Tag Archives: US Navy

Do not politicize the military … ever!

I feel the need to weigh in one more — and likely final — time on this dust-up over the USS John McCain.

It is simply this: The U.S. military never should get caught in the middle of a political dispute.

At issue is the order that reportedly was issued directing Navy personnel to hide the name of the USS John McCain from the view of the president of the United States. Donald Trump reportedly was “spared” having to see the name of his political rival, the late Arizona Republican U.S. senator.

The president denies issuing the order. Indeed, the world does not yet know who issued it and whether, as Trump described it, the order was “well-meaning.”

For the record, the destroyer was named after Sen. McCain’s father and grandfather. Sen. McCain’s name was added after the ship went on active duty.

The idea that the U.S. Navy — or any branch of the military — would be drawn into some form of political dispute is reprehensible on its face.

The officers and enlisted personnel who serve on the USS John McCain are proud of their ship, proud of their service to the country and proud to wear their nation’s uniform. They are not politicians and should never be dragged into a dispute of this sort … not ever!

Did POTUS issue this order?

Talk about a murky story.

I didn’t want to believe it when it first came to light. I now tend to believe at least part of it, maybe even most of it. The story is disturbing in the extreme.

It goes like this: U.S. Navy officials sent messages out that ordered that the name of a battle destroyer, the USS John McCain, be kept out of Donald Trump’s view when he arrived in Japan for a state visit.

This is about as disgusting as it gets.

The ship was named after the father and grandfather of the late U.S. senator, who became a consistent foe of the president before he died of brain cancer in August 2018.

What I cannot grasp is this: Who issued the order? Did it come from the commander in chief? Did it come from senior naval officers who sought to make the boss happy? And why would an officer actually carry out such a preposterous order?

The White House staff insists that Trump played no role in the order. That insistence is reason enough for me to look with dubiousness at the denial, given the lack of truth-telling that emanates with stunning regularity from the White House.

But we don’t know about the source of the order.

Trump said he’d never do such a thing. Really, Mr. President?

The USS John McCain was commissioned in honor of two admirals. The late senator’s name was added after the ship went on active duty.

If it’s true, that the order came down and that it was presented as has been reported — that the ship’s crew was ordered to shroud the name so that Trump didn’t see the name while touring the area — then we might have entered a brand new era of petulance.

According to CBS News, which has confirmed the existence of the order: “I would not have done that. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way shape or form. To me John McCain, I wasn’t a fan. But I would never do such a thing like that. Now, someone did it because they thought I didn’t like him. They were well-meaning, I will say. But I wouldn’t have,” Mr. Trump said.

I want to believe him. Then again, it comes from the liar in chief.

Space Force: It’s back and it’s still a dumb idea

I cannot believe they’re talking yet again about forming another military branch, this one based in outer space.

On second thought, yes I can believe it.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is pitching the goofy idea one more time. He says we need a “space force” to protect us against pirates who’ll attack us from beyond our atmosphere.

Oh, please help me. Give me strength.

How many times must we say this? The United States already has a military branch — several of them, actually — committed to defending us from outer space attack.

The U.S. Air Force has a Space Command led by a four-star general. The U.S. Navy also has dedicated qualified personnel to monitor the great beyond from ships at sea as well as at naval air stations positioned around the world. The U.S. Army has long deployed units committed to high-tech air defenses.

What in the world are talking about here?

The proposed U.S. Space Force is redundant. It is duplicative of tasks already being done.

The Space Force idea does have its fans. Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX guru, is all in. “It’s cool,” he said, to have a Space Force, noting that they scoffed in the 1940s when the Air Force was split off from the Army.

Donald Trump wants to create this force as a national security matter. He signed a directive calling for additional study of the issue.

Whatever. A Space Force is still a nutty notion.

We do not need to form yet another military service branch. I’m tellin’ ya, the military we have on duty at this time — the most potent fighting force in human history — is quite capable of defending us against space pirates.

Show us the bone spur records, Mr. POTUS

Bob Kerrey has pitched a perfectly logical notion for the president of the United States, who has been plagued by doubters who question his assertion that “bone spurs” kept him out of military service during the Vietnam War.

Show us the medical record, Mr. President. That is the suggestion offered by Kerrey, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Nebraska. Oh, I also must point out that Kerrey is a former Navy SEAL, a Vietnam War combat veteran and a Medal of Honor recipient who lost one of his legs fighting the enemy during that horrible time.

