Tag Archives: war on terror

9/11 still seared into our memory

Many millions of Americans are recalling a terrible day that dawned 18 years ago today. It didn’t start out that way, but it got dark in a major hurry.

They’re remembering where they were when they heard the news. Me? I was at work at the Amarillo Globe-News.

My colleague walked into the office and stuck his head in the door: “Did you hear the news. Someone flew an airplane into the World Trade Center.”

I asked two questions: How big was the airplane? How was the weather? I don’t recall my colleague knowing it was a jetliner. He did say the weather in New York City was beautiful.

“What kind of moron would fly into a building?” I asked with all the appropriate derision.

I turned on a small TV I had in my office. I watched one of the towers burning. Then — in real and horrifying time — the world watched the second jet liner crash into the other tower.

In that moment, we knew what we had: an act of war!

The Pentagon was hit by a third jetliner. Then we heard about the Shanksville, Pa., crash involving a fourth hijacked airplane.

We would go to war in Afghanistan. We would toss the Taliban out of power in that remote land and then launch the hunt for al-Qaida terrorist leaders who masterminded the hideous attack.

I will admit to being frightened in the moment. Anger? Absolutely!

I wanted the nation to fill with resolve to defeat the bastards who committed this horrific deed. Sadly, I fear our nation has lost some of its collective resolve. We’ve been torn asunder by a war that President Bush launched against Iraq, telling us that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “something” to do with the terrorist attack … when he didn’t.

To be honest, I remain puzzled on how we “declare victory” in this war. Or if we can ever actually make that victory declaration.

However, the fight goes on. It must go on.

Family encounter proves it: Life is much fuller than just politics

LA CENTER, Wash. — I affirmed something I knew long before today.

We attended a birthday party at my sister’s home in Washington state. The back yard was filled with family members and friends of my sister and her husband.

All of us had a grand time.

One of the party attendees happened to be a second cousin of mine. We disagree mightily on our respective world views, not to mention our political choices. He has expressed his “love” and admiration for Donald J. Trump; I have expressed, well, something vastly different.

The affirmation dealt with how love of family and friends supersedes politics. At all times!

My second cousin is serving in the U.S. Army. He has been deployed to the Middle East to participate in our nation’s war on terror. He challenges my blog posts on occasion. Every so often I’ll respond to his criticism. He gets fired up. My cousin is an intense young man, so perhaps we all can expect his emotions at times to get the better of him.

Today, though, we set aside all those differences. We sat at the same table and talked about, oh let’s see … family matters. We talked about his family, about our family; we shared some international travel experiences. He gave us a bit of history on how Greek soldiers’ attire came to be.

What’s the lesson here? Life does not revolve solely around politics. The love of family and friends goes far deeper than any political differences any of them might experience. Indeed, I have many friends with whom I have severe disagreements — but I still love them; I hope they feel the same way toward me.

So it went today in a rural Washington back yard. We came together to enjoy some barbecue and beverages with close and extended family.

We love them all … even those with whom we disagree politically.

Trump signs important bill … but lies about its context

I was glad to see Donald Trump sign an important piece of legislation into law this week, the bill that extends medical assistance to 9/11 first responders for the next several decades.

He did so in a White House ceremony under bright sunshine. Sitting before him were many of the firefighters, medical personnel and police officers who rushed into the infernos — in New York and Washington — on that terrible morning nearly 18 years ago.

But then …

Trump did something that has become almost a standard part of his performance as president of the United States. He sought to insert himself into an event in which he played no role. Perhaps you heard him during the bill-signing ceremony.

He talked about going to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, hobnobbing with the first responders. He said he was “there,” but refrained from calling himself a “first responder.”

In truth, Donald Trump was not there. Reports surfaced immediately after the ceremony from New York fire officials who disputed Trump’s assertion that he was present in the rubble where the Twin Towers once stood. He was nowhere in sight, they said.

Trump did call a New York media outlet to tell reporters that Trump Tower was the tallest building in the city once the World Trade Center collapsed from the damage caused by the hijacked jetliners crashing into the towers.

This is the kind of behavior that is utterly reprehensible, so blatantly phony that it defies my ability to comprehend how this man gets away with it … time and again! I mean, for crying out loud, he didn’t even lift a finger to win congressional approval of the bill he signed into law.

He once claimed falsely that he watched “thousands and thousands of people cheer” while the Twin Towers burned and fell on 9/11. He said he lost “many friends” in the towers. Now he says he was present at Ground Zero while police, firefighters and medical officials did their grim job. He lied every single time.

This man cannot cease making himself part of whatever story is being told, no matter how tragic. A president needs to exhibit compassion, empathy and authentic humanity in these times. Donald Trump is utterly, categorically incapable of demonstrating any of those traits.

The president showed us yet again his absolute unfitness for the job.

The cascade continues

I’ll admit to not knowing anything about Brett McGurk . . . until today.

That’s when I learned that our nation’s leading envoy in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State has decided to quit early. He is angry with Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, to abandon the fight against ISIS in that country. It was a decision that prompted Defense Secretary James Mattis to quit.

