Tag Archives: Saddam Hussein

Bush 41 ended the Gulf War the correct way

I will now offer you my brief statement of support for the late  President George H.W. Bush’s decision to end the Persian Gulf War the way he did it.

They’re going to bury the former president later this week, but before they lay the great man to rest, let’s revisit one of the signature events of his presidency.

Iraqi dictator/madman Saddam Hussein sent his army into Kuwait in August 1990. He took control of the country. He seized the nation’s oil fields. President Bush was, naturally, quite alarmed. He summoned his national security team to the White House. They began plotting a strategy to respond.

He went to the United Nations. Bush then got on the phone and enlisted the support of 33 nations. He assembled an enormous international coalition.

The UN then approved a resolution authorizing and endorsing military action if the need arose. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker sought a diplomatic solution. They failed.

The massive force had gathered in the area near Kuwait and Iraq. They were ready. The UN resolution limited the mission to one element: get the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

The president gave the order. The aerial campaign started, pounding Iraqi defenses in Kuwait — and in Iraq.

The armored divisions breached the Kuwaiti frontier and within days the Iraqis were routed. They were on the run. Our fighter aircraft strafed the fleeing troops, killing thousands of them on the road to Baghdad.

Then the president called a halt to the fighting. We lost fewer than 200 American lives in the fight. The Iraqis were defeated.

But some critics at home — notably the “chicken hawks” who didn’t understand the consequences of war the way Bush 41, a World War II naval aviator did — wanted our forces to march all the way to the Iraqi capital. They wanted to capture Saddam Hussein, presuming he would surrender the way his troops did on the battlefield.

President Bush knew better. So did Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Same for Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Colin Powell, who saw combat during the Vietnam War. They knew what the UN mission allowed. They weren’t going to overstep their authority.

The end of the Gulf War delivered for a time a period of relative stability. Saddam Hussein — who never set foot outside of Iraq — was thoroughly contained after our forces destroyed his supposedly vaunted Republican Guard in Kuwait.

The containment wouldn’t last, tragically, after we invaded Iraq in March 2003 intent on removing Saddam Hussein.

However, there can be little doubt as we look back at the Persian Gulf War that we set forth on a specific mission. We accomplished it. We restored — yes, with mixed success — a sense of stability in a volatile region.

Taking the Gulf War fight all the way to Baghdad was a prescription for geopolitical disaster. I am grateful to this day that President George H.W. Bush reacted with reason, calm and with good judgment.

Putting politics aside, let’s honor a great life

It won’t surprise those who read this blog carefully to realize that I didn’t vote either time — in 1988 or 1992 — for the late George H.W. Bush when he ran for president of the United States.

However, despite my own partisan leanings and admitted bias, I want to devote the next bit of time to honor this man’s life.

Long before he died last night at the age of 94, I grew to appreciate the profound public service that President Bush gave to the nation he served with such nobility, grace and grit. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate that service back when he was an active politician seeking election and re-election as president. Time, though, enables all of us to view people and instances through a different prism than we do in the moment.

Bush 41’s campaign for the presidency in 1988 was not his shining moment. He brutalized his opponent, Michael Dukakis, with a campaign that called Dukakis soft on crime and soft on love of country. Four years later, the economy was faltering and I felt we needed a change in direction.

OK, that all said, I believe it is important to honor the arc of this man’s life. Good heavens, President Bush led the fullest life one could possibly imagine.

He was born into privilege. He enlisted in the Navy right after Pearl Harbor, became the youngest aviator in the Navy during World War II; he was shot down and plucked from the ocean by a submarine crew. He came home, married Barbara Pierce, the love of his life. He finished college and went into business in West Texas. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, lost two races for the Senate. Bush was appointed head of the CIA, special envoy to China, ambassador to the United Nations, he chaired the Republican National Committee, was elected vice president and finally as president.

He helped shepherd the end of communism in Europe. He watched the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He led an international coalition against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait.

Even after he left office, he remained active and on call when the need arose. He teamed with his old adversary, Bill Clinton, to lead an effort to raise money in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The two men then became the best of friends.

This man’s life is worthy of honor by every American. President Bush devoted so much of his adult life to public service. That’s how I choose to remember this great — and good — man.

The other stuff that troubles us in the moment, the hideousness surrounding the current president? That can wait.

This is President George H.W. Bush’s time.

This tempest just won’t go away

The tumult caused by Donald Trump’s disparagement of a heroic Navy SEAL continues at full boil.

Why is that? Because the president of the United States won’t back down from the hideous criticism he leveled at retired Admiral William McRaven, the fellow who coordinated the May 2011 commando raid that took down Osama bin Laden.

McRaven, who’s now a private citizen, had criticized the president’s war on the media as a grave “threat to democracy.” Trump then responded in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that McRaven should have gotten bin Laden “much sooner.”

Yep, he criticized the architect of the operation. He in effect denigrated the service of a heroic American warrior, who spent 37 years wearing the uniform in service to his country. He was injured training to become a SEAL. He also led the team that captured the late Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein in 2003.

