Tag Archives: Korean War

Vets could bring a return to congressional collegiality

I long have lamented and bemoaned the lack of collegiality in the halls of Congress. Political adversaries become “enemies.” They drift farther and father apart, separated by a deepening chasm between them.

There might be a return to what we think of as “collegiality” and “comity” in the halls of power on Capitol Hill.

It might rest with a large and hopefully growing class of military veterans seeking to serve the public in a political capacity.

They have shared experiences. They know the pain of loss of comrades in battle. They endure similar stresses associated with their time in battle.

I posted earlier today a blog item about U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, a wounded Navy SEAL who is among 15 veterans elected to Congress in this past week’s midterm election. Crenshaw is a Republican from Houston. I don’t know the partisan composition of the congressional freshman class of veterans. It doesn’t matter. My hunch is that they are going to find plenty of commonality once they settle into their new jobs and get acquainted with each other’s history.

The Greatest Generation returned home from World War II and the men who served in the fight against tyranny developed amazing friendships when they found themselves serving under the same Capitol Dome.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii became lifelong friends with Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas; they both suffered grievous injuries in Italy near the end of the war, went to rehab together and developed a friendship that lasted until Inouye’s death. There were so many others. Fellow aviators, Democratic Sen. George McGovern and Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater became friends for life, as did Sens. McGovern and Dole.

The Korean War produced its own crop of veterans who entered political life together.

Then there is the Vietnam War generation, which also featured lasting friendships that transcended partisan politics. GOP Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. John Kerry worked together to help restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel both represented their native Nebraska in the Senate, serving briefly together on Capitol Hill. Former Vietnam prisoners of war found commonality: Sen. Jeremiah Denton, Rep. Sam Johnson, Sen. McCain — all Republicans — were among that particular clique of lawmakers with a special bond.

The latest class of vets joins a cadre of veterans already serving in Congress. Democratic Sen. (and double amputee) Tammie Duckworth is among the most notable.

There always is much more to life than politics. My hope now is that the new crop of vets find a way to lead the way back toward a more civil era in Congress. I pray they can find a way to bridge the chasm that divides men and women of good will.

I am filled with a new sense of hope that these individuals with common life experience can cleanse the air of the toxicity that has poisoned it in Washington.

Trump and Kim: a new ‘bromance’?

Donald J. Trump sent this message out via Twitter …

Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen! I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action. Also, thank you for your nice letter – l look forward to seeing you soon!

Nice note, Mr. President.

Any chance you could challenge Kim about reports that he’s accelerating his nuclear weapon development, rather than scaling it down — as he promised?

Remains come home; now comes the task of ID’ing them

Vice President Mike Pence flew to Hawaii and welcomed the delivery of remains that U.S. officials hope — and believe — are those of Korean War veterans who were lost in that bloody conflict nearly 70 years ago.

We all join in the hope that the families of the men who were lost can obtain some closure — finally — to the grievous loss they suffered in the early 1950s.

“Some have called the Korean War the forgotten war but today we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home,” Pence said at the ceremony where officials received the remains.

Read The Hill’s account here.

Yes, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un delivered on at least this one pledge he made when he met with Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

There now lies ahead the painstaking task of conducting forensic testing to determine the identities of the remains that have been delivered. U.S. officials today received 55 caskets. Each of the remains will be identified in due course.

Allow me a moment to put some of this tragic issue into some perspective. U.S. families and officials are rightly concerned about the loss of those who perished in wars abroad. They often pale in comparison to the agony that those on the other side also endure.

In 1989, I had the pleasure of touring Vietnam with other journalists. We traveled from Hanoi to Saigon, meeting with officials, many of whom were in office during the Vietnam War that claimed more than 50,000 American lives. It also has produced a missing in action list of some 2,000 or so Americans whose fate have not yet been determined.

We brought that issue up with a Vietnamese official, who then scolded us — politely, I must add. Vietnam needs no lecture from Americans on accounting for those who are MIA, he told us, adding that Vietnam (in 1989) had about 300,000 men missing from what the Vietnamese call “the American war.” I don’t know how many of those missing Vietnamese fighting men have been recovered and identified.

The point is that no matter how much anxiety we feel on our side of these conflicts, we also ought to extend a bit of empathy to those on the other side who, as fellow human beings, are enduring the same agony.

Only their numbers far exceed ours.

Still, I welcome Vice President’s pledge to ensure the return of these missing warriors. As the vice president noted, “Our work will not be completed until all our fallen heroes are accounted for and home.”

Again, it’s worth asking: Why suck up to this brute?

