Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Do Barack Obama and Rick Perry Have in Common? They Both Snubbed the VFW!

Have you noticed how people in government have been crying for civility and bipartisanship recently, simultaneously shedding crocodile tears while bashing the daylights out of each other?

Well, we finally have achieved true bipartisanship, albeit on the backs of America's combat veterans.

Both Democratic President Barack Hussein Obama, the commander in chief of America's armed forces, and Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry have snubbed the Veterans of Foreign Wars! Both received the traditional invitation to attend the national convention, to be held in San Antonio, Texas this year from August 27 - September 1, 2011.

In Obama's case he not only is refusing to attend the convention, he also will not send an appropriate substitute from his administration to stand in for him!

Perry, as the GOP frontrunner for the nomination to face Obama next year, meaning he too wants to be commander in chief, and as the governor of the host state, not only snubbed the VFW's invitation to attend the convention, he initially didn't even bother to respond.

To Perry's credit when the National Commander of the VFW issued a press release publicizing their behavior, he recanted and "adjusted his schedule," so he now will make an appearance.

Good for him. I'm sure it will simple to explain his behavior at his next campaign appearance.

The invitations to the White House and governors of states that host the annual convention are not idle social or politically inspired gestures. They have a very real purpose to the veterans' community, as shown by the official VFW statement on the issue.

"The VFW has had a long-standing tradition of inviting the sitting president to address our convention. We want to know where he stands on veterans' affairs, and we want those remarks made in public and on the record," said Richard L. Eubank, the national commander of the nearly 2 million-member organization.

"When the President is unable to attend, it has always been customary for the White House to choose a high-level administration official as an alternative speaker," Eubank continued.

"It is an insult of the highest magnitude that for the first time in the history of the VFW, the White House has apparently decided that this great and iconic organization of combat veterans and all of its members are not worthy of its notice by not at least offering a first-tier speaker from the administration."

Eubank is a Marine Corps retiree and Vietnam combat veteran from Eugene, Oregon. I would imagine that with proposals being aired in Washington to help reduce spending by cutting veterans' pensions, the questions and answers this year would be of special interest. They also might want to discuss Afghanistan, troop withdrawals that fly in the face of advice from military commanders, misuse of special operations forces resulting in more than 30 deaths earlier this month, and similar matters.

Less than 1 percent of all Americans are serving in the Armed Forces, including all reserve and National Guard Troops. Overall only about 7 percent of Americans have EVER served in the Armed Forces meaning 93 percent of the people in this country owe their freedoms and liberties to this incredibly small band of citizens.

President Obama Salutes America's Combat Veterans

Further, even within the 1 percent and the 7 percent, far smaller percentages have actually served in combat. All who serve deserve our thanks and respect, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for those who have faced the bombs and bullets.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the VFW, have been since 1985, and still hold an office within my local post where I also am a Past Commander. I have not held state or national offices in the VFW.

The VFW is the largest organization of America's combat veterans, and the behavior by both of these individuals is atrocious. I'm sure I can find plenty of speeches by both of them where they swear they support the troops.

Regarding Perry's initial lack of reaction, Eubank said, "The VFW also has a tradition of inviting the governor of the host state where its annual
convention is being held to come and welcome and greet our convention delegates. Although Governor Perry was similarly sent an invitation 3 months ago, apparently our invitation was deemed not important enough for the governor's office to at least accept or decline the invitation.

"Governor Perry's candidacy for president does not provide him an excuse for bad manners. The White House and Governor Perry can rest assured that the 2 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries will remember this discourteous treatment for a very long time to come."

Frankly, Perry's campaign communications director should strongly recommend that his first words to the men and women at the convention be "I am very sorry for the inadvertent confusion over my attendance. I was so busy saying my prayers and campaigning for president that your invitation was momentarily set aside. That situation has been rectified and I am happy and proud to be here."

