U.S. Correct To Supply Abrams Tanks To Ukraine, Putin Needs Reality Check

The United States’ policy to supply Abrams tanks to Ukraine is the proper course of action to take.  The fact we are months late in taking such a course of action is the concerning part.  We can be proud of the commitment our country and other Western democracies have shown in the face of Russian aggression against a sovereign nation.  At the same time, we must be mindful of the mushy ground that those like Congressman Mark Pocan planted their feet when dealing with this war, a move in 2022 that still deeply offends.

In 2022 Progressive House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden asking that he pair the military and financial support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a “proactive diplomatic push” that involves direct talks with Russia. It remains one of the most serious mistakes that the group made by playing into the efforts of Russian President Putin to lure some members from the Western alliance to make concessions. Since no one should make concessions to a nation that has committed war crimes goes without saying. But what was equally damaging was promoting a course of action that only would result in prolonging the war.

It was most troubling that Progressive Democrats signed the letter, with seemingly no awareness, that Putin has every intention to change the historical narrative of the last hundred years, not just the years following the end of the Cold War. He wants to make Ukraine, Europe, and indeed the whole world conform to his own twisted version of history. There can not be an inch of wiggle room when it comes to what Putin gains from this act of aggression. The letter was a sign of weakness and damaging to the long-term interests of the NATO alliance. But, hey, there was probably a quick and fleeting political upside that more concerned the signators.

I like peace, compromise, and diplomacy, but first, the aggressors that blasted homes, schools, and hospitals must be removed from Ukraine. No one starts negotiating the wishes of the madman when he still holds a dagger to the throat of the victim.  Therefore, the news that we will supply 31 M1 Abrams tanks, the equivalent of one Ukrainian tank battalion, is a solid move and worthy of praise.  But the reluctance for months to make the move is concerning and warrants attention.  While it seems Germany may have been the force to push the Biden White House to make the shift in policy, it must not be seen as the last move our nation will be required to take with heavy armaments as this war progresses. The process of consideration and study within the White House requires some modification so as to meet the real-time needs of the Ukrainian soldiers who are doing the work on the battlefield.

Not only are the tanks a solid and lethal way to address Putin’s military, but it sends a clear and unmistakable statement the West will not relent or bend the way of Congressman Pocan. Talking can only occur with a real reduction in attacks by Russia and a removal of their troops from the soil of Ukraine.  

Putin has been delusional in his views about a reconstructed Soviet type-era of countries for a long time.  He has often talked of Russia having been “robbed” of territory going back to the 1920s when the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was established.  In his mind, one that is consumed with paranoia and visions of grandeur, Ukraine can only be sovereign in partnership with the homeland, Russia. To that fallacy, the West says, NO. The M1 Abrams tanks will go far in alerting the autocrat to the limits of his delusions.

GOP Senators Correct: MiG-29 Fighter Jets Required For Ukraine

Wednesday night while driving home NPR reported one of those ominous news stories, which sadly, is the kind we are coming to expect multiple times a day since Ukraine was attacked. In a throw-everything-at-the-wall moment, the Kremlin had accused Ukraine of planning to use chemical weapons. It did not take many rotations of my fast-moving car before I knew what this meant.

Russia is plotting their PR move, so to have a false claim to justify their own perverse use of these weapons which are banned under international law. Not that Russian President Putin, mind you, is at this point worried about international law.

It is due to the next steps that Putin is obviously considering that require Western governments to reevaluate the steps which need to be taken to stop Putin.

As akin to many of my readers, I thought the pandemic was the worst thing to befall the world in a very long time. With it ebbing globally there was a collective hope there might be a reprieve of sorts. For everyone. But I sit in front of the television with tears filling my eyes due to what is happening to children in Ukraine. Or the grandmother who was crying as she lost sight of the child she was helping flee their country.

Many arguments have been presented as to why a military reaction from NATO–overt or covert–needs to be measured or limited or not taken at all. Funneling anti-tank weapons to Ukraine is not a secret to anyone. That is acceptable by Western leaders. But the use of Polish jets in the hands of Ukraine, who have pleaded for the aircraft, is deemed a step too far.

