Tag Archives: Iraq War

Honoring a new ‘Greatest Generation’

I am re-reading a book I’ve owned for a couple of decades.

The great broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw penned “The Greatest Generation” to pay tribute to the men and women who saved the world from tyranny during World War II.

Brokaw’s thesis is one that I still accept, that those 16 million Americans who answered the call to fight a global war on two fronts — in Europe and the Pacific — exhibited unparalleled devotion. They served “for the duration” of the war. They finished the job and came home to start their lives.

I’m reading the book, though, with a slightly different take than I had when I picked it up the first time.

The current generation of fighting men and women is rising to the level of devotion and dedication that my father’s generation did more than 70 years ago.

Under vastly different circumstances, to be sure.

They are fighting an enemy that is every bit as cunning and resourceful as the Nazis were in Europe and the Japanese were in the Pacific. These terrorists against whom we keep sending these young Americans to fight are ruthless and dedicated to the perverted principles they are following.

Today’s generation of young American warriors is facing multiple deployments onto the battlefield in Afghanistan and other places — some of which are undisclosed. Four Army Special Forces troops died recently in Niger, bringing into the open a deployment few Americans knew was under way.

I long have saluted my father for his contribution to fighting tyranny during World War II. I am proud of what he did as a sailor who saw more than his share of combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

I also want to salute other members of my family who’ve thrust themselves into harm’s way during the current war against international terror. My cousin served multiple Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a nephew who drove an Army tank into Iraq when that war broke out in March 2003; he would return to Iraq for a second tour.

The war on terror just might be a conflict that has no end. There might not be any way for the United States to declare total victory as this country was able to do in 1945. The enemy surrendered unconditionally, giving The Greatest Generation of Americans its ticket home.

Can we achieve a similar end to the current war? I am trying to imagine how that gets done.

Meantime, the current generation keeps fighting. These young Americans have earned their status as the newest Greatest Generation.

I am proud of them beyond measure.

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.

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 2

Donald J. Trump has complicated what ought to be the simplest of Kim Jong Un’s reported demands of the United States of America.

He wants guarantees that he can keep his job as North Korea’s strongman. 

In other words, no “regime change.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounded semi-conciliatory in that regard the other day when he said that United States has no interest in overthrowing Kim and seeks a “diplomatic solution” to the growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Then the president chimed in with comments threatening “fire and fury” and saying that U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in case Kim decides to make any “overt threats” against the United States or its allies.

The term “locked and loaded” means, in military terms, that your weapon is loaded and that you’ve put the first round in the chamber. You’re set to fire said weapon. Is that what the commander in chief meant? Are we now set to launch a first strike against the North Koreans?

Kim is thought to be mindful of past U.S. military actions, providing him with cause to make the demand that he not be tossed out by an invading force.

I present you the March 2013 U.S. invasion of Iraq , which was launched for the expressed purpose of ridding Iraq of its own dictator, the late Saddam Hussein.

President George W. Bush and his national security team told us Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” which became the primary selling point for launching the invasion. Our military launched a full frontal assault. It got to Baghdad. We scoured the country from stem to stern looking for WMD. We found none. Nothin’, man.

Oh, we eventually pulled Saddam out of that spider hole. The Iraqis put him on trial, convicted him of crimes against humanity — and hanged him.

Kim doesn’t want that to happen to himself or his closest sycophants.

The secretary of state is trying to sound a reasoned, rational tone. The president, though, keeps pre-empting him with talk of an entirely different nature. What’s more, the secretary of state does serve at the pleasure of the president.

Cheers have ‘Mission Accomplished’ ring to them

All that back-slapping and high-fiving at the White House today seems a bit premature — to say the very least.

Congressional Republicans sauntered down from Capitol Hill to the White House to congratulate themselves for approving a measure that repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with the American Health Care Act.

“Today we made history by taking the first important step toward rescuing hardworking families from the failures and skyrocketing costs of Obamacare,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise,  R-La., said in a statement.

They all are members of the House of Representatives. The bill, which passed 217-213 — with zero Democratic votes — now must go to the Senate, where their fellow Republicans are sending signals that the House bill is dead on arrival. It’s a goner. The Senate is going to craft an entirely different bill.

As The Hill reported: “The bill, known as the American Health Care Act, repeals the core elements of ObamaCare, including its subsidies to help people get insurance coverage, expansion of Medicaid, taxes and mandates for people to get coverage.

“In its place, the bill provides a new tax credit aimed at helping people buy insurance, though it would provide less help than ObamaCare to low-income people.”

The Hill also reported: “The measure is expected to undergo a major overhaul in the Senate, especially on the Medicaid front, where several Republican senators from states that accepted the expansion are wary of cutting it off.”

Cheers are quite premature

I was reminded of another celebratory moment in recent U.S. history.

