Category Archives: International news

Do right by these translators

By John Kanelis /

The effort to shield the men and women who worked with our fighting forces in Afghanistan is a noble effort that must be pursued at full throttle.

President Biden’s expedited withdrawal from the Afghan battlefield carries enormous risk. The Taliban will show no mercy to anyone left behind as we pull our forces out of there. Biden’s plan so far seems to lack the coherence one would expect from a seasoned political hand such as the president.

This isn’t the first time our nation has been forced to deal with the future of those who fought with us on these foreign battlefields.

I am thinking at this moment of a fellow I met in Vietnam while visiting that country in 1989. He drove what they call a cyclo — a motor scooter the Vietnamese use as taxi cabs. I hired this fellow for a day and we became friendly during my time in what used to be called Saigon, but which the government calls Ho Chi Minh City.

What made this guy so special is that he served with the 9th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War. He worked with the locals in the Mekong Delta and fought alongside our soldiers. We pulled out of Vietnam in 1973; the South Vietnamese army couldn’t hold off the North Vietnamese, who then conquered the nation in April 1975.

We didn’t rescue my cyclo driver friend. He ended up in what they called a “re-education camp,” a euphemism for prison.

I wrote about this fellow at the time of my visit. I couldn’t use his real name, as he was thought of himself as a marked man in Vietnam. He deserved better than what he got from the government he assisted during that long-ago war.

May the individuals who aided us in Afghanistan get the protection they deserve.

Listen to The Bulldog

By John Kanelis /

The 20th century’s greatest statesman was so wise on so many fronts, levels and issues.

His view that a nation must remember its past reminds me of something I saw while my wife and I were visiting friends in Germany in 2016.

Our friend took me to what they call in Nuremberg the “The Documentation Center.” What, you might ask, is the Documentation Center?

It is an exhibit that walks visitors through the Nuremberg war crimes trials that commenced shortly after World War II. Axis Powers officials were put on trial for their crimes against humanity. You know, The Holocaust … for example!

Our friend Martin told me straight up that Germany does not hide its past. The descendants of that terrible Nazi regime confront the ugliness of that era head on, he said. “We aren’t proud of it,” he told me. However, they put it all on full display for the world to see.

I came away from the exhibit moved and shaken at many levels by what I read and saw.

Five years later, the debate in this country centers on “critical race theory.” It speaks to the enslavement of human beings by other human beings. It poses fundamentally sound questions about the United States today remains a racist country.

These are not specious questions. They are legitimate. They deserve to be studied and discussed in our classrooms, in our dining rooms, in our living rooms.

How can we declare victory?

By John Kanelis /

Twenty years ago, the United States decided to retaliate against the monsters who attacked us on 9/11.

I recall asking back then: How will we be able to know when to end this war against international terrorism? I also wondered how we can declare victory in a war that might seem to have no end.

Well, one aspect of that war is coming to a conclusion. President Biden has ordered all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, which had given safe haven to the terrorists who hit us on 9/11.

My questions remain the same today as they were when I posed them back in 2001. President Biden has made what amounts to an executive decision. The time has come, he said, to end the war. How does he know that? Well, he hasn’t explained that to us in terms that I have heard.

As for a victory declaration … there won’t be anything of the sort. We will see no “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging across the White House portico.

Indeed, the decision carries plenty of risk. The Taliban are on the march in Afghanistan. The future of women and children in that country now become tenuous. Biden’s predecessor as POTUS sought to negotiate with the terrorists; it didn’t go well for either side.

To be honest, it has been a haphazard withdrawal. There is no clear plan to offer safety for the thousands of contractors who worked with our forces during the Afghan War. I will retain plenty of hope that the president will come up with a plan to provide refuge for the translators and others who assisted our men and women on the battlefield.

However, a war against international terror cannot possibly signal that we have defeated the terrorists, that we have eliminated the threat. Indeed, the threat was always there, always lurking just below the surface, just beyond our consciousness.

