Tag Archives: Pentagon

Don’t push ‘Mad Dog’ out the door

There’s been some reporting over the past 24 hours about Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and whether the president is looking past the serious grownup he has among his closest Cabinet officials.

Donald Trump announced the ending of “war games” with South Korean armed forces; he declared the United States was nixing the Iran nuclear deal; the president also announced his desire to form a sixth military branch, which he has called a “space force.”

These initiatives all have something in common. The president announced all of them without consulting Secretary Mattis.

Is this the beginning of the end of Mad Dog’s tenure as head of the Pentagon? Oh, man, I hope it ain’t so.

Of all the individuals Trump has selected for the Cabinet, Mattis is the one who — in my mind — has acted like the grownup. He is a serious-minded retired four-star U.S. Marine Corps general. His combat experience makes him a level-headed deterrent to the chicken hawks — such as national security adviser John Bolton — who seem all too eager to send U.S. forces into harm’s way.

When the president tweeted his decision to ban transgender Americans from enlisting in the armed forces, Mattis held the line, saying that he wouldn’t do a thing to change military policy without it going through the proper administrative channels.

Salon.com reports: The president often leaves Mattis “out of the loop” and “doesn’t listen to him,” according to NBC News, undermining this vital role in national security. Trump allegedly believes that Mattis “looks down on him” and “slow walks his policy directives,” sources told the outlet.

Mattis might “look down” on Trump? Really? So what if he does?

I can understand why Mattis, who has served his country with honor and distinction, might take a dim view of Donald Trump’s world view and his utter lack of understanding of what public service is supposed to mean.

For someone who supposedly has a soft spot in his heart for the generals with whom he has surrounded himself, Trump well might be doing all he can to get his premier Cabinet appointment to hit the road.

If that happens, the nation will be the poorer for it.

‘Mad Dog’ making sense on transgender troops?

James “Mad Dog” Mattis has been considered one of the grownups of the Trump administration.

The defense secretary now reportedly is preparing to recommend that transgendered Americans be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.

Is the president listening? Is he prepared to heed the advice of this retired Marine Corps general he named to lead the Pentagon?

Let us hope so.

Trump tweeted a policy change in 2017 in which he declared his intention to ban transgendered troops from serving or transgendered Americans from seeking to serve in the military.

Imagine that. The commander in chief would deny patriotic Americans who want to defend their country the chance to fulfill their duty as citizens of the greatest nation on Earth. The president offered some lame rationale about the huge medical costs associated with transgendered troops.

What critics pointed out was that the Pentagon spends many times more for drugs to cure troops of erectile dysfunction than it spends on transgendered troops.

Now it’s up to the defense secretary, a man with considerable combat experience, to remind the president that transgendered Americans are serving with pride and professionalism alongside other patriots.

Let’s hope the president hears him.

Isn’t it just amazing that a Cabinet secretary with the nickname “Mad Dog” could be so, um, rational?

Military parade in D.C.? You can’t be serious!

I cannot believe what I just read. Maybe someone can explain this to me.

Donald J. Trump apparently wants to stage a military parade along the boulevards in Washington, D.C. You know, the kind of spectacle we’ve witnessed in places like, oh let’s see, Moscow. Beijing. Pyongyang.

My reaction when I stumbled across this item was simple: Are you f****** kidding me?

According to The Washington Post: Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

What is the purpose? I read in the Post that Trump wants to show the world just how tough we are. He wants to demonstrate U.S. military muscle, to put it on display, to show North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, for instance, just how much hardware we possess.

Is this man for real? Does he really intend to clear out the streets of Washington and roll Abrams tanks, heavy pieces of artillery — and parade thousands of American soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard personnel in front of the world?

As the Post reports: A White House official familiar with the planning described the discussions as “brainstorming” and said nothing is settled. “Right now, there’s really no meat on the bones,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

Still, the official said Trump is determined to have a parade. “The president wants to do something that highlights the service and sacrifice of the military and have a unifying moment for the country,” the official said.

The American military is strong enough to have persuaded the rest of the world already that we can destroy Planet Earth with the push of a button. Do we really and truly need a military parade?

No! Let me put it another way. Hell no!

Remember those $600 hammers?

One man’s bargain is another man’s boondoggle, yes?

Sure! Well, get a load of this little item: Air Force One, the jumbo jet that carries the president of the United States and his ample staff is getting two new fridges. Their cost? A cool $23.6 million!

Oh, for the days when we fretted over $600 hammers procured by the Pentagon. I trust you remember how outraged we got over that exorbitant expense.

This one, though, well … I am a bit stunned.

Not long after he became president of the United States, Donald Trump canceled an order for a new Boeing 747 to serve as Air Force One. “Too expensive,” he declared. Trump didn’t need a shiny new airplane on which to fly to this or that location. “Cancel order!” Trump wrote in a tweet.

Now he and his staff are getting two new “chillers” for the big bird. The cost is astonishing — at least in my view.

An Obama administration official said Barack H. Obama “would have been impeached” if he had approved such an expense. Maybe. Maybe not.