When Perry realized the magnitude of the gaffe he had made he contacted the VFW and said he would be very happy to address the convention. Thus, Eubank issued the following statement: "I am pleased to learn that Texas Governor Rick Perry has been able to adjust his schedule and will be attending the 112th VFW National Convention next week in San Antonio. We are appreciative that the governor will be available to welcome and greet VFW Convention delegates to the Lone Star State on Monday, August 29th at 8:35 a.m. And, we likewise look forward to welcoming him to our annual convention."

The VFW's National Convention hosts a number of other speakers as well, including prominent members of the cabinet, military and civic leaders, business leaders and everyday people honored for their exemplary service.

How much do you want to bet that next year, with the convention being held only months before the Presidential Election, that Obama himself will find plenty of room on his schedule to attend, speak, do the grab and grin for photo ops, and make sweeping pronouncements about the greatness of America's veterans? I bet he'll go to the American Legion convention as well.

Any takers? No? I'm not surprised.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Were Our Special Ops Forces "Wasted" for Political Expediency?

Wasted. It's one hell of a word.

In Vietnam it was used as a verb, a synonym for kill, as in "We wasted a whole company of NVA on that operation."

Back in the USA, especially on college campuses, wasted meant being high, stoned, due to the use of various mind altering substances.

Webster's defines waste as: to damage or destroy; emaciate; enfeeble; or "to squander."

It's the last definition that applies here, in regards to the destruction of a US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter on August 6 in Afghanistan that took the lives of 30 Americans, 8 Afghan troops and one dog. Aside from three helicopter crew members – the pilot, co-pilot and gunner – all the rest of the Americans were Special Operations forces, many from the US Navy's SEAL Team 6, but also including Army and Air Force special operations troops.

After a week of speculation on why so many high ranking, specially trained troops were on one helicopter, especially so many from the same team, how their helicopter was downed and what they were doing there, one theory is taking precedence.

The Special Operations forces were on that helicopter doing that job because the regular infantry troops who normally would have been used on an operation of that nature were pulled out of their combat roles to satisfy the politically motivated timetable for troop withdrawals promised by President Barack Obama.

In fact, until late this spring a US Army infantry unit was based within a mile of where the Chinook was hit and would have been responsible for security operations in that area. But they were withdrawn, apparently in anticipation of Obama's order to begin troop reductions in direct opposition to the advice of his senior commanders.

From the instant that the public learned of the Chinook crash, people with knowledge of the normal tactics and operating procedures of Special Operations forces began questioning why so many were on one aircraft, and the nature of their mission.

The Pentagon first said the troops were a Quick Reaction Force on the way to help out a US Ranger team that was on a nighttime raid to kill or capture a local Taliban leader. According to CNN the Rangers were under heavy fire from Taliban insurgents and in dire need of support.

But that raised the question of why there were no gunships – helicopters or C-130s – on station. Then it was revealed that the Rangers secured the crash site with no casualties, instantly calling into question the claim that the Chinook was on a rescue mission.

That claim also led to the question of why a Special Operations force – at that time the Pentagon had not yet released the identities of all those killed on the aircraft and most reports indicated that all the passengers were members of SEAL Team 6 – would be used as a reaction force for another special operations unit, a job that again would normally would be handled by regular infantry troops.

The fact that so many members of SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden, were aboard instantly prompted questions of whether they were ambushed and killed in retaliation for his death. That theory required that someone with inside knowledge of the team's activities and whereabouts would have alerted the Taliban to its presence – a possibility, but also one that requires a high level traitor somewhere along the line.

It seems unlikely but that theory persists in some circles.

Later in the week the Pentagon revised its explanation and said the Ranger unit was on a mission to kill or capture a local Taliban leader – a valid mission for the Rangers who themselves are special operations troops. But military officials said some Taliban were escaping and the troops on the Chinook were called in to provide a blocking force.

But again, that merely reiterated the question of why conventional infantry were not used, and again, why so many Special Operations Forces were on one aircraft. Standard Operating Procedures called for such teams to be split up on several aircraft so the loss of one would not mean the loss of all team members.

It wasn't until after the remains of the dead were returned to Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday August 10, and President Obama made a highly publicized and ultimately controversial visit to the base, that information was released on the true makeup of the occupants of the Chinook.

