Tag Archives: Pentagon

9/11 still seared into our memory

Many millions of Americans are recalling a terrible day that dawned 18 years ago today. It didn’t start out that way, but it got dark in a major hurry.

They’re remembering where they were when they heard the news. Me? I was at work at the Amarillo Globe-News.

My colleague walked into the office and stuck his head in the door: “Did you hear the news. Someone flew an airplane into the World Trade Center.”

I asked two questions: How big was the airplane? How was the weather? I don’t recall my colleague knowing it was a jetliner. He did say the weather in New York City was beautiful.

“What kind of moron would fly into a building?” I asked with all the appropriate derision.

I turned on a small TV I had in my office. I watched one of the towers burning. Then — in real and horrifying time — the world watched the second jet liner crash into the other tower.

In that moment, we knew what we had: an act of war!

The Pentagon was hit by a third jetliner. Then we heard about the Shanksville, Pa., crash involving a fourth hijacked airplane.

We would go to war in Afghanistan. We would toss the Taliban out of power in that remote land and then launch the hunt for al-Qaida terrorist leaders who masterminded the hideous attack.

I will admit to being frightened in the moment. Anger? Absolutely!

I wanted the nation to fill with resolve to defeat the bastards who committed this horrific deed. Sadly, I fear our nation has lost some of its collective resolve. We’ve been torn asunder by a war that President Bush launched against Iraq, telling us that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “something” to do with the terrorist attack … when he didn’t.

To be honest, I remain puzzled on how we “declare victory” in this war. Or if we can ever actually make that victory declaration.

However, the fight goes on. It must go on.

Trump robs Pentagon trough to pay for The Wall

If there was a signature promise that Donald Trump made in 2016 while campaigning for president of the United States, it was this:

I am going to build a beautiful wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.

He made the promise countless times while campaigning for the office. Has he delivered on that one? Hah! Nope.

Mexico has said “no way” will that country pay for it.

Instead, he has just ordered the diversion of $3.6 billion of money already appropriated for the Pentagon to, that’s right, help fund construction of The Wall along our southern border.

Let me see if I have this right: The president is so intent on building The Wall that he is willing to sacrifice funds targeted for actual military construction projects. Is that a form of weakening our national defense network?

More critically, is that even legal, given that Congress has the authority to appropriate money for executive branch functions?

Trump is playing with our money. He is seeking to build that “beautiful” wall with funds set aside for national defense. Yes, the president considers illegal immigration to be a national security concern.

However, what in the name of campaign rhetoric has become of that signature promise he made, that Mexico is going to pay for The Wall?

Shut up, Lou Dobbs!

Lou Dobbs doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he calls American general-grade officers “snowflakes.”

The Fox News business correspondent/talking head stepped in it with a comment about the generals’ opposition to the militarization of the Fourth of July celebration set for tonight in the nation’s capital.

“No wonder” they haven’t won a war since 1991, Dobbs wrote on Twitter, which lit up in return over Dobbs’ ridiculous bloviation.

Dobbs takes heat

Just for giggles, I sought to look up Dobbs’ background and came up empty in the hunt for any military experience. I am not suggesting that military critics who didn’t serve are not qualified to offer criticism of the brass. I am suggesting, though, that service in the military might have tempered Dobbs’ statements about the brass’ opposition to what Donald Trump is seeking to do with the nation’s tradition of honoring its independence.

And what, therefore, does the commander in chief think of the criticism from the ranks?

For his part, the president has been tweeting all day, apparently, about the thrill of seeing the finest military hardware on Earth while the nation commemorates its independence from colonial rule in the late 18th century.

What I should tell readers here, given Dobbs’ apparent lack of understanding of these matters, is that the military high command dislikes being used for political purposes. The men and women who serve do so to protect the nation, not to be used as props.

The generals’ opposition is not a matter of “snowflake” sensibilities. It’s a matter of understanding the mission of the world’s mightiest military establishment.

Get a grip, Lou Dobbs. Stick to business reporting and steer far away from — dare I say it? — “fake news.”

Here come the questions about the canceled strike

The questions have started coming forth about Donald Trump’s statement that he called off a planned strike against Iran after hearing about the potential for civilian casualties.

Hmm. Let me see how this played out.

The president assigned the Pentagon to draft a strike plan against the Iranians after the Iranians shot down an unarmed drone over international waters.

