Tag Archives: Iraq

This vet got one heck of a surprise

FOUNTAIN, Colo. — I am about to offer a brief illustration of just how far this country has come in its treatment of Vietnam War veterans.

It has come a long way from the bad old days when vets from that conflict were treated with maximum disrespect and, dare I say, dishonor.

We ventured to this city to meet with good friends. They recommended a place they were anxious to try out. It’s called “Sarge’s”; it is owned by a U.S. Army veteran and it caters to vets. Its walls are decked out in military insignia, pictures, knickknacks, this and that.

The owner of the place came to our table to chat us up. I didn’t get his name, so I’ll refer to him only as “Sarge.” I asked him about his career: He retired in the summer of 2016 after 23 years of active duty; he was an infantryman. “Oh, you must have seen combat,” I said. Yes, he answered, reeling off deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then I mentioned that my last duty deployment was with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which formerly was based in Fort Carson, Colo., just up the road from where we ate our dinner; I served with the unit when it was based at Fort Lewis, Wash. I told him I had trained as an aircraft mechanic and then served in Vietnam with an Army aviation unit and then was sent to serve as a flight ops specialist at the I Corps Tactical Zone operations center in Da Nang.

“The Army, in its wisdom, then sent me to the 3rd Cav and let me drive a five-ton cargo truck,” I said. “Hey, it makes perfect sense me,” Sarge said with a laugh.

Then he summoned one of his employees over, whispered something to him and then declared he was reducing our dinner tab by 50 percent. “I take half off for all Vietnam and Korean War vets,” he said.

I … was … stunned. What none of us realized at the moment was that he discounted the tab for all four of us.

“Don’t I have to show you proof that I served in ‘Nam?” I asked. “Oh, no. You just said it without missing a beat,” he said. “That’s good enough for me.”

This likely would not have happened in 1970 when I returned home from my Army service. Please understand that I did not suffer the indignity inflicted on many other of my Vietnam War brothers. I merely watched it unfold in real time as we all sought to start our lives as we returned to “The World.”

I merely wanted to mention how Sarge has exhibited with a simple act of kindness to someone he didn’t know who merely said he had served in a long-ago conflict.

America, you indeed have come a long, long way.

Here’s a thought: Go after Assad’s house

U.S. military forces tonight launched a few dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian military targets.

Donald Trump ordered the strikes in retaliation for Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons on civilians, killing dozens of them, including children.

It was a reprehensible act. The thought occurs to me: The strikes hit military targets, but why not zero in on where the dictator, Bashar al-Assad, hangs his hat?

It’s not unprecedented. I recall when the Persian Gulf War started in late 1990. The first weapon was a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from the USS Wisconsin, the World War II-era battleship that had been brought back into active duty. The ship’s target? Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad!

Saddam commanded the Iraqi military that had invaded Kuwait. He served two roles in Iraq: head of state and the supreme commander of the Iraqi military. President George H.W. Bush, thus, considered Saddam to be a military target.

Assad is just as ham-handed a dictator as Saddam Hussein had become. He also has a tight rein on his military forces. Therefore, he is a military — as well as a political — figure.

We should hit Syrian military targets. What the Syrian government has done is reprehensible in the extreme.

It does nothing, though, without the approval of the dictator who is in charge.

Make the dictator a target, too.

Hitting ISIL ‘harder than ever,’ but is it hard enough?


When the White House announces that the president of the United States is going to the Pentagon to make a statement, I tend to expect something big … maybe really big.

President Obama made a statement today, but I must say it left me wishing for more.

It didn’t come.

The president, though, did restate his anti-Islamic State war strategy but did so with a good bit more vigor.

It looked like a do-over from his brief speech a week ago that left many Americans — even some Democrats who normally support the president — wondering when the commander in chief is going to get seriously worked up over ISIL’s reign of terror.

The numbers add up to significant damage being inflicted on ISIL, the president said. Here’s part of what he said:

“We are hitting ISIL harder than ever. Coalition aircraft, our fighters, bombers and drones have been increasing the pace of airstrikes, nearly 9,000 as of today,” Obama said, adding that ISIL has lost roughly 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq.

I happen to agree with Obama that we need not send a huge ground force back into Iraq to fight the Islamic State.

To be honest, though, I’m waiting for evidence that the strategy we’re pursuing is actually forcing ISIL’s retreat. The president said we’ve retaken a large percentage of ISIL territory, but then we see reports of ISIL scoring more battlefield victories.

I’m going to continue hoping that one day we’ll be able to hear a presidential statement — whether it’s the current one or the individual who succeeds him — that ISIL has, in fact, been destroyed.