Shadow President Barack Hussein Obama

Obama banned all media from Dover when the remains were returned and said he was banning all photos of the coffins at the request of families. But personnel on the base during the president's visit said he also wanted to be sure there were no pictures that showed him and the coffins together.

Obama did bring the White House photographer to the base, without the knowledge of Pentagon officials. Obama and a few of his entourage had an "artsy" picture taken, with him in silhouette saluting – something off in the distance.

On Friday FOX News finally was able to report the names, services and military occupations of all the deceased, and also showed video footage of the crash scene, with graphics indicating that the Chinook came down in the midst of a Taliban ambush and was hit in midair by numerous forms of weaponry. Sources in military intelligence say the Chinook was hit by at least three RPGs in addition to automatic weapons fire.

The FOX report revealed the true extent of the forces on the Chinook, a combat air controller, pararescue specialists, high altitude - low opening (HALO) parachutists, divers, a cryptologist, explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to the SEAL team, and one dog. The force consisted of SEALs and other Navy special operations personnel, in addition to both Air Force and Army special operations troops.

By Special Operations standards a 30-man, multi-service force is huge, and normally would be on a mission that could have included capture or killing of extremely high level targets, hardly the task assigned them on Aug. 6.

The regular army unit that had been stationed near the crash site could have assisted the Rangers without the need for outside forces. In fact, had the regular Army troops still been in the area it is questionable whether the operation would even have been necessary.

The use of Special Operations troops to do the job normally tasked to regular infantry unfortunately is not unusual for the Afghanistan Theater in the War on Terror. Until recently, with the exception of the initial invasion in 2001, Afghanistan has been treated like an unimportant backwater in the war – even though the September 11, 2001 terror attacks were unleashed from there.

Even after the major successes of American and allied troops aligned with the anti-Taliban forces in 2001, the terrorist Taliban and Al Qaeda forces have persisted, never really disappearing. When American commanders turned their attention to Iraq and pursued fleeing Al Qaeda fighters there, Afghanistan operations became the responsibility of NATO forces, and success seemed to become a dirty word, with the terrorist forces rebuilding their ranks and taking over huge swaths of the country virtually unimpeded.

After the American victory in Iraq, American commanders and politicians again focused on Afghanistan where the situation had deteriorated terribly. An increase in American fighters there was approved by Obama but he also announced that there would be a withdrawal date, determined by Obama's promises to his political base, not conditions on the ground.

Obama also said when he announced his troop withdrawal policy that he was going to turn much of the work being done by conventional infantry in Afghanistan over to Special Operations Forces, a comment that led many analysts to envision small teams doing covert work that would result in strikes on the Taliban by drones, conventional aircraft or artillery.

Now it is obvious that Obama's comments meant he would replace the line infantry units with the highly trained special operations troops, who not only have many more years invested in specialized training, but often are much higher in rank than the typical fighter in an infantry company. Thus a review of the ranks and specialties among the Special Operations fighters lost on August 6 shows that they had accumulated more than a century of experience – and will be very difficult to replace.

Yet the Obama Administration continues to bumble along ignoring the criticism of his Dover "photo op" as he focuses on a three-day campaign bus tour paid for by taxpayers. Next, he's taking his family to Martha's Vineyard for a week's vacation.

FOX News reported that at least three investigations have been launched to determine what happened on that dark Afghan night. In my circles, the Obama Administration is so universally distrusted that the word "whitewash" is heard frequently. In fact, this week the Washington Times published a story in which an unnamed "Commando" placed the blame for the August 6 incident squarely on the shoulders of the local commanders.

Maybe so, but they were taking orders from much higher up the chain of command and the guys on the bottom should not have to take the blame for the guys on the top.

We may have to wait a long time to determine how these investigations turn out, but one thing is certain right now. Barack Hussein Obama is the commander in chief, and it was his order to reconfigure the troops in Afghanistan, regardless of whether or not he had direct knowledge of circumstances that led to the death of so many troops.

