A comparatively small burial plot of the World War I Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France contains the remains of American military personnel who, following convictions in US Military Courts Martial, remain as nearly anonymous as the numbered markers above them. For nearly seventy-five years after their convictions, their grave markers only reveal one or two digit identification numbers and not the names of those so buried. Though they were convicted of capital crimes, do they deserve the dignity of a proper burial that all of us expect for ourselves?
Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s decision to report President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. Kelly referred to the call as an “illegal order” that had to be reported. Most of us support Vindman raising his concerns with the chain of command and hopefully Trump will not attack Kelly for stating his support for Vindman. This is a principled and reasonable view of one of our most respected military officers.
We recently discussed the shocking tweet from President Donald Trump that the United States might target cultural sites in retaliation of any response from Iran to our killing of an Iranian general. I suggested at the time that Trump may have been referring to legitimate target with dual cultural significance and strongly suggested a clarification. Well, he has now clarified and doubled down that he may target cultural sites — an act that is widely viewed as a war crime.
President Donald Trump is often incautious in his language when speaking on the international stage. Words matter in diplomacy which often reflect important distinctions of international law. President Trump’s latest tweet is an example of this pattern. In pledging to strike back “very fast and very hard” to any Iranian retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Trump included striking Iranian cultural sites. Under international law, the targeting of cultural targets is viewed as a war crime. The U.S. military has a long history of avoiding such targets.
Recently, Joe Biden “clarified” his pledge to defy any Senate subpoena to testify in the Trump impeachment trial but stating the exact opposite in a later interview. Now, in a remarkable contradiction, Biden has denied that he advised against the Bin Laden raid in 2011 despite his statement to the contrary eight years ago. Given the importance of the issue to his views as president, the latest in a long line of contradictions could further undermine Biden’s position in a still competitive Democratic field.
In a break from long-standing intelligence practices, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to confirm that the United States was behind the missile strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s secretive Quds Force, and six others, including Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The public acknowledgement of responsibility is a game changer. While Iran (like most of us) assumed it was the United States, the public confirmation of the assassination removes any doubt and forces Iran and Iraq to deal with a direct and official attack. International law treats the targeted killing of a ranking military figure on foreign sovereign soil as a presumptive act of war. As always however there is no shortage of hypocrisy in the condemnations from Capitol Hill.
Former Pentagon aide Guy Snodgrass has finally denied that he is “Anonymous” — the author of the book “A Warning.” That was however before he milked the speculation to awkwardly hawk his own less-than-sizzling book. In a Fox interview with Trace Gallagher, Snodgrass went out of his way to tease the speculation while shamelessly pitching his book to try to generate buzz. The curious effort seemed to do little to increase book sales but it certainly generated an abundance of criticism of the previously unknown former speechwriter to former Defense Secretary James Mattis.
While virtually everyone in Washington is burning any Christmas card or note connecting them to Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump gave a rambling and at times baffling interview on Fox & Friends in which he not only doubled down on his faith in Giuliani but restated the importance of the widely discredited Crowdstrike server claims. Giuliani has been denounced for his role in the Ukraine scandal and portrayed as a universally despised individual in the State Department and national security agencies. Yet, Trump heralded Giuliani as “a great crime-fighter” and leader even though Fox co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned his role in the scandal and raised the fact that two of his associates are now under indictment. I have been critical of Giuliani’s representation of the President for years. The interview could be an effort to keep Giuliani, who is under federal investigation, in the fold or the President may genuinely still believe that Giuliani is not only blameless but praiseworthy. Either way, this is not good. Both Giuliani and the Crowdstrike theory have been discredited in prior testimony. Nevertheless, the interview offer a glimpse into a possible defense in the Senate.
The New York Times and various media outlets are reporting universal denials of the military that there was any evidence to support President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, died “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” to his death. The embarrassing denials comes after a videotape contradicted Trump’s claim that “almost all” of farmers who attended his signing of an executive order were crying. The videotape shows no one crying. The statement on al-Baghdadi is particularly curious because al-Baghdadi ran down an alley and blew himself up with a suicide vest. Military sources say that there is no evidence of the whimpering and crying described by Trump.
We have been discussing the disastrous decision of President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. forces from the Turkish border with virtually no warning to his own agencies and allies. While some of us support the effort to remove troops from these countries, there is overwhelming condemnation from Republicans and Democrats in how this was done. The Turks have been accused of war crimes and ethnic cleansing as Russia occupies former U.S. bases in the area. Worse yet, Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s Ambassador to the EU, has warned our other allies that the United States cannot be trusted and that they must now look to Moscow for a reliable friend: “We warned the Kurds that the Americans would abandon them. And here in Rhodes, I can personally warn the Greeks to think about whether a similar fate awaits them.”
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aides made a point of telling U.S. media that Erdogan threw Donald Trump controversial letter to him into the trash and promised to take actions against the United States for the disrespectful content. In the meantime, the Turks are promising to “crush the heads” of the Kurds if they do not withdraw entirely from border areas. Erdogan himself said “we have not forgotten” the letter or its insulting tone.
A U.S. Special Forces members in Syria told Fox News on the abandonment of our Kurdish allies has left left him “ashamed for the first time” in his career. He also says that the Turks have committed war atrocities after President Donald Trump overruled his military and state departments in suddenly pulling back troops. Trump responded on Thursday to the threat of thousands of extremist ISIS fighters escaping from prisons, including sites bombed by Turkey. When reporters pressed Trump on the widespread condemnation for the betrayal of the Kurds, Trump downplayed the alliance with the Kurds, 11,000 of whom died fighting to help the US mission against ISIS. “They didn’t help us in the second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy for example,” Trump said. “They’re there to help us with their land, and that’s a different thing.” Normandy is an area of France, not the US.”>Trump triggered further outrage by dismissing the Kurds (who lost 11,000 in fighting with the U.S. in Syria) by saying “They didn’t help us in the second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy for example.” It is a bizarre comment since Turkey was far from a reliable ally in World War II. Indeed, it signed a treaty with Germany and was accused of assisting the Nazis in critical ways, including chromite exports that kept the Nazi war machine going.
Notably, after getting Trump to back away from the protection of the Kurds, President Tayyip Erdogan is threatening Europe by pledging to send millions of refugees (including extremists) into their countries if they criticize his scorched earth invasion into Syria.
In a move that reportedly shocked U.S. military and diplomatic officials, President Donald Trump suddenly caved to Turkish demands and ordered U.S. troops to pull back from the areas held by our Kurdish allies. The move is being widely denounced by both Democrats and Republicans as an abandonment of allies who have fought along side with us for years. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., denounced the “impulsive decision” by Trump and said that this could be “a disaster in the making.” The authoritarian president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is of course delighted and is expected to invade Syria now that U.S. troops are pulling back. Nikki Haley, Trump’s former United Nation ambassador, put it bluntly in saying that Trump was leaving our Kurdish allies “to die.” Likewise, Senate Majority Leader denounced the move and declared that it “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”