Tag Archives: Taliban

Why the silence, indeed?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I found this letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News today that I want to share on this blog.

Five times I have written my congressman, Van Taylor, about his silence on reports of Russian bounties, the president’s alleged comments about prisoners of war, those killed in actions and wounded veterans. He has not responded directly. A staffer called after my letter on bounties but all he did was list the bills Taylor supported.

Taylor touts his service as a Marine. Why is he silent on the statements from Trump, actual and alleged, that denigrate military people? Has he forgotten why he served and those with whom he served?

Michael Bulkeley, Richardson

***

Rep. Taylor is my congressman, too. He is a first-term Republican whom I have met and discussed some local issues. He seems like an earnest young man.

However … I want to echo Mr. Bulkeley’s letter to the DMN. Taylor, though, is far from alone in the GOP silence on reports that Russian goons have paid Taliban terrorists bounties for Americans they have killed on Afghanistan battlefields.

We are witnessing a shameful and shocking fealty to a president who has demonstrated a horrifying disrespect for those who make the kinds of sacrifice that he infamously sought to avoid during the Vietnam War. Van Taylor, given his combat experience as a Marine in Afghanistan, ought to be yelling the most loudly in challenging Trump’s silence on the Russian campaign against our fighting forces.

He isn’t. Nor are his GOP colleagues in both chambers of Congress.

Think about this for a moment. Traditional Republican politicians would be aghast to hear such things about this longstanding hostile foreign power. Donald Trump has acknowledged already that he has declined to bring it up with Vladimir Putin during several phone calls he has had with the Russian president. What the hell?

The GOP congressional caucus also has sat in stone-cold silence over The Atlantic story in which Trump reportedly called service personnel “suckers” and “losers” if they are injured or killed in combat. Indeed, has Rep. Taylor called Donald Trump out for the remarks attributed to him in The Atlantic? I am waiting patiently.

What we have here, I daresay, is a Republican political caucus that is too beholden to an individual. It is a disgraceful example of blind and muted loyalty to a president who demands it of others but who refuses to return that loyalty to those who defend our nation.

Biden needs to be held to his own campaign pledges

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is making his share of campaign promises as he seeks to unseat Donald J. Trump Sr. from the presidency.

I am extremely cautious in my hope that he’ll be able to fulfill them. I man, Trump does have a way of pulling rabbits out of his hat … if not his a**. He could do so again down the stretch toward Election Day.

Biden is making some promises that I want to see him keep. For example:

He vows to improve the Affordable Care Act, not scrap it; he vows to rescind Trump executive orders removing us from the Paris Climate Accords and the Iranian nuclear arms deal; Biden promises to work closely with our worldwide allies and cease scolding them; he pledges to hold Russia accountable for the attacks it has launched on our political system and to force answers on the issue of paying bounties for the combat deaths of American service personnel; he vows an energy policy that stresses “clean” sources of energy.

Biden wants to restore our nation’s “soul.” I’m all in. Our soul has been co-opted by the fraud who occupies the Oval Office. Biden vows to lead the entire nation, not just the base that is most loyal to him … which is a promise we never have heard from Donald Trump.

Once the dust settles and Biden — or so I am hoping — is elected the nation’s 46th president, I am going to insist that the new guy keep faith with the myriad pledges he has made.

I am acutely aware that I won’t be alone in that effort. Good. The more of us the better … for the nation.

What happened to bounty outrage?

It’s been clear to me for many years that yesterday’s outrage too often becomes today’s afterthought.

Such as it is with the story that got the media’s attention regarding reports that Russian intelligence officials had placed bounties on the heads of American soldiers fighting Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan.

Yep, we were filled with rage over the notion that Vladimir Putin’s goons were paying money for every soldier the Taliban killed. What’s more, we became even more outraged at Donald John Trump’s lack of outward anger at the reports.

Instead, Trump attacked the media outlets that were reporting this stunning news. He called it “fake.” He became angry at whoever it was who leaked the information to the Associated Press, to the New York Times and to CNN. His anger at the Russians? Silence, man!

I happen to be mad as hell — still! — at Donald Trump over this story. Sure, there are plenty of things Trump has done to incur my wrath: the insults, the hideous pandemic response, the incessant lying.

The idea, though, that the president of the United States would ignore briefing material that had landed on his desk that told him of bounties being paid to Taliban fighters who kill Americans is the utmost betrayal of the oath he took to become commander in chief.

However, the outrage that we heard from all across the country seems to have subsided. Granted, it has been overtaken by another huge event, one that has worsened on Donald Trump’s watch as president of the United States.

The coronavirus pandemic demands our national attention. So do the reports of bounties paid by a hostile power to our battlefield enemies who kill the men and women our president sends into harm’s way.

We cannot let up in our demand for accountability at what many of us consider a hideous dereliction of duty by a man who vowed to protect the men and women who serve under his command.

Looking for the leaker, but no answers on bounty

Well now, it appears Donald John Trump is really angry … at the individual who leaked the item about the Russians placing bounties on the heads of U.S. service personnel.

