Tag Archives: Joint Chiefs of Staff

Trump takes aim at the brass

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis _92@hotmail.com

I cannot remember ever hearing an American president say the things that Donald Trump has said about the high command of the nation’s military.

Moreover, I also doubt the generals and admirals about whom Trump was referring had ever heard it, either.

Trump called a press conference on Labor Day and then decided to take off on a riff against the brass. He said the line soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines like and respect him, but not so much with the top end of the chain of command.

He essentially accused the Pentagon brass of being war profiteers. They want to keep fighting “endless wars” because it keeps weapons suppliers in business, which Trump said suits the brass just fine.

Hey, I never got close the brass while I served in the U.S. Army, so I cannot speak with any actual authority on the subject. I just will posit the notion that generals and admirals who have been to war want no part of it even though they no longer thrust themselves into harm’s way.

How do I know this? I just do. I have talked over the years with enough junior- or field-grade officers who’ve seen combat to know how they feel about the idea of going to war. They hate war with a purple passion!

So, for Trump to effectively defame the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the officers who answer directly to them makes me wonder: How do these men and women continue to serve silently under a commander in chief who has no appreciation for what they have endured while serving the country they all love?

Gen. Milley: Confederates were ‘traitors’

U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley laid it on the line before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.

He has staked out a position regarding the naming of Army posts after Confederate generals that is diametrically opposed to the position taken by the commander in chief.

On these matters, I will stand with the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman every … single … time.

Milley told committee members that the officers who signed up with the Confederacy were traitors to the nation and they violated the sacred oath they took when they were commissioned as American military officers.

What’s more, Milley said he supports a top-to-bottom review of the 10 Army posts named after these traitors and pledged to work to ensure the nation does right by the places that today house and train American warriors.

Of course, that is opposite of what Donald Trump wants. He said just recently, via Twitter: “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

I won’t quarrel with what Trump said about how those bases “trained and deployed” these heroic Americans. That isn’t the point of this discussion. The point is about whether it is appropriate to commemorate the memories of men who committed an act of treason — which is the highest crime one can commit against our government, which carries a death sentence under federal law.

As Gen. Milley noted, “The American Civil War … was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution — and those officers turned their backs on their oath. Now, some have a different view of that. Some think it’s heritage. Others think it’s hate.”

You may count me as one who believes in the latter description. Our nation fought the Civil Ware because the Confederacy wanted to retain the “states’ right” to keep human beings in bondage.

Isn’t that the definition of “hate”?

Trump didn’t know about bounty on U.S. troops? Huh?

Donald John “Liar in Chief” Trump likely is lying yet again, which is not even a little bit of a surprise to those of us who don’t believe a single word that flies out of his mouth.

He says he didn’t know anything about reports of Russian government officials putting up bounty money to pay Taliban fighters who kill U.S. troops fighting them in Afghanistan.

He got no briefings from the Joint Chief of Staff; nothing from the CIA; nothing from the office of National Intelligence; not a word from field commanders. Trump instead is calling the New York Times report another bit of “fake news” and says that “no one has been tougher on Russia” than he has. “We stand by our story, the details of which have not been denied by the President’s own National Security agencies,” a New York Times spokesperson told The Hill.

I believe Donald Trump is lying to us, ladies and gentlemen. I believe further that the CIA knew about the bounty, as did the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the FBI, the office of National Intelligence.

Are we to accept the notion that none of these agency heads reported a single thing to the commander in chief? That no one told him that Russians are paying Taliban terrorists a bounty for the U.S. warriors they kill on the battlefield?

I have to ask: If Trump was not briefed, why wasn’t he told? If the military and intelligence officials were keeping this information from the man in charge, then they are guilty of the most grotesque mismanagement of our war effort imaginable.

Except that I believe Donald Trump knew about it … and that he is lying to us. 

Trump is ‘fine’ with Gen. Milley’s regret? Sure … I believe that

Photographer: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Donald Trump says he is “fine” with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley’s expression of regret for taking part in that hideous photo op at the Episcopal church not far from the White House.

Milley, a four-star Army general, said his presence in the walk from the White House to the church where Donald Trump held up a Bible for a goofy photograph to show how much he cares about religion sent the wrong message about the military’s mission. It thrust the military into a partisan political dispute, which Gen. Milley is not in keeping with why he wears the uniform. The entire event was meant to show Trump’s disgust with protesters who have damaged property in response to the George Floyd killing by the police in Minneapolis.

Hey, Trump told Fox News he has no problem with Milley’s push back.

Do you think Trump is telling the truth? Bwahahahaha!

The Liar in Chief’s veracity on anything that flies out of his mouth is open to serious questioning. Were I a betting man I’d say Trump has a serious problem with Gen. MIlley’s remarkable admission that he messed up … except that someone advised Trump to keep his thoughts private.

Unbelievable.

Joint Chiefs chairman ‘regrets’ taking part in photo op

U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been bitten by the military honor bug and his reaction to it might incur the wrath of the commander in chief.

