Category Archives: military news

Back off … chumps!

There’s something off-putting about watching politicians grill battle-hardened military men in search of what I consider to be cheap political points.

That’s what I saw today as three distinguished warriors sat before a Senate committee to be questioned about their role in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Let me be clear about a key point. I subscribe wholly to the notion that civilian authority must remain central to the conduct of our military policy. However, when I watch politicians seek to dress down men of valor, well … it turns me off.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a former Army four-star general, was one of the targets of the chumps serving on the Senate panel; so was Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; same for Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commanding officer of Central Command, which has coordinates all military activity in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, sought to get Milley to admit whether he spoke to authors of books that have looked critically at the last days of the Donald Trump administration. Milley answered “yes” that he had spoken to the authors. Blackburn then asked whether he supported what they wrote. Milley said he hasn’t read any of the books.

That wasn’t good enough for Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, who then asked whether Milley was too busy being interviewed by the likes of Bob Woodward and Robert Costa to pay attention to the details of the Afghan War withdrawal. Hawley, ever the showman, then demanded that Milley and Austin resign their posts.


All three of these men have served their country with honor, valor and distinction. Milley has taken heat because of reporting in the book “Peril” that he gave his counterpart in China a heads up in the event of a potential attack by the United States in the waning days of the Trump administration. Good grief! He acted nobly as he sought to protect the United States against potential catastrophe!

Politics fuels everything these days. Hawley wants to run for president. He wants to make waves within the GOP so he takes this opportunity to question the integrity of genuine Americans heroes.


Gen. Milley acted correctly

If we are to believe the reporting of two world-class journalists — and I do — about the chaotic final days of the Trump administration, then we also can believe that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff perceived that the president posed an existential threat to our very nation.

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa have written a book titled “Peril.” They chronicle how the 45th president of the United States sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election that delivered Joe Biden to the presidency.

One of the many episodes they chronicle involves Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman, who believed the POTUS was capable of starting a nuclear war with China. What did Milley do, according to Woodward and Costa? He called his counterpart in Beijing to warn him of what he feared might happen.

As you might expect, Republicans are hollering “treason!” and suggest that Milley went outside the chain of command. They are calling for his resignation, or his arrest and conviction by court martial. The Constitution does declare that civilians set military policy.

I do not believe Gen. Milley committed a treasonous act. He did the right thing. He perceived that the sociopathic narcissist who had lost a free and fair election was capable of doing immense harm to this country and, apparently in Milley’s eyes, to the entire planet.

Milley aimed to head off a presidential effort to cling to power by any means necessary.

Truth be told … I cannot fault Gen. Milley for that.

Rumor hot spots keep flaring

As the United States moves into a post-war world now that it has pulled out of Afghanistan, the Biden administration is left to extinguish right-wing-generated rumor-mill hot spots.

Such as the one about us supposedly leaving $83 billion worth of military equipment for the Taliban to use, possibly against Americans or our allies.

The rumor is false.

That won’t stem the fake news coming from the mouths of conservative politicians and media personalities. They keep harping on the equipment left behind. They suggest that the Taliban is now the second-best equipped military force in the world — behind the U.S. of A.

According to The Associated Press:

Their $85 billion figure resembles a number from a July 30 quarterly report from SIGAR, which outlined that the U.S. has invested about $83 billion to build, train and equip Afghan security forces since 2001.

Yet that funding included troop pay, training, operations and infrastructure along with equipment and transportation over two decades, according to SIGAR reports and Dan Grazier, a defense policy analyst at the Project on Government Oversight.

“We did spend well over $80 billion in assistance to the Afghan security forces,” Grazier said. “But that’s not all equipment costs.”

In fact, only about $18 billion of that sum went toward equipping Afghan forces between 2002 and 2018, a June 2019 SIGAR report showed.

FACT FOCUS: Trump, others wrong on US gear left with Taliban (

Is that the end of it? Hardly. It only goes to underscore the public-relations battle that awaits the Biden team as it tries to keep this withdrawal in its proper perspective.

Rep. Gaetz pops off

By John Kanelis /

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who’s under investigation for alleged sex trafficking and for having sex with underage girls, needs to put a sock in his pie hole.

