Tag Archives: 9/11

It’s the ‘optics’ that keep bedeviling the president

Donald J. Trump had to know about the damage done by his long-distance feud with San Juan, P.R., Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

The president surely knew it would be better for him to make nice with the mayor who he had criticized for her “poor leadership” after she criticized the federal response to Puerto Rico’s suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s savage beating.

I fear he didn’t act on that when he went to Puerto Rico. He engaged in at least one peculiar public-relations stunt when he was video recorded tossing rolls of paper towels at a crowd of well-wishers. Someone will have to explain to me what that was supposed to tell us about the president’s concern for those U.S. citizens who are suffering from the hurricane’s devastation.

Then he sat in a meeting with local officials — which included Mayor Cruz — and said that Puerto Rico has cost the United States “billions of dollars, but that’s all right.” I heard that and thought, “Huh?”

The president keeps fluffing this part of his job description, the one that labels him “comforter in chief.”  He’s not making the grade.

President Reagan donned that mantle perfectly after the shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986; President Clinton did it as well in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995; and of course, President Bush stood in the Twin Tower rubble, bullhorn in hand after 9/11, and said “the world will hear all of us soon.”

And can anyone forget the sight of President Obama leading a church congregation in a rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the memorial for the victims of the Charleston, S.C., massacre?

Trump hasn’t yet been able to demonstrate the capacity he needs to show in these times of intense national grief.

Puerto Ricans are suffering. Yet the president treats his visit there like some sort of performance on his part.

He’ll get another chance on Wednesday when he flies to Las Vegas. He’ll get an opportunity to show Americans he cares about that community’s suffering after the madman opened fire at the hotel and casino, killing 59 people and injuring 500-plus more in a hail of automatic weapon fire.

Do you have faith that the president will become comforter in chief?

Me, neither.

A second ‘Day of Infamy’ still burns

Sixteen years ago our world changed.

Americans started the day, Sept. 11, 2001, like any other day. Then the news came bursting forth from New York City and from Washington, D.C.

Jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The images still burn seemingly as brightly as the flames that burst from the Twin Towers.

Then came news that the Pentagon had been hit by yet another jetliner. That image isn’t recorded. But the crash hit at the heart of our vast military complex.

We would learn later that morning of a fourth jetliner that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. Passengers sought to wrest control of the aircraft from more terrorists. A struggle forced the plane to plunge into the ground.

I was at work that morning at the Amarillo Globe-News. My colleague came in, stuck his head in the door and asked: “Did you hear about what happened in New York?” I responded, “What?” He said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

My next response was another question: “What’s the weather like?” My colleague said it was gorgeous. I blurted out a profanity while wondering out loud, “What kind of bleeping idiot would crash an airplane into the World Trade Center?”

I turned on my TV. I watched the tower burn. Then I watched, right along with the rest of the nation, the second plane crash into the second tower.

That … was no accident.

And, thus, our world was shattered into a million pieces. Three thousand lives were lost. The families and other loved ones of those who died were shattered permanently. There never will be repair coming for them.

As for the nation, I am not sure we’ll recover fully, either. We would go to war in Afghanistan. Later we would take the fight into Iraq. We are now waging a war without a foreseeable end against terrorists who claim to be acting on behalf of fellow Muslims. They are murderers; they are not religious zealots, let alone leaders.

President Roosevelt called the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii not quite 60 years earlier a “date which will live … in infamy.” It has done exactly as FDR predicted.

The other day of infamy that we’ve all shortened into “9/11” will share forever that frightening distinction.

The enemy is different than those who bombed our ships and planes. Today’s enemy does not represent a sovereign nation. It represents a profoundly perverted ideology. It is more cunning, more elusive than those we defeated so many decades ago.

This fight will require maximum perseverance.

Another date to mark a war with no end in sight

I refuse to call Sept. 11 an “anniversary.” I reserve that term to commemorate weddings and other happy beginnings.

9/11 is none of that. It’s coming up Monday. Sixteen years ago terrorists commandeered four jetliners; they flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s twin towers; one flew into the Pentagon; one crashed in a Pennsylvania field after a titanic struggle between passengers and terrorists.

Roughly 3,000 people died on that terrible day.

Not long after that, President Bush sent young Americans to war against the terrorists. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, which had given shelter for the monsters, fell to our forces. The war raged on and on and on.

In March 2003 the war spread to Iraq. We toppled a dictator, who later was captured, tried and hanged. We were told we went into Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t find any.

What the 9/11 date will remind me on Monday is that we very well may never — at least not in my lifetime — be able to end this war against international terrorism.