Now it’s McGurk who’s hitting the road.

This is a big deal, too.

McGurk had planned to leave in February, but decided to submit his resignation to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McGurk joined the George W. Bush administration and stayed on through the Obama administration, where he was appointed to his current post.

Two years into the Trump administration, McGurk seems to have had enough.

As NBC News reported: Trump’s decision left McGurk flat-footed, unable to explain to U.S. allies who have been fighting ISIS with the United States why they were neither consulted nor informed in advance. Nor have senior Trump administration officials been able to tell allies and Kurdish forces whether U.S. air strikes will continue in Syria to support the mission against ISIS.

Mattis was quite clear in his resignation letter that part of where he differed with Trump is in the treatment of our allies. They cannot trust us to be faithful to our pledges and commitments.

Neither can key administration operatives who are charged with doing the most serious work possible. In McGurk’s case, it is the task of working with allies in the fight to defeat the monstrous terrorists known as the Islamic State.

The chaos is showing signs of taking a terrible toll on U.S. influence in a world that has grown accustomed to what we once touted as our national indispensability.

No longer can we make that make assertion.

Bush Library and Museum: worth your time

I finally made my way to the Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas to see the nation’s latest presidential library and museum, the one carrying the name of George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States.

It’s a beauty. I want to share a couple of takeaways from it with you.

The 9/11 exhibit is stunning and so help me it doesn’t make it any easier to listen to the audio or watch the video of that horrendous day.

I want to call attention to a particular aspect of it. There’s a wall with thousands of names on it, reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, which has the names of 58,000-plus fallen servicemen and women inscribed on that long black granite wall.

The George W. Bush Library and Museum has an exhibit with the names of the passengers who died aboard those four jetliners hijacked by the terrorists on 9/11. Two of them flew into the World Trade Center; one into the Pentagon; the fourth one into that field in Shanksville, Pa. It also has the names of the victims who died in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

One name jumped out at me: Todd Beamer. It was an amazing moment. I noticed Beamer’s name immediately upon approaching the wall. He, of course, was the passenger aboard United Flight 93 who famously declared “Let’s roll” while leading the passengers in their valiant effort to wrestle control from the hijackers of the jetliner that plunged into the Shanksville pasture.

Just as the names in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remind us of the loved ones left behind, so do the names inscribed inside the Bush Library and Museum.

It is powerful, indeed.

The second takeaway, related to 9/11, is the realization that watching the videos and listening to the reporting and the statements from the president so many years later don’t make it easier. Indeed, I get more emotional as the years tick away. It gets harder to relive that terrible day.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 defined the George W. Bush presidency. It thrust the still-new president into a wartime posture. It continued through the Barack Obama administration and is doing so now during the Donald Trump administration.

I am glad to have visited this marvelous exhibit. It contains much more, to be sure. It talks about the president’s HIV/AIDS initiative, his effort to reform education, the first lady’s desire to improve literacy among our children. It papers over, not surprisingly, the financial collapse at the end of the Bush presidency.

But . . . those names on the wall. Goodness gracious.

Have we gotten rid of ISIS permanently?

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

So said Donald J. Trump this morning via Twitter as he signaled a planned withdrawal of about 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

I am dubious of this declaration of victory. My concern is as it has been throughout the war on terror, which commenced after 9/11. It is that a declaration of victory is a tenuous proposition at best.

The Islamic State is not — as President Obama infamously described it — the “junior varsity” of terror organizations. ISIS is the real thing. They are monstrous murderers who have, along with al-Qaida, perverted a great world religion and used it to justify their horrendous attacks on fellow Muslims, let alone against Christians and Jews.

To suggest that we can declare categorical victory in the fight against ISIS is risky in the extreme.

How will we respond if ISIS launches another hideous attack in Syria after we have left? Do we send the troops back in?

The president has gotten some push back from congressional allies, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who called a U.S. withdrawal from Syria “a big win for ISIS.” He said pulling out prematurely would be an “Obama-like mistake.”

This war against terror cannot possibly be concluded the way “conventional wars” have ended, with someone on one side surrendering and then signing documents signaling the end of a conflict.

I don’t yet know how you determine whether you’ve eradicated the last known terrorist from any battlefield. I just fear we haven’t accomplished that mission in Syria, or anywhere else.

Clear your throat, but first … be sure to vote!

You’ve heard it said, “Don’t bitch if you don’t vote.”

I’m going to keep bitching because I am going to vote later today.

My polling place is 8 minutes away by car. It’s at a school in Collin County. Will there be a long line? I don’t know. Nor does it matter. I’ve got time on my hands. I have nowhere to go today.

My post-election griping might take a little different turn. To be candid, I am getting a little weary of speaking so critically about Donald John Trump. I am running out of ways to say the same thing, which is that Trump is not fit to be president.

But … he is the president.