There are analysts describing Putin as in a corner, and it now is the requirement of the West to find a way to let him see a way out of the carnage he created. That sounds nice if this were all some theoretical scenario being played out at a war college. But this is reality, and tough responses are required. After all, we are not dealing with fostering dialogue and a working compromise with a rational person. Putin is a madman wedded to delusional visions of conquest.

I have not been reticent about the need for taking a tougher stance following the first missile launched into Ukraine or the first tank that invaded that sovereign nation. As such, I align with professionals who work in international relations such as former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and experts in foreign affairs within our government.

As such, I watched and listened today as Senate Republicans urged President Biden to support Poland’s proposal to transfer MiG fighter jets to Ukraine to defend against Russia. And I fully concur with their reasoning and logic. (This also is a good lesson as to how our country should work. We need not be of the same party to find common ground.)

“The administration claims the reason they blocked this transfer is a concern about escalation. Really? Vladimir Putin is aware that American-provided stingers are killing Russians today. And our president knows that, too.” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said.
 
“America should be doing everything we can, short of boots on the ground or in the air, to protect Ukraine. Our message today to the president: Send the MiGs, arm our Ukrainian friends right now.”

The senator I truly gravitated towards today was Mitt Romney as his argument is where I have been from the start of this crisis.
 
“We’re not going to stop the killing in Ukraine until we in NATO fear Putin less than he fears us,” added Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).
 
“It’s time for him to fear what we might do because, frankly, his military is bogged down in Ukraine, and if NATO were to get activated in some way by his provocation, obviously, he’d be in a very weak position.”
 
Strength is not a provocation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “They need this assistance and they need it right now.”

In no way am I being light or flippant about the risks associated with action, but without a doubt taking anything softer than a full-out resolve to stop Putin will only increase the deaths in Ukraine, and add more possible threats to Western Europe.

The world is watching. And history will judge us. I can argue why letting Putin’s army grind deeper into a hole it can not win while Ukrainian lives are lost and depravity is let loose by Russians must not be allowed to continue. The threat of an expansion of the war with chemical agents by Russia must never be allowed to begin.

It simply has to end…and that will only be achieved if Putin is stopped.

And so it goes.

Is Democracy Slipping From Our Fingers? 30% Unperturbed by Prospect Military Interferes With Election

One of those essential stories from our national narrative takes place as Benjamin Franklin is leaving the just concluded Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. A person who comes up to one of the most engaging Founders inquired what sort of government the delegates had labored over during the hot weeks of summer. His answer still rings down over the ages.

“A republic, if you can keep it.”

The blunt and crisp response came to mind today when reading something that should concern each of us as we read this from POLITICO.

Citizens were asked in the Politico Morning Consult Poll to weigh upon the topic of the Trump administration’s draft executive order telling the military to seize voting machines after the 2020 presidential election.

We asked: “If, following a presidential election, voting machines in swing states were seized by the United States military for analysis, would you say this was …

… an abuse of power?
— Yes: 55% (“definitely” was 31% and “probably” 24%)
— No: 29% (“probably not” was 16% and “definitely not” 13%)

… an effort to undermine the election outcome?
— Yes: 51% (definitely 27% and probably 24%)
— No: 31% (probably not 18% and definitely not 13%)

Consider the data. The fact that three in ten voters —30%— seem unperturbed by the prospect of the military interfering with an election!

In the United States!

In 2022!

That stuns this blogger, a man who is almost impossible to stun or shock anymore given all we have seen since 2015.

When Franklin responded to the curious person in 1787 he was brief. I suggest with a fuller comment he would have added weighty thoughts about the future. Whatever was done in the building he had just left, he might have remarked, or the work just completed, would only be worthy of any of the efforts if people were robust, active, and determined to see the document bear fruit.

He would have possibly placed his hand on the shoulder of the person he was talking to and spoke about how the document if passed by the states, would require our collective attention and devotion so as not to have it stall-out. The words penned by the Framers were not self-activating. They would need the power of the people, he would add, so to make the government work. And then over the years, he might have added, the work of the Founders would certainly require a renewal of awareness so future generations would fully understand the flame of liberty must never be extinguished.