To which I say … good for you, Gen. Milley.

The general says now he regrets taking part in that ridiculous photo op staged by Donald Trump in which he walked to St. John Episcopal Church to hold up a Bible. He was accompanied on that stroll by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Milley, who was dressed in combat fatigues.

Milley said today his presence at the photo op interjected the military into a political scene, which is anathema to the military’s mission. The episode was centered on protests over racial injustice by local police departments. Trump thought he’d respond to it by prancing over to the church and holding up a Bible in a ridiculous display of phony religiosity.

As The Associated Press reported: He said his presence in uniform amid protests over racial injustice “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

There you have it. The battle-tested veteran realizes that he erred in taking part in a stupid political stunt. What’s more, and this could get tricky, is that he well might draw incoming fire from Nimrod in Chief who dislikes any form of criticism from any quarter. When, then, will Donald Trump do? Is he going to “fire” the Joint Chiefs chairman for standing on principle?

Well, he’s done something like that before. Such as when he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia “thing”; or when he fired Defense Secretary James Mattis for disagreeing with Trump on Middle East policy; or when he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for challenging Trump’s policy decisions on the basis of whether they were lawful; or when he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to declare total loyalty to Trump.

Gen. Milley shouldn’t lose his job over his expression of regret. Then again, Donald Trump shouldn’t even be in a position to decide how to respond to the statements of an honorable soldier and patriot.

We are witnessing an unprecedented rebellion

Don’t accuse me of overstatement, because I believe in what I am about to pronounce.

It is that we are witnessing an unprecedented rebellion among former general-grade military officers who once worked at the highest levels of the chain of command. They are rebelling against the astonishing ignorance of the current commander in chief.

The first of them to speak out is the former defense secretary and retired Marine Corps general, James Mattis. He has accused Donald John Trump of being a threat to the U.S. Constitution. He said he is witnessing for the first time in his storied military career a president who is making no effort to unite the country, but is working diligently to divide it.

Then came the endorsement of Mattis’s comment from another retired Marine general, former White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Then we heard from retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with another Joint Chiefs chairman, retired Admiral Michael Mullen. They, too, are appalled at Trump.

Joining them was the former Admiral William McRaven, the special operations command boss who coordinated the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He blasted Trump over his clearing the streets of peaceful protesters so he could stage that hideous photo op in front of St. John Episcopal Church … when he held the Bible in front of the boarded-up house of worship that had been damaged by rioters.

Current Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley and current Defense Secretary Mark Esper have bolted from Trump’s decision to send active-duty military personnel into our cities to put down protesters rallying to decry police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s hideous death at the hands of rogue cops.

The custom has been for retired general-grade officers to keep their political views to themselves. Since custom has been tossed aside by Trump, then I left to presume the former officers feel unrestrained these days from speaking their minds.

All of this, these men say, is antithetical to the very notion of our Constitution, of the principles on which the founders created this nation. The president seeks to dispatch members of the world’s most destructive, most lethal military force to work against citizens who are guaranteed constitutionally the right to seek redress of government policy.

Yep, we have a dangerous man at the helm.

Hyperbole ignores serious questions

Here comes the hyperbole.

Conservative media have begun the counterattack against those who are questioning the wisdom of Donald Trump’s decision to kill the Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader. They are saying that liberals want to coddle terrorists. Why? Because they wonder whether the commander in chief is steady enough to handle what many fear is the inevitable response from Iran over the air strike.

Qassem Sulemaini is dead. I haven’t heard a single skeptic say that the revered Iranian military leader should still be alive. I, too, believe the guy needed to die and I am glad our forces struck down the leader of forces responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service personnel.

However, there is legitimate concern about whether the commander in chief has given thorough consideration about how he intends to respond to the retaliation that many fear is coming from Iran. Such concern does not suggest any softening of U.S. resolve in the fight against international terrorist organization. It speaks instead to concern about the preparation at the highest level of our military command for what comes next.

By “highest level,” I refer to the individual in charge of it all, the current president of the United States.

We all have witnessed too many instances of acting on impulse. Trump orders military action without consulting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff or with his national security adviser. He makes decisions based on phone chats with hostile foreign leaders.

None of us knows the pre-strike planning that went into this raid. I happen to be glad that Suleimani is dead. Many of us have legitimate concern about whether we’re prepared for how the Iranians will respond. That does not mean anyone is more concerned about the bad guys than they are about protecting American lives.

‘I prefer to eat with the men’

Take a gander at this lovely couple. They are my late uncle and aunt, Tom and Verna Kanelis. They played a big part in my life and in the lives of my wife and sons.

I am thinking of them this week as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. You may ask why. I will tell you.

They visited me once when I was a teenager stationed at a U.S. Army post far from home … for the first time, I should add. They made me feel “at home” on the other side of our vast nation.

I gave thanks to them in the moment for their presence in my life. I am doing so now.