As such, to quote one of his predecessors, the buck stops with him. These deaths, and all others in the War on Terror from Inauguration Day 2009 onward, are directly tied to him, and we can only hope the American voting public remembers the events of August, 2011 in November, 2012.

Meanwhile, across America, families, friends and colleagues are mourning the deaths of the Special Forces personnel and all others who have died defending this country, while their commander in chief shows once again that he is not fit to lead.
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ames Straw Poll Springs Surprises; Now Back to Reality

Minnesota had a .500 day in Ames, Iowa yesterday, with US Rep. Michelle Bachmann winning the straw poll, and that state's former Governor Tim Pawlenty coming in third, and ultimately dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Right on Bachmann's heals was Rep. Ron Paul, coming in second only 152 votes behind Bachmann, which I find troubling and hope doesn't indicate that he'll be a front runner going into next year's caucuses and primaries. I'll explain in a minute.

Pennsylvania's former Sen. Rick Santorum made a great showing, coming in fourth, which had him walking on clouds since he had made a big deal of being ignored by the national media and was considered to be way back in the pack. At least the GOP voters in Ames were listening to his message.

Similarly, right behind him in a shocking fifth place showing - for the media - was former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who no one is talking about today.

Herman Cain

But Cain is changing the face of the GOP presidential race, with a message directly from the business world where he has been an overwhelming success. Cain is showing the independent and disenchanted Democratic voters that not only do we have a diverse field of viable candidates, but that we are on the same page to a great degree with our opposition to the failed administration of the vacationing Barack Hussein Obama.

Now, just to get our bearings, we should take a second to review why the third-place finisher is dropping out of the race, while the fourth- and fifth-place finishers are celebrating. In a word - Expectations.

Gov. Pawlenty put a lot of time, money and personal appearances into the Ames Straw Poll, which in itself may not have been a really good move. Considering the amount of effort he put into Iowa, Pawlenty was expected to beat Michelle Bachmann. He didn't come close.

Now Pawlenty can't go back to his financial backers and show that people are listening to, and more important, responding to his message. He can't expect to raise much more money and that puts his candidacy to an end. In retrospect, did he really expect to do better than Michelle Bachmann who was born and raised in Iowa, and whose family counts among that state's earliest settlers?

Santorum and Cain, however, were not expected to place anywhere near the top and since both did they can both claim momentum, which can keep them going at least through January when the caucuses begin. Santorum and Cain both did well in the GOP debate last Thursday, both have a clear and convincing message and both can be formidable opponents for the so-called "top-tier" candidates.

Cain has made a point on numerous occasions that he still is working on building national name recognition and thus has a distinct disadvantage when compared to the rest of the field, all of whom have been in the political area for years. That his message is taking hold was evident, however, when Cain spoke to the Straw Poll attendees Saturday afternoon.

Cain promised that he would never remove the phrase "endowed by our creator" from the Declaration of Independence - as Barack Obama did in a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute on Sept. 18, 2010. When Cain made that point the applause and cheers were overwhelming.

So, while Cain polled fifth overall, he still out-polled such GOP heavyweights as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; Texas Gov. Rick Perry who announced his candidacy at a stop in South Carolina about midway through the Straw Poll voting and received nearly 800 write-in votes; former Massachusetts Governor and acknowledged national front-runner Mitt Romney, and others.

That means people were listening to his message and responding to it. That means Cain will likely be in the race at least through the early caucus votes and that means GOP voters nationally will be seeing and hearing from a broad range of backgrounds and will have some real choices when the binding votes are cast.

As for Ron Paul, who nearly toppled Bachmann in her own home state, due I believe to a well established and fiercely loyal following that has been with him for years, he showed once again in his Saturday speech that he should not be president of the United States. He did this by saying one moment that he is a proponent of free trade, and the next that we should withdraw all US troops from all overseas posts and bring them back inside the US borders.

Besides coming across as rabidly isolationist, Mr. Paul claims to be the opposite of Obama, yet his foreign relations positions show him to more of a mirror image of the current president.