Today the poll results show something is terribly wrong in America.

That three in ten voters —30%— seem unperturbed by the prospect of the military interfering with an election means that we have serious reason to question if Franklin was correct about adding his thoughts regarding the Republic with “if you can keep it.”

And so it goes.

Progress In America: Navy Ship Named For Gay Rights Leader

In the midst of our great challenges ranging from how to keep the pressure on so more Americans understand the rationale for being vaccinated (and I understand the ridiculousness of even needing to still entertain such a need) to pressing forward with a range of social policies in a massive Congressional bill, we can lose sight of the gains we have made as a nation. But it is important to step back from the bombast that echoes from every direction and consider something that happened this weekend.

It is hard to imagine that anyone does not recognize the name of Harvey Milk. He was a powerful leader of the gay rights movement, though he started later in life to challenge existing laws and perceptions. He was elected the first openly gay official in California but assassinated in 1978. His life has been the topic of books, lectures, a major motion picture in 2008, and a play off-Broadway in 2018.

On Saturday a Navy ship named for him was christened and launched in San Diego Bay. This moment had weight to it. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro made that most clearly in his comments.

“The secretary of the Navy needed to be here today, not just to amend the wrongs of the past, but to give inspiration to all of our LGBTQ community leaders who served in the Navy, in uniform today and in the civilian workforce as well too, and to tell them that we’re committed to them in the future,” Del Toro said.

Milk received a less-than-honorable discharge and was forced to resign from the Navy because he was gay. That will not happen in 2021. Conservative guys from the deep South will surely be among those who work on the replenishment oiler USNS Harvey Milk and will be part of the arcing of history towards a more just America. That is what happens when we continually advocate for changes and progress.

The fact that so many gay citizens in uniform had to measure their words and actions in the military so as not to violate truly bigoted codes of conduct was painful and wrong. With social pressure and political tools, however, modernity has been ushered into the military, just like other parts of our society. There are many issues still to be dealt with but no one can miss the significant steps that have been achieved.

It is important to reflect on the victories we score in this nation. Even while we work for the next success.

And so it goes.

Colin Powell: His Words Still Resonate

Today Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state, died from complications after contracting COVID-19. The tragedy of the pandemic layered upon the loss of a most vital American of our time makes this a very sad story.

The loss of Powell’s voice on the issues of our time will be missed. They were certainly ones that resonated on this blog over the years. We have always had in our nation, through the arc of history, solid men and women who spoke with gravitas when we most needed to hear their wisdom. Think Margaret Chase Smith.

From January 2013 and his appearance on Meet The Press he reflected on the previous November election and the campaign for president.

When I see another former governor after the president’s first debate where he didn’t do very well, says that the president was lazy. He didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well, he said he was lazy. Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans but to those of us who are African-Americans, the second word is shiftless and then there’s a third word that goes along with it Birther, the whole Birther Movement. Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the Party? I think the Party has to take a look at itself.

It has to take a look at its responsibilities for health care. It has to take a look at immigration. It has to take a look at those less fortunate than us. The Party has gathered unto itself a reputation that it is the party of the rich. It is the party of lower taxes. But there are a lot of people who are lower down the food chain, the economic chain, who are also paying lots of taxes relative to their income and they need help. We need more education work being done in this country. We need a solid immigration policy. We have to look at climate change. There are a lot of things that the American people are expecting…..

I was perhaps most proud, however, of how Powell well understood the scope of history and grasped how anger and rancor is never, ever, a sound way to make national policy. That was clear with his opposition to the continued existence of the detention facility at Guantanamo.

Powell knew who we are as a nation cannot be separated from what we do as a nation. He regretted the fact repressive governments used Gitmo to deflect criticism of their own policies by charging hypocrisy. Violent extremists used it as a recruiting tool. It remains a symbol for many around the world of torture, injustice, and illegitimacy. 

The goal of terrorists is to change us, to change what we say we stand for, and to make us live in fear. As such, Powell like so many other educated people, wanted Gitmo to be shuttered.