It was in 2003 and President George W. Bush flew onto the deck of an aircraft carrier, jumped out of the jet aircraft wearing a flight suit, changed his duds and then delivered a speech under a banner that declared “Mission Accomplished.”

The president was saluting the capture of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, who our troops pulled out of a spider hole in which he was hiding. The Iraqi dictator was put on trial, convicted and hanged.

The Iraq War, though, raged on … and on … and on. Thousands of American service personnel were killed and injured for years as they sought to bring the fighting under control.

The “Mission Accomplished” banner was premature in the extreme.

So was today’s GOP cork-popping at the White House.

‘W’ trying, perhaps, to be too cute with his critiques

George W. Bush is saying he doesn’t want to “criticize” his successors as president of the United States.

Then he says things that sound oh, so critical of them.

Which is it, Mr. President? Are you going to weigh in fully or are you going to keep one foot off the scales?

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the ex-president warned against “isolationist tendencies,” an apparent reference to some of the statements made by Donald J. Trump and his administration.

It would behoove Bush to steer clear of references to the Iraq War, which in my view, didn’t turn out quite the way he and his team envisioned it and sold it to the United Nations and to the American public. We weren’t greeted as “liberators”; the fight to secure Baghdad was far tougher than advertised; and, oh yes, we never did find those weapons of mass destruction that the Bush team said were in the late Saddam Hussein’s possession.

As USA Today reported, “Bush said that there is a lesson ‘when the United States decides not to take the lead and withdraw,’ an apparent critique of former President Barack Obama.

“’Vacuums can be created when U.S. presence recedes and that vacuum is generally filed with people who don’t share the ideology, the same sense of human rights and human dignity and freedom that we do,’ he added.”

The former president should lose the pretense of “not wanting to be critical” of his successors. That would be too bad if he did decide to weigh in fully. I kind of admired his declaration that he didn’t want to undermine his immediate successor, President Obama, as he sought to craft his own foreign and domestic agenda. Neither did his father, George H.W. Bush, when he turned the presidency over to the man who defeated his re-election effort, Bill Clinton.

If Bush 43 is going to speak critically of current policy, then he just ought to say so and cease trying to sugarcoat it with “I don’t intend to criticize anyone” statements.

Actually, Mr. President, I get what you are trying to say.

‘Mad Dog’ emerges as reasonable, sane adviser

Let me see a show of hands. Who among you ever thought that a man with a nickname “Mad Dog” would emerge as a reasoned, thoughtful and nuanced secretary of defense?

Well, me neither.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis has emerged as just that person. I want to sing the praises of the defense secretary, who over the weekend had the courage to speak reasonably — and in direct contradiction — to a reckless declaration that the president of the United States had made.

Mattis made a quick trip to Iraq and proclaimed that the United States will not seize Iraqi oil. Donald J. Trump famously said he intended to do that very thing if he were elected president. The idea, Trump said, was to deprive the Islamic State of the revenue it gleans from oil to fund its terrorist activities.

Gen. Mattis said, um, no … we aren’t going to do that.

Mattis is becoming arguably my favorite Cabinet official in the Trump administration. Heaven knows that there aren’t many of them for which I would express such admiration.

It is reasonable to wonder if Mattis is going to last for the duration of Trump’s term. Trump is known to be an impulsive, not terribly thoughtful individual. He says things that pop into his noggin without ever considering the consequences of what he says.

Seizing the Iraqi oil fields was one of those ill-considered statements. Ain’t no way we can do that cleanly and without shedding a lot of American blood.

Mattis, career military man that he is, understands a lot more about such matters than the commander in chief. I am delighted, too, that he is expressing himself with the confidence that those general’s stars have given him.

Thank you for your service, Gen. Mad Dog. Keep up the good work … if the president will allow it.

Trump does battle with … ‘W’?

Yochi Dreazen has offered an interesting analysis on Donald J. Trump’s inaugural speech in an essay written for Vox.com.

It is this: The real target of the new president’s barbs and brickbats wasn’t his immediate predecessor, Barack H. Obama; rather, Dreazen writes, it was the guy who served before Obama — George W. Bush.

Here’s the essay:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/the-real-target-of-trump%e2%80%99s-inaugural-speech-wasn%e2%80%99t-barack-obama-it-was-george-w-bush/ar-AAm4gLu?li=BBnb7Kz

When you think about it, the notion makes sense.

Trump didn’t mention the Affordable Care Act, or the Iran nuclear arms deal or the return of diplomatic relations with Cuba in his inaugural speech. Republicans all across the land have been critical of all three policy issues.

His target instead, if you parse the president’s 16-minute inaugural speech, was the amount of money we’ve spend on foreign wars while neglecting our roads, bridges, airports and rail lines.

Dreazen writes: “Take Trump’s comments about how the US had wrongly ‘spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.’ The president who launched those costly wars — and who was responsible for the bulk of the estimated $5 trillion that the US has spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the bulk of the 8,000 American military deaths in the two countries — was Bush, not Obama.