So, for this president — who actually avoided service during the Vietnam War — to criticize a hero simply is beyond my own ability to comprehend. He called McRaven a political hack, a Hillary Clinton “backer” and a fan of President Obama.

Admiral McRaven is as admirable a man as one could find.

Donald Trump? He, um, isn’t.

Still, this tempest just won’t quit.

‘Mission accomplished’? Not just yet, Mr. President

Donald Trump did what he needed to do when he ordered “precision strikes” against Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

The White House has declared “mission accomplished” with regard to the strikes launched by U.S., French and British air power. It was an impressive allied effort to retaliate against Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, including children.

The sight of those victims convulsing and heaving in the wake of the gas attack sickens the heart. It also points out that we are dealing in Syria with an animal disguised as a strongman.

To hear the Russians, Syrians and the Iranians deny that Assad gassed civilians is to defy credulity. Of course he did it. Assad has shown such propensity in the past.

The air strikes, though, have accomplished their mission, which was to destroy Syria’s ability to deliver chemical attacks. Reports from the field indicate that the air strikes — as deadly as they were — did not prevent a future gas attack.

Which brings me to a critical point. To claim “mission accomplished” requires proof that Assad has been rendered impotent militarily. That hasn’t happened.

We once heard a president of the United States, George W. Bush, issue a similar “mission accomplished” statement after our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. We captured the late Saddam Hussein, resulting in President Bush making that landing aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, where he stood under the banner proclaiming that we had accomplished our mission. The war dragged on for years after Saddam’s capture and execution.

Trump cannot make such a declaration yet. The Joint Chiefs of Staff — at the president’s direction — have executed, in conjunction with our French and British allies, a strong response to Syria’s dictator.

Let us hope it doesn’t lead to a broader conflict or — and this is the worst case — open conflict with Russia and Iran.

A mission that is accomplished fully will render Bashar al Assad incapable of inflicting such misery ever again on helpless victims.

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 2

Donald J. Trump has complicated what ought to be the simplest of Kim Jong Un’s reported demands of the United States of America.

He wants guarantees that he can keep his job as North Korea’s strongman. 

In other words, no “regime change.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounded semi-conciliatory in that regard the other day when he said that United States has no interest in overthrowing Kim and seeks a “diplomatic solution” to the growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Then the president chimed in with comments threatening “fire and fury” and saying that U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in case Kim decides to make any “overt threats” against the United States or its allies.

The term “locked and loaded” means, in military terms, that your weapon is loaded and that you’ve put the first round in the chamber. You’re set to fire said weapon. Is that what the commander in chief meant? Are we now set to launch a first strike against the North Koreans?

Kim is thought to be mindful of past U.S. military actions, providing him with cause to make the demand that he not be tossed out by an invading force.

I present you the March 2013 U.S. invasion of Iraq , which was launched for the expressed purpose of ridding Iraq of its own dictator, the late Saddam Hussein.

President George W. Bush and his national security team told us Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” which became the primary selling point for launching the invasion. Our military launched a full frontal assault. It got to Baghdad. We scoured the country from stem to stern looking for WMD. We found none. Nothin’, man.

Oh, we eventually pulled Saddam out of that spider hole. The Iraqis put him on trial, convicted him of crimes against humanity — and hanged him.

Kim doesn’t want that to happen to himself or his closest sycophants.

The secretary of state is trying to sound a reasoned, rational tone. The president, though, keeps pre-empting him with talk of an entirely different nature. What’s more, the secretary of state does serve at the pleasure of the president.

Cheers have ‘Mission Accomplished’ ring to them

All that back-slapping and high-fiving at the White House today seems a bit premature — to say the very least.

Congressional Republicans sauntered down from Capitol Hill to the White House to congratulate themselves for approving a measure that repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with the American Health Care Act.

“Today we made history by taking the first important step toward rescuing hardworking families from the failures and skyrocketing costs of Obamacare,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise,  R-La., said in a statement.

They all are members of the House of Representatives. The bill, which passed 217-213 — with zero Democratic votes — now must go to the Senate, where their fellow Republicans are sending signals that the House bill is dead on arrival. It’s a goner. The Senate is going to craft an entirely different bill.

As The Hill reported: “The bill, known as the American Health Care Act, repeals the core elements of ObamaCare, including its subsidies to help people get insurance coverage, expansion of Medicaid, taxes and mandates for people to get coverage.

“In its place, the bill provides a new tax credit aimed at helping people buy insurance, though it would provide less help than ObamaCare to low-income people.”

The Hill also reported: “The measure is expected to undergo a major overhaul in the Senate, especially on the Medicaid front, where several Republican senators from states that accepted the expansion are wary of cutting it off.”

Cheers are quite premature

I was reminded of another celebratory moment in recent U.S. history.

It was in 2003 and President George W. Bush flew onto the deck of an aircraft carrier, jumped out of the jet aircraft wearing a flight suit, changed his duds and then delivered a speech under a banner that declared “Mission Accomplished.”

The president was saluting the capture of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, who our troops pulled out of a spider hole in which he was hiding. The Iraqi dictator was put on trial, convicted and hanged.