President Bush handed the struggle off to Barack Obama in 2009. The fight went on.

In May 2011, President Obama announced “to the nation and the world” that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. We cheered the news. Crowds gathered outside the White House chanting “USA! USA! USA!” We got the main bad guy.

What happened after that? The war went on.

The Islamic State surfaced during this time. ISIS has continued to bring havoc and horror. There have been beheadings and bombings.

The war rages on, despite the arrest of and deaths of several key ISIS and al-Qaeda leaders.

Our enemy is cunning. He is smart. He knows how to hit “soft targets.” His victims primarily are other Muslims, which puts the lie to the notion that we are “at war with Islam.” As President Obama said while announcing bin Laden’s death, our enemy comprises a cabal of murderers who have declared war on Muslims as well as they have on Christians and Jews.

This year, President Obama handed it off to Donald Trump. The new president campaigned foolishly on the pledge to wipe out ISIS and al-Qaeda. He boasted that he knows “more than the generals about ISIS.” He doesn’t.

No matter the level of presidential boastfulness, the fight will rage on. We’ll keep killing terrorist leaders. Others will slither out and take the place of those we eliminate.

How do we prevent more “soft target” incidents? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” from driving a motor vehicle into crowds? Or how do we stop those from igniting bombs at sporting events or other places where large crowds of victims gather?

9/11 is no anniversary. It’s not a date to celebrate. It’s a date that should serve to remind us of the threat that has lurked among us for far longer than we ever imagined.

And it lurks to this very day.

The war will rage on.

First responders deserve our honor 24/7

First responders are back in the news.

They’ve answered the call in recent days to assist along the Texas Gulf Coast. They are responding at this moment to those who’ll need them in some U.S. territories in the Caribbean and in South Florida. They answer the call daily when homes burn, when motor vehicles crash or when people suffer an assortment of medical emergencies.

The Texas Panhandle War Memorial is going to play host on Monday to a ceremony commemorating the 16th year since the 9/11 attacks on our nation. It starts at 8:45 a.m. at the memorial grounds, next to the Randall County Courthouse Annex on South Georgia Street and the Canyon E-Way.

I feel the need to speak about those individuals. We ought to honor them daily, maybe even hourly. We should thank them when we encounter them.

The War Memorial seems a fitting place to honor them. After all, the memorial offers tribute to those who gave their last full measure in defense of the nation. Those plaques that surround the garden contain the names of the fallen from the Texas Panhandle dating back to the Spanish-American War of 1898.

When you think about it, those are the names of first responders of another kind. They went to war. They fought and died in defense of the nation they all loved.

I admit to being not as faithful in expressing my own gratitude to first responders — the firefighters, police officers, the emergency medical techs, the military personnel. We see them all the time. My wife and I — on occasion — have paid for service personnel’s meals.

But we all ought to extend a hand when we encounter, say, firefighters shopping for groceries at the supermarket or police officers having lunch. You get the idea.

They perform a unique service to the public they serve. They run toward danger when it presents itself.

I am left to use this forum to offer a simple two-word salute, which I know is insufficient.

Thank you.

How we do know when we have ‘won’?

Donald Trump sought to offer a new strategy for the Afghan War.

The president told us he intends to base our strategy on “conditions” rather than on “time.” We’re going to fight the Afghan War until conditions on the ground tell us we can disengage and that we’re no longer going to give our enemies advance notice of when we intend to stop shooting.

Fine, Mr. President.

I need to ask him, though, a question that has nagged me ever since we entered this war back in 2001: How are we going to know when we have “won” this conflict?

The war against international terrorism has established an entirely new benchmark from which our military strategists must work. They cannot keep beating the enemy on the battlefield and then simply declare victory. Terrorists have this way of receding into the darkness and then striking when we least expect it.

The Afghan War is being waged against Taliban and Islamic State terrorists who continue to resist at every turn. Al-Qaeda has been effectively wiped out in Afghanistan; indeed, it was al-Qaeda’s attack on this country on 9/11 that launched the war. Although that terrorist organization has been decimated in Afghanistan, it has plenty of other locations that will give it “safe haven” from which it can strike back — eventually.

The president has indicated that more troops are heading into Afghanistan. We’re going to send fighting men and women directly onto the battlefield, where they will work closely with Afghan troops.

The president was more correct in his assessment of the fight while he was running for office. He called it a hopeless and futile endeavor. I won’t agree with that entirely. My version of a better outcome would involve stepping up our training capability to ensure that the Afghan armed forces can defend their country effectively — without further on-site help from Americans.

