Category Archives: Defense

The Return of the “Cooch”

By Peter Galuszka

Early this past Wednesday morning, Mark Pettibone and Connor O’Shead were walking on their way home after a peaceful protest in Portland, Ore.

Suddenly an unmarked van pulled in front of them. Men wearing green uniforms, tactical gear and generic signs reading “POLICE” hustled them into the vehicle. They were not told why they were being detained. After 90 minutes, the badly shaken men were released without being charged.

The episode might sound like the activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his “little green men” who have shown up in places like Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to intimidate and detain people.

But this was Portland, a progressive city that has seen protests for weeks. President Donald Trump has urged federal authorities to move in on cities to restore his sense of order even though city officials in Portland do not want his help and are investigating what is going on.

And, guess who is playing a role in what could be a growing national trend of federal law enforcement performing “snatch and grabs” of innocent protestors?

That would be Kenneth Cuccinelli, the former hard right, state attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate. He is now acting deputy secretary of the Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. Continue reading

Spanberger Vs. Trump

Rep. Abigail Spanberger

By Peter Galuszka

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th District, continues to draw international attention as a “New Look” Democrat from Virginia who is savvy about the intelligence community and global affairs.

The former CIA case officer was featured on CNN criticizing the administration of Donald Trump for ignoring reports that Russian military intelligence had paid bounties to the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops and members of the pro-U.S. coalition there.

Her comments were picked up by the British newspaper, the Guardian. This may be the first time that a woman Member of Congress has gotten so much exposure beyond borders of the Old Dominion.

Neither Dave Brat nor Eric Cantor, her Republican predecessors in the 7th district that includes parts of the once reliably Red Richmond suburbs of Chesterfield and Henrico, has gotten such exposure. The only other woman who has come close is U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat and former Navy officer who represents the 2nd District that includes Virginia Beach, another area that was once reliably Red. Continue reading

The Time Has Come to Rename the Bases

A.P. Hill

By Peter Galuszka

Momentum is growing to rename three Virginia military bases which bear the monikers of Confederate generals. It is part of a movement to reassess Confederate symbols within the military nationwide.

The three bases are Ft. A.P. Hill, named for Confederate Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill Jr.; Ft. Pickett, named for Gen. George Pickett; and Ft. Lee, named for Gen. Robert E. Lee.

This comes in the middle of a controversy between military leaders and President Donald Trump, who says he won’t even consider renaming bases.

There has been a growing rift between Trump and numerous military leaders, notably James Mattis, a decorated Marine general and Trump’s former secretary of defense, about accusations that Trump has tried to politicize U.S. armed forces.

Part of the tension involves Trump’s controversial plan to use federal units, such as the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division, to crack down on demonstrators after the slaying by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African-American accused of passing a phony $20 bill. Continue reading

Gunning Up Virginia’s Cops

By Peter Galuszka

 In 2014, the Sheriff’s Department of York County and Poquoson got their very own tank-like vehicle, called a “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP).”

Fully armored and tan in color with steep sides, it looks like something out television footage of the war in Iraq where U.S. troops needed to get through mine-infested streets and terrain safely.

But why do such generally sleepy communities such as these need a high-powered armored car? Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Digs told The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press that it isn’t meant to “intimidate people” but can be useful during adverse weather when trees are down. Really? Wouldn’t a pickup truck work?

The newspaper story is important since it combs through what Virginia law enforcement got after the “1033”Defense Department program started to sell surplus military gear to local law enforcement in 1997.

It notes that military surplus sales in Virginia went from $216,000 in 1999 to $853,824 in 2019, according to Defense Logistics Agency statistics. The latter number included the cost of another MRAP so Virginia Beach could get its very own armored truck. Over time, the City of Portsmouth got 87 M-16 assault rifles. Other goodies include night vision glasses. Continue reading

Our Gutsy Governor

By Peter Galuszka

On June 24, 2015, Nikki Haley, a Republican who was South Carolina’s first non-white governor, called for the removal of a Confederate flag that had been flying over the state’s capitol grounds for years.

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Her action came a few days after an avowed white supremacist walked into an African-American church and opened fire, killing church members attending a service.

I was watching the news on TV when she made her gutsy move. I was deeply impressed.

And now, Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is governor of Virginia, has taken a similarly gutsy move. He has ordered that the state-owned statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee be removed from its stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It has been there for about 130 years, erected by white supremacists with deep sentiment for their romantic myths of Southern history.

“I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from our past and we all know that our country needs that example right now,” Northam said. Continue reading

Beware Fake Tweets

The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia

By Peter Galuszka

Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.

They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.

The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.

A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’s the night, comrades. Tonight we say F&*^The city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods and we take what’s ours.”

Twitter quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported. Continue reading

Why Northam Is Such An Important Governor

By Peter Galuszka

This is a bit like throwing chum at a school of sharks, but here is my latest in Style Weekly.

I wrote an assessment of Gov. Ralph Northam that is overall, quite positive. My take goes against much of the sentiment of other contributors on this blog.

They are entitled to their views but, to be honest, I find some of the essays shrill and not really fact based. If Northam wants to delay elective surgeries at hospitals for a week or so, some want to empanel a grand jury.

An acute care health facility in Henrico County becomes one of the most notorious hot spots for coronavirus deaths and it is immediately Northam’s fault even though the care center has had serious problems that long predated the governor’s term in office.

He’s a trained physician who served as an Army doctor in combat during the Iraq War yet he is vilified as being incompetent and incapable of understanding the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s like the constant repetition of the “Sins of Hillary” on Breitbart and Fox News about emails and Benghazi.

