Saturday, August 04, 2012
In 2003, I attended a speech by then-Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin at a church in Rockville, Md. At the speech, Boykin wore his U.S. Army dress uniform, but made it clear to the crowd that his opinions were his own.
Several months later, NBC military analyst, William Arkin "broke" a story about Boykin. In it, he grossly misrepresented the general's speeches and constructed a giant scandal where there should never have been one. It pays to note that Arkin is a Greenpeace liberal who did one hitch (four years) in a rear-echelon job in the Army more than 30 years earlier.
Boykin was not out of line in what he had been doing, making speeches to religious gatherings while in uniform. He was perfectly within regulations in what he did. Though a subsequent investigation concluded he had neglected to claim some reimbursements for travel and should have made it clearer that he was not speaking in an official capacity, he was never disciplined for what he did.
That may have had something to do with the fact that speaking to civic or religious groups in uniform was a very common occurrance at the time among military flag officers.
The upshot of Arkin's invented controversy has been that the Pentagon has re-written its policies about members of the military participating in political or religious events in any capacity, especially in uniform.
In 2012, presidential candidate Ron Paul caused controversy when he invited an Army corporal to join him on the stage at a rally. That act resulted in Cpl. Jesse Thorsen receiving an official reprimand.
This policy has been taken to the extreme in some parts of the military - I was initially denied a visit to a U.S. military base lasts year because I happen to work for the Christian Broadcasting Network. I was told the following:
"Our policy states that we must not directly or indirectly endorse, or selectively benefit or favor, by participation or cooperation with any private individual, sect, fraternal organization, commercial venture, corporation (whether profit or nonprofit), political group, quasi-religious or ideological movement or be associated with the solicitation of votes in a political campaign."
Never mind the unit this denial came from had previously allowed an embed by Al Jazeera.
Anyway, it's clear the Pentagon has taken a hard line on the endorsement of any ideological movement. Well, except for the Gay rights movement, of course.
Hadn't you heard? This year the military decided to go "all in" in its support of the radical homosexual agenda. Aside from now allowing gays to serve openly in the military, this year the Pentagon celebrated "Gay Pride month" for the first time in its history. In addition, military personnel were allowed (encouraged?) to march in a gay pride parade in San Diego, in which the troops were also invited to party with a group of pornographic filmmakers - in uniform.
So much for not endorsing an ideological movement. More than that, the LBGT movement is openly political.
There are very good reasons for keeping the military non-political. Should servicemembers be allowed to support causes on their own time? Sure. But if Bill Arkin and the mainstream media had a fit over Gen. Boykin's speeches, where is the outrage now?
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
My latest story on CBN news is about a new technology that its inventors say could help seal our southern border with Mexico.
Dan Hammons has been in the fiber optics business for decades. He's successfully installed hundreds of miles of security cordons in and around Arlington, Texas, and built a system that saved the city millions of dollars per year.
His idea for securing the southern border is simple: lay a fiber optic cable underground along the border and with it install hundreds of node towers that would carry a wide array of sensing equipment, from high-definition cameras to laser and radar and underground sensors.
The exact types and capabilities of these must remain confidential, but suffice it to say that these towers would form a cordon along our southern border into which nobody could venture without being seen and tracked.
The government has tried high-tech solutions before, but the difference here is bandwidth. Dan says if the current data "pipe" being used were the size of a penny, the data he'd be able to move would be the size of a swimming pool.
With that kind of extreme bandwidth would come the ability to monitor high-definition cameras in real time, to see exactly who is crossing the border and where they are headed. This would drastically reduce the danger for border patrol agents in the field, who often respond to intrusions without knowing whether they are migrant workers or armed drug smugglers.
To top it off, Dan's system would be cheaper than the existing fence, which is proving more and more each day to be a waste of money. With Dan's system, the land owners along the border would be compensated for the towers placed on their land, and the overall cost to the government would be millions cheaper than the current plan.
So why isn't the government even interested in a test run of Dan's system? Could it be that if the American people knew exactly how many persons were illegally crossing our southern border, the DHS claims that "the border is safer than it's ever been" might be proven false?
Ranchers along the border know the truth - the border is not safer than it has ever been. The makeup of those crossing the frontier today has shifted to a much more brutal criminal element, even as fewer migrant workers are making the trip.
That doesn't bode well for America, and it should be a top concern of the federal government. Instead, the Obama administration seems bent on maintaining the status quo at all costs.
Dan Hammons hopes things will change for the better this November.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
On May 29, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a dozen "heroes" of his choosing, awarding them the highest honor bestowed upon a civilian for having made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
I think it is wise for us to have precise definitions for the words we use - after all, words mean things and help us make sense of reality. It's my opinion that the word "hero" should be reserved for those who make personal sacrifices for the good of others, especially those who display that "greater love" referenced in John 15:13 by laying down their lives for their friends.
I'm not disparaging the President's choice of who to honor - it is, after all, the Presidential medal. He can choose whomever he wants. I think it says something about the President himself, though, to look at the people on the list, among them a socialist feminist and a folk singer.