Does this mean we stop fighting? Does it mean we simply give up, surrender and return Afghanistan to the bad guys? No. This fight is as complicated and complex as it gets. I am simply leery of any notion that we’ll ever know for certain when and how we can declare victory.

How many more ‘worst weeks’ can POTUS endure?

It’s been said over the past couple of days that Donald J. Trump’s list of “worst weeks of his presidency” has become too numerous to count. Suffice to say that the week just past likely qualifies as his last “worst week.”

They rioted in Charlottesville, Va., over a Confederate statue. A young woman — someone who was there to protest the neo-Nazi/Klan/white supremacists who objected to the removal of the statue — was run over in what has been called an act of “domestic terrorism.” The president first blamed “many sides” for the violence; then he blamed the KKK and neo-Nazis for it; then he blamed “both sides” and accused the “alt-left” of provoking an angry response from the Nazis/KKK.

It got real crappy for the president.

A new week is about to convene for the commander in chief and he’s got a chance — or so it appears — to do something right. He’s going to speak to the nation at 8 p.m. (CDT) Monday to announce a new “strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.”

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years, the longest stretch of open warfare in the nation’s history. The 9/11 terrorists declared war on the United States and President Bush responded quickly. The war continued through his two terms and through two terms of Barack Obama’s presidency.

What is the current president going to tell us? Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis would reveal it. He chose wisely to leave it to the president to make his own announcement.

What should Trump do? My sincere hope was that we could end the contest in Afghanistan. That won’t happen. The war we’ve fought there hasn’t produced the ironclad strength in the government we installed when we threw the Taliban out of power in 2001.

The nation will wait to hear from the president about how he intends to continue prosecuting this war. That’s his call.

I’ll just ask one favor: Please, Mr. President, stick to the issue at hand and spare us yet another boasting of how smart you are, how rich you are, how many “really smart people” surround you, and how you won the presidency against all odds.

We’ve got young Americans in harm’s way, Mr. President, and now is the time to present yourself as a commander in chief who knows what the hell he’s doing.

POTUS’s narcissism is without bottom

Donald John Trump Sr. put himself on full display earlier this week.

His ignorance and arrogance were supremely evident when he declared “both sides” were responsible for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., and when he attached a form of moral equivalence between the hate groups who marched and those who protested them.

Then, after his astonishing improv routine in the Trump Tower lobby, he walked away from the microphone and fielded a reporter’s question: Are you going to go to Charlottesville, Mr. President?

His answer was equally jaw-dropping. He didn’t speak about healing the community. He didn’t talk about the victims of the mayhem that erupted. He didn’t say a word about healing a nation in shock.

Oh, no. The braggart in chief talked about a winery he said he owns in Charlottesville. He called it the “largest winery” in the area, maybe in the state … hell, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

The point is that the man’s penchant for self-aggrandizement presented itself in full glory at the most inopportune time imaginable.

Try to fathom for a moment how we would react if Bill Clinton had done such a thing after Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City; or if George W. Bush had refused to stand on the pile of rubble after the 9/11 attack; or if Barack Obama had not comforted the parents of the children slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., or not gone to the church in Charleston, S.C., and led the congregation in singing “Amazing Grace” after that hideous massacre.

Donald Trump should have suspended his vacation and flown immediately to Charlottesville to lend comfort to a community in absolute shock over the mayhem that erupted.

He didn’t do that. When given a chance to answer a direct question about how he intended to reach out to a community in distress, the idiot in chief talked about a winery.

Yep, he’s just “telling it like it is.”

Ah, yes, more ‘fake news’ from POTUS

Mr. President, you have put forth yet another lie.

Doggone it, sir! I cannot let this one go.

You keep attaching the pejorative term “fake news” to the media and your political foes, but you have turned fake news into an art form.

The terror attack in Spain prompted another careless, reckless response from you, sir. Let me remind you of what you tweeted: Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!

Did you say at that hideous press event the other day that you like to “get the facts straight” before you make a statement? Yeah, you did.

The tweet about Gen. Pershing, Mr. President, is a lie. You defamed the memory of one of our great national heroes all in the name of making some sort of stupid and ridiculous point about the nature of the terror attack that killed at least 13 people in Spain.

That fake story you told during the campaign about Gen. Pershing dipping bullets in pig’s blood and then shooting Islamic prisoners to death is a lie. It didn’t happen. So, you told the lie once again today. You put out fake news. You are a habitual, pathological liar. You, Mr. President, disgrace the office to which you were elected.

You not only defamed Gen. Pershing with that hideous story, you accused him of committing a horrific war crime.

