Posts Tagged Military


Donald Trump ignorantly said that former Presidents did not telephone the families who lost sons and daughters in hostel action, while serving their country.  That, of course is an outright lie!  All former Presidents have called or written the families, and many have specifically held functions for the so-called “Gold Star” Families at the White House.  But, telling such lies has become routine for Donald Trump.

Over the past week, once again, Trump was bitten by his own version of “fake facts.”   He had to be prodded to call the families of four Special Forces sergeants, who were ambushed and killed in Niger.  Thus, Donald Trump has once again created a mess; which, given the question of faulty intelligence, has blown the whole Niger issue way out of proportion.

Chief-of-Staff John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine General thus entered the fray. General Kelly has known the heartache over military troops killed in battle, from both sides:  his own son, Marine First Lieutenant Robert M. Kelly died in battle, in Afghanistan, nine years ago; also, he has walked among the gravestones at the Arlington National Cemetery, knowing that some of those men died, following his orders.

Since the details of the recent blow-up have been endlessly covered by the media, I will not go there.  The question that I ask, however, is: When Chief-of-Staff Kelly inserted himself into this brouhaha, was he speaking as a father and a former general, or was he acting as one of Donald Trump’s closest advisors?  Kelly had always preferred to keep his family’s loss out of the media, since one soldier’s life is as valuable as any other; however, Trump brought it up assumedly for his own thoughtless purposes.

In a prior post, I cited the fact that several recent Presidents—Kennedy, Johnson and Bush 43—virtually disregarded the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  And with Donald Trump, having three generals who answer directly to him—Chief-of-Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster—the role of the JCS, in offering military planning and ideas, would be totally up to Mattis.  That is, however, if Trump listened to anyone!

Originally, all three of the generals appeared to provide their own advice to Trump, rather than just telling him what he had wanted to hear.  Currently, however, by getting involved in this latest flair-up, it appears that John Kelly has taken on the role of answering for the Chief.  After 43 years of serving his country, how much longer can General Kelly stomach defending Donald Trump?


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Besides the “Vietnam” TV Documentary, by Ken Burns and Lynn Novice, there have been many books, recent articles and blog posts, about this Horrible Mistake, which was characterized by lies and mismanagement, both among the Civilian and Military Leadership.  Result:  our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have lasted even longer–and with no end in sight!


We’re forever scarred by the Vietnam War, and the lies | Opinion

The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board gives their parting thoughts for Monday, September 25, 2017.
Richard Aregood

We were right about all of it. The wildest, most paranoid-seeming accusations about our leaders turned out to be true.
The Vietnam War was insane. Various presidents lied to us over and over. Nixon added being a crooked, traitorous weasel. We should never have been there. Never.

Watching Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s “The Vietnam War” isn’t easy — at least not for this old man. There is a tragic heroism, even nobility and wisdom, on the part of soldiers and marines who gave all, only to learn that it was in support of cheap slogans and plain bullheaded stupidity. There is also the soul-ripping tragedy that affected generations of Vietnamese and Americans, inflicting and suffering inhuman brutality.

The politicians lied. The generals lied. Both lied to keep their jobs, not for any nobler reason. Others lied to make a bloodstained buck. War can be very profitable, for those who provide the makings and for the self-dealing crooks we backed in the despised and corrupt South Vietnamese government.

Fifty-eight thousand Americans (and god knows how many Vietnamese) died. More than 21,000 of those Americans were killed after the American people bought Nixon’s smokescreen about his “secret plan to end the war” and elected him president. All along, he was scheming to sabotage peace for his selfish ambition.

It was insane to believe that we exceptional Americans would be “fighting for freedom” by stifling the Vietnamese battle for independence. It was equally crazy to deny the evidence that the war had never gone well and never would. It was bat guano nuts to have gone there in the first place because guys in nice suits gravely intoned something scary about “communists.”

My generation is forever marked by Vietnam, no matter what we did during its pollution of our politics. Whether we were in harm’s way fighting as volunteers or draftees in Vietnam or were protesters hated, beaten and even killed, we bear the scars. In some ways we will never know where some of those scars are. Lyndon Johnson’s domestic programs and civil rights initiatives, so impressive in the beginning, were sacrificed to the war. Everyone lost faith in the government.

It was insane to believe that we exceptional Americans would be “fighting for freedom” by stifling the Vietnamese battle for independence.  May this documentary give our children and grandchildren the knowledge they need to reject liars and those scoundrels who cynically exploit the patriotism of all Americans and the innocent courage of the young.