It's not that these people haven't impacted the culture. It isn't that they don't deserve an award. What I have trouble with is the use of the term "hero" applied to them.
Two years ago I was on a medevac helicopter in Wardak province, Afghanistan as it hovered down through a brownout of dust onto a scene of carnage. A mangled Humvee sat crumpled on a gravel road as mangled men were pulled from it. One by one, the wounded were loaded onto the helicopter, bandaged and bleeding. Then, the medic leaned in and shouted over the whine of the rotors "We have one more - a hero!"
In Afghanistan, the term "hero" is reserved for someone who has given the ultimate sacrifice. That man, a lieutenant from Mississippi who joined the Army after 9/11, left his new wife and two young daughters to lead his men to war. Whether or not you believe that war is just, or agree with the prosecution of it, one thing is indisputable - that 29-year-old lieutenant went to war because his country asked him to and gave his life defending ours.
To me, that's what it takes to be a hero.
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
A letter last month was sent to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta by two congressmen and seventeen law enforcement leaders from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The letter asked Panetta to consider donating some of the millions of tons of military equipment to bolster the ongoing war against Mexican drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The fight has been escalating in recent years, claiming more than 40,000 lives and spreading deep into the U.S. heartland as narcotraffickers clash with American law enforcement and border patrol officers. In many cases the good guys are outgunned, perhaps due in part to the Fast and Furious fiasco that is still being investigated in Washington.
In Arizona, we've interviewed local sheriff's deputies who spend their own money to buy weapons and bulletproof vests to try and even the odds a bit. If Panetta's office agrees to the request, an infusion of military equipment would prove helpful.
But more equipment and even more money won't solve the problem without politicians willing to display a concrete will to secure the border. Locals along our southern frontier say they are on the front lines of a war that has been effectively ignored by the Obama administration.
The ranchers who live in this war say it'll take more than the cast-off equipment from the war in Iraq to solve the problem. It'll take troops, too.
But for now, they'll take all the help they can get.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
When Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly went on a murderous rampage in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan on March 11, the world reacted with shock and outrage.& That is completely understandable. But should we be surprised?
I've been saying it privately for some time - the stress level our troops are facing in Afghanistan is at an all-time high. Pressure from the American public to bring the war to a speedy conclusion, more than a decade of back-to-back deployments, an increasingly risk-averse chain of command, and constant meddling from our leaders in Washington all serve to make the pressure in theater thicker than it's ever been.
All this is compounded by the media's excitement every time American troops make a mistake, and an increasing number of "incidents" - Afghan soldiers and police turning on their U.S. mentors...and it would seem the war in the shadows of the Hindu Kush is all but lost.
The war may well end badly. There is still much to do. But when you hear about the latest outrage on the evening news, please keep in mind that U.S. and Afghan troops are working side-by-side in ever increasing numbers as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) prepares to hand the country over - bit by bit - to its own people.
Afghan soldiers and policemen are being trained in the tens of thousands. For every time an Afghan attacks his American trainers, there are literally hundreds of times when Afghan troops put themselves at risk in combat alongside our men and women.
When I last visited the country in the summer of 2011, we met a young Afghan policeman who had been gravely injured fighting off a suicide bomber intent on blowing himself up in a meeting of village elders and American leaders. The Afghan policeman thwarted the attack on the district center in Marjeh, saving the lives of many Ameircans. When he needed a blood transfusion, many American troops and even contractors answered the call.
An American soldier murdering innocent Afghan villagers definitely damages the trust these American trainers have labored to build. It damages the relationship between soldiers of both nations who have covered each other on the field of battle. But let's be careful not to spend too much time focusing on the "one step back" when we are also taking many steps forward.
Monday, February 06, 2012
Let me rant for a minute.
In 2003 I went to hear a speech given by then-Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin. It was given as the evening service in a large evangelical church in Derwood, Md., and in it the general spoke while in uniform. It wasn't uncommon at that time for military officers, especially general officers, to give speeches while in uniform, since by Army regulation an officer is authorized to wear his dress uniform for any "special occasion."
You can listen to a recording I made of the general's speech that night, here.
Not long after that, the L.A. Times ran a hit piece against the general, taking much of what he said out of context and painting him as rabidly anti-Muslim and about as dangerous as the Islamic jihadists who had killed nearly 3,000 of our countrymen only two years before.
In response, Gen. Boykin called for an investigation into his own activities to determine whether he'd violated army regulations. The media dutifully reported that Gen. Boykin was "under investigation" but neglected to disclose that he'd called for the investigation himself.
Fast forward to 2012. Gen. Boykin is now retired after 36 years of service to our nation. In that time he was wounded several times and literally shed his blood defending the freedoms we hold dear, among them the right to free speech.
Today, Gen. Boykin is as busy as ever, and makes his living on the speaking circuit, speaking in churches around the country. Unfortunately, 2003 continues to haunt him, and the lies originally posited by the L.A. times have been repeated so often that they are now routinely quoted as fact by journalists who think a quick Google search constitutes good journalism.