It was Thanksgiving 1968. I had completed my Army basic training a month earlier in Fort Lewis, Wash. I got orders to report to Fort Eustis, Va., where I would attend aircraft maintenance school, learning how to service twin-engine OV-1 Mohawk airplanes.

Thanksgiving approached and we got word that we could invite anyone we wanted. I called Tom and Verna and invited them to join me for a holiday meal at Fort Eustis. They accepted. Here is where it gets so very pleasantly strange.

Tom was an Army colonel. He served as a staff officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. He was a decorated infantry officer, earning the Bronze Star with valor after seeing intense combat during the Korean War. He had enlisted in 1943, then went to officers candidate school to earn his commission. He served heroically.

When he and Verna agreed to drive two hours south from D.C. to Fort Eustis, I added his name to the guest list, noting that it would include “Col. and Mrs. Tom Kanelis.”

The commanding officer of our training battalion was a lieutenant colonel. Someone on his staff noted that an active-duty “full bird colonel” was coming and Lt. Col. Wolfe wanted to make sure Col. and Mrs. Kanelis were treated, well, accordingly.

Understand that I am watching all this through the eyes of a late-stage teenager. It was akin to an out-of-body experience. I was far from my home in Portland, Ore. I was preparing to learn an Army skill for which I had no experience. I might be headed to war in Vietnam. I was nervous.

My uncle and aunt arrived on Thanksgiving for dinner. I greeted them as they approached the mess hall. We went inside. Lt. Col. Wolfe greeted Col. and Mrs. Kanelis and damn near tripped over himself trying to ensure that Col. Kanelis and his wife were welcome and comfortable. I watched from nearby and could barely contain the urge to bust out laughing.

Then came the question from Lt. Col. Wolfe: “Would you like to eat in the officers’ mess or with the men.” Tom didn’t blink, flinch or hesitate. “I prefer to eat with the men.”

I knew precisely in that moment what Tom had in mind. He did not want to expose me to ridicule from my enlisted colleagues that I was getting preferred treatment just because I happened to be related to someone who outranked the battalion CO.

We had our meal. I enjoyed the company of two people I loved very much. They made my first Thanksgiving away from home one of the more memorable experiences of my life.

They’re both gone now. I miss them terribly. As for Lt. Col. Wolfe, I don’t recall ever discussing that day with him during my time at Fort Eustis. I hope he appreciated the self-control I demonstrated by not laughing out loud at what I witnessed.

Gen. Mattis comes clean: ‘I had to leave the administration’

James Mattis is showing his class, his devotion to country and his dedication to public service. How? By revealing that Donald Trump’s shamble-driven management style forced him to resign as secretary of defense.

He quit because of policy differences with the commander in chief. Trump, quite unsurprisingly, dismissed the differences he had with Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, a combat veteran and — to my way of thinking — one of the few actual grownups who has served in the Trump administration.

Mattis became frustrated with Trump’s policy pronouncements by Twitter. He couldn’t function while there was no clear line of communication between his staff and the White House.

So, he quit.

I, along with other Americans, was struck by tone of Mattis’s statement announcing his resignation. He took great pains to salute the men and women who served under his command; he paid tribute to his Pentagon staff and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He didn’t say a word of praise for the president of the United States.

Gosh! Can you imagine that?

Atlantic magazine has published a story telling how Mattis told those close to him about his decision to leave the administration. See the story here.

The bottom line for James Mattis is that he just “couldn’t take it any more.” Who knew?

How on Earth does this POTUS do the right thing?

U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe’s decision to pull out of the director of national intelligence job puts Donald John Trump squarely in the middle of a quandary he seems to have no interest in solving.

Trump selected the toadie Ratcliffe — a Northeast Texas congressman — to succeed Dan Coats as DNI, only to face a storm of criticism over Ratcliffe’s partisan leanings and allegations that he embellished his resume. Trump blamed the media for doing their job in “vetting” this individual.

Ratcliffe is out. Coats will be gone Aug. 15. Who will fill the vital job as head of the nation’s intelligence network? How in the world does this president do the right thing and find someone who (a) is willing to work for Donald Trump and (b) would provide Trump with the critical analysis of the existential security threats to the nation.

More to the point, how does Trump resist the impulse to rely on those who tell him what he wants to hear and ignores what he needs to hear?

Coats and other intelligence chiefs said the same thing: Russia attacked our election in 2016. Trump has dismissed them. Indeed, just this week he said former special counsel Robert Mueller — who said yet again that the Russians posed a serious threat to our electoral system — didn’t know what he was talking about.

The heads of the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff all have said the same thing: The Russians attacked us.

Coats spoke “truth to power.” Ratcliffe spoke quite the opposite.

What in the world is Donald Trump going to do to fill this job? He needs critical thinking. He needs to hear the truth. He needs to be told where the threats exist and he needs to consider strategies to protect our system against further assaults from Russia and perhaps other hostile powers.

Who in the world is willing to provide what the president of the United States won’t accept?