Category Archives: Defense

The President Had Somewhere Important to Be

Credit: Getty Images

by James C. Sherlock

The caption of the photo:

“US President Joe Biden looks down alongside First Lady Jill Biden as they attend the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, August, 29, 2021, one of the 13 members of the US military killed in Afghanistan last week.”

I watched.  I am sure I had lots of company.

  • Virginia Veterans — nearly 730,215 — one out of 10 adults.
  • Virginia active duty (89,303) and reserve military (25,977) = 115,280
  • Virginia Army National Guard 7,500 soldiers and 46 armories
  • Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Fighter Wing at Langley AFB Hampton – approximately 200.

In an unblinking story for The Washington Post, Matt Viser exposed a failure of leadership and understanding of the moment that was a direct insult to all Americans.

The President was there to representing us all. He shamed us. Continue reading

Warner Promises Tough Questions on Afghanistan Collapse

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Fiasco. The hasty and chaotic withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan has shocked politicians from both sides of the aisle.  Virginia’s own Senator Mark Warner, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, will work with other committees to investigate how the US was caught off guard by the Taliban’s quick victory. The Hill quotes Warner as saying, “As the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I hope to work with the other committees of jurisdiction to ask tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.”  Warner correctly adds, “We owe those answers to the American people and to all those who served and sacrificed so much.”

Warner described the images from Afghanistan as “devastating.” Continue reading

Virginia Beach and Afghanistan

by James C. Sherlock

It was never a Navy war.

But in this Navy town, it was brought literally home to us again and again. We are home to nearly half of the Navy SEALs, including SEAL Team 6.

Something like 4,000 to 5,000 total plus their families.

SEALs are America’s special operations forces specially trained for undersea, coastal, river and swamp operations. They train on our beaches, in our swamps, bays and ocean. Some of us can hear their live gunfire at night.

Folks in the Navy flight paths hear big transports take off at 4:00 in the morning, guess that’s them going God knows where, wish them well, and try to go back to sleep.

About 15 years ago, I went through physical rehab in a civilian facility here with one of them, a Chief Petty Officer who you would not have recognized as a sailor. He and I were there for different types of injuries.

I was retired and rehabbing a knee operated on for arthritis. He was rehabbing muscle damage from a bullet wound. Affected his trigger finger. Continue reading

WaPo Nabs Polk Award, Is Pulitzer Next?

Ian Shapira

By Peter Galuszka

How ironical.

Our esteemed Jim Bacon has been on a tear in recent months writing about media coverage of the problem of systemic racism at the Virginia Military Institute.

Of special interest to Jim is the reporting of Ian Shapira, a Washington Post reporter who has been digging into the VMI. After his stories were published, the superintendent of VMI retired and an inquiry was launched.

Jim doesn’t like what the Post and Shapira have done. Some of Jim’s headlines go right to the jugular including “VMI Update: The WaPo Makes Another Sleazy Insinuation” and  “WaPo Ratchets Up Assault on VMI.”

At one point, Jim made this observation: “Polish up that Pulitzer. It looks like The Washington Post is vying again for the big prize in journalism”

Well, guess what happened? Shapira and the Post have won a George Polk award for their VMI coverage. The citation reads thusly: Continue reading

The Mythology of Robert E. Lee

By Peter Galuszka

With excellent timing, the former head of the history department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has come out with a book about the mythology of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and much of the White “Southern” culture.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Ty Seidule, a former paratrooper, has deep Virginia roots and his analysis goes right to the heart of the problems plaguing Virginia, Civil War memorabilia, Richmond, Charlottesville, the Virginia Military Institute and more.

He grew up in Alexandria and had ties to the Episcopal prep school where he expanded his desire to be a “Southern” gentleman while worshipping the likes of Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Here’s a link to my review of his book in Richmond’s Style Weekly. The Post also reviewed the book this past Sunday.

Hard Power Matters – America’s Universities Must Protect It

by James C. Sherlock

This is a continuation of the discussion raised by my column on the folly of educating Chinese and Iranian visa holders in Virginia universities and colleges. Some in that discussion thought soft power would overcome what America loses in hard power.

Soft power is both crucially important and utterly insufficient to guarantee the future freedom and prosperity of the West and its allies around the world.

We need credible military capabilities — hard power — as well.

Hampton Roads is the largest concentration of military power in the United States, perhaps the world. The Pentagon is in Arlington. Northern Virginia is awash in government and contractor defense personnel. But this issue directly affects all of America. And Europe. And South America and Africa, which are seeing overt Chinese attempts to influence events on both continents. And our allies in the Pacific.

China is without question the biggest long term military threat to the United States and its allies. It combines technology, economic power, an enormous and talented population and ruthless leaders. Continue reading

WTJU Podcast on State’s Economy

By Peter Galuszka

This may be familiar turf for some readers, but here is a podcast I worked on with WTJU, the radio station of the University of Virginia. It gives a larger overview of the changes that data centers are making in the state’s economy and what that might mean in the future.

This elaborates on a Style Weekly story I posted here a few weeks ago.

Early this year, WTJU started preparing a series of podcasts under the “Bold Dominion” banner that explores how politics, economics and culture are changing in the Old Dominion. I think they have had 25 episodes up until now and I have participated in some of them. I also do a weekly Q&A on state politics.

Here’s the most recent podcast:

https://bolddominion.org/episodes/what-does-a-burgeoning-tech-industry-mean-for-virginia

Stewart Gets Last-Minute Gift From Trump

Corey Stewart

Peter Galuszka

Corey A. Stewart, a conservative firebrand from Prince William County, is getting a last-minute going-away present from President Donald Trump.

As Trump’s administration comes to an end, Trump has created a position on trade at the U.S. Commerce Department that is just for him. In 2016, Stewart headed Trump’s Virginia election campaign before being fired. Stewart said that he was Trump before Trump was Trump.

Stewart is an international trade lawyer and is expected to strong arm Trump’s tough and confusing trade policies.

A special target is China, which Trump has castigated, with some justification, for cheating on business deals, fiddling with its currency exchange rates, growing its armed forces and trampling on human rights.

Stewart will toughen enforcement of Trump’s hostile trade relations, according to news reports.

Some trade experts wonder what the Stewart story is all about. According to Reuters, William Reinsch, a former Commerce undersecretary, said he viewed hiring as “peculiar” since he is filling a position that does not exist. Continue reading

The “Rat Pack” Makes the Point

By Peter Galuszka

On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman took the historically enormous step of integrating the U.S. Armed Forces. The Virginia Military Institute, which prides itself on its warrior panache, didn’t get around to that until 1968 and even today there are serious questions about racism at the state-supported school.

The past few days have seen story after story about charges of widespread racism at the school that led to Gov. Ralph Northam, a VMI graduate, ordering an investigation. The school’s superintendent, an 80-year-old retired four-star Army general has resigned.

The Washington Post got big play for its investigative report about the atmosphere in Lexington, where the school is located. Actually, the Roanoke Times first had a story this summer that Black alumni were concerned that racism was getting out of hand. This morning, the Post has a story about anonymous posts that VMI students apparently made on Jodel, a Website.

If anything, the posts prove the media’s point. Black athletes are referred to insultingly as “permits” because they are excused from normal military exercise because they work out in sports. They are said to be at VMI because they are not good enough at sports to get into a better college. Continue reading

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