All these years later, the “best and brightest” have been replaced. We have two more endless wars. Instead of fearing that the reds will be in downtown Fort Lauderdale by sunset, many of us are buying the hogwash that a bunch of fringe maniacs in the desert will. Or North Koreans. Or Mexicans. Or football players. There are always bogeymen. We can always find someone to fear.

Now that the worst and dumbest are in charge, the orange grifter comes up with new bogeymen, seemingly daily. Instead of solemn humbug about falling dominoes, we get crazy schoolyard bleats about foreign leaders who may be as unstable as our own. Instead of worrying about communists on the march, we get to worry about whether former communists gamed our election. Instead of being lied to in complete sentences, we’re lied to in 140 characters.
None of that is an improvement.

Richard Aregood is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a former editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and The Star Ledger of Newark, N.J.
Copyright © 2017, Sun Sentinel


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During the Vietnam War, America only halfheartedly attempted to engage the Viet Cong guerrillas and the North Vietnamese Army in Guerrilla, or Unconventional Warfare. Generally, however, the American Battle Plan called for Conventional Warfare, to take advantage of our technologically superior firepower.  That doesn’t necessarily work against a more primitive adversary, however, that prefers to engage only on its terms. This is, in effect, somewhat of a David and Goliath mismatch!

After Vietnam, the U. S. Military has had an aversion to unconventional warfare. Although we have participated in numerous military engagements since then, I will focus on our three longest wars—Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.  The tank battle against Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard in 1991, and occasional confrontations with ISIS today have been conventional, in that the two armies faced each other head-on.  Those battles were short-lived, however, and not against comparable firepower.

Weaker insurgent and military forces, with little more than rifles and the occasional bazooka, would be insane to confront a major military power head-on.  Rather, they break-up into small groups and peck away at the more organized, larger foe.  Keep in mind that our infantry is weighed-down with 70-to-100 pounds of gear, as were the Soviets in Afghanistan and Chechnya—and they suffered the same fate!

The small groups can scatter and hide, blend in with the local populace, or lure the superior force into cities, thus eliminating the value of the artillery and air bombardment.  Also, major forces, which move in large groups can find difficulty traversing jungles, mountains and deserts.  Infantry that usually deploys in armored personnel carriers (lightly armored, tracked vehicles) or helicopters, may be at a loss when their vehicles are halted by terrain, triple canopy jungle foliage or sandstorms.

When a large foreign army enters another country, it is usually regarded as an Invading Force.  Also, our propping-up corrupt governments merely compounds the situation.  The South Vietnamese government, which we installed, was composed of Roman Catholics who fled the North; however, that offended the predominantly Chinese Buddhists in the South.  Then, the George W. Bush Administration replaced Saddam Hussein’s secular government with Shia Muslims who returned from self-exile in Iran, and embroiled the country into an on-going Shia-Sunni religious war.  Afghanistan has always been just lines on a map, with more Afghan’s aligned with tribal or ethnic groups in neighboring countries than their own nation.

In most cases, America engages in these wars against countries that never attacked us or our allies, merely for economic or political reasons.  Both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used Vietnam as tools to be re-elected.  After the Tet (Chinese Lunar New Year) Offensive in January of 1968, the war was ostensibly lost, and national sentiment had shifted against it.  Nixon kept it going, however, until January of 1973 in order to boost his re-election chances.  George W. Bush also used the two wars in the Middle East to boost his re-election chances in 2004.

In war, if you’re not winning, you’re losing!  Last June, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine General, told a Congressional Committee that we are not winning the War in Afghanistan.  After 14 years, I certainly believe that the same could be said for Iraq.  But, if we continue insisting on fighting the wrong type of war, we will never win wars outright again!

Unconventional warfare just enables the weaker adversary to eliminate the strengths of the superior military power.  And, as the equalizer effect kicks-in, the one remaining difference is that our enemy is fighting for a cause, while our troops barely know why they are there!

NOTE:  Many times over the years, I have wondered how many lives were lost—on both sides—during that five year period in which the war was essentially lost.  Even from the start, it was one huge, costly mistake!


The protest music, during the Vietnam War, was quite cogent.  The linked song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, as performed by Peter, Paul and Mary in that era, has always been one of my favorites.  I believe that it reflects the never-ending insanity of Warfare.  A different version of the performance, by a much older Peter, Paul and Mary, playing to a packed audience of senior citizen–singing, clapping and dancing with their grandchildren–can be found on the Internet.





