Tag Archives: Pentagon

We are changed forever

We know where we were and what we were doing when we got the word 20 years ago today … correct?

On that landmark Tuesday morning I was sitting at my desk at work in Amarillo, Texas. A young man with whom I worked on the editorial page of the Globe-News, came to work, stuck his head in the door and said, “Did you hear the news? A plan flew into the World Trade Center.”

That’s about all Dave Henry knew at the moment. I asked him about the weather. It was sunny and clear in New York, Henry said. My first thought was that a moron had flown the plane into the WTC by mistake.

I turned on the mini-TV I kept in my office. The “Today” show came on and a few minutes later, all hell broke loose as the second plane flew into the other WTC tower. We heard later that morning about the Pentagon and then about the crash in Shanksville, Pa.

Terrorists had hijacked four jetliners intending to do serious harm to this nation. They succeeded perhaps beyond the wildest dreams of the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, who would be delivered justice a decade later by special operations forces sent to kill him by President Obama.

I don’t know what lessons we learned from that horrifying event. I can think of only one constructive lesson, which is that terrorism is a threat that cannot be extinguished. It will lurk in the evil souls of individuals for as long as they exist among us. The lesson will be that we must maintain the highest level of alert. Always and forever.

They paid tribute this morning in our North Texas community to the lives lost and the heroism displayed by firefighters, police officers, first responders and those passengers who fought the terrorists before crashing the plan in Pennsylvania.

They lowered the flag to half-staff at the Princeton Fire Department Station No. 3, the newest such station in our city. The ceremony was brief, but poignant. We learned about a firefighter who died in NYC on 9/11, Anthony Rodriguez, whose sister lives in Princeton and that the fire station we visited this morning was built in his memory.

The ceremony was brief. Our hearts will remain broken for as long as we remember the events of that day and the war that followed for two decades after the attack.

Mostly, though, I choose to salute the brave men and women — such as Anthony Rodriguez — who ran into the flames.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

‘Over the horizon’ reach? Is it enough?

Although I stand firmly behind President Biden’s decision to end our military involvement in Afghanistan — despite the horrifying rollout of the evacuation plan — I remain concerned about one aspect of our post-Afghan policy and posture.

It’s that “over the horizon” strategy the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence community plan to employ to protect us from terrorists.

We went to war in Afghanistan 20 years ago to rid the nation of the Taliban hosts who gave al-Qaeda safe haven from which to plan and then launch an attack on 9/11. We rid the government of the Taliban. Now we’re giving it back to them. Wise call? Ultimately, it will save us lives, heartache, misery … not to mention money.

How do we plan to conduct intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan with no physical presence on the ground? President Biden assures us we have assets and know-how and resources to confront terrorists if they emerge to pose threats to us.

Thirteen of our military personnel died in that horrific suicide blast the other day. Joe Biden pledged to make ISIS “pay” for its act of terror. We struck ISIS with a drone strike, killing a couple of terrorist planners. Americans should applaud that effort. However, we still have human beings on the ground there.

In just a couple of days our presence will be gone.

What happens then? I know we have the best intelligence gatherers on Earth. Our director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, is among the best of the best at what she does. I retain faith in her ability and in those at the top of the Pentagon chain of command.

They will have to be on top of their game 24/7 … likely forever, if we’re going to remain safe from terrorists intent on doing bringing harm and misery to our shores.

I just hope they can do so “over the horizon.”

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Military to order vaccines

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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 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.