He is going after the person who spilled the beans to the media about what might shake out as arguably the most damning scandal we’ve seen during Trump’s scandal-ridden tenure as president of the United States.

He vows to root out the leaker and punish him or her to the extent that he can. Although it’s unclear to me what precisely he could do other than fire the individual.

But … what about the bounty? When is Trump going to speak directly to the issue of Russian intelligence officials reportedly paying $100,000 to Taliban terrorists who kill our men and women on the battlefield? He’s been stone-cold silent on that matter.

I happen to have a personal stake in this issue. Two members of my family have seen combat in Afghanistan since we went to war against the Taliban after 9/11. One family member is now retired from the Army and is living in Colorado. The other family member, though, is on active duty and well could be sent back to Afghanistan. Obviously, I do not want him harmed. Therefore, I am imploring Congress, the intelligence community, the executive branch of the government to get straight to the depths of what has transpired.

Trump’s initial reaction to the bounty story was to denigrate the reporting of it. He called it “fake news.” He said he never was briefed by his national security team when it first collected intelligence about the bounties.

Reporting on the matter, though, suggests something quite different. Normal National Security Council procedure compels officials to brief the president when it obtains information of this magnitude.

Did they tell Donald Trump when he should have been told? If they did and he ignored it, then I believe we have an act of treason on our hands. If they withheld that information because they feared how he might react to negative news about his pal Vladimir Putin, we have something quite different but also seriously egregious.

Trump keeps saying how much he cares about the troops under his command. He has yet to demonstrate that love and caring in a tangible manner as it regards this hideous story.

Now he’s going after the leaker? That is a shameful dereliction of duty and a disgraceful violation of the oath he took when he became our commander in chief.

Putin isn’t on the ballot, however…

Vladimir Putin just won’t go away.

The Russian president launched a campaign in 2016 — at the invitation of Donald Trump — to interfere in our presidential election. His aim was to disrupt our political discourse, to sow seeds of suspicion. He succeeded infamously.

Donald Trump benefitted from the Russian interference. The U.S. president hasn’t yet been willing to acknowledge the Russian dictator’s role in that political heist.

Now he’s at it again. He is injecting himself into the 2020 election, but in ways none of us saw coming.

We have these reports of Russians placing bounties on the lives of Americans fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Trump is dismissing the media reporting. He calls it a hoax. He is angry at the reporting, but is silent about the subject of that reporting.

There he is, Vladimir Putin is injecting himself into the American political process. He isn’t on the ballot, but his presence on our political landscape seems to all but guarantee that part of our voters’ calculation on for whom we cast our ballots will include Vladimir Putin.

To be clear, my mind is made up. Still, Putin’s presence in our political discourse is maddening. He has wormed and wiggled his way into our processes. Putin can declare “mission accomplished” from his 2016 electoral interference. It’s not enough, though, for Putin merely to win that first round.

He is going to interfere yet again this year, along perhaps with China or Ukraine or any other nation that has an axe to grind with the U.S. political system.

To be clear, it is confusing in the extreme for me to grasp how the Russian bounty story is going to benefit Donald Trump. To that end, Putin’s continuing presence in our political process sends a seriously mixed message.

Still, the Russian brute is there. He is part of our political discussion.

If only he would just disappear. Forever.

‘Hoax’: more than a four-letter word

Donald Trump is attaching the h-word to reports that he ignored intelligence briefing material that said Russians were paying Taliban fighters a bounty for Americans they killed in Afghanistan.

It’s a “hoax,” Trump says of the reporting.

He has walked down the hoax hallway before: He called reports of Russian interference in our 2016 election a “hoax”; he has used the same term to describe initial reports of the coronavirus pandemic; he said the House of Representatives impeachment articles comprised a “hoax” that he solicited help from Ukraine in exchange for military weapons.

Hoax? Yep, that’s the fallback position for this presidential imposter.

I am not the first Trump critic to say so, but the reporting now about the bounty being paid is getting more legs than a centipede.

Trump either ignored the information, or he didn’t get it, or he got it but didn’t bother to read the daily presidential national security briefing. Any one of those matters constitute to my way of thinking a serious dereliction of duty by the commander in chief.

Donald Trump expresses his faux respect for the men and women in uniform. Now it is becoming frighteningly apparent that his “respect” does not include demanding answers from Russian leaders over the hideous notion that they are paying Taliban terrorists real money to kill our warriors.

This individual is a disgrace.

Why hasn’t Trump responded with outrage?

I now will clear the air:  I believe that Russia paid bounties to Taliban fighters who killed American troops on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Moreover, I also believe the essence of those reports has been established by thorough media investigations. The question remains, though, about what Donald Trump knew and when he knew it.

If the worst case is true, that Trump knew of the bounties being paid and did nothing, then we have a series crisis on our hands. We have a president who has fundamentally violated his oath as commander in chief by refusing to protect the men and women he sends into harm’s way. To be fair, the worst case hasn’t been established.

There really is no “best case,” given what I believe we know … that the Russians placed bounties on the heads of our service personnel.