Donald John Trump continues to confound reasonable human beings with his ridiculous — yes, worthy of ridicule — notion that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is worthy of any praise at all.

The president went over the top, around the bend and through the wall with his suggestion that Kim Jong Un is a “strong leader.”

Mr. President, your newest BFF is far more than that. He is a brute. He is a killer. He is a murderous tyrant with whom the United States is seeking to do business.

The president’s quicky summit in Singapore this past week with Kim produced a few vague promises. I was initially hopeful that it might lead to a productive conclusion — a Korean War peace treaty and the eventual de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. You can now put me in the camp of the doubters.

We demanded next to nothing of Kim Jong Un, who in return got a promise from Trump that U.S.-South Korean “war games” would end. Why? Because they are “provocative.” Good grief, dude! What’s more, he issued the order without consulting with South Korean military leaders — or even his own Joint Chiefs of Staff!

Instead, we are hearing some weird commentary from the president of the United States about how Kim Jong Un commands the “love” of his people and how he “loves” them in return.

There is no love being shown officially north of the 38th Parallel, Mr. President. Instead, we are seeing fear, terror and abject brutality that many observers say is the worst of any experienced anywhere on Earth.

Kim Jong Un has merely continued the regimen of horror began by his grandfather and continued by his father, from whom he inherited his role of Dear Leader upon Kim Jong Il’s death.

Kim Jong Un has ordered the deaths of members of his own family!

This is the guy upon whom the president is heaping praise.

Sickening.

Trump tosses truth into the crapper

Donald John “Liar in Chief” Trump’s disdain for the truth has taken an amazing new turn — if that is possible.

He came out of his summit with North Korean dictator/despot Kim Jong Un and declared how “thousands” of parents of missing Korean War veterans begged him to get their remains returned to the United States for proper burial.

The president then said it again today in an extraordinary — and bizarre — media “availability” at the White House.

Let’s back it up a bit, shall we?

The Korean War ceasefire took effect in 1953. That was 65 years ago. A warrior who was lost at the very end of the Korean War might be, oh, 83 to 85 years of age today, if not older. His parents? Let’s see, they would be at minimum 100 years of age, presuming Mom gave birth to her son when she was around 18 years old.

The likelihood is that these parents of missing Korean War vets who begged Donald Trump to do something about their sons’  remains would be much older. Maybe about 120 years of age.

Thus, for the president to say that “thousands” of these parents came to the presidential candidate — who then became president — to seek the return of their remains is an … outright, bald-faced lie.

He is lying in a manner few of us have ever seen in a public official, let alone in the president of the United States.

I gave up a while ago griping about Donald Trump’s penchant for tweeting policy statements. I cannot let pass this individual’s continuing to lie directly to the people he was elected to serve.

Tough to overstate significance of these talks

It is damn near impossible to overstate the significance of what the world witnessed a little while ago this evening.

Two men strode toward each other, extended their hands, with one of them grabbing the other man’s arm with his “off hand.”

The men are Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States, and Kim Jong Un, the dictator of North Korea.

What they said to each other in that private meeting — with no staff members present — remains a secret at this moment. We’ll find out likely as the president wings his way back home aboard Air Force One.

But … the meeting, the shaking of hands, the cautious smiles and courtesy between these men is a very big deal in and of themselves.

The United States and North Korea remain in a state of war. The Korean War didn’t “end” when the shooting stopped in 1953; the ceasefire merely ended the killing. There is no peace treaty. There’s no document that declares peace between South and North Korea.

Today’s monumental first step marks the first-ever meeting between the heads of state between the United States and North Korea.

Critics of the U.S.-North Korea summit say it gives legitimacy to a brutal dictator. Those who praise it say it might open the door to that long-awaited peace treaty — and it well might result eventually in a pact that persuades Kim Jong Un to “denuclearize” his arsenal.

His countrymen and women are starving. North Korea remains a desperately poor nation. Yet the dictator has continued to tons of money into a weapons system the country cannot afford.

Have we seen the beginning of a new era? Is there a possibility that the handshakes, the smiles and the apparent good tidings can produce something — anything! — of substance?

Well, a handshake is a start.

Trump-Kim summit back on … for now?

Just when you thought Donald J. Trump had tossed aside a chance to make peace with a decades-long enemy, well, he announced that he now plans to take that chance after all.

The president today announced that his meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is back on. It’s set for June 12 in Singapore.

The president made quite a show of his decision to cancel the meeting after Kim said some angry things about the United States. I thought the summit was a goner. It bummed me out.

It’s back on. Trump had a meeting today at the White House with the No. 2 man in North Korea, Kim Jong Un’s right-hand guy. He delivered a note from Kim. Trump, curiously, then admitted he didn’t read Kim’s letter before agreeing to meet with him later this month.

