Tag Archives: Pentagon

Biden sends wall money back to Pentagon

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Donald J. Trump got his biggest applause while campaigning for election and re-election that he would make Mexico pay for The Wall he would build along our southern border.

Mexico hasn’t paid a nickel for it, nor will it pay. What did Trump do then? He redirected money meant for the Pentagon toward construction of The Wall.

Trump didn’t win re-election. So now the man who replaced him, President Biden, has sent $14 billion in Wall money back to the agency from where it came.

Biden administration to return Trump’s border wall money to Pentagon accounts (msn.com)

Good call, Mr. President/Mr. Commander in Chief.

The money should have stayed at the Pentagon, where Congress appropriated it in the first place. Trump’s decision to divert Pentagon money to construction of The Wall was an act of political desperation, given that there would be no on Earth that Mexico would — or should — pay for a structure that is being erected by our government.

As Roll Call reported: “To build a wall along the southern border, the previous Administration redirected billions of dollars Congress provided for supporting American troops and their families, and for purchasing military vehicles, aircraft, and ships,” the official said in a statement. “The Biden Administration is committed to upholding the rule of law, and properly equipping American troops and caring for their families.”

Congress’s authority to appropriate money must remain intact. It does now that Joe Biden has taken charge of the executive branch of government.

Transition proves tough

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The transition from the presidency of Donald John Trump to Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has proved tougher than I anticipated.

From a blogger’s standpoint, Trump kept me energized damn near daily with commentary to offer; Biden, meanwhile, is essentially keeping a low center of gravity … which I am certain is a good thing.

I am left, then, to think of what kind of former presidency awaits the 45th White House occupant. How does this guy spend his remaining time on Earth? Will he bask in the reflected glory of having served a single term as president? Or will he continue to live under the ruse of the Big Lie that he keeps telling, the one about alleged electoral thievery by the guy who beat him?

There might come a time when the former presidents gather in one place. It might a funeral for one of them. It might be an event that President Biden decides to host that calls on his predecessors to attend. What might that be? Let’s see, we’ll be commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11 later this year. There might be an event at the White House or the Pentagon, or at the World Trade Center in Manhattan that compels the former presidents to show up.

Surely we would see Presidents Bush and Obama there, yes? I mean, 9/11 occurred on Bush’s watch and Obama approved the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. President Clinton is no stranger to comforting a nation grieving over tragedy, which he did after the Oklahoma City bombing. President Carter’s health might not allow him to be there.

What about Donald Trump? Does he get invited to attend such an event?

I am thinking he is going to live out his days as an outcast from this exclusive club of former U.S. commanders in chief. It doesn’t matter one damn bit to me whether he ever rehabilitates himself sufficiently to be welcomed back, or whether he would even feel suited to accept an invitation, were one to be extended.

There might come a day when these thoughts won’t invade my skull. Man, I hope it gets here in a hurry.

Biden to make history with DoD pick

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin is President-elect Biden’s choice to become the next secretary of defense.

I applaud the choice. Gen. Austin would be the first African-American to lead the Pentagon. He is a former Central Command leader and a warrior with a distinguished and heroic military career.

But oh yes. There’s an issue with Austin. The law requires that a former military man or woman must be out of the service a minimum of seven years before assuming a top-level Cabinet post. Austin’s been out of the Army for only four years.

What does the Senate do? Simple! It does what it did for retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis when Donald Trump nominated him to be defense secretary. Mattis received a waiver from the Senate because he, too, hadn’t been a civilian for the requisite length of time.

The Senate can — and should — do the same for Lloyd Austin. Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Senate shouldn’t grant another waiver so soon after it did so for James Mattis. “Waiving the law should happen no more than once in a generation,” Reed said in 2017. “Therefore, I will not support a waiver for future nominees. Nor will I support any effort to water down or repeal the statute in the future.”

Hooey! Lloyd Austin is an outstanding choice who deserves a Senate waiver to enable him to take command of the Pentagon.

9/11: Memory still burns hot

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It was 19 years ago when our lives changed possibly forever.

As I look back on that terrible Tuesday morning, I find myself swallowing hard. My throat develops that lump when I see the Twin Towers collapse onto the street in lower Manhattan. I have difficulty watching video of the men, women and children running for their lives.