Sporting events pit Americans against one another and, at least at the collegiate and professional levels, can result in serious and debilitating injuries, and sometimes with deadly results.  Such games are not played for any other reason than to generate profits for the colleges and universities, as well as the professional team players owners.  So, why play the anthem at events, which are more akin to those played centuries ago, back in the Roman Colosseum?  My focus here is specific to pro sports.

When I have watched the National Anthem being played on TV, I always sensed that people were standing out of habit, and any sense of genuine interest was more out of endurance, rather than patriotism.  As the camera scanned the stands, many of the fans, although standing, were demonstrating their reverence by:  wearing their hats; talking; taking selfies; and checking their smartphones, while others saw the opportunity to make a trip to the rest room, or TO make a beer run.

I think that it is quite absurd that our Tweeter-in-Chief has become such a patriot, when he shirked his own duty during the Vietnam Era, when his contemporaries were deployed!  Donald had five deferments, and one of those was a mysterious medical one for “bone spurs,” which never hindered his tennis game.   Now, how patriotic was that?

Donald Trump is supposedly a businessman.  If so, he should realize how moronic it would be for him to expect owners to fire some of today’s best pro players, such as Chris Curry and LeBron James, just because they pissed Trump off!

Firing someone, who has a multi-year contract—upwards of $25 million per annum, plus various incentives—would become immediately due and payable on the firing date.   So too might championship and personal accomplishment bonuses, since the players were denied the opportunity to compete for them.   That would cause team revenue to plummet!

Trumpet also suggests that fans boycott the games if the players do not comply with his inane ideas.   At the price of tickets today, I guarantee that very few fans would boycott the games for a reason that most Americans regard as idiotic.   In fact, a growing majority of Americans appear to be embarrassed by Trump, on a daily basis.

Considering the tense situation in North Korea, various on-going wars, and our nation’s failure to have just one diplomatic voice speak for America, doesn’t Donald have more important matters to attend to than whether players stand, kneel, or sit during the National Anthem?  Perhaps his motivation lies elsewhere.

Apparently, this Anthem Intrigue is a political move on Donald Trump’s part, in order to stir-up his Base—especially the White Supremacists—and, perhaps, once again distract Americans from the Russia Collusion Investigation. So far, he hasn’t attacked any White athletes, just Black ones.

Consider how many Black men, and a few women, have been suspiciously killed at the hands of police officers, and very rarely were the officers even indicted, let alone tried and convicted.  There is no rational reason to question Black athletes’ concern for that form of racism, with he National Anthem reflecting their most public outrage!

At this Sunday’s NFL games, players—both Black and White—from many teams joined the boycott against Trump’s intrusion on their profession.  Several other teams remained in the locker room until the Anthem had ended.  Also, several of the owners took a knee in solidarity with their teams, as well.  It will be interesting to watch whether the players’ action will continue, and if it will spread to other professional sports.

Donald Trump is grasping at bullshit when he suggests that the military, who are deployed into Harm’s Way, are fighting for a flag, which is a mere symbol of what America stood for-pre-Trump!  The “grunts,” Army and Marine infantry each fight, first and foremost, to cover each other’s asses.  Other than that, all of the rest are mere platitudes, which politicians refer to on holidays.   But then how would a Draft-Dodger know?

NOTE: This piece was cross-posted to another site, on which some readers made comments that read more like fairy tales, rather than demonstrate a connection between war and the symbolism of the flag. During my two tours (1967-1968) in South Vietnam, many GI’s had small versions of their respective state flags; but, I never saw even one person who had a U. S. flag.

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Considering the way Diplomacy is being handled by the Trump Regime, its easy to understand why the rest of the world seems to view the goings on at the White House as being somewhat haphazard, at best.  America presents itself to the world through its diplomacy, starting with the President and his State Department.  With Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; however, its more or less: Here we are!

Prior to January, Secretary Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon-Mobil.  And, If his heart is not still back in the Oil Patch, it’s certainly not into diplomacy!  In Donald Trump’s original budget proposal, he had intended to slash the State Department by 31%, and Tillerson didn’t raise Holy Hell!  Such acquiescence doesn’t show the leadership that one would expect from a former Captain of Industry—let alone from our Nation’s Top Diplomat!