Eh? Huh? What?

Well, he’s going to fly to Singapore for what he now hints might be the first of a series of meetings with North Korea. The goal is to get Kim to “denuclearize,” meaning to get rid of the nukes in his arsenal. Plus, there might be an actual peace treaty on the table, given that the Korean War shooting ended in 1953 only because of a ceasefire that both sides signed; there is no peace treaty, meaning that North and South Korea — and the United States — are technically in a state of war.

Can we trust Kim Jong Un? No. We cannot. However, can we trust our own president to carry these noble goals across the finish line? Sadly, no on that one, too.

However, let us hope for the best once these two mercurial leaders shake hands and start talking to each other.

It’s ‘Secretary,’ not ‘General’ Mattis, Mr. President

I’ve made this point already, but I feel the need to restate it.

Donald J. Trump once again referred to the secretary of defense as “Gen. Mattis.” Yes, James “Mad Dog” Mattis — one of my favorite Trump Cabinet appointees — is a retired Marine Corps general. He’s got four stars on his epaulets.

But that was then. Today, the here and now, Mad Dog Mattis is a civilian, just like the president is a civilian.

Trump’s reference to “Gen. Mattis” came as he was announcing his decision to sh**can the planned June 12 summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The president, naturally, followed that reference with a statement that the U.S. military is the strongest in the world and that it is ready to act if the need arises.

Oh, brother, man!

Mr. President, we assign these Cabinet posts to civilians. It’s a time-honored tradition that civilians control the military. President Truman had to remind Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur of that fact when he relieved him of his Korean War command in the early 1950s.

I know it’s a semantics issue. It just bothers the daylights out of me that the commander in chief cannot honor the long-standing tradition of the office with a simple reference to the defense boss as “Secretary” James Mattis.

Get with the program, Mr. President.

What happened to those sweet nothings?

All that sweet talk Donald J. Trump has been heaping on Kim Jong Un of late seems to have gone into one ear and out the other.

The North Korean dictator seems to be putting the planned Trump-Kim summit in some jeopardy because he’s angry over the planned joint military exercises that will take place with South Korean and American troops.

Kim thinks the military maneuvers are meant to prepare for an invasion of North Korea, or so he says. Thus, the summit might not happen if Kim decides to pull the plug on it.

What is happening here?

U.S. and South Korean troops have been practicing for years since the ceasefire ended shooting during the Korean War. We haven’t invaded the North yet. The exercises are meant to prepare the South for a possible invasion from the North; I mean, the North did invade the South in 1950, which caused the Korean War. Kim Jong Un’s grandfather started the fight.

The president of the United States was yammering about “little Rocket Man,” and bragging about the size of his “nuclear button.” He was taunting Kim to try anything at all to provoke a response that would deliver “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Donald Trump changed secretaries of state. The new guy at State, Mike Pompeo, went to North Korea in secret and then the nations announced the summit between Trump and Kim.

Suddenly, Kim has become a paragon of virtue in Trump’s mind. He released those three Americans he held captive. Trump hailed Kim Jong Un as a fine man, a wonderful fellow.

Now we have Kim threatening to upset everything all over again.

Don’t tell me the North Korean despot responses positively only to epithets. That cannot possibly be true, can it?

My hope is that Trump holds his fire. If he’s able.

Wishing for success creates emotional conflict

I have made no secret of my loathing, disgust and anger at Donald J. Trump’s election to the presidency of the United States.

I won’t back down from any of those feelings.

That all said, I am torn at this moment. The president is on the verge of scoring a major success that if it comes through will benefit the entire planet, not just the country he leads.

North and South Korea might be on the verge of forging a peace agreement that ends officially the Korean War. Moreover, they might be willing to “de-nuclearize” the Korean Peninsula, which of course means that North Korea could abandon its plans to build a nuclear arsenal.

The Korean War ended in 1953 with a ceasefire. They never signed a peace treaty, which means the Koreas remain in a state of war.

The president is likely to take credit bigly for whatever good comes from a peace treaty and a possible disarming of North Korea.

He’ll deserve credit. All of it? I’ll wait for that one.

I fear that Trump will boast and brag his way past any good feelings that would result. Believe me, his critics — such as yours truly — will be hard-pressed to speak kindly of the president, which means it will take little for us to walk back the good thoughts and public pronouncements that will come his way.

However, when the president succeeds, the nation succeeds. We all should be bigger than our personal dislike, distaste and disgust that Donald Trump is at the center of it.

I’ll hope for the best on the Korean Peninsula.