It will be there even as we exit the field of battle in Afghanistan.

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.

Biden to Putin: Shape up or else

By John Kanelis /

Well, that went about as planned.

President Biden said he would confront Russian strongman Vladimir Putin on issues that obstruct warm-and-fuzzy relations between the nations. He did what he vowed to do.

Putin’s response? It was to suggest — among other things — that the Jan. 6 insurrection was just an example of Americans seeking to have their grievances heard. I’ll get back to that one.

Biden vowed to deal directly with Russian interference in two presidential elections. He delivered on that one. Biden said he would challenge Putin on his invasion of Ukraine. Ditto on that one, too. President Biden promised also to challenge Putin’s harsh treatment of political dissidents. Bingo, Mr. President!

It was on that final point that produced Putin’s strange suggestion that the Jan. 6 riot was just a demonstration of Americans’ desire to have their grievances addressed. Uh, Mr. Dictator, that was a frontal assault on our democratic process … not that you would understand the value of democracy.

I continue to believe that it was smart for Biden and Putin to stage separate news conferences. Putin went first. Then it was Biden’s turn. The sequence enabled President Biden to correct the record when and where he deemed it necessary.

Both men have called their initial head-of-state summit as productive and constructive. That’s a good thing, to be sure. What must not happen ever again, though, is for the U.S. president to roll over when Russia’s leader denies doing what our intelligence experts concluded he did — which was interfere in our election. We saw that disgraceful display in 2018 when Putin met with Biden’s predecessor.

So, now they have parted company. My strong hope now is that Putin understands that President Biden — with decades of foreign-policy experience under his belt — will not be played the way he was able to manipulate the former Sycophant in Chief.

Biden-Putin summit sets up drama

By John Kanelis /

President Biden has made the right call in deciding to conduct a separate press conference after he and Russian goon/strongman Vladimir Putin conclude their first summit on Wednesday.

You’ll recall the time in Helsinki when Putin stood next to Biden’s predecessor after the two of them met in their initial meeting in 2018. Reporters asked the former POTUS about Russian interference in our 2016 election and the ex-Suck Up in Chief said there was “no reason why” Russia would interfere. It was a downright disgraceful denigration of our intelligence network that concluded the Russians did what everyone knew they did.

Joe Biden won’t give Putin a shared platform. He is dealing with the Russian dictator from a position of strength. President Biden’s predecessor sought to elevate Putin’s standing by appearing with him in Helsinki.

What I find particularly appealing about the Biden approach is that his presser will occur after Putin speaks. That will give President Biden a chance to refute whatever lies fly out of Putin’s pie hole after the men have their meeting.

The president and the Russian despot will have plenty to discuss. I trust they’ll get to cover some of the issues that went unspoken when Putin met with the previous POTUS.

I look forward to what we can learn about the nature of U.S.-Russia relations.

Netanyahu is out!

By John Kanelis /

Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the world’s greatest enigmas, in my humble view.

The soon to be former prime minister of Israel toes a hard line against Palestinians, against the terror groups that hide among them, and to the security of his nation. I understand Netanyahu’s concern about Israeli security.

I spent more than a month there in the spring of 2009. I saw up close what Israelis face daily, being so close to nations that at various times either have wanted to destroy Israel or have actually gone to war with them to achieve that end. I mean, they require new homes to have fortified bomb shelters built in.

I sought an interview with Netanyahu while we were touring the country. He was too busy to meet with me, then a working daily journalist. Oh, well.

A coalition government has formed that will remove Bibi Netanyahu from office. He is going out with some rhetorical fire in his nostrils. He is criticizing President Biden for reasons that escape me, given the president’s long-standing support of Israel; it might have something to do with Biden’s insistence on a two-state solution to find peace with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. He has made plenty of enemies along the way, allowing the construction of Israeli home in the Palestinian-occupied West Bank. That is where my feelings conflict about Netanyahu. While I support the man’s insistence on protecting Israelis against Palestinian terrorists, I have difficulty with this move toward encroaching even more deeply into Palestinian territory with construction of homes for Israeli families. It’s as if he is picking a needless fight.