However, the price tag for the airborne refrigerators does have at least one defender. Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group consulting firm, defended the cost. As Global News reports: “It’s not a contractor issue, it is a requirements issue,” Aboulafia told Defense One. “It’s not getting people rich.”

While the price tag might seem outlandish at first and second glance, the “chillers” need to be custom built for the presidential plane. They will also undergo strict testing by Boeing and the FAA.

OK. I get that this isn’t your household Frigidaire or Whirlpool fridge. But holy crap, man! Twenty-three million bucks?

Aren’t Republicans supposed to belong to the political party of fiscal responsibility? Of conservative spending principle?

This is more than just a little bit spendy, folks.

Transgender ban put on hold … hopefully it’ll disappear

Transgendered Americans can still serve in the U.S. military. They can continue serving their country, fighting for it, defending our way of life against enemies who seek to destroy it — and us.

If the president of the United States were to have his way, he would ban transgendered patriots from serving. Donald Trump has played a shameful hand on behalf of the one-third of Americans who still support him.

A federal judicial panel has blocked the president’s declaration from taking effect, meaning that transgendered soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, Coast Guardsmen and women and Marines can continue to enlist and serve.

Trump’s order denies patriots the opportunity to defend their country? How can that be a good thing?

He said something in a tweet announcing the transgender ban that the military couldn’t afford the medical burden associated with Americans who sought to change their sexual identity. Get real! As critics of the Trump order noted, the military spends many times more money on medication that seeks to cure erectile dysfunction than it does on transgender-related medical issues.

Pentagon brass declared it intended to wait for a direct order from the defense secretary before it implemented the order. Good for them.

And good for the judicial panel in the District of Columbia for stopping this disgraceful discrimination against Americans who already are serving their country with honor and distinction.

A second ‘Day of Infamy’ still burns

Sixteen years ago our world changed.

Americans started the day, Sept. 11, 2001, like any other day. Then the news came bursting forth from New York City and from Washington, D.C.

Jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The images still burn seemingly as brightly as the flames that burst from the Twin Towers.

Then came news that the Pentagon had been hit by yet another jetliner. That image isn’t recorded. But the crash hit at the heart of our vast military complex.

We would learn later that morning of a fourth jetliner that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. Passengers sought to wrest control of the aircraft from more terrorists. A struggle forced the plane to plunge into the ground.

I was at work that morning at the Amarillo Globe-News. My colleague came in, stuck his head in the door and asked: “Did you hear about what happened in New York?” I responded, “What?” He said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

My next response was another question: “What’s the weather like?” My colleague said it was gorgeous. I blurted out a profanity while wondering out loud, “What kind of bleeping idiot would crash an airplane into the World Trade Center?”

I turned on my TV. I watched the tower burn. Then I watched, right along with the rest of the nation, the second plane crash into the second tower.

That … was no accident.

And, thus, our world was shattered into a million pieces. Three thousand lives were lost. The families and other loved ones of those who died were shattered permanently. There never will be repair coming for them.

As for the nation, I am not sure we’ll recover fully, either. We would go to war in Afghanistan. Later we would take the fight into Iraq. We are now waging a war without a foreseeable end against terrorists who claim to be acting on behalf of fellow Muslims. They are murderers; they are not religious zealots, let alone leaders.

President Roosevelt called the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii not quite 60 years earlier a “date which will live … in infamy.” It has done exactly as FDR predicted.

The other day of infamy that we’ve all shortened into “9/11” will share forever that frightening distinction.

The enemy is different than those who bombed our ships and planes. Today’s enemy does not represent a sovereign nation. It represents a profoundly perverted ideology. It is more cunning, more elusive than those we defeated so many decades ago.

This fight will require maximum perseverance.

Transgender ban shakes ’em up in military

Donald J. Trump has issued another stunner. He possesses an endless, bottomless supply of them.

The president tweeted something today about a total ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military. He contends that the cost of providing them health care is too onerous.

But … does he provide any evidence that transgender service personnel are any less capable than others? Does he suggest that they cannot do the duties of their military obligation? Is he suggesting that individuals who have changed their sexual identity are unpatriotic?

This is yet another disgraceful example of presidential caprice. He said he talked it over with “my generals and military experts” and has determined that transgender service personnel — who comprise a tiny fraction of the more than 1.3 million individuals in uniform — no longer can wear their nation’s military uniform.

His tweet apparently caught the Pentagon brass by surprise; it also stunned many in Congress who didn’t know the president was going to make the declaration. As The Hill reports as well, U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry — yours truly’s  member of Congress — was notably silent on the policy decision.

Read the story from The Hill here.

Congressional Republicans, not to mention Democrats, were angry at the presidential tweet.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said Trump’s policy pronouncements via Twitter are an unacceptable vehicle. He, too, was kept out of the loop.

The president appears — yet again! — to be appeasing his base at the expense of the rest of the nation he was elected to govern.

I am now going to await some evidence from the president that transgender military personnel have harmed the nation’s ability to defend itself.

It’s going to be a long wait, but that’s all right. I can find the patience.

MOAB does what it’s supposed to do

It’s called the MOAB.