I’ll attach how the National Review reported what you said, in case you haven’t seen it. It’s not often that I agree with the National Review, but we’re on the same page on this one, Mr. President. They can’t stomach you as president; neither can I. Nor can the hefty plurality of Americans who voted for Hillary in the 2016 election.

You keep demonstrating time and time again your total unfitness for high political office.

Fake news? You keep blathering that line at any opportunity.

Well, I got my fill of your so-called “fake news” long ago. The Barack Obama birth issue; the Muslims supposedly cheering the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11; the “millions” of illegal immigrants voting for Hillary; your insistence on voter fraud throughout the nation.

They’re all lies. They’re all “fake news.”

You should be ashamed of yourself. Except that shame requires a conscience. You are sorely lacking in both.

Stand tall, proceed Special Counsel Mueller

Robert Mueller doesn’t need an encouraging word from little ol’ me out here in Flyover Country, far from the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

I’ll give him a few of them anyway.

Mueller is up to his eyeballs in probing “the Russia thing” that cost James Comey his job as FBI director … when Donald John Trump Sr. fired him. Mueller now owns the title of special counsel and he has assembled a team of crack lawyers to probe whether Trump’s campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers seeking to meddle in our nation’s electoral process.

Trump, of course, is calling it all a “hoax,” a “witch hunt,” an “excuse” for Democrats who are angry about losing the 2016 election to Trump.

It is none of the above, largely because of Mueller.

The special counsel once ran the FBI himself. President George W. Bush appointed him to the FBI post in 2001– one week before 9/11! He served his 10-year term and then was asked by President Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, to stay on for additional two years. Think about that. He gets selected by a Republican president and then is asked to stay on by a Democrat.

He left office and then went into private practice. Then came a new presidential administration. The new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, decided to recuse himself from anything having to do with Russia. A deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, then appointed Mueller to be the special counsel, to take charge of this investigation.

His appointment was hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike, who all sang in perfect unison about Mueller’s integrity, his knowledge of the law, his professionalism and his honesty.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans now are lining up against any attempt Trump might mount to remove Mueller. They want him on the job. They want him to ferret out the truth. They want this guy to finish the task he has been given.

The only people who are disparaging Mueller happen to be the president of the United States and his closest White House advisers — some of whom happen to be members of the president’s family.

I’ve said before that if the president believes Mueller is marching down a blind alley, that he shouldn’t have a thing to worry about. Let the investigation proceed and then breathe a heavy sigh if it produces zero criminality. Might that be a reasonable posture for the president and his team to take?

Instead, they are seeking to undermine the man’s work and his reputation. Accordingly, Donald Trump disgraces himself and his high office every time he opens his trap.

Robert Mueller needs to complete his investigation. This American patriot — yours truly — has complete faith in his ability to do the job he has been assigned.

Where’s the battle plan, Mr. President?

“I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.”

— Donald Trump, while campaigning for president in 2016

This is one of my favorite moments from the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald J. Trump sought to persuade his (now-shrinking) legions of fans that he was the man with the plan to fight the bad guys.

He won the election. Trump took command of our armed forces. The fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and other terror groups goes on.

Now, though, the president of the United States is angry. Those generals who have been engaged in this fight against terrorists haven’t defeated them yet. Our vaunted military hasn’t yet killed every single terrorist and brought those villainous organizations to their knees.

Trump’s reliance on “the generals” is a ruse, isn’t it? Doesn’t the commander in chief know more about how to fight ISIS and, I presume, other terrorists than they do? Were that the case, then where in the world is the presidential battle plan? Why doesn’t he reveal to the Pentagon brass how they should implement his strategy?

Reports have bubbled out of the White House that the president is dissatisfied with the progress of the Afghan War, which the United States has been fighting since 2001 in response to the 9/11 terror attack in the United States.

The president ought to consider settling down just a bit.

He has a fine man leading the Defense Department, retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis. The new White House chief of staff is another retired Marine general, John Kelly. Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is an active duty Army lieutenant general. He has two four-stars and a three-star general as critical parts of his national security team. They’re all brilliant military men.

They also are fighting a profoundly unconventional enemy. These terror groups took the fight to us on 9/11 and we have responded with precision, professionalism and cold calculation. Our nation’s counter-terrorism team tracked down Osama bin Laden and a SEAL/CIA team took him out, killed him dead.

Donald Trump clearly doesn’t “know more about ISIS” than the military professionals who provide him with advice and military counsel.

And, no, Mr. President, the United States is not “losing” the Afghan War. Everyone in America knew this would be a long slog when we went to war in Afghanistan.

If only the president simply would pay attention.