Tag Archives: Pentagon

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!

Mattis at Pentagon? Not as bad as some others


James Mattis is Donald J. Trump’s pick to be defense secretary.

OK, from my perch here in the middle of the country, the retired Marine Corps four-star general looks to be not as bad as some of the other selections the president-elect has made to fill out his Cabinet.

He is just four years on from hanging up his greens, which means Congress will have to enact a law that gives him a waiver from existing law; current statute requires a seven-year interim between military and civilian service. Congress waived the requirement when General of the Army George C. Marshall was picked by President Eisenhower to be secretary of state.

Gen. Mattis has gotten some high marks. According to the Washington Post: “The president-elect is smart to think about putting someone as respected as Jim Mattis in this role,” said a former senior Pentagon official. “He’s a warrior, scholar and straight shooter — literally and figuratively. He speaks truth to everyone and would certainly speak truth to this new commander in chief.”

The new president will need some truth-tellers in his inner circle. I would hope that Mattis provides that role.

Mattis is a former head of the Central Command and has extensive experience plotting military strategy in the Middle East. He’s a tough dude.

He’s also a blunt talker who’s spoken ill of the nuclear deal hammered out by the Obama administration that seeks to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.


Still, I kind of like this selection as defense boss. Mattis is far superior for this post than Betsy DeVos is for education secretary, Jeff Sessions is for attorney general and — oh, perish the thought — Sarah Palin could be if Trump picks her to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It is rather fascinating, though, that an individual who said he knows “more about ISIS than the generals, believe me,” would pick one of those generals to lead the nation’s military establishment and, thus, carry the fight to the Islamic State.

My strong hunch is that Trump doesn’t know more about ISIS than Gen. James Mattis.

U.S. redoubles efforts to protect civilian lives

drone strikes

U.S. drone strikes have killed perhaps as many as 116 civilians since 2009, according to the White House.

What, then, is the response from the commander in chief, Barack Obama? He issued an executive order today that redoubles our military’s efforts to avoid killing civilians in future drone strikes.

I can hear it now from critics of the president.

* He’s soft on terrorists.

* Obama isn’t really committed to killing Islamic killers.

* We’re trying to conduct a “politically correct” air war against these monsters.

It’s all crap!

What the executive order signifies to me is that we’re better than the bad guys, who actually target civilians. They seek to go after so-called “soft targets” at airport terminals, train stations, shopping malls, schools, residential neighborhoods.

Our aim in launching these manned and unmanned air strikes has been to take out military targets — which we are doing with considerable effectiveness.


The White House figures are at odds with some independent estimates of civilian deaths, which place the number a good bit greater.

However, let us not give short shrift to U.S. military policy that seeks to minimize these deaths.

Sure, we didn’t always follow that doctrine. U.S. aerial bombardments during World War II targeted civilian population centers specifically. But that was then.

We are able in this modern age to launch air strikes with remarkable precision and accuracy. Are they always successful? Are we able to carry these strikes without inflicting death and injury on civilians? Of course not.

We shouldn’t change our standards to match the barbarism committed by our enemies.

‘Rolling Thunder 2.0’ … perhaps?


Bring on the B-52s.

The Pentagon has deployed an unspecified number of the Cold War-era strategic bombers to Qatar to take part in the fight against the Islamic State.

The brass says the aircraft bring “multi-platform” forms of firepower to rein down on the terrorists. The Air Force describes the weaponry as precise and finely tuned to hit military targets.

Good to hear!

The B-52 remains one of the U.S. Air Force’s most potent weapons. It went into operation in the 1950s and has gone through several upgrades over the decades.

It poured thousands of tons of ordnance on North Vietnamese and Viet Cong targets during the Vietnam War. The planes played a key role in softening up Iraqi troop positions during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91.

Now the Islamic State is about to feel the wrath of a weapon that our nation’s enemies always have feared on the battlefield.

My very first visual sight of the Vietnam War occurred as I peered out the window of a jetliner en route to Bien Hoa, South Vietnam in the spring of 1969. I looked down and saw a flight of the big birds flying out over the ocean after, I presume, completing a bombing run over South Vietnam.

Once I settled in at our Army aviation base near Da Nang, I could hear the thunder to our west as the planes fulfilled their mission. It was music to our ears, but it meant something quite different to those on the receiving end.

I welcome the news of the B-52 coming back into active wartime duty. I’m quite certain the terrorists who are about to find themselves on the receiving end of some serious pain will not.


No, Mr. Trump, ‘Islam’ doesn’t hate us


Islam hates America?

That’s what Republican Party presidential campaign frontrunner Donald J. Trump has asserted in his latest broadside against nearly 2 billion of the world’s residents.

No sir. You are wrong!

Trump’s assertion goes far afield from what we know.

It is that a radical portion of the Islamic religion has perverted the doctrine espoused by a great religion. They are not true Muslims. They are cultists. They are murderers. They are religious perverts.

The men who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon on 9/11 were not God-fearing Muslims. They were murderers, pure and simple.

Sure, these individuals hate Americans. They also hate Europeans. Moreover, they also hate fellow Muslims.

Let us realize that the largest number of casualties who’ve been injured and killed by terror attacks around the world are Muslims.

Trump’s false assertion became a brief talking point tonight at the Republican debate in Miami. Sen. Marco Rubio challenged Trump by suggesting that the reality TV celebrity is wrong to suggest that hatred for America is somehow codified in the Quran.

It’s not.

Donald Trump cannot be allowed to get away with this continued fear- and hate-mongering along the presidential campaign trail.