Free trade across the globe has been maintained since the first ancient navies floated wooden rafts on big ponds by the military forces that are necessary to keep the trade routes open. If Mr. Paul stopped to think about it for a minute he might remember the line "to the shores of Tripoli" from the Marine Hymn, referring to the Marines taking on the Barbary Pirates at the behest of Thomas Jefferson in 1803 and onward.

I would like to see our troops disengage in places like Libya where we are doing no good and getting nowhere and don't even appear to have a battle plan. But elsewhere such as Japan, Germany and South Korea, countries cited by Mr. Paul in his Saturday speech, we are there to insure that the trade routes stay open and previous histories of dominance by dictators and brutal regimes are not repeated.

Mr. Paul might get cheers and votes from anti-war supporters across the political spectrum, but they are not realistic, in fact I see them as hopelessly naive, and I don't see him going much further when real votes are taken.

The final votes at the Ames Straw Poll were: Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)- 4,823 votes
Ron Paul (R-Texas)- 4,671 votes; Tim Pawlenty - 2,293 votes; Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)- 1,657 votes; Herman Cain - 1,456 votes; Rick Perry - 718 votes; Mitt Romney - 567 votes; Newt Gingrich - 385 votes; Jon Huntsman - 69 votes; and Thad McCotter (R-Mich.) - 35 votes.

The Ames, Iowa Straw Poll is held only in years prior to the presidential election when there is not a GOP incumbent. Let's hope the next one isn't held until 2019.

Friday, August 12, 2011

FOX the Clear Winner in GOP Debate

Eight Republicans who want to be president of the United States met on the stage in Iowa last night in a debate hosted by FOX News and the Washington Examiner.

The Winner? FOX News and the Washington Examiner!

I say that because the debate was at times heated, humorous, informative, off the wall and certainly thought provoking. In short it was great live television, and even though there is some criticism that some candidates resorted as often as possible to talking points and campaign rhetoric, there was more than sufficient spontaneity to offset the prepared comments.

Among the night's luminaries were former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich who showed once again that his intellect is sharp and his grasp of national and international issues is wide-ranging; Ron Paul who showed that if he ever became president he would give Barack Obama a run for the title of worst ever; and Herman Cain who got far too little attention.

If there was a dead spot in the night, for me anyway, it was that the panel of questioners, who overall were excellent, focused too often on the pissing match between former Wisconsin governor Tim Pawlenty and current Wisconsin Representative Michelle Bachmann.

Both are intelligent, opinionated and knowledgeable, but I don't see either of them as a national front-runner despite the polls in Iowa, and I don't care what they think of each other. I don't care who did what or how they interpret it and encouraging their back and forth attacks only took time away from the other candidates.

I watched both of them on Fox News Sunday over the past couple of months and I decided a week ago that when the primary season comes around I definitely won't be voting for Pawlenty. I made this decision because after questioning from Chris Wallace - on FNS, not during the debate - Pawlenty commented that Bachmann's level of experience is similar to that of Barack Obama's, adding words to the effect that we have seen how that worked out and we don't need to repeat that mistake.

When Wallace then asked Pawlenty point blank if Michelle Bachmann is another Obama, Pawlenty ducked the question! All he had to say was "Yes" or "No."

Instead he responded like a typical politician, using a lot of words but saying nothing. Obviously, if he is going to compare Michelle Bachmann's voting record and experience level to Barack Obama's then he is saying the two are similar and thus she is not worthy of the presidency.

But to try and parse or spin his comments is just more obfuscation and we don't need that, do we?

I was very pleased to see that when Herman Cain had an opportunity to speak he not only was forthright about his positions and past statements - in addition to having real world knowledge of how business and the economy are supposed to work - he also has learned from past slips.

For instance, on a FNS show a few months back he was not well versed on the issue of the Palestinian claim to Right of Return in the more-than-a-half-century-old dispute over the land that now comprises Israel. Cain muffed that question on FNS but obviously went right out and studied up on it because he was far better prepared last night.

