Tag Archives: Korean War

POTUS pans Biden, speaks well of Kim Jong Un? Wow!

Donald Trump ventured to Japan for a state visit, to meet the new Japanese emperor, attend a sumo wrestling match, play some golf with the Japanese prime minister, talk a bit about trade . . . and then bash former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and say nice things about the world’s weirdest tyrant, Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Biden wants to win the Democratic Party presidential nomination next year and run against Trump. He’s taking the fight right to the president, saying some harsh things about his tenure in the White House.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un — who Trump has said he “loves” — launched missiles while threatening our allies in the region. What does the president say about Kim? He has faith that Kim will keep the promises he made to Trump to, oh, dismantle his nuclear weapons program.

Except that intelligence experts say he is doing no such thing. They say he is accelerating the development of those weapons.

It’s really strange, the way I see it.

A U.S. president attacks a potential foe while standing on foreign soil and then makes an expression of good faith about a man who is known to be one of the world’s most murderous despots.

What in the world has happen to what we used to consider to be normal bilateral relations? What has become of our inherent mistrust of one of the world’s most reclusive, unpredictable tyrants? Must I remind everyone that Kim Jong Un’s grandfather invaded South Korea in 1950, intending to conquer that nation and launching the Korean War, which killed more than 33,000 American service personnel?

I don’t get it, man!

Our heroic warriors do not ‘die in vain’

A social media acquaintance of mine tells me that Memorial Day is a holiday he wishes “we didn’t need.”

Amen to that.

I want to offer a point of view, though, that might puzzle some readers of this blog. If it does, I will try my best to explain.

My belief is that service personnel who die in conflicts that are deemed to be “politically unpopular” do not “die in vain.” I hear that kind of criticism leveled at our politicians and, to be candid, it makes my hair stand up; I bristle badly at the accusation.

Yes, this nation has been involved in armed conflict that has sparked ferocious political debate here at home.

In my lifetime, I suppose you could go back to the Korean War, which began just five years after the Japanese surrendered to end World War II, arguably the nation’s last truly righteous war.

The fighting ended in Korea in 1953 but to this very moment, South and North Korea remain in a state of war; they only signed a cease-fire to stop the bloodshed.

Vietnam ratcheted the political debate to new levels, beginning around 1966. The Vietnam War did not end well for this country. We pulled our troops off the battlefield in early 1973, only to watch as North Vietnamese troops stormed into Saigon two years later, capturing the South Vietnamese capital city, renaming it after Ho Chi Minh and sending thousands of enemy sympathizers off to what they called “re-education camps.”

The Persian Gulf War was brief and proved to be successful. Then came 9/11 and we went to war again in Afghanistan and less than two years later in Iraq.

We have lost tens of thousands of young Americans in all those politically volatile conflicts since Korea. Yes, there have been accusations that those warriors “died in vain.”

They did not! They died while answering their nation’s call to duty. They might have been politically unpopular conflicts — but the orders that came down to our young citizens were lawful.

I will continue to resist mightily the notion that our heroic military personnel died in vain. I know better than that. I only wish the critics of public policy decisions that produce misery and heartache would cease defaming the heroism of those who died in defense of the principle that grants citizens the right to complain about our government.

I join my social media acquaintance in wishing away the need to commemorate Memorial Day. But we cannot … as long as young men and women answer their nation’s call to arms.

In support of a ‘nation of immigrants’

I am feeling the urge to stand once again in support of an ideal that occasionally gets lost in the hot-topic debating point of the moment.

We’re talking a lot these days about illegal immigrants. The discussion once in a while gravitates toward a discussion of all immigrants. Yes, even the foreigners who venture to our country legally get caught up in this discussion.

I am the grandson of immigrants. All four of them became great Americans. They came here of their choosing. They sought a better life than what they had in Greece and Turkey. They married — in this country — and brought 10 children into this world among them. Five of those children served in the U.S. military and of those five, three saw combat in World War II and Korea; my father was one of the WWII combat vets produced by the immigrants from Greece.

My story is not unique. It is one of tens of millions of stories that the immigrants and their direct descendants can and have told over the years.

That is precisely why I am mentioning it here.

It is that this nation of immigrants must not ever lose sight of its creation and the strength it has acquired from the work of those who came here and who built the nation we all love.

Yes, I know that many of those who came here from afar did not venture to our shores of their own volition. They were rounded up by slave traders and shipped across the ocean to become “property” of slaveowners. They obtained their freedom eventually while the United States was fighting a bloody and gruesome civil war over their enslavement.

Those Americans have become an important part of the national fabric. They achieved greatness.

This ongoing debate over whether to erect The Wall along our southern border is intended ostensibly to curb illegal immigration. In actuality whatever is occurring on our border is a longstanding event.