Powell did have a stain on his career with his actions prior to the invasion of Iraq under President Bush in 2003. I do not marginalize the degree to which he aided in the lie that led to the greatest mistake created by American foreign policy in that region since 1947.

But the sum of Powell’s life can not be measured from that year and action, alone.

There are not many people in our land who can be summed up by saying they were a continuously dignified statesman and leader for truly dedicating their life to the nation. Powell was such a man.

His voice and reasoning will be missed by a nation that needs to have more adults with mature ideas speaking to the needs of our time.

And so it goes.

Trump Supporters Forget About Nixon Needing To Be Protected From Himself, Too

Without a doubt, Donald Trump was the most unstable, mentally unhinged, and dangerous individual to ever sit in the Oval Office.

There was, however, one other president who also faced a most unsettling ending to his time in office which also provoked dread and uncertainty in the defense establishment of this nation.

Many readers know my fascination and deep interest regarding the life and times of Richard Nixon. During the final days of Nixon’s presidency, the defense establishment was concerned about his stability. They could not make a solid prediction that he would not do something reckless.

Donald Trump was even more prone to outrageous behavior, and that can be demonstrated based on his temperament and actions since Inauguration Day 2017. What led up to the November elections, and certainly what followed with the most bizarre and outrageous behavior we have seen from any person in the White House. It was pure lunacy on parade.

Martha Mitchell looks calm and well-balanced in comparison.

This past week we learned that Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in a new book that Gen. Mark Milley reached out to China in the waning days of the Trump administration, attempting to reduce tensions by assuring China that no American attack was imminent, and asking that China not do anything without consulting the U.S. military leadership.

We know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Milley that she worried about Trump’s access to the nuclear codes and that he was “crazy.”

To which Milley replied, “I agree with you on everything.”

For the past few days the Fox News crowd has created their own rhetorical storm, but it lacks substance and foundation. Trump was so troubling that our republic was potentially in danger. A majority of the nation understood that on Election Day. Milley knew it too, and aided the nation when it was required.

For that he is an American I am proud of for caring for the nation above all else. There are not many one can say the same about.

Trump supporters would do well to read some history on this larger issue. They need to understand that mature individuals will always come to the defense of the greater good of the nation, and they did in 1974.

Moreover, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger recalled years later that in the final days of the Nixon presidency he had issued an unprecedented set of orders: If the president gave any nuclear launch order, military commanders should check with either him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing them. Schlesinger feared that the president, who seemed depressed and was drinking heavily, might order Armageddon. Nixon himself had stoked official fears during a meeting with congressmen during which he reportedly said, “I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.” Senator Alan Cranston had phoned Schlesinger, warning about “the need for keeping a berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust.”

When National Thriller Author Pales In Comparison To A Dangerous President

Every now and then I read a James Patterson book for a complete escape, the level of drama created by a plot that seems hard to imagine. On Thursday night, I read a Washington Post story about an actual event that would have been even harder to fathom if we had not seen the events play out on national television.

In the waning weeks of Donald Trump’s term, the country’s top military leader repeatedly worried about what the president might do to maintain power after losing reelection, comparing his rhetoric to Adolf Hitler’s during the rise of Nazi Germany and asking confidants whether a coup was forthcoming.

The inside account of the lies created by Donald Trump concerning the 2020 presidential election, and the coup attempt on January 6th from “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Phillip Rucker and Carol Leonnig is not for those who wish to have a calm night of sleep. The events relayed in two excerpts of the book alert us anew to the treachery and absolute danger posed by Trump and his sycophants.

The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation’s top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

The authors explain Milley’s growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.

Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be “on guard” for what might come.

“They may try, but they’re not going to f**king succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”

The events are harrowing to read about, as we know how deeply engrained the lies Trump was pushing had taken hold in the weakly educated parts of the nation.