Cain also did not duck questions about his support of the residents of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who do not want a Muslim center in their community. A group of residents filed suit against Rutherford County in 2010 after the Regional Planning Commission gave the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro site plan approval for a 58,000-square-foot facility.

FOX questioners have made reference to Cain's position on this dispute several times, with the implication that his resistance is racially based and as a black man he should know better.

But Cain has articulated his position in-depth numerous times and repeatedly has made the point as he did in the debate that his opposition is not to the Muslim religion, but to the institution of Muslim Sharia law in ANY community in the United States of America. Sharia law is based on the tenets of the Muslim religion and is seen by many to be inconsistent - in areas such as equal rights for women - with modern society and legal principles.

Cain was well-versed on the Constitution noting that it does not prohibit the practice of religion, but has no room for people in any American community to establish their own laws that are different - in the case of Sharia, markedly so - from our Constitution.

Elsewhere, I have watched Ron Paul on many occasions and while he has some positions on national issues that I totally agree with, his grasp of international affairs leaves me shaking my head. It is one thing to say you don't agree with the deployment of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to say that Iran has good reason to want atomic weapons and that there was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq are not supportable positions.

And to say kind things about Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who wants to destroy Israel and thinks that if the world ends in a massive explosion of heat and light he will wake up in an instant in his version of paradise - is flat out naive.

So, thanks but no thanks on Rep. Paul.

Probably the most controversial question of the evening came from panelist Byron York, political correspondent for the Examiner, who, quoting Michelle Bachmann in an interview she gave in 2006 saying she was "submissive" to her husband, asked if that would carry over to the White House if she is elected president.

The crowd booed York but I think it was a fair question especially since Bachmann said she and her husband define submissive as meaning "Respect." I looked up submissive, submit, submission and several variations of that word, especially seeking synonyms and found nothing that even came close to "respect."

Interesting. Maybe we should vet her husband.

Overall, it was a good night, and the candidates at least had an opportunity to showcase their beliefs and positions. Bret Baier was a perfect moderator, and York, Chris Wallace and Susan Ferrechio of the Examiner were both fair and incisive in their questioning.

My scores: New Gingrich, up; Herman Cain, up; Tim Pawlenty, down; Michelle Bachmann even; Rick Santorum, even; Jon Huntsman, down; Ron Paul, down; Mitt Romney, even.

The next big deal is the Ames straw poll tomorrow which is a non-binding popularity contest that really has no great weight or meaning beyond what the media gives it.

What we'll learn tomorrow is how successful the candidates have been at convincing the residents of Iowa that they would be a perfect choice for president. After that, there is a long wait for the caucus and primary votes where the race for the nomination picks up speed, and drops off the losers.
Thursday, August 04, 2011

Vlad Putin, Russian Strongman, Eyes Hanoi, As Does the "Mince and Wince" US

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was all over the international news this week, calling out the United States as international parasites, and trying to impress a group of Young Communists by climbing a rock wall without a harness and attempting to bend a frying pan with his bare hands.

He didn't get the job done on the frying pan, but it seems as though he probably could score some points with young Russians who were born years after the jackboots of communist oppression were lifted off of their parents' necks. And lest we forget, those jackboots were put there to a major degree by Putin himself, when he was a big noise with the Russian Secret Police.

Putin is known for getting headlines, but it appears there is far more to his grandstanding this time than meets the eye; certainly more than the national or international media cares about.

Putin likes the world to see him as a strongman, not one of these American and European unweaned international metrosexual pusillanimous purveyors of pap who think the United Nations is the answer to humanity's ills. Putin is a stand-up guy, who, whether you agree with him or not, is right in your face if you disagree with him or are in the way of his intentions.

Also, even though the Soviet Union with its brutal repression of lands under Russian control has been dead for two decades, Putin still is capable of backing up his words with actions. Not like it was 25 years ago, but still formidable in many regards.

I've been told that lately those intentions include a renewed presence in Hanoi - yes Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, where it was the Russians who provided most of the support for the communist regime during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese apparently still owe the Russians about $10 billion - which buys a lot more in Vietnam and Russia than it does here.