The brass followed the orders and then got the planes, ships and personnel ready to launch the strike.

Then the president decided to inquire about potential loss of life just as the planes were about to take flight? Is that right?

What kind of military planning didn’t divulge that information from the very beginning? Thus, we now have suspicion over what the president told NBC News’s Chuck Todd, that he was “cocked and loaded” to deliver punishment to Iran, but only found out at the last minute to cancel the strike because it would have been a “disproportionate” response?

This is the kind of suspicion that haunts Donald Trump. He seems unable or unwilling to execute a plan the way it should be done. He wants us to believe that the Pentagon’s military planners didn’t tell him from the outset about the casualties that would be inflicted by such a strike?

Please.

Where is the vetting, Mr. President?

Patrick Shanahan’s withdrawal from consideration to be defense secretary brings to the fore the issue of whether he was vetted properly before Donald Trump appointed him to be acting secretary of defense.

The president had said he wanted Shanahan to be confirmed for the permanent job … except that he had some serious, egregious baggage.

It turns out Shanahan was accused of beating the daylights out of his then-wife in 2010.

The media have reported in just recent hours about Shanahan’s history. It makes a lot of us wonder: Is there any vetting going on in the West Wing of the White House?

I have to wonder how in the world the president puts forth an individual who has something so grievous in his background. Does anyone within the White House personnel operation understand that these kinds of things cannot be kept secret? Not ever?

This isn’t the first incidence of senior officials being “outed” over instances of domestic abuse.

Another ‘acting defense secretary’ set to take over

How is this going to work?

The United States well might go to war with Iran. We’re still fighting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and who knows where else. The Pentagon has just ordered another 1,000 American troops into the Persian Gulf region.

Against that backdrop, the acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, today has pulled out of the nomination to become the permanent defense boss.

Is this another example of Donald Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” in action? Is this how we’re supposed to believe that our national security network is in steady hands?

Trump has named Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the latest acting defense secretary. For how long will Esper be the “acting” Pentagon boss?

Oh, my.

I’m still trying to get over the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who quit because of serious policy disagreements with the president, who then lied about Mattis being “fired.”

Shanahan said something today about wanting to spend more time with his children. Trump said Shanahan had done a great job as the acting defense secretary. There were reports of a domestic disturbance in 2010 with his now former wife, which might have played a part in his decision to pull out of the effort to be confirmed as permanent defense secretary.

The revolving door keeps on turning at the Pentagon. It is happening at a time of tremendous national peril.

What in the world can possibly go wrong without a strong hand at the Pentagon helm?

Frightening.

Jon Stewart stands up for our heroes

Forgive me for using a word that I have contended over the years has been misused, but I’m going to use it anyway.

Jon Stewart is my newest hero. He stood up today for the first responders, the men and women who rushed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11. He sat before a House Judiciary subcommittee and excoriated the House members for failing to act to protect those heroic first responders.

He spoke for millions of Americans who want the government to deliver on the promise it made 18 years ago, that it would ensure that the first responders — the firefighters, police officers, medical personnel, military members — would always have the medical protection they would require if the needs arose.

The comedian, producer and writer spoke of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund that has yet to be extended. Why? Because the Senate cannot muster up the guts to do what it should do, which is provide the money set aside for the fund; the House has approved this legislation, but it goes to the Senate essentially to die.

Steward acknowledged that he sounded “angry and undiplomatic” but still spoke forcefully to House members. Were they moved in any form by what Stewart said? I have no clue. They should have been moved.

He berated House members for their “callous indifference” and their “rank hypocrisy” as it relates to the 9/11 victims fund. He noted that first responders have died from illnesses related directly to their exposure during those first horrific hours after the terrorist attacks.

Jon Stewart put on a rare display of visceral anger coming from a celebrity who happens also to be a taxpayer, a citizen and a man whose voice needs to be heard.

Will those who serve in our federal government answer the call to stand behind those who risked their lives on their behalf?

Yes, those responders are the real heroes in this discussion. I want to salute Jon Stewart, too, for the courage he exhibited in giving Congress the a**-chewing it deserves.

Actually, Mr. Acting WH CoS, it is a big deal

The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went on the record this morning by declaring that the kerfuffle over the USS John McCain is “much ado about nothing.”

It’s not a big deal, he told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd.