I am heartened by the belief that Israel will survive this huge power change. It is a beautiful, thriving and progressive country. It serves as something of an oasis in a parched and desolate region. I want them to succeed, as I have many friends there. I wish only peace for them.

It well might inch its way toward a permanent state now that Benjamin Netanyahu, a chief antagonist, is being pushed aside.

‘America First’ gives way to alliance-building

(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

By John Kanelis /

A president of the United States who declares an “America First” foreign policy always must be mindful of a simple fact.

The United States of America cannot shirk its global obligations military, economically and environmentally, which means that the U.S. of A. must honor the alliances it has built over many decades with other nations who depend on our leadership.

President Biden is seeking to reconstruct the trust that his immediate presidential predecessor dismantled repeatedly during his tenure in office.

The term “globalism” has become a four-letter word in some sectors of this country. Whether in offices, or in coffee houses, barber shops or grange halls, we hear Americans dismiss the notion that this nation is part of a much larger — but oddly shrinking — global community.

That is why President Biden returned the nation to the Paris Climate Accords, to the World Health Organization, the Iran nuclear talks and reasserted our role as NATO’s senior partner immediately upon taking office.

It also is why Biden will sit down soon with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and, as he said the other day, “tell him things I want him to hear.”

Joe Biden is operating at the summit level from a position of immense strength. Whereas Biden’s predecessor coddled the likes of Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current president vows a vastly different approach. I do not expect President Biden to shake hands with Kim Jong Un for as long as Kim continues to murder his people.

And someone has to explain to me why such dictator-coddling in any form or fashion produces foreign policies that “put America First.”

It’s a new era dawning on the international stage with President Biden’s first foreign journey. In a way, though, it resembles a return to the way it used to be … which is all right with me.

Sanctions against Belarus? Uhh, yes!

By John Kanelis /

Think for just a moment how the immediate past president of the United States might respond to the act of state-sponsored thuggery that unfolded in Belarus the other day.

Donald Trump well might applaud the action that took a journalist into custody for — get this — criticizing the autocrat who runs his country.

President Biden is planning to invoke sanctions against Belarus and also has hinted that the audacious display of ham-handedness will be on the table when he and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin for their first summit.

Biden administration to reimpose sanctions on Belarus over diverted flight | TheHill

You know the story, yes? A jetliner took off from Athens en route to Lithuania the other day. When it crossed Belarus air space, air traffic controllers ordered the plane to land, contending it might have a bomb on board. The plane landed. Authorities found no bomb. Instead, they arrested Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian journalist who also is active in the opposition movement against Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator who runs the country.

This act of repression borders on terrorism, in my humble view. This kind of aggression cannot be allowed to stand.

It is my fervent hope that President Biden follows through with his threat to deal strongly with the dictator who has demonstrated a callous disregard for basic human rights. Indeed, the entire issue of “human rights” has returned — thankfully — to the West Wing of the White House, where for the previous four years it was ignored by the Strongman Lover in Chief.

Mr. POTUS, stand firm

By John Kanelis /

President Biden has a meeting coming up soon with a guy who once had another president twisted around his pinky finger.

I do not expect the same kind of kowtowing from the current POTUS as it regards Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

The leaders will meet in their first summit encounter in Geneva.

My hope and my expectation is that Joe Biden will give Putin an earful about some of the issues that went unspoken between Putin and Donald J. Trump.

You know what they are: Russian interference in our elections; Russian human rights violations; and the bounties that Russians paid the Taliban terrorist/goons for Americans they killed in battle in Afghanistan.

Putin is a bad actor. He runs a rogue nation that presents itself as an economic and military power when it is a third-rate nation at almost every level imaginable.

Putin played Donald Trump like a fiddle. He doesn’t figure to do the same thing to President Biden.

Stand firm, Mr. President.