So the Russians are in Hanoi now, using diplomacy to get them where they really want to be - Cam Ranh Bay the massive deep water port that has extensive support facilities built and expanded by the United States in the 1960s.

After South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975, and after they crushed a rebellion of the South's rice farmers - the communists classify them as "peasants" - in 1977 when the farmers discovered what collectivization is really all about, and after they put hundreds of thousands of people into concentration camps where tens of thousands died, and after a million more fled on the South China Sea as boat people with about 300,000 never making it to shore, and after Cambodian communists went on murderous rampages that made the Vietnamese communists look like Boy Scouts, Russia and Vietnam signed a 25-year agreement that gave Russia extensive rights in the ports the US built.

The website Russian Defense Policy states in a blog written last October that "According to and Vremya novostey, in 1979, Moscow and Hanoi signed a 25-year agreement by which the Soviet Pacific Fleet's 17th Squadron gained access to Cam Ranh. Vietnam allowed the Soviet Navy to base 10 surface ships, 8 submarines with a submarine support ship, and 6 auxiliaries at the port. The Soviets had POL storage, an ASW (anti-submarine warfare) and missile armaments base and technical service unit, a Naval Infantry sub-unit, and an air regiment at Cam Ranh.

The base was initially free, but Hanoi asked for $300 million in rent in 1998. In 2001, Moscow decided not to extend its agreement with Vietnam, and the last Russian elements departed Cam Ranh in mid-2002."

Now you probably are asking yourself what is prompting Russia to suddenly be taking an interest in Vietnam again. Actually, you should first be asking yourself why we, meaning the United States of America, also are taking a renewed interest in Vietnam.

For starters, there have been plenty of people in the US trying to renew relations with Vietnam - the communists that is - for decades, partly through trying to convince the American public to "get over" the war, all the while pushing the false claim that Vietnamese farmers, the Viet Cong, defeated the world's greatest military. But the American public is far more educated than the people who like to think of them as sheep are prepared to believe, and they know that the American military didn't lose a single major battle in Vietnam, the entire VC military was annihilated in 1968 and 1969, and that the northern communists were given a free hand to destroy the south by our own State Department and Congress.

So efforts to increase tourism and business opportunities have fallen short. I've been invited to go back several times in the last 10 years and really have no interest - until very recently.


I don't want to visit the communist "Victory Museum" in Saigon where Jane Fonda and John Kerry are displayed prominently as Heroes of the Revolution. I also don't want to return to the scene of battles where we shellacked the communists only to read their self-serving propaganda on little plaques where they declare victories that they never enjoyed during the fighting.

That being said, we are expanding our diplomatic presence in Hanoi at the same time the Russians are, and we are once again locking horns with our old enemies - and depending on the point in history, our old friends - over the diplomatic tables. Why?


Republican President Richard Nixon went to visit China in 1972, leading to the abandonment of Vietnam by the US Congress in 1973, and the fall of the democratic south to the communists in 1975. He was credited with "opening" China to the west.

Ever since, subsequent Democratic administrations in the US have been giving more and more business and secret technology to China, and worrying the hell out of our Pacific allies including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, not to mention the Russians.

jimmy carter renegotiated our long-standing agreements with Taiwan to appease China, even though Taiwan is the last bastion of a democratic Chinese government. Likewise, Bill and Hillary Clinton helped the Chinese get their hands on our rocket guidance technology by reclassifying secret circuitry as video game technology, at the same time our 99-year lease for bases in the Philippines lapsed thus denying us access to the massive Subic Bay naval facility, Clark Air Force base and others.

The Clintons' largess led to generational jumps in Chinese rocketry and satellite capabilities, and since then they also have acquired our sonar technology and our stealth technology, including samples of the paint used on the Black Hawk stealth helicopter that went down in Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan when the Al Qaeda leader was killed by US Navy Seals.

A friend who studies the region told me about 20 years ago that major world powers were ignoring China's advancement in its naval forces, which was not considered a smart move. Since then Democratic administrations have gone out of their way to help the Chinese while simultaneously weakening the US.