Bone spurs don’t heal themselves, Kerrey said. You need surgery to repair them. The president has never mentioned surgery.

The bone spur issue keeps recurring because Trump keeps yapping about military matters in ways that bring these questions to the forefront.

Such as his ongoing and crass attacks against the late Sen. John McCain, the former Vietnam War prisoner who died of cancer this past August. Trump once denigrated McCain’s POW status, saying he was a “hero only because he was captured.”

Trump got several medical deferments during the Vietnam War. He has cited bone spurs. Well, just like the tax returns he keeps saying are under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, he has not provided a shred of evidence that he even had bone spurs; he also hasn’t produced a letter by the IRS declaring that it was auditing his tax returns, which he said has precluded him from releasing those returns for public review.

The president also reportedly told his former lawyer/confidant Michael Cohen that he had no intention of going to Vietnam. “Do you think I’m stupid?” Cohen said Trump asked him. Kerrey has taken offense at that notion, saying that Trump “sees all of us who went to Vietnam as fools. We were the suckers. We were the stupid ones. We were the ones that didn’t have the resources to be able to get out of the draft.”

Kerrey said this, as reported by the Huffington Post: “While John McCain was flying combat operations in Vietnam, you were, I think, falsifying that you had bone spurs in order not to go to Vietnam,” said Kerrey, a 1992 presidential candidate who retired from the Senate in 2000. “Now I know lots of people who avoided the draft, but this isn’t what he’s saying. He said ‘I physically couldn’t go,’ Well, Mr. President, get your feet X-rayed and let’s see those bone spurs. I don’t think he has them.”

Frankly, neither do I.

Time of My Life, Part 8: Aircraft carrier landing . . . and takeoff!

It’s not every day that one can say you’ve landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier — and then shot off the deck via catapult.

I can make that claim. I owe it to the job I used to do as a newspaper editorial page editor and columnist.

What a rush, man!

My phone rang one morning in 1993 while I worked as editorial page editor of the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise. On the other end of the line was the late U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, the Lufkin Democrat who was known as “Good Time Charlie,” because of his rather rascally reputation; he enjoyed the company of women and was damn proud of his reputation.

He also was a dedicated East Texas congressman who took good care of his constituents and who was a staunch supporter of the men and women in uniform. He called to invite me to accompany him on a factfinding trip he was making to San Diego, Calif. He wanted to tour the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. “Are you interested in going?” he asked. I said I would get to him. I asked my editor if I could go; he said “yes.” I called Wilson back and accepted his invitation. The newspaper made the travel arrangements. I flew to San Diego a few days later and met with Wilson at the hotel.

Wilson’s party gathered at the naval air station the next morning, boarded a turbo-prop airplane used to carry mail and supplies to the carrier, which was about 100 miles offshore on a training mission.

The COD is a sturdy aircraft. However, I have to tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The plane carried us toward the Carl Vinson and began its descent. It would descend in fits and starts, suddenly and occasionally violently. I thought my guts were going to fall out as the plane descended rapidly toward the deck.

Then the plane landed. It came to a sudden stop, owing to the tailhook that grabbed the cable strung across the deck.

We spent three nights aboard the Carl Vinson, visiting with pilots, deck crews, sailors who performed all manner of support tasks to support a ship carrying about 5,000 sailors and Marines.

We watched “night flight ops” with A-6 Intruders, F-14 Tomcats and FA-18 Hornets taking off and landing in the dead of night.

We walked the deck with the commander of the ship, Capt. John Payne, who told us the Carl Vinson battle group carried more explosive firepower than all the bombs dropped on all theaters during World War II. That prompted the obvious question, or so I thought, so I asked it: “Skipper, do you have nukes on board?” He looked at me and with the slightest of smiles he said, “You know I can’t answer that.” Hmm, I thought, I believe he just did.

A brief aside: In May 2011, when SEALs and CIA operatives killed Osama bin Laden, they took his corpse to the Carl Vinson, where he was given a “burial at sea.”

Then we had to leave the ship. We boarded the COD and got strapped in. To say we were fastened tightly is to commit a most-serious understatement. Yep, the flight crew made damn sure we would be fastened securely. We were instructed to watch for the hand signal when we were set to be thrown off the deck.