But as we keep yapping and yammering at each other over whether The Wall is worth the expense, we must take care to avoid that slippery-slope debating point that swallows up those who have ventured here lawfully.

I have heard it said over many years that we need to slam the door shut, that we have enough immigrants here already. Indeed, the president of the United States has talked openly about establishing a merit-based system that screens those seeking entry, allowing only those who possess the requisite skills to succeed in this Land of Opportunity.

That is as un-American a proposal as I can imagine, given the contributions that those four immigrants from southern Europe I mentioned earlier brought to this country. They weren’t well-educated. They didn’t come with special training or skill.

Instead, they all came to our land intent on falling in love with this great nation. They did. The nation was enriched by their presence.

Let us not forget that they are far from the only immigrants who can — and who have built — the greatest nation on Earth.

So long, Chief . . . and well done

I used to call him Chief. Jack Barnes was a retired Navy chief petty officer. I made his acquaintance while I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

Barnes hailed originally from Perryton, then spent a couple of decades defending the nation.

I was saddened recently to learn of Barnes’ death in December at the age of 68. I heard he suffered from an aggressive form of cancer. I am not going to comment on the end of this patriot’s life, but rather on what he did to enrich the lives of other patriots.

Barnes was the driving force behind a project called “Honor Flights.” He declared it his mission to shepherd World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to tour the memorial erected in these veterans’ honor. And to show them as many other sights as they could squeeze into a brief visit to the nation’s capital.

He worked tirelessly with Southwest Airlines to arrange to transport these veterans from Amarillo to Washington. Over time, he expanded his mission to include Korean War and then Vietnam War veterans. Given that the Korean War began only five years after the end of World War II, it became imperative, as Barnes saw it, to bring veterans of that war to D.C. to show them the Korean War memorial that honors the sacrifice of those who fought on the Korean Peninsula.

And, of course, the Vietnam War veterans also were invited aboard these Honor Flights. We, too, are getting a bit long in the tooth these days and Barnes wanted to treat the men and women who served in Vietnam to the same honor he delivered to the World War II and Korean War veterans.

Jack occasionally would ask me if I wanted to take part in an Honor Flight, given my own meager experience in the Vietnam War. I never found the time to take him up on his generous offer.

I lost contact — more or less — with Barnes after I resigned from the Globe-News in August 2012; we would see each other on occasion, at the grocery store or at a public event. But I surely knew of the work he continued to do to honor our World War II veterans.

Of the 16 million Americans who served during WWII, only a diminishing fraction of them are still with us. They’re all in their 90s now. Time is not their friend.

Barnes, though, was dedicated to these men and women and sought to honor them the best way he knew how. He honored them greatly with his diligence in escorting them to Washington, to see the memorial that is dedicated to their service in the fight against tyranny.

Jack Barnes was a proud man who spread his pride generously. His work should live on forever.

Rest in peace and well done, Chief.

Last of The Greatest Generation

Of all the tributes that have poured in after the death of former President George H.W. Bush, the one that gives me significant pause is this one: He is the final member of the Greatest Generation who will serve as president of the United States.

Wow, man! Think about that one for a moment.

The past four presidents have come from the Baby Boom generation: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump; Clinton, Bush and Trump all were born in 1946, the year after World War II ended; Obama was born in 1961.

But prior to those men’s election, the nation was led by a number of men who had served during World War II. Jimmy Carter was born in 1924, but didn’t graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy until 1946. The others all served during World War II; many of them saw action during the great conflict.

Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy and, of course, Dwight Eisenhower all wore the uniform during World War II. It could be argued that Ike was the greatest among the Greatest Generation, given that he served as Supreme Allied Commander of forces in Europe.

George H.W. Bush also distinguished himself during World War II. He was the youngest naval aviator on active duty. He got shot down over the Pacific Ocean and was plucked from the water by a U.S. submarine.

Why is it a big deal to remember this as we honor President Bush? Because his passing represents the end of an era. I mean there will be no one else ever elected to the nation’s highest office who shares the history of the men I noted already.

The same can be said of Korean War veterans. They, too, have grown old. The Vietnam War generation comprises Americans who are getting long in the tooth as well . . . and yet, I hear that former Secretary of State/U.S. Sen. John Kerry — a Vietnam War combat vet — is pondering whether to run for president in 2020.

President Bush’s death serves as a metaphor of sorts for what the nation is experiencing with regard to the 16 million Americans who helped save the world from tyranny. We’re losing these men and women every hour of every day. I don’t know how many of them are left, but I do know they are in their late 80s and 90s. Time will take their toll.

President Bush’s passing should remind us of the need to appreciate the service others of his generation — the Greatest Generation — gave to the nation they love.

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.