He has called Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin possibly “the stupidest person to ever serve in a presidential Cabinet.” Gaetz tore into the retired four-star Army general for decisions he made while he was in charge of Central Command and as defense secretary.

Gaetz, a Florida Republican, is known primarily for two things: for being a loudmouth and a blowhard and for being an unabashed supporter of the disgraced and twice-impeached former Liar in Chief.

One more point.

Gaetz has challenged the integrity and the honor of the first African-American ever to hold the office of defense secretary. Lloyd Austin served with honor and dignity during nearly 40 years wearing the military uniform.

What about Gaetz’s service to the country? Has he thrust himself into harm’s way?

Umm … no.

What if he had stayed?

By John Kanelis /

President Biden has his hands full trying to fend off Republican critics of his decision to end our military involvement in Afghanistan.

It begs a critical question.

What if Joe Biden had decided once he took office that we needed to stay there? Or had he decided to bring more troops onto the field of battle? And then we would have sustained casualties while the fighting raged on?

Do you suppose that would have made those sitting in the GOP peanut gallery happy? Hah! Not even, man.

They would have accused him of reneging on his predecessor’s pledge to “end the useless war” in Afghanistan.

Yes, we have a mess on our hands. I am going to give President Biden the benefit of the doubt — although it’s not an endless benefit — that he can fix this evacuation crisis.

As for the criticism he is receiving for ending our conflict, he is being damned for doing the right thing.

Biden gives speech of his life?

By John Kanelis /

Jim Boyd once wrote editorials for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

He is a friend of mine; I have known Boyd for more than 30 years. He and I have one other thing in common — besides being former editorialists. We served in Vietnam; both of us were in the Army. Boyd worked in “the bush”; I did not.

My friend today endorsed President Biden’s speech to the nation about the tragedy in Afghanistan. Boyd takes a different view than what I have expressed. I want to share it here. It’s a brief Facebook post, so bear with me.

Biden just gave the best foreign policy speech of my lifetime. He learned the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq — needlessly spending the lives of Americans and residents of those countries in pursuit of mistaken policies — and then he applied it in mission-creeped Afghanistan. It was the clearest, truest statement on refusing to waste American lives I have ever heard. And I have been listening since I went in the Army in 1968. Bravo, bravo, President Biden.

The president’s decision to pull our forces out of Afghanistan was a sound call. I would argue only that the logistics of the withdrawal has been, shall we say, clumsy.

The criticism of the president’s policy pronouncement has centered on the lack of planning for the protection of the thousands of allies we employed while fighting the Taliban. They served as interpreters, deep-cover operatives, staff personnel. They want out of Afghanistan. President Biden did not produce an evacuation plan prior to making his decision to pull out. Should he have done so in advance? Of course!

However, what I heard today from the president was a clear and unambiguous statement of ownership of a critical decision, just as President Kennedy took the heat for the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. President Biden stood strongly behind his decision to end a war that had become something that one of his predecessors, George W. Bush, didn’t foresee … at least not publicly.

Indeed, President Bush pulled his own eyes off the target when he ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 on the double-barreled phony mantra that (a) Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and (b) he had something to do with the 9/11 attacks.

So, our nation’s war effort in Afghanistan has ended. There will be no more American lives lost on this particular far-away field of battle.

I join my friend in saying, “Bravo, President Biden.” 

No ‘They died in vain’ rhetoric

By John Kanelis /

Forgive me if I am getting ahead of myself, but I want to lay down an important marker while the world watches the Taliban take control of Afghanistan provincial capital by provincial capital.

If the worst comes true and the Taliban seize control of the Afghan government, I am going to predict we’re going to hear critics of President Biden’s decision to pull our forces off the battlefield say something akin to this:

“Our young men and women we lost in that war will have died in vain.” 

Can you hear it, too? Of course you can.

I want to say that no matter how this tragedy ends that none of our gallant and brave warriors died “in vain” on the Afghan fields of battle. They died while fighting terrorist monsters who used Afghanistan as a safe haven while they plotted attacks against us. Those attacks culminated in what occurred on 9/11.