The most vexing problem with America’s Foreign Policy today centers on the mis-handling of the situation in North Korea.  Presidents Xi Jinping, of China, and Vladimir Putin, of Russia, appear more “presidential” than Mr. Trump, in that they have a better grasp of the overall situation.  The potential implications of each participating nation’s actions must clearly be considered.  But with Trump and Tillerson, the potential explosiveness of the Korean Peninsula seems to be disregarded.

Most importantly, America needs to speak with one voice, preferably that of an experienced diplomat, who can assume ownership of the problem in order to arrive at a peaceful solution.  The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is much too important not to give it our complete and undivided attention!

Over the past five months, the Trump Regime has been alternating one person after another, to speak for the U. S; but, without any one person with experience to assume the overall responsibility.  And, spurious comments and Tweets by Donald Trump have only escalated the problem to a whole new level.

In his book, “One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the brink of nuclear war,” Michael Dobbs corrected the general presumption that Kennedy and Khrushchev were engaged in a cat and mouse game during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  Since his book was only published in 2008, however, Dobbs had access to previously unavailable documents from all three nations.

As it turned out, both President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev realized, once they had deployed their respective military forces, that they couldn’t insure that the stand-off wouldn’t escalate into a potential nuclear Armageddon. Luckily, the two rational leaders avoided such a possibility!  Castro, on the other hand, preached Death with Honor!

Where is our capable diplomat, who can assess the actual intent of North Korea’s original communique, which stated that it would only fire missiles “near Guam,” and there was no threat of a nuclear weapon?  A single capable and dedicated envoy would have attempted to interpret what that message really meant!  Surely, Kim Jong-Un knew that, if he targets the U. S. or an ally, North Korea would be totally annihilated.  Also, if Kim was truly seriously about striking America, wouldn’t he have targeted, let’s say, San Francisco, Seattle or, at least, Honolulu?

America needs a diplomat—a real one—to take charge of solving this problem, and see it through to a final solution.  Ignorant comments about “locked and loaded,” and threatening to impede the North’s energy supplies—especially with the harsh North Korean winter approaching—would just lead to mass disruption on the Peninsula.  We need that experienced envoy now—to engage with North Korea, along with all interested parties.

As President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev realized: No one wins when we all lose!

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I laughed to myself when I saw a NY Times headline, suggesting that Donald Trump’s Afghanistan Address, on Monday evening, had been “Masculine”.  My reaction was—Yes, with other people’s kids!   I have previously revealed my contempt for so-called “Wartime Presidents”: those who avoided service themselves, while keeping their own sons home. Let the Poor go to war:  What do they have to lose?  DUH!

One of Trump’s key themes, on Monday evening, was that we are going to help the Afghanistan people take control of their country back.  Really?   Afghanistan’s government has little relevance, once you venture outside of the capital.  Various Afghan presidents have often been jokingly referred to as the “Mayor of Kabul!”  That seems similar to the government of Iraq, where that nation’s leaders rarely strays outside of the Green Zone!

Very poor, pre-industrial nations such as Afghanistan, rely mostly on ancient agricultural practices, barter and the common person fending for themselves, and their families.  The per capita Gross Domestic Product of Afghanistan was only $594.32, in 2015.  There is one other agricultural crop, however, which for some reason, just doesn’t seem to be included in the usual GDP Statistics.  Poppy production!

One species of poppy, Papaver somniferum, contains the opium derivative, known as alkaloids, which is found in morphine.  Such opioids are currently a major cause in drug addiction in the U. S, and in other Western nations.  Afghanistan produces 555,750 acres of poppies annually, which is almost four times that of the next highest producer, Myanmar (formerly Burma), at 143,321 acres, followed by #3, Mexico, at 37, 056 acres. Would Afghan poppy growers really take money, to kill the means of their sustenance?

The poppy crop is so pervasive in Afghanistan that, after the imams warn that it is forbidden, they still take their ten percent.  Perhaps tithing is just tithing, huh?

I had written previously about traveling on a dirt road, in a very remote part of (then) South Vietnam back in 1968, and realizing that that one man, working his own rice paddy, was all by himself.  I could only assume that he had no idea who was ruling in Saigon, and surely, the government there knew, nor cared, little about his needs—infrastructure or personal.  But he was surviving—war zone, and all!

This is how the average person survives in such poor nations.  In fact, while these rural peasants are totally on their own, there are groups—somewhat like organized crime families in the West—who provide certain basic services, especially protection.  The local warlords and such, always receive their pound of flesh, however, in return for their “services rendered”.