Like him or not, Northam is bound to be one of the most consequential governors in Virginia history given the gigantic problem of the pandemic. He’s not a showboat salesman like Terry McAuliffe nor a smarmy, small-time crook like Robert F. McDonnell.

Anyway, here’s the piece.

And Now For Something Completely Different

By Peter Galuszka

Dear Baconauts,

As you know, people like me have been described by a B.R.  commenter as those who submit “scorch and burn, mock and smear writings encased in scornful, supercilious, opinionated, and shallow rhetoric.”

I freely admit this and am damned proud of it.

But instead of dishing out the usual sarcastic bile, I have another idea today. I don’t know about you, but with me self-quaranting as much as possible, I am running out of things to read or watch. I still have for-pay work but who knows how much that might last? So, why don’t we exchange ideas of new stuff to occupy our minds with. Here’s a list of recommended movies, TV series and books:

  • On Netflix, I am a huge fan of the German TV series “Bablyon Berlin,” which imagines a very dark, brooding German capital after the Great War and before Hitler. The chief characters are Georeon Rath, a shattered war veteran and police detective who gets into the seamy side of life. His heart throb is Charlotte Ritter, an office worker and part-time prostitute. The series has everything, shady characters, mysterious train shipments from the Soviet Union, fascists, communists, early porn studios. The acting, story line and photography are excellent. It’s like a grown up version of “Cabaret.”

Continue reading

Rethinking Afghanistan

By Peter Galuszka

On Feb. 15, 1989, I was standing amid reporters and people waving red flags and holding flowers at the northern end of a metal bridge linking Uzbekistan with Afghanistan. A row of Soviet BTR armored personnel carriers streamed home as their crews waved and smiled.

These were the last troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, where the nearly 10-year war had killed about 15,000 Soviet troops and 2 million civilians. The Soviet Foreign Ministry badly wanted foreign correspondents to record the last of the withdrawals.

They chartered a plane to take us from Moscow to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. From there we went to a Soviet Air Force base where tough looking men loaded flares on the sides of gigantic cargo planes. They would shoot off the flares to distract U.S.-made Stinger missiles as they corkscrewed into Kabul.

Next on our trip was the small town of Termez where Russian helicopter gunships buzzed overhead. Near the bridge, was a parade ground covered with locals. I spoke with a teenage girl who said: “They’ve taken us out of school four times to practice this.”

The lesson was that Afghanistan is always going to be a remote quagmire. The British and Russian empires found that out in the 19th century and now the Americans are after a seemingly endless 18-year-long war that has left about 2,400 U.S. troops and more than 58,000 civilians dead. Continue reading

Scrap the Truman? Make Your Case, Navy

USS Harry S. Truman, CVN 75. Navy Photo.

Despite 12 years of work for the Virginia shipyard where these magnificent beasts are born, maintained and where they go to die, I am no expert on nuclear aircraft carriers.  Political games around budgets, however? There I have a bit of experience.

A few years back the United States Navy made what appeared to be a serious effort to retire the USS George Washington at the mid-point of its life, but it fizzled, and the ship is currently undergoing the overhaul needed for an additional 25 years of service.  The work is employing thousands of craftsmen and contractors and consuming plenty of taxpayer dollars.    Continue reading

Florida Mounts New Raid on Virginia Carrier Fleet

U.S.S. George Washington arrives in Virginia for almost-cancelled overhaul (Huntington Ingalls Photo)

Here we go again.  Florida wants one of Virginia’s aircraft carriers. U.S. Sen. Mark Rubio, R-Fla., and others are apparently trying once again to authorize the Mayport naval base to make the improvements it would need to become home port for one of the eleven jewels of the fleet. Virginia’s congressional delegation is gearing up to fight off the idea for the third time in a decade.

In a recent joint letter they wrote that limited defense funds shouldn’t be spent on “a non-existent requirement and duplicative capability that will cost the Navy nearly $1 billion over 15 years.” Right now five carriers sail out of Norfolk and one is being overhauled in Newport News.

The official position of Huntington Ingalls Industries, parent company of Newport News Shipbuilding, will probably be no position. The line has been that the company builds and maintains the ships and where the customer chooses to park them is none of the company’s business. But expect the rest of Virginia and Hampton Roads to care deeply, because along with the personnel who serve on the ship there are hundreds more support jobs ashore, and all of the economic benefit created by those many thousands of sailors and dependents.

It is a little dance the Florida and Virginia politicians do, burnishing their images with the home folks. We are probably seeing another attempt because the White House has changed hands. You might think these are weapons systems vital to the world’s stability, but we all know they are also political boodle of the highest order. Michael Dukakis sank his chances in Virginia in 1988 by proposing to cancel two carriers.

The total cost of the upgrade to the Florida base to host a carrier full time would approach $600 million, given the special facilities tied to its nuclear reactors. This apparently would defend us against the dangerous naval threat posed by, what, Venezuela? Brazil? Cuba is within easy reach of land based squadrons. There is no strong argument for moving a carrier to Florida except to boost Florida.

Norfolk likely will lose a carrier one day but it will go to the Pacific. And when the Pentagon is ready to make that move, adding to the five carriers now based in California, Washington and Japan, Virginia’s political class needs to drop its objections. That will be based on sound strategic requirements, unless of course President Trump makes a Glorious Peace with Dear Leaders Kim and Xi.

There also remains a chance Norfolk will lose a carrier because the Navy stops building them or chooses not to overhaul one and puts it in mothballs instead, as almost happened to the U.S.S. George Washington (CNV 73, pictured above). Given the total cost of ownership of a carrier strike group, that threat will not go away.