However, I will not hold my breath.


Welcome to the fight, Turkey … finally!

We hear the term “game changer” from time to time.

It refer to events that might be decisive in determining the result of, say, a struggle.

I heard the term today in a National Public Radio interview about Turkey’s decision to (a) allow U.S. aircraft to fly into Syria and Iraq from Turkish air bases and (b) actually strike the Islamic State forces with its own combat aircraft.

Welcome to the fight, Turkey.

The Turks could become the most important ally the United States in this fight against the Islamic State.

It belongs to NATO. It is a military powerhouse with a sophisticated air and ground military force.

And as of a few days ago, it now has suffered grievously at the hands of ISIL forces. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive in a Turkish portion of Kurdistan, killing more than 30 victims. The Turks, therefore, now have skin in this game.

Turkey had been a reluctant ally up to this point, denying U.S. requests to use its bases to launch attacks against ISIL installations in nearby Syria and Iraq. The Turks’ agreeing to allow access to these bases gives our air power a distinct new advantage as it continues its bombing barrage against ISIL.

What’s more, the Turks have engaged ISIL themselves, sending jets on bombing sorties against ISIL strongholds.

OK, does this mean the end of ISIL is in sight, that the fight is nearly over?

No. It does mean, however, that we now have an important ally on our side willing — for the first time — to engage the enemy face to face.

Welcome aboard, Turkey. Let’s hope this development, indeed, is a game changer.

‘Don’t vote for me if you’re worn out by war’


Lindsey Graham today offered the most compelling campaign argument against his own candidacy I’ve ever heard.

The South Carolina Republican, who’s running for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, said it flat out. “Don’t vote for me if you’re worn out by war.”


Well, senator, no worries there.

What he told “Morning Joe” on MSNBC is that he’s going to be the “war candidate.” He plans, if elected to the presidency, to send more troops into Iraq; he also plans to send troops into Syria; he plans to enlist Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and whichever other regional ally will join, to help American troops defeat the Islamic State and then keep the peace.

Oh, how long will they be there? “A long time,” he said.

There’s no exit strategy. No timetable. No end to the bloodshed.

Get ready for battle, he warned.

Oh, if you’re tired of fighting a war, don’t vote for me, he said.

No-o-o-o-o problem. You’ve got a deal, Sen. Graham.


An ‘apology’ for spewing hate?

A Pennsylvania newspaper says it’s “sorry” for allowing a reader to call for President Obama’s execution.

The outraged reader took his anger to an extraordinarily hateful extreme, and the newspaper — the Sunbury (Pa.) Daily Item — in effect sanctioned the reader’s anger by publishing it on its opinion page.


Yes, the paper apologized later after received a storm of outrage from readers.

However, it’s instructive to note the anger that boils in the hearts of some Americans over the actions of the current president of the United States.

The letter, written by W. Richard Stover of Lewisburg, Pa., blames the president for failing to defeat the Islamic State and said that in the wake of the capture by ISIL of Ramadi, it was time for “regime change” in this country. Stover’s message of hate said the only way to do was to execute the head of government by “guillotine.”

Is this what we’re coming to in some corners of the country?

The Daily Item’s apology included this statement: “The procedure at The Daily Item is for the person editing letters to review the content for offensive language and ad hominem attacks. Publication is, however, a signal that the opinion is not one we would readily suppress, which can accurately be interpreted as an endorsement of acceptability — much to our chagrin in this instance.”


Shame is more like it.


ISIS leader killed, wife taken captive … what now?

U.S. Army Special Forces did their job with lethal precision overnight, killing an Islamic State leader and taking his wife captive in a daring raid in Syria.

But as with seemingly all things in this complicated war against international terror, complications may set in.


The Delta Force raid ordered by President Obama killed Abu Sayyaf, who was supposed to be captured alive. That part of the raid didn’t work out as planned. Too bad for that, but at least another key terror leader is dead. His wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured and taken to an Iraqi detention center.

This is where it gets a bit complicated. The Iraqis need to be monitored in the way they treat Umm Sayyaf. The Obama administration has notified International Red Cross authorities about her capture and are working to ensure that she’s treated humanely. I’m OK with that.

However, it’s reasonable to presume that Mrs. Sayyaf may be a font of knowledge about the activities of her terrorist husband. Even terrorists, I’m quite sure, engage in a little “pillow talk,” you know? She’ll need to be questioned aggressively by U.S. intelligence officials seeking as much information as possible about the Islamic State’s continuing operations.

No waterboarding, though. All right?

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a statement: “The operation represents another significant blow to ISIS, and it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies.”