Yes, our lives changed when we saw what happens when terror shows its ugliness. It did on that day in 2001.

Of course I remember that day. I remember my reaction when my colleague told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I remember turning on the small TV in my office and watching in real time the second jetliner crash into the other tower.

Then the sh** hit the fan.

We went to war against the Taliban, against al-Qaeda, against any organization that sided with the religious perverts who struck at our heart. I have said for all that time that we may never be able to declare victory as we have done in many of our previous wars. I will stand by that assertion.

Pundits were enraged and expressed their rage with eloquence. I tried to bring my own meager talents into play. In reality, the attack stands alone as a testament to the cruelty that humankind can rein down on ourselves.

It doesn’t get any easier to recall that terrible day, the attacks on the Twin Towers, on the Pentagon and when those brave passengers aboard the jetliner crashed the airplane into the field, sparing yet another target from destruction.

I will get through the day after spending it thinking and remembering how our nation was alerted in the starkest terms imaginable to the danger that lurks all around us.

Strike the Confederate colors!

Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote the following today in a memorandum that has gotten worldwide attention: “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”

You only get a single guess on which flag he targeted with this message. Time’s up.

Yep, it’s the Confederate flag, which has been banned at all military installations. Period. Full stop.

I am going to hand it to Mark Esper. His order flies directly into a headwind created by opposition from the commander in chief, Donald Trump, who has made no secret of his outrage over the Confederate flag being targeted as a symbol of hate and national division … which it most certainly is.

Trump has this peculiar affection for the rebel flag, which to my eye symbolizes bloodshed, treason and enslavement.

We fought the nation’s bloodiest conflict, the Civil War, with one side rallying under that flag on the battlefield, where more than 600,000 Americans died. The Confederate States of America committed treason by rebelling against the federal government, seeking to overthrow it … and why? Because the CSA wanted to retain the right of states to allow people to keep other people enslaved.

There you have it. Defense Secretary Esper says all flags that fly on U.S. military installations must comport with the ideals of the nation. Slavery and treason aren’t part of the package.

Now I am wondering at this moment whether the commander in chief is going to override that order. Donald Trump has the legal authority to do it. Will he dare?

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.

Stars and Stripes falls victim to changing media climate?

Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute.

Donald John Trump keeps yammering about how much he cares about the men and women who serve in the military, doing duty that he couldn’t fit into his own life when he was of the age to fight for his country.

Why, then, is the Pentagon — under the current president’s watch — stripping Stars and Stripes of the government subsidy on which it relies to provide news and other information to our military personnel?

Stars and Stripes, which has been published regularly since World War II, is losing its $8 million annual subsidy, ostensibly so the Pentagon can spend that money (which amounts to chump change in the total spending accrued by the agency) on other projects.

As Stars and Stripes reported: “Every day in my office as commander of U.S. European Command, I would read Stars and Stripes,” said retired Adm. James Stravidis, who served as EUCOM chief and NATO Supreme Allied Command from 2009 to 2013. “It was an invaluable unbiased and highly professional source of information which was critical to me in my role overseeing U.S. military throughout Europe.”

Allow me to join Adm. Stravidis in declaring my own intense interest in Stars and Stripes. Many of us serving in Vietnam came to rely on the newspaper to tell us of what was happening back home. We also had Armed Forces Radio, but to those of us who preferred to read the printed word, Stars and Stripes served as a sort of lifeline to the “The World.”

Are we now being led to believe that our young men and women no longer get to read the news that Adm. Stravidis said kept him informed just a few years ago?

This is an absolute shame.

Zero, to 34, now to 50 injuries in missile attack

What’s going on at the Pentagon?

The Iranians fired ballistic missiles at our forces in Iraq in response to our killing of Qassem Soulaimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Hey, this was a bad dude, a ruthless terrorist chieftain.

The missiles landed on our base. The Pentagon and Donald Trump said immediately there were zero U.S. casualties.

Wait! Then the number rose suddenly to 34 service personnel. The brass said they suffered traumatic brain injury when the missiles blew up.

Now we hear the number has reached 50 military personnel.

Is this how it goes now? The public gets information handed out in dribs and drabs.