What if Trump didn’t get the briefing? What if it landed on his desk but he didn’t open up the folder to read its contents?

That all is on the table now for discussion and further inquiry.

Here’s my question of the day: Given that the president now knows what the world knows, that the Russian intelligence network paid money for our service personnel’s lives, why in the name of all that is sacred has he not raised holy hell with Vladimir Putin?

Why does our president remain stone-cold silent on the deed that many of us believe occurred?

Instead, he talks with Putin on the phone. He yaps about getting Russia installed as a member of the G7 coalition of leading industrialized nations — over the objections of the other members. He doesn’t seem to accept the notion that Russia is a third- or maybe fourth-rate economic power and doesn’t qualify as a player among the leading industrialized nations.

This story isn’t going anywhere any time soon. If I were to venture a guess I am willing to suggest that it likely won’t end well for Donald Trump.

We need answers. Right now!

Where is the next Howard Baker?

U.S. Sen. Howard Baker asked what has become the centerpiece  question of the Senate Watergate hearings of 1973: What did the president know and when did he know it? 

The late great Tennessee Republican sought to get to the root of what President Nixon knew of the Watergate break-in at the Democratic National Committee office and whether he sought to cover it up.

Sen. Baker’s legacy comes to mind as the nation ponders whether Donald J. Trump received a briefing about a hostile power offering to pay bounties on the deaths of American service personnel.

In other words, what did the president know and when did he know it?

The New York Times initially reported that intelligence officers had the information. Trump, as is his style, denigrated the Times reporting, calling it “fake news.” Then came more reporting from the Wall Street Journal, from The Associated Press that Trump received briefings in written form.

Trump says he never was briefed. Oh, but the AP reports that John Bolton, the former national security adviser, told Trump — to his face — about the intelligence he had received as early as March 2019.

Trump says he didn’t know about it. Others offer much different pictures of what he knew and when he knew it.

As has been mentioned before on this blog, Trump’s credibility on every issue on Earth is suspect. He cannot tell the truth. He is unwilling or unable to speak truthfully … about anything. Thus, I am one American who doesn’t believe a single thing we hear from this presidential imposter.

We are faced with at least two terrible prospects.

  • One is that the president knew about the intelligence reports and did nothing to stop a hostile foreign power from paying terrorists when they kill our service personnel.
  • The other is that he received the briefings on his desk, but didn’t look at them. He didn’t bother to read the important material that had been brought to him by the intelligence experts who spend their careers working to protect U.S. interests from hostile acts.

If he knew about it and did nothing to stop this hideous activity, then we have a president who — in my mind — has committed a treasonous act.

What did Donald Trump know and when did he know it? We need a full accounting of the wreckage this imbecile has done to the nation’s highest office.

Oh, how we need a dose of the courage that Howard Baker exhibited during that earlier intense crisis.

How would I react to this news?

A social media friend posed a fascinating question to me regarding the latest scandal involving Donald Trump, the one involving reports that he failed to respond to intelligence that Russia was paying bounties to Taliban terrorists who killed U.S. servicemen and women.

He noted that I had served in the military and wondered how I would react to such reports that the commander in chief was looking the other way at news that an enemy state had put a bounty on my head.

You know what? I cannot answer that question definitively. It’s hypothetical and when I am faced with such a question, I tend to fall back on how “I would hope to respond.” I hope I would be filled with rage at the individual who sent me into harm’s way.

I was a 19-year-old kid when I arrived in a war zone more than 50 years ago. I don’t have the foggiest recollection of where my head was in that moment. I cannot recall if I ever gave any thought to anything other than wishing my tour of duty would be over quickly so that I could return to “The World.”

What’s more, I was that we used to refer to as a REMF. The first three letters of that acronym were “rear echelon mother …” I let you figure out what the fourth letter meant. I served in the rear, at first on a flight line, then I went to work at a tactical operations center in  Da Nang, South Vietnam.

My concern at this moment deals with what the men and women who put their lives on the line while fighting for our country are thinking about the commander in chief and the latest astonishing scandal that is boiling up around him. I acknowledge a lack of “consensus” from intelligence officials on whether the Russians are paying bounties to Taliban fighters. But to my ears the reports seem credible.

Donald Trump might have known and did nothing. Maybe he never bothered to read the briefing papers that contained the intelligence. Perhaps the intelligence officers who provide Trump with this information never bothered to tell him what they knew. Are any of these possibilities acceptable? Absolutely not!

I cannot get past the notion that the men and women in harm’s way are mad as hell at the commander in chief.

How do our service personnel react to this?

I should ask him directly, but instead I will do so on this forum.

I have a member of my family who’s on active duty in the Army. He has served in combat in Afghanistan. He also is an avid supporter of Donald Trump. He is fond of saying “Trump 2020” when we chat via social media.

How in the world can my family member possibly continue to support a president who reportedly (a) didn’t know about reports that Russians were paying Taliban fighters to kill American military personnel or (b) knew about it but did nothing to stop it?

To me the reports of intelligence that Russians were paying a bounty  on our troops seem credible. We need answers. Now!