Outside the Capitol, the pro-Trump protest was quickly morphing into a battle scene. Demonstrators so outnumbered law enforcement officials that hundreds of Capitol Police officers on the western front of the complex had no chance of holding the crowds away from the grounds. This was no ordinary political protest. It was a riot. Many of those crashing through the outer barricades were wearing military gear and carrying Trump flags, and some were wielding pipes, batons and cans of bear spray. A few had climbing gear, and some even brought night-vision goggles and fire-retardant gloves. Some engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the police officers, who chose not to fire on the crowd for fear of triggering gruesome violence.

Inside the Capitol, the joint session was underway in the House chamber. Lawmakers from both chambers began considering electoral vote counts state by state, in alphabetical order, but were interrupted by a Republican objection to Arizona’s tally and soon disbanded. Senators returned to the Senate chamber for debate, where at 1:35 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rose to strenuously condemn the move by some of his Republican brethren to block certification.

Reading from a carefully prepared text, McConnell said, “The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a National Board of Elections on steroids … [If] this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

McConnell and most of his colleagues did not know about the mayhem building outside. But Sen. Mitt Romney had been more attentive than others. On Jan. 2, the senator from Utah received a call from Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, warning him about unsettling personal and specific threats. Milley had shared with King online chatter he had discovered through an app on his phone called Dataminr.

Pro-Trump rhetoric was interlaced with calls for violence and references to smuggling guns and other weapons into Washington to “stop the steal.” One message said something along the lines of, “Let’s burn Senator McConnell’s house down while he’s in it.”

We are coming to kill you. Just wait a few days,” read another message, which appeared to be aimed at members of Congress who supported certifying the election.

Romney told his wife, Ann, about King’s call.

“Mitt, you can’t go back,” Ann Romney told her husband. She called his Senate staff and said she feared for his safety.

Mitt Romney tried to reassure her. “It’s the Capitol and I’m careful and I do have precautions and security. I’ll be very, very careful,” he told his wife. He said he had a responsibility to go back to Washington to certify the election.

Romney solidified his plans to fly to Washington while his aides arranged for additional security. He was harassed by Trump supporters at Salt Lake City International Airport on Jan. 5 and aboard his flight; some passengers chanted, “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”

As Romney sat in the Senate on Jan. 6, his phone buzzed with a text message from aide Chris Marroletti.

“I’m not liking what’s happening outside the Capitol,” Marroletti wrote to his boss. “There are really big, violent demonstrations going on. I think you ought to leave.”

“Let me know if they get inside the Capitol and I will go to my hideaway,” Romney texted back.

At 2:10, the first rioter entered the Capitol by breaking a window and climbing inside. A stream of Trump warriors followed him.

The undermining of our democracy is real, and we must never forget what happened in the closing months of Trump’s term in office. He was the ringleader. The autocrat who thought America was too weak to stand up to him.

Trump lost.

Action Alert: Moral Imperative To Help Afghans Who Helped U.S. Military

I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. (202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.

There is no wiggle room on this issue. No two ways to look at the matter. Rather, there is the right way, the moral path, the only one our nation can undertake. And we must take that path. Now.

As the Taliban take their final military steps to control the whole of Afghanistan there are now thousands of people, who were mighty helpful to the American efforts, who now face certain death. The retribution from the Taliban is not a question of if, but only when.

That is why the House, in late June, voted overwhelmingly (366 to 46) to speed up the process that would allow these brave people to immigrate to the United States. There are over 18,000 Afghans who worked for the United States as interpreters, drivers, engineers, security guards, and embassy clerks.

Over the past months as we faced a pandemic we have heard of essential workers in this nation. Well, my readers, these men and women in Afghanistan were ALSO essential workers.

But they are now stuck in a bureaucratic mess that should not be allowed to continue. They did the proper paperwork and applied for the Special Immigrant Visas. Such visas are for people who face threats because of work they have completed for our government.

With each day that passes without a resolution of this matter, the lives of these people become more dire. So to put it into more stark, but accurate terms, every minute counts. And you can help make for a positive outcome.

While I am very aware that we can recount the ways and means of how American foreign policy over the decades has betrayed those who have supported this nation, this is not the time for such academic posturing. The barn is on fire, and the need to extinguish the flames is paramount. The back-biting and sniping can wait until the smoke at least clears.

Therefore, I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. 202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.