The upshot is that Gen. Boykin is literally being followed around the country by Muslim activists and liberal atheists who are actively trying to get him fired or un-invited for every speaking engagement he's given. Most recently he was asked to speak at the annual prayer breakfast at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
The CAIR activists went into full-on screech mode, saying it would somehow harm any Muslim students at USMA to have Gen. Boykin speak at a Christian prayer service. Not sure how that works.
Anyway, since Boykin's intent was never to cause embarassment for his friends at USMA, he quietly decided not to accept the speaking request.
That Gen. Boykin is now being refused the very rights he fought and bled to defend is beyond despicable. Boykin is a Christian. His views are unabashedly so. He has every right to speak his mind, no matter how politically incorrect his opinions may be.
CAIR and their ilk have the same freedom. It is a bitter irony that they enjoy it because of men like William G. Boykin.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
I have a beef with Ron Paul.
While I might find some of the libertarian candidate's political positions appealing, a recent clip which aired on CNN of a Paul political rally put a very bad taste in my mouth.
At the rally, Paul introduced Army Cpl. Jesse Thorsen, an "active duty" soldier who proceeded to stump for the candidate, in uniform.
Okay, first of all, this Thorsen fellow is a very poor representation of the U.S. Military. He's wrong for being there in uniform because engaging in political activity so dressed is a clear and flagrant violation of Army policy.
And how about that enormous neck tattoo? Army Regulation 670-1 was recently updated to allow tattoos on the BACK of the neck, as long as it isn't visible from the front.
The new regulation clearly states, however, that throat tattoos (from the earlobes forward) are prohibited. According to current Army policy, Cpl. Thorsen should be given the option of having the tattoo removed or being discharged from the service.
Thorsen claims to have served 10 years in the military. According to a little digging done by The Atlantic Wire, soldier Jesse is actually a reservist (not active duty) and has only actually served six years, (in two stints). He also conveniently failed to mention that his second term of enlistment was precipitated by a burglary conviction, in which Thorsen was given the option of that or several years of probation.
What's worse is this: Ron Paul should know better. Paul is a former Air Force officer, and should be smart enough to know that by allowing an Army corporal to speak at his campaign rally, heads would roll, specifically those of Thorsen and his immediate commanders. In addition, Paul misspoke by claiming Thorsen had served in Afghanistan and Iraq (he's only been twice to Afghanistan).
Besides, if he wanted to find a military hero to speak at his rally, he could likely find a better example than Cpl. Thorsen. And as long as that person didn't do his stumping in uniform, there wouldn't have been a problem.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Just before Christmas, the last combat troops arrived home from Iraq to a joyous welcome by friends and family. Every one of them was, no doubt, very glad to be home. They left behind a country vastly changed by eight years of conflict - infinitely better in many ways, but with a future never more in doubt.
I'm not so concerned about the wave of new violence being reported in Iraq in the wake of the U.S. pullout. That was to be expected as the remnants of the Iranian-supported insurgency make a bid to fill the power vacuum left by our departure.
What is more dangerous is the power struggles taking place in the highest echelons of the Iraqi government. Iraqi President Nouri Al-Maliki might be the democratically elected president of the country, but he's beset by infighting within his administration and, as some reports attest, he's having major trouble bringing together the varied tribal factions that make up his country.
The truth is, though Maliki himself called for the Americans to leave, and the Obama administration is busy congratulating itself on "ending" the war in Iraq, the Maliki government has a long way to go before Iraq will be on anybody's list of tourism hot spots. And as our president may soon discover, ending the war is not the same as winning it.
History may very well record that Barack Obama presided over the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Rememberinig the 70th anniversary of the now second worst attack on American soil, perpetrated by a foreign entity which, in retrospect, didn't work out so well for them.
Take a moment and watch this rare color footage of "the victory which lost Japan the war."
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I was in Panama on Jan. 3, 1990 when Manuel Noriega, the dictator we'd gone to depose, surrendered to U.S. authorities and was promptly flown to Miami for trial.
Since that trip, I've been back to Panama nearly 30 times, most recently a few days ago. Manuel Noriega has spent the intervening years in a federal prison in Miami, convicted of drug-related charges and money laundering.
After 21 years in U.S. custody, he was transferred to France, where he was sentenced to seven years in prison for similar charges. But this coming week, Manuel Noriega may finally return to the country of his birth. A French judge granted a request by the country of Panama that he be returned.
But his trouble with the courts is not over. Once he returns to Panama, Noriega will face decades-old murder charges for the deaths of several of his political rivals.
The country Noriega left has changed dramatically since 1990. Gone are the U.S. bases that dotted the canal zone. The Panama canal is expanding under Panamanian control, and the country has the highest standard of living in Central America. What were once bases that belonged to the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) are now high-rise condominiums and five-star resorts.
One spot, however, has been untouched since Noriega left. His home in a wealthy suburb of Panama city has remained eerily empty, and has fallen into disrepair. Once the deposed dictator returns, he may want to refurbish the old place, because by Panamanian law, if Noriega is convicted of the crimes he faces there, he can serve his sentence at home because of his advanced age.
Most people I've spoken to in Panama see Noriega as a relic of a distasteful period of their history. It will be interesting to see the reception he gets when he arrives back on his home turf.