Then it came. The catapult threw the plane off the deck, taking us from zero to about 150 knots in about, oh, one second! I have difficulty describing the sensation for that single second. I was facing to the rear of the aircraft, so I felt my facial flesh separate from my skull — for that instant before we were airborne.

We landed safely. Gathered our gear and went our separate ways.

Suffice to say that the experience was one I’ll never forget. I cherish the time I was able to spend with servicemen and women who are trained to do dangerous work in defense of our great country. I learned a good deal about a member of Congress I already had respected and watched him show his support for our troops.

That carrier landing and catapult takeoff also were epic events.

They remain among the highlights of my life.

What if Obama had done any of this?

“We should be intellectually honest here at this table that if President Obama had missed Veterans Day or missed the Armistice ceremony in France for the 100th anniversary of World War I, my head would have exploded right here on this table in front of all of you.”

So said Meghan McCain, daughter of the late, great Republican U.S. senator, John McCain, and a co-host of the TV show “The View.”

I believe she speaks for a lot of Americans who are dismayed, disgusted and so very disappointed in recent actions and remarks by Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.

So many on the right and the far right have been strangely silent regarding the president’s recent action — or inaction — in Europe. He declined to attend a ceremony in France honoring the Americans who fell during World War I, then skipped Veterans Day services at Arlington National Cemetery.

Now, to his credit, the president did express some regret at failing to show for the Arlington cemetery event. That doesn’t excuse what he declined to do in the moment.

Couple all of that with what he has said in recent days about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the disparaging he has leveled at the Navy admiral, William McRaven, who coordinated the May 2011 assault and you have even more reason for “heads to explode.”

They aren’t. Except for Meghan McCain, a self-described political conservative.

Yes, just try to imagine the reaction had all of this come from a liberal Democrat. It is pointless to suggest how progressives, such as yours truly, would react had any of this occurred on Barack Obama’s watch. Thankfully, I don’t recall it ever happening prior to Donald Trump becoming president.

I do believe Meghan McCain’s assertion about her own noggin “exploding” on national TV.

Going to thank World War II veterans

I have made another command decision, which I can do now that I no longer work for anyone else.

From this day forward I intend to thank every World War II veteran I see. The only way to know you’ve seen a WWII vet is when you see someone wearing a gimme cap or a t-shirt identifying a member of The Greatest Generation.

I saw a gentleman this afternoon in front of a fast-food joint in Allen, Texas. He was wearing one of those caps. I extended a hand to him and said, “Thank you for saving the world.”

If you do a bit of simple math, you learn about the ruthless march of time. In 1945, the last year of World War II, the youngest enlistees were 17 years of age, meaning they were born in 1928.

That makes ’em 90 years of age today. If they’re still among us.

During the length of World War II, the United States put roughly 16 million men and women into uniform. Many of them were thrown into harm’s way.

Their numbers are diminishing every hour of every day. They need a thank you from their descendants. I plan to offer them whenever I see a veteran from that great conflict.

I have been unable since September 1980 to thank my favorite World War II. My father — who died 38 years ago — enlisted in the Navy in February 1942; he was 20 years old at the time. He wanted to get into the fight. Oh, brother, did he ever … get into it.

The thing is, Dad enlisted and pledged to fight “for the duration” of the war, not knowing when — let alone if — he would be returning home. That, I submit, is a far more difficult concept to embrace than what those of us who served in Vietnam faced when we were called to duty. We knew when we were coming home.

The Greatest Generation’s task was to save the world from tyranny. They succeeded. They came home, returned to their former lives and for the most part didn’t talk much about the hell they endured.

These men and women have earned a heartfelt thank you from those of us who came into this world upon their return.

I intend to give it to them.

Does our president want to disband NATO?

Hey, I believe it is fair to ask: Does the president of the United States want to get rid of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

He is yapping, yammering and yowling about NATO allies not paying their fair share for their defense. I get his concern on that one specific point.

Why, though, does he keep disparaging our allies? Why does he continue to play into Vladimir Putin’s hands with his tirades against Germany, the United Kingdom, France … indeed, the rest of the alliance.

Does this clown understand a fundamental truth about U.S. history?

Let me remind him — and you — of something we need to remember.

We had a generation of Americans go to war in Europe. They died in defense of liberty and freedom. They fought the tyrants. They won that war.