So, this seems to portend an interesting dynamic as the new president prepares to craft his agenda and present it to a Congress controlled in both chambers by Republicans.

GOP lawmakers do not believe we’ve wasted our effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor do they hold the Bush administration in the same highly negative light that Trump cast on it while he campaigned for the presidency. He called the Iraq War a “disaster,” a “huge mistake.”

President Bush — along with his father, Bush 41 and brother Jeb, the former Florida governor and 2016 GOP presidential candidate — returned the favor by refusing to campaign for Trump. None of them attended the GOP convention in Cleveland. They sat on their hands.

I’m going to venture not too far out on the limb here by suggesting that the Bushes are held in considerably greater regard by establishment congressional Republicans than the 45th president.

How will this play as Trump has to work with Republicans who control the flow of legislation and laws? Let’s all hold our breath … and wait.

Come clean with hacking info, Mr. President-elect

Oh, that Donald J. Trump.

He just cannot keep his trap shut. He now says he has information about the infamous election hacking that “others don’t know.”

I cannot stop thinking about the president-elect’s assertion a number of years ago that he had information about President Barack Obama’s place of birth that others didn’t know.

The birther in chief led the rumor monger parade in asserting that Barack Obama’s presidency was illegitimate. He said he had dispatched teams of spooks to Hawaii to learn the “truth” about the president’s place of birth; it wasn’t in Hawaii, the then-reality TV celebrity said.

It turned out that Trump had nothing. Zero. He was full of bull corn.

Now he has information about whether Russians hacked into our election system? That he knows things others don’t know? That our professional spies and intelligence officials don’t have the goods on the Russians?

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-says-he-has-hacking-information-others-%e2%80%98don%e2%80%99t-know%e2%80%99/ar-BBxLW3t?li=BBnb7Kz

Trump keeps expressing skepticism about the CIA analysis, citing bogus intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction prior to the start of the Iraq War in 2003. Hmm. Has anyone suggested to Trump that the WMD “analysis” might have been forwarded by the neocons who comprised President Bush’s inner circle of advisers, that it didn’t come necessarily from the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency?

Stop teasing us, Mr. President-elect, with nutty notions that you’re smarter than the intelligence officers who are charged with keeping us safe from our adversaries.

Anti-Iraq War president picks pro-war team

john-bolton-very-large

I am pretty sure I heard Donald J. Trump call the Iraq War a “disaster,” a “mistake,” a “terrible decision.”

It’s not clear to me, though, whether the president-elect actually opposed the war from its beginning, or during the period leading up to the first shots being fired in March 2003.

But during the 2016 presidential campaign Trump did criticize the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

Why, then, is he going to send a deputy secretary of state before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for confirmation?

John Bolton is a serious war hawk. He believes in regime change. He supported the Iraq War. He bought into the notion that the late Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. He has called for going to war with Iran. At least one key Republican committee member, Rand Paul of Kentucky, says he’ll vote automatically against Bolton’s confirmation.

Bolton is hoping to join a State Department team headed by a designated secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, whose confirmation itself isn’t a sure thing. He’ll have to answer many questions about his friendship with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who Sen. John McCain has labeled a “butcher” and “murderer.”

But this Bolton character, a former U.N. ambassador, brings a serious dichotomy into play.

The president-elect opposed the Iraq War — he says — and yet he’s going to bring the hawkiest of hawks into his foreign-policy team?

I do not understand any of this.

My head is spinning.

Condi Rice’s role on 9/11: How did she escape blame?

condoleezza-rice

Americans commemorated recently the 15th year since the 9/11 attacks.

It was a life-changer for many of us. It certainly changed the way we view our place in the world, and whether we are as “safe” as we thought we were.

There’s been plenty of blame tossed around in the decade-and-a-half since that terrible day.

Lots of reputations have been soiled and sullied.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenet all have taken their share of hits over what happened.

One person, though, skated through it. And for the life of me, I am baffled over how this happened.

We had a national security adviser on duty. Condoleezza Rice was that person. Rice’s task, as her job title declares, was to protect our nation. It was her duty to ensure that we remained alert and vigilant against any threat.

On Sept. 11, 2001, barely nine months into the Bush administration’s first term, it all fell apart.

Why didn’t Condi Rice take the hit? How did she escape the blame that was leveled at so many of her colleagues?

As near as I can discern, her national reputation remains largely intact.

The Afghan War that developed shortly after the attack is still under way. We’ve gotten out of Iraq, ending a war that President Bush started based on false information about Iraq’s non-existent role in the 9/11 attack.

Still, of all the finger-pointing — at Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Powell, Tenet and the rest — no one has laid a hand on the individual, Condi Rice, whose primary responsibility was to ensure that this kind of attack doesn’t occur.

She failed.

How is that she’s never been held accountable for that failure?