Tag Archives: Persian Gulf War

Thank you for the expressions of gratitude

I was sitting with my wife, granddaughter and her parents this evening in a burger joint in Allen, Texas.

A little girl, about maybe 10 or 11 years of age, stood by the end of the table where I was sitting. She waited for me to finish saying something to my family members.

Then she said, “I want to thank you for your service in the Army.”

I was taken aback. To be candid, I was moved almost to tears, as I did swallow hard for a moment.

I had worn a ballcap to the restaurant. It said “Army” with the words “Vietnam Veteran.” You’ve seen hats like it, I’m sure. They feature the ribbons all ‘Nam vets get when they served during that terrible conflict.

What I got tonight was a demonstration of respect that (a) I didn’t get when I returned home from the U.S. Army in 1970 or (b) I never thought of extending to a military veteran when I was that little girl’s age.

She stood at the end of the table with a woman who I’ll presume is her mother. Maybe Mom told her to say what she said; maybe the little girl thought of it all by herself. It doesn’t matter one little bit to me as I write this brief blog post.

What we witnessed this evening is an ongoing sense of appreciation that our nation is expressing to those who have worn a military uniform. It seems to have had its birth during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Communities across the nation welcomed those fighting Americans home with parades and salutes after their stunning victory in Kuwait. I witnessed one of those parades in Beaumont, Texas, and I saluted a flatbed trailer carrying a group of Vietnam vets who got their share of love from the crowd gathered along the parade route.

Who led the cheers for the Gulf War heroes? Vietnam War vets who weren’t shown that kind of affection when they returned home from that earlier war.

A little girl made my day. She made me swallow mighty hard for just a moment or two.

This old veteran thanks her — and all those who continue to thank me for my service.

Here’s a thought: Go after Assad’s house

U.S. military forces tonight launched a few dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian military targets.

Donald Trump ordered the strikes in retaliation for Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons on civilians, killing dozens of them, including children.

It was a reprehensible act. The thought occurs to me: The strikes hit military targets, but why not zero in on where the dictator, Bashar al-Assad, hangs his hat?

It’s not unprecedented. I recall when the Persian Gulf War started in late 1990. The first weapon was a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from the USS Wisconsin, the World War II-era battleship that had been brought back into active duty. The ship’s target? Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad!

Saddam commanded the Iraqi military that had invaded Kuwait. He served two roles in Iraq: head of state and the supreme commander of the Iraqi military. President George H.W. Bush, thus, considered Saddam to be a military target.

Assad is just as ham-handed a dictator as Saddam Hussein had become. He also has a tight rein on his military forces. Therefore, he is a military — as well as a political — figure.

We should hit Syrian military targets. What the Syrian government has done is reprehensible in the extreme.

It does nothing, though, without the approval of the dictator who is in charge.

Make the dictator a target, too.

‘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.


Trump vs. Kelly: Round Two


It fascinates me to no end to watch Donald Trump lash out at the media.

The leading Republican presidential candidate (depending on whose poll you believe) is going after Fox News’s Megyn Kelly yet again.

He’s chiding her for not citing a poll she once cited when his poll standing was slipping. Now that he’s back up again — for the life of me, I don’t understand this — he’s calling out Kelly for ignoring the survey data.

This begs the question about how Trump might react to media criticism in the event hell freezes actually over and he gets elected president of the United States a year from now.

What on God’s Earth is he going to do when the heat gets really, really hot and he makes a serious blunder and insults the wrong individual here at home or abroad?

And as every president since the beginning of poll-taking has observed, their approval ratings go up and down. President George H.W. Bush was at 90-plus percent approval — remember? — when he launched the Persian Gulf War and our troops kicked the invading Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

That was in early 1991; the president lost his bid for re-election the following year.

This is a strange political season. The kinds of insults and personal attacks that used to scar candidates for life now have  become the preferred method of campaigning … or so it appears.

What has become of us?


World is better without Saddam, but …

Marco Rubio said that thing that all of us know to be true.