Indeed, the “died in vain” mantra we likely will hear from right-wing critics of President Biden’s decision denigrates the service of the thousands of young Americans who perished in defense of our nation and in defense of the Afghan people.

We heard after the Vietnam War that the 58,000 young Americans who died in that conflict did so “in vain.” It enraged me when I heard it then. I lost colleagues in that war. Their deaths, while tragic, occurred as they were upholding the oath they took when they joined the military. That oath compelled them to follow lawful orders and to defend the nation against our enemies.

That is in no way “dying in vain!”

Nor did the Americans who died in Afghanistan die “in vain.” They died heroically and with honor. That is how they must be remembered.

Confused and frightened

By John Kanelis /

The pending withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan has me confused and frightened.

The frightening aspect comes with the advance of Taliban forces that are taking city after city in their march toward reasserting control over a country we thought we had “liberated” when we invaded it shortly after 9/11 … which was nearly 20 years ago.

The Taliban are set to take control of Kabul, the capital city of the embattled nation perhaps in the next few weeks.

The Taliban is about as evil and vile as any group on Earth. Thus, it frightens me in the extreme to see what might happen to Afghanistan if the Taliban retake control of the country.

My confusion stems from the fact that we went through three presidential administrations overseeing our combat role in Afghanistan. From George W. Bush, to Barack H. Obama and then to Donald J. Trump our forces were thought to be helping prepare the Afghan forces to defend their country against the Taliban. Joe Biden took office in January and declared our intention to pull out before the 20th year commemorating the 9/11 attacks that precipitated our involvement in our longest war.

Did we waste all that time, money, effort and blood by failing to train and equip the Afghan forces adequately?

To be brutally candid, I am wondering if the Biden administration truly understood the gravity of the Taliban’s military capability when it decided to end our involvement in this drawn-out fight.

I want our troops to come home. I also had hoped we could leave Afghanistan in a position to defend itself. My first wish is about to come true. The second wish makes me wonder about the wisdom of what we were doing there in the first place.

Military to order vaccines

By John Kanelis /

Imagine you’re serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Your commanding officer or the non-commissioned officer in charge of your unit notices your boots aren’t shined properly. He or she orders you to shine ’em up, make ’em look pretty, shine them so you can see your face reflected back at you.

You do what you’re told, right? It’s a lawful order … which is why they call them “orders.” You are required to follow all lawful orders.

So it is that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has declared that every member of the U.S. armed forces — all 1.4 million men and women — will be required to be vaccinated against the COVD-19 virus and the assorted variants that are making Americans sick. That, too, is a lawful order.

I applaud the defense secretary — a retired four-star Army general — for issuing this order. He knows of which he speaks.

Is this going to mean that every soldier, sailor, Marine, Coast Guardsman, airman or space guardian will follow those orders without challenging them? Oh, probably not. We do live in a weird world that politicizes everything.

If they refuse, then their senior officers and NCOs need to take matters into their own hands and force them to be vaccinated.

Then they should toss the proverbial book at them.

Biden keeps key promise

By John Kanelis /

One of the few policy notions from the 45th president of the U.S. with which I agreed dealt with pulling out of “endless wars.”

He made the pledge while running for the presidency in 2016. He kept saying he would do so while serving in the office. He didn’t quite deliver on the pledge.

Today, his successor — President Joe Biden — announced that our involvement in the Afghan War ends on Aug. 31. Period. Full stop.

There will be no more U.S. troop presence on the battlefields there, President Biden told us.

And so, our nation’s longest war — which commenced our war against international terrorism — is coming to an end. There will be no victory declaration. Nor will there be, as Biden told us, any helicopters lifting off from rooftops as there was in Vietnam in April 1975.

Biden has pledged to help provide shelter for the Afghans who helped our military effort during the two decades we fought there, although the plan for providing that aid hasn’t yet been fully developed.

I endorse the pullout. The time has come for the Afghans to defend themselves. We have trained an army, provided an air force and are leaving them with resources to fight the Taliban terrorists who do present an existential threat to the government in Kabul.

Our longest war is about to end. It fills me with relief.