My father was one of them. He served in the U.S. Navy. He fought in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He once endured 105 consecutive days of aerial bombardment from German and Italian air forces. An Italian dive bomber sank Dad’s ship off the coast of Sicily, forcing Dad to dive into the drink, where he awaited rescue from a British warship.

These men, including my father, set the stage for the creation of NATO immediately after the end of World War II.

Dad wasn’t a particularly political man. He and I didn’t discuss the issues of the day too often. However, I knew instinctively that he didn’t trust the Russians. He wanted NATO to stand watch as a deterrent against potential communist aggression.

Dad’s been gone for nearly 38 years. I believe in the deepest recesses of my gut that he would be aghast at the rhetoric we are hearing from the president of the United States.

Donald Trump, you’re no Harry Truman.

Eric Greitens: latest casualty in ‘family values’ war

Don’t sit down, Gov. Eric Greitens. I’m going to talk about you for a moment.

This fellow is a Republican governor from Missouri. He’s been in office for only about a year. He also is making quite a name for himself.

He ran for office as a “family values” candidate. He once proclaimed his love for his wife and children and the happiness he feels at being a married man and father.

The former Navy SEAL — who was a Democrat until he switched parties in 2015 — was even discussed as a possible presidential candidate in 2020 or 2024.

Then came this: He fooled around with a woman other than his wife before he was elected governor. What’s even more troubling is that he allegedly threatened her if she blabbed about it.

The woman, who was married at the time, is now divorced from her husband. Greitens remains married to his wife. He admits to the affair, but denies threatening the woman with whom he took the tumble.

Family values …

Wow. What are we to make of political candidates who make such a big show of their marriage? How are we supposed to react when they get caught in the big lie? I take this kind of thing quite badly. It doesn’t go down well. Why? Because of the show politicians such as Greitens make when they actually boast about their marital fidelity on the campaign stump — as if someone keeping a vow he makes before God is worth a boast.

This clown reminds me of so many politicians who’ve proclaimed their love for the spouse only to be revealed to be philanderers.

Does the name John Edwards ring a bell? Edwards was the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee who campaigned across the land declaring his devotion to his late wife, Elizabeth — while he was messing around with a woman who later gave birth to a baby, courtesy of that relationship with Edwards.

This kind of revelation sickens me in the extreme. Gov. Greitens makes me sick, too, given that he made such a phony show of his marital devotion.

Politicians who lie about their faithfulness then deserve all the scorn they receive.

Now … you may sit down, Gov. Greitens. And may you disappear from the national political scene.

Honoring a new ‘Greatest Generation’

I am re-reading a book I’ve owned for a couple of decades.

The great broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw penned “The Greatest Generation” to pay tribute to the men and women who saved the world from tyranny during World War II.

Brokaw’s thesis is one that I still accept, that those 16 million Americans who answered the call to fight a global war on two fronts — in Europe and the Pacific — exhibited unparalleled devotion. They served “for the duration” of the war. They finished the job and came home to start their lives.

I’m reading the book, though, with a slightly different take than I had when I picked it up the first time.

The current generation of fighting men and women is rising to the level of devotion and dedication that my father’s generation did more than 70 years ago.

Under vastly different circumstances, to be sure.

They are fighting an enemy that is every bit as cunning and resourceful as the Nazis were in Europe and the Japanese were in the Pacific. These terrorists against whom we keep sending these young Americans to fight are ruthless and dedicated to the perverted principles they are following.

Today’s generation of young American warriors is facing multiple deployments onto the battlefield in Afghanistan and other places — some of which are undisclosed. Four Army Special Forces troops died recently in Niger, bringing into the open a deployment few Americans knew was under way.

I long have saluted my father for his contribution to fighting tyranny during World War II. I am proud of what he did as a sailor who saw more than his share of combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

I also want to salute other members of my family who’ve thrust themselves into harm’s way during the current war against international terror. My cousin served multiple Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a nephew who drove an Army tank into Iraq when that war broke out in March 2003; he would return to Iraq for a second tour.

The war on terror just might be a conflict that has no end. There might not be any way for the United States to declare total victory as this country was able to do in 1945. The enemy surrendered unconditionally, giving The Greatest Generation of Americans its ticket home.

Can we achieve a similar end to the current war? I am trying to imagine how that gets done.

Meantime, the current generation keeps fighting. These young Americans have earned their status as the newest Greatest Generation.

I am proud of them beyond measure.