We all are grateful that none of the injuries is life-threatening. Most of the personnel who were injured have returned to duty.

This sloppy information release seems all too common in an administration that simply cannot seem to get its story straight the first time.

The men and women who serve us — as well as their families who pray for their safety while they stand in harm’s way — need to know the whole truth all the time.

Are we ready for the Iranian response?

The U.S.-Iran tension has just been kicked squarely in the gut with reports that a drone strike has killed a leading Iranian military leader responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service personnel.

Major Gen. Quassim Suleimani is dead. He was the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He was an evil individual. I happen to believe he needed killin’, as the saying goes. To that extent I also happen to applaud the action taken by U.S. military officials, reportedly at the direction of Donald Trump. The strike occurred in Baghdad, Iraq, where the Revolutionary Guard has been involved in fomenting violence.

Here, though, is the major qualifier we need to understand fully. The consequence of this strike is likely to produce a retaliation from Iran.

Are we ready for such a reaction? Are our forces set to respond to whatever Iran intends to do to avenge the death of someone considered to be a revered leader in Iran?

It’s one thing to launch a strike against a primary military leader. It’s quite another to take such action without a strategy lined out to deal with the response that is sure to be directed at this country or our allies in the Middle East.

I am hopeful the Pentagon brass has developed that strategy and is prepared to deploy it when it becomes necessary.

‘I prefer to eat with the men’

Take a gander at this lovely couple. They are my late uncle and aunt, Tom and Verna Kanelis. They played a big part in my life and in the lives of my wife and sons.

I am thinking of them this week as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. You may ask why. I will tell you.

They visited me once when I was a teenager stationed at a U.S. Army post far from home … for the first time, I should add. They made me feel “at home” on the other side of our vast nation.

I gave thanks to them in the moment for their presence in my life. I am doing so now.

It was Thanksgiving 1968. I had completed my Army basic training a month earlier in Fort Lewis, Wash. I got orders to report to Fort Eustis, Va., where I would attend aircraft maintenance school, learning how to service twin-engine OV-1 Mohawk airplanes.

Thanksgiving approached and we got word that we could invite anyone we wanted. I called Tom and Verna and invited them to join me for a holiday meal at Fort Eustis. They accepted. Here is where it gets so very pleasantly strange.

Tom was an Army colonel. He served as a staff officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. He was a decorated infantry officer, earning the Bronze Star with valor after seeing intense combat during the Korean War. He had enlisted in 1943, then went to officers candidate school to earn his commission. He served heroically.

When he and Verna agreed to drive two hours south from D.C. to Fort Eustis, I added his name to the guest list, noting that it would include “Col. and Mrs. Tom Kanelis.”

The commanding officer of our training battalion was a lieutenant colonel. Someone on his staff noted that an active-duty “full bird colonel” was coming and Lt. Col. Wolfe wanted to make sure Col. and Mrs. Kanelis were treated, well, accordingly.

Understand that I am watching all this through the eyes of a late-stage teenager. It was akin to an out-of-body experience. I was far from my home in Portland, Ore. I was preparing to learn an Army skill for which I had no experience. I might be headed to war in Vietnam. I was nervous.

My uncle and aunt arrived on Thanksgiving for dinner. I greeted them as they approached the mess hall. We went inside. Lt. Col. Wolfe greeted Col. and Mrs. Kanelis and damn near tripped over himself trying to ensure that Col. Kanelis and his wife were welcome and comfortable. I watched from nearby and could barely contain the urge to bust out laughing.

Then came the question from Lt. Col. Wolfe: “Would you like to eat in the officers’ mess or with the men.” Tom didn’t blink, flinch or hesitate. “I prefer to eat with the men.”

I knew precisely in that moment what Tom had in mind. He did not want to expose me to ridicule from my enlisted colleagues that I was getting preferred treatment just because I happened to be related to someone who outranked the battalion CO.

We had our meal. I enjoyed the company of two people I loved very much. They made my first Thanksgiving away from home one of the more memorable experiences of my life.

They’re both gone now. I miss them terribly. As for Lt. Col. Wolfe, I don’t recall ever discussing that day with him during my time at Fort Eustis. I hope he appreciated the self-control I demonstrated by not laughing out loud at what I witnessed.