We in the West cannot adequately understand what it means to take one’s country back, especially when our very presence there might have provided the very cause for its disarray.  The various groups that we assume to eradicate are not the ones causing the death and destruction that the people fear the most.  And when they and/or we are gone, there will be other groups, offering to help.  And that’s the way it has always been!

NOTE:  Another recent blog post, “Does foreign aid really work, or is it just another form of bribery?” takes another look at the life of the average rural resident from a different perspective




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“What Trump should know about the Cuban Missile Crisis”,  By Michael Hobbs August 9, The Washington Post

Michael Dobbs is the author of “One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.”

Hearing President Trump threatening to bring “fire and fury” down on North Korea because of its nuclear defiance reminded me of an incident during the Cuban missile crisis. The State Department had gotten slightly ahead of the White House by mentioning the possibility of “further action” by Washington — and President John F. Kennedy was irate.

He called State Department spokesman Lincoln White to reprimand him personally and to stress the need to coordinate and calibrate all public statements. Otherwise, an already dangerous crisis could escalate uncontrollably. “We got to get this under control, Linc,” he fumed. “You have to be goddamn careful!”

Studying the 1962 nuclear showdown for my book “One Minute to Midnight,” I concluded that the real risk of war arose not from the conscious designs of Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev or even Fidel Castro. It stemmed from the possibility that the opposing sides could trigger a nuclear conflict that nobody wanted through miscommunication and freak accidents, which became increasingly likely at higher levels of military alert. The same is almost certainly true of the present crisis with North Korea.

The nightmare of an accidental nuclear war was very much on Kennedy’s mind during the “13 days” when the world came closer than ever before, or since, to blowing itself up. He had recently read a book by historian Barbara Tuchman, “The Guns of August,” that described how a previous generation of statesmen had blundered into World War I, with nobody really understanding why. Kennedy was determined to avoid a similar chain of unpredictable events involving atomic weapons.

For a student of the Cuban missile crisis, the fact that our current Twitter-happy commander in chief is surrounded by sensible, highly competent generals is only partly reassuring. The missile crisis showed that there are some decisions that only a president can make. There were times when JFK was in a minority of one in the Excomm, the committee set up to manage the crisis, in his willingness to compromise with Khrushchev. Only the president had the overarching sense of history to consider the interests of future generations of Americans, and ultimately all of humanity.
As is no doubt the case today, the generals assued Kennedy in October 1962 that the United States enjoyed overwhelming nuclear superiority over its adversary and could easily wipe the Soviet Union off the map. But this did not comfort the president, who asked the obvious question: How many Americans would die if just one Soviet missile landed on U.S. soil? The answer was 600,000.

“That’s the total number of casualties in the Civil War,” JFK exploded. “And we haven’t got over that in a hundred years.” He later acknowledged that the 24 intermediate-range Soviet missiles in Cuba constituted “a substantial deterrent to me.”

Given the explosive rhetoric of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it is understandable that President Trump should be tempted to respond in kind. Classic game theory teaches us that you can gain an advantage over your opponent if you can convince him that you are madder than he is. In the game of chicken, with two cars heading for a frontal collision, the driver who swerves out of the way first loses.

During the Cuban missile crisis, the “crazy man” role was played to perfection by Castro, the only leading actor who was seriously prepared to risk a nuclear war. Patria o muerte — “fatherland or death” — was, after all, the slogan of the Cuban revolution. Asuming the role of madman has always been part of the arsenal of the weak against the strong, whether in the case of Cuba or North Korea or the Islamic State. It gives the weaker player an advantage it would not otherwise have.

Playing chicken is, however, a dangerous indulgence for the leader of a nuclear superpower. During the 1962 crisis, the two “rational” players — Kennedy and Khrushchev — ended up making common cause against the “madman” Castro. Despite everything that divided them, they had a sneaking sympathy for each other, an idea expressed most poignantly by Jackie Kennedy in a handwritten letter to the Soviet leader following her husband’s assassination.

“You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in a determination that the world should not be blown up,” she wrote Khrushchev. “The danger which troubled my husband was that war might be started not so much by the big men as by the little ones. While big men know the needs for self-control and restraint, little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride.”

As President Trump girds for a possible nuclear confrontation with North Korea, we can only hope that he will prove to be a big man rather than a little one. Out-crazying Kim Jong Un is a scary proposition. Game theory also teaches us that, if neither driver swerves, everybody goes up in flames.

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