The alignment of forces in the Pacific and Southeast Asia can be easily figured out if you take an objective look at what happened there after the democratic governments in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fell to the communists after they were abandoned by the US in 1975. In all three countries the communists went on a rampage of reprisals, slaughtering millions of civilians from the very young to the very old, while imprisoning and enslaving millions more.

As bad as things were in Laos and Vietnam, they were much worse in Cambodia where the communist Khmer Rouge forces went on a four-year orgy of murder, rape and torture. At least 2 million Cambodians, nearly half the country's population, and probably many more, were slaughtered.

In fact, the "excesses" of the Khmer Rouge which were hidden from public view by a compliant media, eventually became too widely known and were seen as an embarrassment to "moderate" communist regimes worldwide. The situation became so egregious that Vietnam's communists ultimately invaded Cambodia's communists in an effort to stop the slaughter before everyone was dead.

In that conflict the Vietnamese were backed by the Russians who had backed them during the war with the United States, but China jumped in and helped out the Cambodians. China even launched an invasion of North Vietnam's border provinces to draw some of the Vietnamese forces away from the war in Cambodia.

Ultimately the Vietnamese communists prevailed over the Cambodian communists and the slaughter and torture were brought back to "acceptable" levels. But in that region, the Vietnamese still hate the Chinese, and even though the Russians were seen as humorless cheapskates, they still are considered an ally.

To add to the chaos, the world now has a fawning US president who bows to Muslim terrorists, and kisses the asses of Chinese officials at every opportunity - remember he made the Dalai Lama use the trash entrance at the White House so as not to offend the Chinese who are systematically eliminating the people and culture of Tibet and Nepal.

Barack Obama has shown by his own actions and those of his bureaucrats, cabinet members and advisers that he believes the US should be relegated to a third-world trash heap for having the audacity to emerge as the leader of the planet, and he obviously is quite content to let China take over and dictate our future.

But, President Obama notwithstanding, the United States still has people who believe we can regain our world status with appropriate leadership in Congress and the White House, and even the hand-wringers realize that there has to be some kind of counterbalance to an unbridled Chinese presence in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Use of the deep-water ports in Cam Ranh Bay and DaNang - also housing US built facilities - is key to an economically viable deployment of naval forces in the area.

We know this and Vladimir Putin knows this. And as much as Putin hates the US, you can bet he hates the Chinese more.

That point wasn't expounded on to a great degree but this segment from the Russia Defense Policy website does give the briefest of hints to the thinking of at least some Russian military and political leaders:

"Izvestiya quotes independent military analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin:

"Theoretically, I welcome the reestablishment of a Navy base at Cam Ranh. For Russia, it is a very composite and most useful facility abroad. Without it, the operations of the Pacific Fleet are impeded. Also very little remains of the Pacific Fleet. This fact, however, doesn’t change the usefulness of the base at Cam Ranh. Such a step could, of course, create certain foreign policy difficulties for Russia. I suppose the U.S. and China will express dissatisfaction, but this will hardly have any real effect. As concerns Vietnam, it would pay to view it as our most important ally. Russia largely cast it aside after the collapse of the USSR. This was a gross mistake worth correcting."

It's worth recalling Khramchikhin may view Vietnam through a slightly Sinophobic prism."

That last line speaks volumes. Slightly Sinophobic. I bet.

So, we saw Mr. Putin take the international stage once again, but don't dismiss his presence as theatrics. He was making a point. Obama was probably out golfing or sneaking a smoke behind his wife's back, and I doubt he cares in the least what Putin is doing.

But there are plenty of Americans who are paying attention, and they should be.

Note to my Russian readers: Yes I know you read my blogs. And not just from Moscow either. Please pass this message on to Mr. Putin: If you want to do strongman tricks it pays to practice in private before you fail in public. There are techniques to all of these tricks.

Yes you have to be strong, but you also have to know the technique. Hint: heat the frying pan before you try to bend it. Not to the point of cooking your hands hot, but beyond room temp. Metal tends to bend more easily at higher temperatures.

You're welcome.


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