Another terrorist monster is wiped out. Another one will emerge to take his place.

So, the fight goes on.

Well done, Delta Force.


Bush needs refresher on his own blunders

George W. Bush had followed his father’s doctrine upon leaving the presidency in January 2009.

Do not criticize the man in the office now. Be quiet and go about the business of doing other pertinent activities.

Then the 43rd president spoke to a group of Republican donors over the weekend and proceeded to rip into Barack Obama’s handling of crises in the Middle East.


From what is known about President Bush’s remarks — they weren’t recorded visually or audibly — he apparently spoke without a hint of understanding about his own foreign policy blunders in the region and the mess he created and left for his successor.

Iraq? The war he started against Saddam Hussein because he was “certain” that the dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction? The former president made no mention, of course, of the fierce resistance our forces encountered in a country that his defense secretary and vice president said would greet us as “liberators.”

Instead, the ex-president chose to criticize the current president for seeking to negotiate a deal that rids Iran of its capability to develop a nuclear weapon. He talked about the chaos that has developed since the United States went to war against the Islamic State.

Think about this for a moment. The Islamic State has risen in Iraq because it wants to restore a Sunni government that U.S. forces evicted from power. Yes, ISIL is an evil organization, but the ex-president is showing no inclination for taking a shred of responsibility for what has developed because of what this country did on his watch in the White House.

Chaos? President Bush created enough chaos to go around when he launched the Iraq War in March 2003.

I much prefer the George W. Bush who once understood what his father still understands: He’s had his time in the hot seat, which now is occupied by someone who’s doing the best he can to protect the nation all presidents profess to love.


Islamic State: Islam's public enemy No. 1

The Islamic State calls itself a group of Muslims seeking some perverted brand of religious purity.

ISIL instead of the chief enemy of Muslims around the world. Witness the attack on a mosque in Yemen that killed scores of worshipers.


ISIL has taken “credit” for the bombing. Indeed, as it has waged its bloody campaign across the Middle East, it is important to note that ISIL has targeted Muslims as well as Christians and Jews.

Conservatives in the United States, to be sure, have criticized Muslims for allegedly not rising up against ISIL. Muslims have done exactly that. Indeed, is it any surprise that Jordan and Egypt — nations that had their citizens murdered brutally by ISIL monsters — would be engaging at this very moment in the relentless bombing campaign against Islamic State military targets?

ISIL is a Sunni Muslim sect. Its worst enemies in the world are the Shiites who govern Iraq and Iran; ISIL also has been waging war in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

This terrorist organization has done a wondrous job of alienating virtually everyone in the world except those who join the cult.

Attacks on mosques — as well as synagogues and churches — reveal ISIL to be among the world’s most monstrous organizations.

ISIL now ranks as world’s Public Enemy No. 1.


Report: ISIL starting to fray

Can it be happening? Could the Islamic State be feeling the pressure of the intense bombing campaign aimed at “degrading and destroying” it?

The Washington Post is reporting signs are beginning to show that ISIL is starting to come apart amid dissension, tension, frayed nerves … hey, perhaps even fear at being killed by U.S. and allied aircraft?


According to the Post: “Reports of rising tensions between foreign and local fighters, aggressive and increasingly unsuccessful attempts to recruit local citizens for the front lines and a growing incidence of guerrilla attacks against Islamic State targets suggest the militants are struggling to sustain their carefully cultivated image as a fearsome fighting force drawing Muslims together under the umbrella of a utopian Islamic state.”

Well, how about that?

These monstrous goons are showing some signs of cracking.

The Post reports that the findings are “anecdotal,” and might not be totally accurate.

But think about the impact of the relentless attacks from the air on military targets. Does it not have an impact, even on fighters who’ve built up this aura of invincibility? Sure it does.

ISIL might be on the run near Tikrit, Iraq, where Iraqi forces have launched a major offensive against the terrorists in the birthplace of the late Saddam Hussein, the Sunni Muslim who ruled Iraq with maximum brutality until he was ousted, captured, tried, convicted and executed for crimes against humanity.

Yes, the attacks likely are having their desired effect on ISIL. The threat to its existence, though, might be internal, as the Post reports: “The bigger threat to the Islamic State’s capacity to endure, however, may come from within, as its grandiose promises collide with realities on the ground, said Lina Khatib, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

“’The key challenge facing ISIS right now is more internal than external,’ she said, using another term for the group. ‘We’re seeing basically a failure of the central tenet of ISIS ideology, which is to unify people of different origins under the caliphate. This is not working on the ground. It is making them less effective in governing and less effective in military operations.’”

Keep bombing ’em.