OK, actually it is a big deal, sir. It’s not the stuff of political cataclysms. But it’s a big enough deal for the Pentagon to implore the White House to stop politicizing the military.

You know the story. Donald Trump traveled to Japan for a state visit. The U.S. Navy, it has been confirmed, issued an order to hide the name of a U.S. destroyer, the USS John McCain, from the president’s view. Trump and the late senator from Arizona, Republican John McCain, were political adversaries. They had said some nasty things about each other. Trump once denigrated McCain’s heroic service as a Vietnam War prisoner by saying he was a hero “only because he was captured.”

The idea that the Navy — where McCain served with distinction until he entered politics in the early 1980s — would be used as a cudgel to beat on the namesake of a warship is an act of cheap politics. It has no place in the military.

The White House has said that Trump played no role in the shielding of the name. The president has said he “wouldn’t do that.” I’ll accept the denials of direct presidential involvement.

However, the matter is a big deal insofar as it dragged the military into a political dispute.

Once more, with extreme vigor: The men and women who serve in all branches of the military do not act as tools in political struggles; they take an oath to protect the rest of us from foreign adversaries.

Thus, the political directive that drags the military into the midst of a domestic dispute is a big deal.

Guy with no experience to lead Pentagon? Oh … wait!

Donald Trump has decided that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan should get the job on a more permanent basis.

Thus, he is nominating the former Boeing Co. executive to lead the world’s mightiest military apparatus.

Shanahan would seek to fill a huge void created by the resignation in late 2018 of former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over differences he had with the president’s defense policy.

OK, the critics are out already regarding Shanahan. They say that his lack of any defense experience does not commend him to this job.

I must say: Whoa! Wait a minute!

In 1961, another president, John F. Kennedy, named a Ford Inc., executive, Robert McNamara, to lead the Pentagon. McNamara had the same zero defense experience that Shanahan would bring to his new job.

Now, it’s a highly debatable point that McNamara did a good job as defense secretary. He did lie to the public about whether the nation was winning the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He kept the truth from us until the mid-1990s, when he wrote in a book that he knew as early as 1963 that Vietnam was essentially a lost cause.

His lack of experience, though, likely didn’t play a part in McNamara’s big-league deception.

Do I wish the president could find someone with the chops that James Mattis brought to the post? Sure. Then again, would another revered general-grade officer — such as Mattis — last any longer than the retired Marine did? Likely not.

Still, let’s not dismiss Patrick Shanahan just because he doesn’t have prior government experience.

National emergency draws bipartisan criticism

Donald Trump might declare a national emergency.

His rationale is to spend $5 billion to build The Wall on our border with Mexico. The president cannot get Congress to approve it. So he has shut down part of the government. Now he’s considering whether to invoke some form of executive authority that a number of constitutional scholars believe is illegal.

OK, then. What happens now?

Congressional Democrats — no surprise there — are sounding the alarm. You can’t do that, Mr. President, they say. We’re going to sue. This is a reach way beyond the presidential grasp, they contend.

Oh, but wait! Congressional Republicans are sounding a note of wariness as well. None other than U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the former chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee — and a committed Republican — says declaring an emergency and deploying military personnel to build The Wall is not in keeping with the Pentagon’s mission.

Other congressional GOP members want the shutdown to end. They want to reopen the government and they want to then resume negotiations to seek a solution to this border security matter.

The U.S. Constitution gives government funding responsibility to Congress. The president does have executive authority, to be sure. However, it remains an open question whether he can re-direct funds appropriated for defense needs to build The Wall that the president believes is a response to threats to our national security.

Except that there is no national threat occurring on our southern border.

Yes, we need to curb illegal immigration. The number of illegal immigrants crossing the border has decreased over many years. The president would have us believe that criminals are “pouring” into the country. They are posing an immediate threat to our national well-being, he says.

It’s a fantasy. Donald Trump is trying to keep a campaign promise he never should have made in the first place, but he did. Now he’s on the hook. He believes he needs to keep it.

I almost forgot! The most significant part of that pledge to build The Wall was that Mexico was going to pay for it. Mexico won’t pay, but Trump then declared in his 10-minute Oval Office talk Tuesday night that a new trade deal with Mexico is going to pay for The Wall. He didn’t say how that would happen. Hey, who needs details?

Donald Trump is flirting with an actual crisis of an entirely different kind if he declares that national emergency.