Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Charlie ‘did it,’ all right

My brother-in-law posted this picture from the Texas State Cemetery.

It speaks to the courage of someone I used to know fairly well, but in a mostly professional way. The late Charles Wilson was an East Texas congressman whose district was part of the region our newspaper circulated back in the old days.

He was a tiger, a fierce defender of freedom against tyranny. He had his flaws, such as his partying ways — but he never apologized publicly for the lifestyle he led.

When he wasn’t carousing — which occupied little of his time — he served his Second Congressional District constituents honorably. He also was a friend of the Afghan freedom fighters known back in those days as the mujahedeen. They were the ferocious partisans who fought the Red Army that had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Charlie saw it as his mission to arm the mujahedeen with modern weapons, Stinger missiles the fighters could use to shoot down Soviet helicopters.

Wilson persuaded his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pony up the money to pay for the weapons.

The weaponry worked. The Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan. Two years after their defeat, the Soviet Union vanished from the face of the planet.

Charlie Wilson was one of those Texas Democrats who managed to work across the aisle with his Republican colleagues. In this polarized era today, it’s not likely Wilson could get nominated by his own party any more than a moderate Republican can get elected from within his or her own party.

But guys like Charlie knew how to legislate. They knew how government worked.

Charlie Wilson died in 2010. The more I see the dysfunction that passes for government today in Washington, the more I miss him.

Defense budget plans to trigger new fight

You’ve just heard the latest shot in the fight between congressional Republicans and the White House over a key budget matter.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced a proposed Pentagon budget that, in his words, takes the United States off its “war footing” for the first time in more than a dozen years.


I want to make a couple of points:

One is that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. As the liberal commentator Lawrence O’Donnell noted Monday night, it took a retired five-star general, Dwight Eisenhower, to coin the term “military-industry complex” in his farewell address to the nation as president of the United States. Ike understood the military better than most presidents. Hagel also understands the nation’s defense needs in this post-Cold War period.

Second is that even with the big cuts in defense spending, the United States still will spend more on defense than Russia, China and the United Kingdom combined.

The elimination of the A-10 Warthog close ground support jet is going to raise hackles. So will the reduction in surface ships for the Navy. Same with the elimination of the U-2 spy planes that will be replaced by unmanned drones. The Army will see its force reduced to 420,000 men and women.

Hagel’s point, though, is that the United States no longer will be fighting a war abroad but still will be able to respond to a future conflict while defending the homeland.

Our arsenal remains the most potent the world has ever seen.

The cuts will save the country billions of dollars over the short and the long terms, which is what fiscal conservatives say they prefer.

However, wait for it. The critics are going to declare that Hagel and the Obama administration are hell bent on disarming the United States in favor of domestic spending programs.

It’s untrue. That won’t stop the barrage.

Keep the Army major, Nadal Hasan, alive

Nadal Hasan has been convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder. The crimes entitle him to a death penalty … which he says he desires.

My admonition to the military court that convicted him is to sentence him to life in prison. And by life I mean “life,” as in for as long as that animal draws breath.


Hasan, a psychiatrist and a major in the U.S. Army, represented himself in a trial. He has acknowledged killing 13 people Nov. 5, 2009 in that horrific massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. He didn’t mount a defense when it came time to do so. The jury that heard the evidence offered by prosecutors deliberated and then came back with the guilty verdict — as if they needed any time to actually ponder the evidence.

Now comes the punishment phase. Hasan killed those people as part of an Islamic jihad. He is a Muslim extremist who did not want to serve in Afghanistan. Well, he got his wish by committing that dastardly deed.

He also wants to be martyred. Dying at the hands of the U.S. government would, in his demented mind, earn him martyr status. But not just his in own so-called mind. He also would become a martyr to other extremists around the world who would rejoice at the thought of this individual being put to death by the “Great Satan.”

Deny him that martyr status. Toss him into the darkest hole possible and let him serve his time with other unspeakably violent criminals.