The acronym actually stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb. Its colloquial meaning is Mother of All Bombs.

The military dropped one of these devices on an Islamic State operation in Afghanistan. And, sure, there’s debate on why the military chose to use the device.

I support its use. Donald J. Trump promised during the campaign that he would “bomb the s*** out of ISIS.” Well, there you go. The MOAB does do that.

It’s the largest conventional explosive device in the U.S. arsenal. It weighs about 25,000 pounds. It does significant damage.

ISIS has earned this kind of response

Let’s not get too namby-pamby about this device. The Islamic State has performed some heinous actions against innocent victims. It has performed hideous acts with regard to prisoners it has taken — and executed.

I get that the debate about the MOAB is important in one respect: The bomb is so powerful that the military must be certain to avoid civilian casualties, given that the United States as a matter of military policy doesn’t kill civilians knowingly.

Trump — who used to criticize the military as feckless and weak — now proclaims great faith in its ability to carry out missions such as the one involving the MOAB. His criticism while campaigning for the presidency was misplaced; the president’s endorsement of the U.S. military’s extraordinary capability now is quite appropriate.

Thus, the MOAB has been introduced into this fight.

My own view is that the military should use this devastating weapon whenever feasible against a ghastly enemy that has earned the civilized world’s rage.

War with no end goes on and on and on

Brian Castner calls it a Forever War.

The man knows war when he sees it. He is former explosive ordnance disposal officer who has written a provocative and thoughtful op-ed article for the New York Times.

Here it is.

Indeed, Castner tells a sad tale of Americans who are likely going to die or suffer grievous wounds in a war being fought in multiple countries, on multiple fronts, against multiple enemies who likely cannot be eradicated.

This war began, for all intents, on that glorious Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001. Terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York, into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and fought with passengers aboard a third jetliner before it crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

President Bush gathered his national security team and in short order sent military forces into Afghanistan to kill the individuals responsible for that heinous act.

The war was on.

Many of us worried at the time — while supporting the president’s decision to retaliate — about whether there ever could be a way to win this war. Could we ever declare victory and then bring all our troops home? Many of us are old enough to remember when the late, great Republican senator from Vermont, George Aiken, thought we could do just that in Vietnam: “Let’s just declare victory and go home,” Sen. Aiken said.

The answer, nearly 16 years later, is “no.” We cannot make such a declaration about the Forever War.

Castner’s essay centers on the death of a 42-year-old sailor, Scott Dayton, who became the first American to die in combat in Syria. Castner’s Forever War has now expanded to that country, where we are working with Syrian resistance forces against the government of Bashar al Assad and against the Islamic State.

Castner writes: “The longest conflict in American history — from Afghanistan to Iraq, to high-value target missions throughout Africa and the Middle East — has resulted in the nation’s first sustained use of the all-volunteer military, wounding and killing more and more service members who resemble Scotty: parents, spouses, career men and women.”

Then he writes: “The Forever War is unlikely to end soon, and for those not in the military, continued voluntary service in this perpetual conflict can be hard to understand. Popular explanations — poor outside job prospects, educational enticements, the brashness of youth — don’t hold up under scrutiny.”

I would challenge only this: A war that lasts “forever” not only won’t “end soon,” it will never end.

We have taken a long march down the road to a sort of “new normal” when it comes to modern warfare. President Bush’s decision to go to war in Afghanistan was righteous, given what al-Qaeda — based in that desolate nation — had done to us. Then he expanded that fight into Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks; the president and his team concocted some scenario about weapons of mass destruction. They were tragically, horribly wrong.

Barack Obama continued the fight and has handed it off to Donald Trump.

This interminable war has expanded now to several nations. How does it end? How do we know when we’ve killed the last bad guy?

Think of it as our nation’s internal fight against hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. How do we remove the last Klansman? How do we persuade the KKK to give up its hate, to stop intimidating Americans?

Accordingly, how do we know when the last international terrorist who’ll ever pick up arms against us has been taken down? We cannot know any of it.

Yet this Forever War continues.

And I fear that it will continue … forever.

No tanks, cannons and assorted hardware at parade … please!

Oh, brother.

I just caught up with an item reported by The Hill that gives me the heebie-jeebies. The Huffington Post reports that Donald Trump’s team wanted the inaugural parade to include a display of military hardware: tanks, big guns, missile launchers, lots of troops.


The Pentagon said “no” to that nutty idea. It seems that the brass realized something that Donald J. Trump’s didn’t understand, which is how such a display would look around the world.

The inaugural parade that occurs every four years is meant to salute the nature of our government, which stipulates that civilians control the machinery. As The Hill reported: “According to the report, the military shot down the request because of concerns about how it would look to have tanks and missile launchers in the parade, as well as the possible damage the tanks, which can weigh over 100,000 pounds, would do to the roads.”

There will be flyovers: The Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines will fly assorted combat aircraft over the proceedings. They’ll be seen and then they’ll be gone. I don’t have a particular problem with that.

But to roll the heavy equipment along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the presidential reviewing stand? That’s too much. It might play well in Moscow and Pyongyang. Not here!