steel-spined world leader.

However, he won’t.

If only Trump were ‘good’ at lying; he isn’t

Donald Trump is setting some sort of unofficial record for lying, prevarication, misstatements muttered, uttered and sputtered from the White House.

One of his more recent, um, lies takes the cake.

The commander in chief stood before troops in Iraq the day after Christmas. He went to the war zone with his wife, Melania, and told the men and women assembled before him that they had just gotten the first pay raise in 10 years. Lie!

Then he said he fought for a 10-percent pay increase, even though others wanted to grant them a considerably smaller pay raise. Lie!

Our fighting personnel have gotten raises every year for more than three decades. As for the 10-percent raise this year, it didn’t happen. Their raise is considerably smaller than what the president described to them.

Here is what troubles me greatly: Donald Trump’s incessant barrage of falsehoods seems pointless, needless, foundationless. It is gratuitous. He lies when he doesn’t need to lie.

The Washington Post has been keeping track of the president’s lying/prevarication/misspeaking. The newspaper’s total now is past 7,500 such statements — and this is before the end of the first half of the president’s term! His lying is accelerating as well!

I should be more circumspect in calling these statements outright “lies.” To lie is to say something knowing it is false. Some critics have suggested that Trump simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about; therefore, he doesn’t necessarily purposely lie to our faces.

However, Donald Trump has told us repeatedly that he possesses a level of intelligence that few men have ever had. He knows the “best words.” He went to the “best schools.” He got the “best education.” He surrounds himself with the “best people.” Doesn’t all of that suggest to you — as it does to me — that the president should know of which he speaks when he opens his mouth?

The president is a liar. Now he’s gone before the men and women he purports to “love” and revere — our warriors in harm’s way — and lied to their faces!

Amazing.

We’re acting as ‘suckers,’ Mr. President?

Let me see if I can connect these dots.

Donald and Melania Trump jetted off early Wednesday to Iraq to visit with some of our troops there. It was the first visit by the president to a war zone since he took office in January 2017. Good show, Mr. President; I’m glad you went.

But then . . .

He declared that the United States was done being played as “suckers.” The president said this country wouldn’t be “suckered” any longer into defending other nations’ self-interest.

That was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. I cannot help but wonder what the troops in Iraq thought when they heard the commander in chief describe their hazardous duty as acting on behalf of a nation that had been “suckered” into sending men and women into harm’s way. Doesn’t that sound as though he is cheapening their work, that he is demeaning the danger they face?

I couldn’t help but think of how I might have felt in 1969 if President Nixon had come to Da Nang, South Vietnam, and told us that we had been duped into fighting a useless war. I cannot transport myself back to that time, but my gut tells me I well might have taken serious offense at such comments.

As for the current president, my belief is that the real “suckers” are those who believed they were getting a serious commander in chief when they voted for this guy in the first place.

Trumps do what first couples are supposed to do

It took longer than it should have taken, but it occurred quietly early today. Donald and Melania Trump flew to Iraq to visit U.S. troops and to offer them the nation’s support as they stand in harm’s way defending our interests in one of the world’s most troubled regions.

I won’t second-guess anyone here.

The president and first lady did what first couples — especially the president — are charged to do. They are supposed to speak on behalf of the nation to the men and women who stand on the front lines in the fight against our enemies.

I am glad the president and first lady visited Al Assad Air Base, west of Baghdad. Security apparently was an issue as Air Force One landed. The first couple took selfies with the troops, chatted them up and likely expressed their support for them.

The president should have gone before now. However, he went and perhaps learned a thing or two from the men and women he visited about some of the difficulties they face being stationed so far from home and away from their loved ones.

The presidency can be a learning experience, even if it isn’t supposed to provide on-the-job training for the president. I would hope the president learned something today, except that he routinely seems to suggest that knows all there is to know about everything.

Still, I’m glad he and the first lady made the journey.

Now, Mr. President, please look for a way to end this ridiculous government shutdown.

Trump misses chance to buck up wounded vets

Think for a moment about an opportunity that Donald Trump let slip past him.

The president who’s entangled in a showdown over The Wall, shutting down part of the federal government, could have gone to Walter Reed Army Hospital, or to a nearby military installation to visit our troops.

He could have told them in person that despite the standoff and the government shutdown, the commander in chief was standing with them. Their government would not turn its back on the men and women in uniform.

Trump didn’t do that. No, he became the first president to not visit troops at Christmas time since 2002. President Bush didn’t visit American service personnel in 2001 or in 2002; 9/11 had just occurred in 2001 and the president was in the midst of preparing to launch the Iraq War the following year.

He visited every Christmas holiday for the remainder of his presidency. As did President Obama, who would visit with Marines in Hawaii during his annual Christmas vacation from 2009 until 2016.

Donald Trump had time on his hands. The government is shut down. He spent Christmas Day reportedly moping around the White House, firing off Twitter messages bitching about those nasty Democrats and his failure to obtain money to build The Wall along our southern border.

The president missed a chance to tell the troops that he supports them, that he’s got their back, that the government won’t let them down.

Oh, well, Maybe next year? Hmm, Mr. President?