The world, said the U.S. senator from Florida, “is a better place” without Saddam Hussein walking among us. He told Fox News Sunday that President George W. Bush made the right call in invading Iraq in March 2003, even though he acted on intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be faulty.

Presidents, said Rubio — who’s running for president himself — don’t have the benefit of hindsight when they make critical decisions.

Again, true enough, senator.


But here’s the issue, as I see it — and no doubt others will see it differently:

The world would be a better place without a long list of sovereign leaders. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe comes to mind. So does North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. How about getting rid of Vladimir Putin in Russia? Other countries are ruled by tinhorn dictators and despots.

Is it our place to invade any of those other countries to get rid of evil rulers?

Rubio was standing behind his fellow Floridian, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who (now) famously told Fox’s Megyn Kelly he would have invaded Iraq, too, even with what we now know about the missing WMDs. Bush also, let’s add, is likely to run for president as well as Rubio and a host of other GOP candidates.

The problem with the Iraq War and the precedent it set is that we’ve now laid down a predicate for future efforts to rid the planet of evil men in high places.

The tough economic sanctions we had imposed on Saddam Hussein after the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 had contained that madman. The invasion was unnecessary, costly and far more troublesome than any of the president’s inner circle led the nation to believe it would be.

Oh, and one more thing: Saddam Hussein had nothing, zero, to do with 9/11.

Is the world better off without Saddam Hussein? Sure it is. Is it a safer place because we got rid of him? Only if you discount the presence of the Islamic State.


This is how you sing the National Anthem

Three years ago today, Whitney Houston died tragically.

Many of us mourned her death, expressing anguish at the downward spiral her life took prior to her leaving this world.

I just wanted to post this video to remember one of the most marvelous musical instruments God ever produced.

This young woman could sing like few others ever have been able to do.

Enjoy the sound of her voice … one more time. And while you’re at it, take note of the joy on her face as she pays this marvelous tribute to our great country.

The tank is elsewhere

Social media can be quite a boon to finding answers to nagging questions in a hurry.

The other day I posed a question on Facebook about the whereabouts of a battle tank that once “guarded” one of the doors to the Potter County Courthouse in downtown Amarillo.

I got my answer … quickly. It’s been moved to Pampa, about 60 miles northeast in Gray County.

The tank is now sitting proudly with some other war relics.

I mistakenly referred to the tank as an M-48. It’s actually newer than that; it’s an M-60.

Potter County Judge Arthur Ware put the tank out there after then-Justice of the Peace Jim Tipton — a fellow Marine — procured the vehicle from someone, whose identity escapes me at the moment.

Ware, who is leaving office at the end of the year, told me several times over the years how proud he was to have the tank out there. He said it symbolized some memorial to veterans who had served their country. Ware, a Marine reservist, was called up during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91 and went into battle with his fellow Marines against the allegedly vaunted Iraqi Republican Guard.

The tank stood there for many years. Then the county sought some historical preservation grant money to restore the courthouse. The rules from the Texas Historical Commission are quite restrictive, as they should be. The county sought to return the courthouse to its original pristine state, which in 1930 did not include the tank on the grounds.

The tank had to go. Period.

So the county found a suitable home for it.

I’m glad it hasn’t been scrapped. I also am glad the state historical preservationists stuck to their guns — so to speak — by ordering the county removed from the courthouse grounds.

The county did a good job of restoring the grand old building — while obeying the rules that took an old weapon of war to another location.

Baker says 'I told you so' … in effect

Former Secretary of State James Baker III didn’t have to wag his finger and say “I told you so.”

But he implied it anyway when asked over the weekend about the decision in 1991 not to march into Baghdad and overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Baker was interviewed on Meet the Press and the question came from moderator Chuck Todd: Do you still stand by your decision not to take out Saddam Hussein?

Yes, Baker said without hesitation. Why? Because, he noted, we would have encountered the same problem we’re encountering this very moment: trying to build a nation from scratch.

The mission in 1991 was clear: toss Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, where they had invaded in August 1990. The world would not tolerate one nation overrunning another nation and putting a massive supply of oil in jeopardy. President Bush sought permission from Congress and got it. He then went to the United Nations and got permission from the world body to use force to oust Iraqi troops.