The Iraq War, though, raged on … and on … and on. Thousands of American service personnel were killed and injured for years as they sought to bring the fighting under control.

The “Mission Accomplished” banner was premature in the extreme.

So was today’s GOP cork-popping at the White House.

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.

‘W’ trying, perhaps, to be too cute with his critiques

George W. Bush is saying he doesn’t want to “criticize” his successors as president of the United States.

Then he says things that sound oh, so critical of them.

Which is it, Mr. President? Are you going to weigh in fully or are you going to keep one foot off the scales?

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the ex-president warned against “isolationist tendencies,” an apparent reference to some of the statements made by Donald J. Trump and his administration.

It would behoove Bush to steer clear of references to the Iraq War, which in my view, didn’t turn out quite the way he and his team envisioned it and sold it to the United Nations and to the American public. We weren’t greeted as “liberators”; the fight to secure Baghdad was far tougher than advertised; and, oh yes, we never did find those weapons of mass destruction that the Bush team said were in the late Saddam Hussein’s possession.

As USA Today reported, “Bush said that there is a lesson ‘when the United States decides not to take the lead and withdraw,’ an apparent critique of former President Barack Obama.

“’Vacuums can be created when U.S. presence recedes and that vacuum is generally filed with people who don’t share the ideology, the same sense of human rights and human dignity and freedom that we do,’ he added.”

The former president should lose the pretense of “not wanting to be critical” of his successors. That would be too bad if he did decide to weigh in fully. I kind of admired his declaration that he didn’t want to undermine his immediate successor, President Obama, as he sought to craft his own foreign and domestic agenda. Neither did his father, George H.W. Bush, when he turned the presidency over to the man who defeated his re-election effort, Bill Clinton.

If Bush 43 is going to speak critically of current policy, then he just ought to say so and cease trying to sugarcoat it with “I don’t intend to criticize anyone” statements.

Actually, Mr. President, I get what you are trying to say.

Come clean with hacking info, Mr. President-elect

Oh, that Donald J. Trump.

He just cannot keep his trap shut. He now says he has information about the infamous election hacking that “others don’t know.”

I cannot stop thinking about the president-elect’s assertion a number of years ago that he had information about President Barack Obama’s place of birth that others didn’t know.

The birther in chief led the rumor monger parade in asserting that Barack Obama’s presidency was illegitimate. He said he had dispatched teams of spooks to Hawaii to learn the “truth” about the president’s place of birth; it wasn’t in Hawaii, the then-reality TV celebrity said.

It turned out that Trump had nothing. Zero. He was full of bull corn.

Now he has information about whether Russians hacked into our election system? That he knows things others don’t know? That our professional spies and intelligence officials don’t have the goods on the Russians?

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-says-he-has-hacking-information-others-%e2%80%98don%e2%80%99t-know%e2%80%99/ar-BBxLW3t?li=BBnb7Kz

Trump keeps expressing skepticism about the CIA analysis, citing bogus intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction prior to the start of the Iraq War in 2003. Hmm. Has anyone suggested to Trump that the WMD “analysis” might have been forwarded by the neocons who comprised President Bush’s inner circle of advisers, that it didn’t come necessarily from the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency?

Stop teasing us, Mr. President-elect, with nutty notions that you’re smarter than the intelligence officers who are charged with keeping us safe from our adversaries.

Bush 41 voting for Hillary

bush

This probably isn’t nearly as spectacular a political story as some are making it out to be.

Still, it’s an important development in the presidential campaign of 2016.

Former President George H.W. Bush — aka Poppy Bush, Bush 41 and Bush the Elder — has told a member of a leading Democratic family that he’s going to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton over Republican Donald J. Trump.

The person who “outed” Bush 41 happens to be Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Democratic lieutenant governor of Maryland — and the eldest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy.

Sure, it’s an important story. President Bush is as “establishment Republican” as you can get. He served in many high-profile government capacities before being elected president in 1988. Now he’s going to vote for the wife of the man who defeated him for re-election in 1992. Bush’s forsaking of Trump’s candidacy speaks to the reluctance among many Republicans to back their party’s nominee.

But hold on. Is this a jaw-dropper? Hardly.

President Bush is a dedicated family man who loves his children more than life itself. When a politician attacks the kids, as Trump did this year en route to the GOP nomination, it’s only natural for Dad to take it personally.

Trump called former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “Low Energy Jeb” and chided him repeatedly for his failure to do better against Trump in the GOP primary campaign.

Then there is this: Trump said the younger President Bush — George W. — “lied” the country into going to war in Iraq. He accused W. of fabricating the pretext for taking out Saddam Hussein by saying he had “weapons of mass destruction” and that he was complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

Setting aside whether one believes Trump’s assertions about W.’s veracity — and they do ring true to me — it’s totally understandable that the first President Bush would hold those utterances against the man who made them.

With 49 days to go before the election, it remains to be seen whether Poppy’s plan to vote for Hillary will bring other disaffected establishment Republicans along.

As for George H.W. Bush’s apparent defection … I do get it.