I want to concentrate more on issues that concern me. The world is in a perilous place because of climate change, the war on terror, the fight over nationalism vs. globalism, nuclear proliferation … those kinds of things. I won’t abandon completely my criticism of the president, but I want desperately to take this blog into another direction as we head into the second half of Donald Trump’s term as president.

My vote later today will give me license to speak out and to criticize the president of the United States.

How about you?

17 years later, the war goes on and on

It was a Tuesday morning. Jetliners flew into the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Another one plowed into the Pentagon. A fourth jetliner crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field as passengers struggled valiantly against those who hijacked it.

The date was Sept. 11, 2001, now known colloquially as 9/11.

About a month later, President Bush — just months on the job — launched the war against the monsters who did the terrible deed.

And the war continues. It is the most unconventional of conflicts. We cannot declare victory and go home. The terrorists will lurk likely forever, for as long as human beings inhabit Earth.

The president stood on the rubble at Ground Zero, bullhorn in hand. He summoned the nation to unite in this struggle. For a time, we did.

The war will go on. It’s already the longest conflict in our nation’s history. Sure, we killed the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack, Osama bin Laden. We’ve killed many terror leaders and thousands of their minions. Others have emerged to take their place. We knew that would happen.

Our nation will recall the 9/11 tragedy on Tuesday. They’ll read the names of the victims who died when the Twin Towers burst into flames and fell. They’ll read the names of those who died in the Pentagon and in that Pennsylvania field. We’ll remember and honor the heroes who ran into the inferno to save others’ lives.

We also will honor and salute the men and women who have answered the call to duty as President Bush took us to war against a ruthless, cunning and elusive enemy.

None of us knows when this fight will end. We don’t even know if it will end … ever! We hear brave talk about how we’re going to destroy the enemy. However, it is just talk. I remain dubious as to whether we’ll ever rid the planet of every single terrorist or organization intend on sowing the seeds of fear.

I am one who supports the on-going war against terror. Yes, the cost of this war is terrible. However, as the president said when he launched the campaign against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorists in Afghanistan, it is far better to fight them there than to fight them here.

Seventeen years later, the war goes on.

Senate should confirm Gina Haspel as CIA boss

Gina Haspel has spent her career as an undercover agent for the Central Intelligence Agency. She’s no politician or bureaucrat or think-tank wonk.

She’s a career spook. Haspel also should become the next head of the CIA, despite the criticism she has gotten from some quarters about her role in torturing enemy combatants since the onset of the war against terrorism.

I am troubled as well by her declining to declare torture to be immoral. U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called that refusal a “disqualifier.” I happen to disagree with the brave senator/war hero who knows a lot about torture.

Haspel did tell the Senate committee conducting her confirmation hearing that she wouldn’t “restart such a detention and interrogation program” on her watch. That program includes waterboarding and other forms of “intensive interrogation techniques.”

I am willing to take Haspel at her word, even though the president of the United States said more than once while campaigning for the office that waterboarding “doesn’t go far enough.”

Donald Trump has sought to place the CIA  in the hands of a career intelligence officer. She knows her business. I have to maintain faith that she is alert to the fact that the nation — and the world — are watching her every move as she takes command of the nation’s top spy agency.

So, I will maintain that faith as Gina Haspel takes command of an agency that plays arguably the most vital role in our ongoing worldwide fight against those who seek to do us harm.

And the fight goes on and on

You remember al-Qaida, yes? That was the terrorist cabal that hurled the United States into a global war on 9/11. It’s a new form of worldwide conflict.

In recent years our attention has been riveted on the Islamic State, which emerged as Public Enemy No. 1 in that ongoing war.

ISIS has produced its share of public figures who’ve taunted the rest of the world. Perhaps the most notable of them was a British national nicknamed “Jihadi John,” who beheaded prisoners. Jihadi John got his, though, in a missile strike that took him out in 2016.

Here is some more good news: The U.S. military, working with Libyan forces, has killed a key al-Qaida leader in another strike. Musa Abu Dawud was one of two key militant leaders to get blown to bits in a strike in Libya.

Now, before we start our end zone dance and high-five each other, I would like to remind us all of an irrefutable truth in this war: We will need to kill every single terrorist if we have any hope of ending this threat. In other words, although an al-Qaida leader has been smoked, another one — or more — is likely to emerge to replace him.

Donald Trump once told us knew knows “more about ISIS than the generals.” OK, but there must be continued pressure put on the original top enemy, al-Qaida. That organization has continued to wage terror campaigns even though its leader, Osama bin Laden, died in that U.S. commando raid in May 2011.

This is my way of reminding us about the nature of this war against terror. There likely is no way we can declare victory the way we did in World War II, when the world put down the forces of tyranny emanating from Berlin, Rome and Tokyo.

We aren’t fighting military forces that march under the banner of a nation or even a group of nations. We are fighting shady, cunning and creative terrorists who lurk in darkness before striking out.

The president vows to continue the fight, bringing the full weight of our immense military power to bear against terrorists, whether they represent ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram or any sinister organization that seeks to do us harm.

May the fight go on … for as long as it takes.