The U.N. resolution was clear: Remove the troops from Kuwait, period. Don’t go any further. The president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff understood what the resolution said and the president would honor it to the letter.

James Baker brought together a coalition of nations to aid in that effort.

What the former secretary of state also seemed to imply — at least to my ears — was that tossing Saddam Hussein out in March 2003 is the source of all the trouble that is occurring in Iraq today. We’re still trying to build a democratic government in a country that’s never known freedom and liberty the way we understand the meaning of the terms.

The crisis in Iraq in Syria has gotten complicated almost beyond comprehension. It’s now up to the current administration to seek a solution. Still, it’s fair to ask: Did we really consider fully the consequences of what would happen the moment we decided to overthrow a sovereign government?

Did anyone back in 2003 bother to ask James Baker what might happen?

Coalition building … then and now

James Baker III is a great American who’s served with honor over many years as secretary of state, secretary of commerce and White House chief of staff.

It was his job at the State Department that has brought him into the discussion over how President Obama should handle the fight against the Islamic State.

Baker appeared today on Meet the Press and expressed — no surprise there — misgivings about Obama’s plan to fight ISIL. Specifically, Baker questioned the ability of the president to gather the coalition needed to destroy the terrorists. He compared the latest coalition-building plan to the effort launched in 1990 in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War.

I have great respect for Baker, but the comparison isn’t entirely apt.

Baker was tasked with recruiting nations to aid in the ousting of Iraqi forces that invaded Kuwait, the oil-rich emirate. The mission was clear and simple: Oust the Iraqis from Kuwait using maximum military force.

President George H.W. Bush ordered the deployment of 500,000 American troops. Baker persuaded allies to send in another 200,000 troops. The allies — including the British, French and, oh yes, the Syrians — sent troops into combat to oust Saddam Hussein’s forces.

The task before Barack Obama, according to Baker, is to persuade Sunni Muslim nations to actually aid in a fight that hasn’t yet been defined. The president won’t commit ground troops; Baker believes we need to send special operations forces into Syria and Iraq to aid in locating targets for the air campaign that Obama has planned.

My point here is that the enemy isn’t nearly as clearly defined as the enemy was in Kuwait. Baker knows that as well. The Muslim nations need to have a clear mission, as do Americans who are weary of sending young warriors back into battle.

The conflict we’re entering now is infinitely more complicated than the 1990-91 Persian Gulf crisis.

Can it be done? Yes. With great care.

We owe our armed forces everything

You know, today would be a good day to offer a handshake and word of good wishes to someone you might see who happens to be wearing a military uniform.

It’s Armed Forces Day. Such public displays of respect and admiration would demonstrate just how far we’ve come as a nation and a people.


It wasn’t always this way.

Those of us who have served in the military in an earlier time remember how it used to be. Thank heavens the nation now displays openly its admiration for those who don the uniform and who thrust themselves into harm’s way — voluntarily, I should add — to protect and defend the nation they love.

The nation’s emotional attachment to our men and women in uniform turned dramatically during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. It was a brief, but decisive action. It came just 15 years after the Vietnam War, which didn’t end quite so well for the United States. Americans looked for a reason — as if it wasn’t there all along — to show support openly for the men and women who answered the call to liberate a nation from the grip of a dictator.

One of the elements of that rebirth that hasn’t gotten enough attention is that in many communities, the primary cheerleaders were Vietnam War veterans, many of whom had been had been slighted and scorned when they returned home from war. We were living in Beaumont during the Gulf War and we watched a stunning and lively parade of returning service personnel who had been activated. It did my heart proud to salute those young Americans as they rode by.

Moreover, it did my heart even prouder to salute a flatbed trailer full of Vietnam War vets as they soaked up the long-awaited affection they had deserved all along.

It’s Armed Forces Day. I hope to see someone in uniform today to tell them how proud I am of them and their service.


Indeed, while I’m at it, I want to give a shout-out to two members of my family — a cousin in the Army and a nephew in the Air Force — for their on-going service to this great and proud nation.

Thank you, Shani and Andrew.