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Should Retired Military Officers Endorse Presidential Candidates?

Many retired military leaders think that it would lead to dangerous politicisation of the military while others say that not speaking out was more dangerous than keeping quiet

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he speaks with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn during a town hall in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Source: VOA
  • During the US Presidential election campaign, many retired military officials decided to show their support by endorsing their favourite presidential candidate at the Democratic and the Republican National Conventions in July this year
  • This week, Donald Trump’s campaign staff released a list to the public with 88 names of senior military officials who supported the Republican nominee, whereas, to counter that list, Hillary’s campaign staff released a list of names of 95 Senior military officials who support her
  • This led to a fresh debate on whether retired military officials should be involved in politics
  • Many senior military officials commented that this may lead to politicisation of the military, whereas, while some officials believe that not taking part would be more dangerous

September 8, 2016: Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn held nothing back as he gave a speech at the Republican National Convention in July, in support of the party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Flynn criticized President Barack Obama, the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, as “weak and spineless.” He called Hillary Clinton “reckless” and “crooked.”

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And when the crowd began screaming for the Democratic nominee to be imprisoned, Flynn joined in. “That’s right. Lock her up,” said Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

While the speech clearly fired up those gathered in Cleveland, some of Flynn’s colleagues were not impressed, viewing it as a dangerous politicization of the military.

Retired General Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, slammed his former colleague in a letter to The Washington Post days after the speech.

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“The American people should not wonder where their military leaders draw the line between military advice and political preference,” Dempsey said. He also chastised retired Marine General John Allen, who gave his own passionate speech in defense of Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.

Competing lists

The speeches sparked fresh debate about whether retired senior military officers should become involved in politics. The issue has become even more relevant lately, as both Clinton and Trump roll out long lists of former admirals and generals who endorse their campaigns.

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Trump’s campaign staff released an open letter this week, signed by 88 former military leaders who said they thought the Republican nominee would oversee a “long-overdue course correction” in U.S. foreign policy.

Retired Gen. John Allen stands with veterans as he speaks on the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. Source: VOA
Retired Gen. John Allen stands with veterans as he speaks on the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.
Source: VOA

Not be outdone, Clinton’s camp quickly responded with a list of 95 generals and admirals who support her, boasting that her list of endorsements was greater than that of any other recent Democratic nominee for president.

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The potential benefits of releasing such lists are obvious: They bolster a candidate’s national security credentials and help create the perception that the nation’s military leaders support the candidate, not the opponent.

Dividing line

But when military generals become highly partisan cheerleaders for political candidates, does that blur a necessary line between politics and the military? It depends on whom you ask.

Harley Hughes, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, laughed off the question.

“That couldn’t be more ridiculous,” said Hughes, who signed the letter in support of Trump. In Hughes’ view, not speaking out was more dangerous than any theoretical conversation about the relationship between politics and the military.

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“The stakes of this election are enormous,” Hughes told VOA. “We won’t have very many more chances to make mistakes. That’s why folks like me speak up.”

John Castellaw, a retired Marine lieutenant general who supports Clinton, said he was apolitical during his time in the military, but in retirement, he feels obligated to use his expertise for the good of the country.

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“I think it’s good for military people [to be involved in politics],” Castellaw said. “We tend to be analytical and methodical. We tend to think about what we are going to do before we take action. Our words in most cases are moderate and measured.”

Not illegal

It’s not illegal for retired military figures to enter politics. They have the same rights as any other citizen to run for office and to endorse or criticize those who are. Many retired military leaders have themselves run for elected office, even the presidency.

But some have made the argument that officers’ responsibilities extend into retirement, not least of all because they continue to be paid by the military and they keep their military ranks.

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That’s part of what seemed to upset many about Flynn’s and Allen’s convention speeches: They were introduced as generals and spoke as generals, not simply as “John” or “Mike.”

For many ex-military and intelligence officials, that amounts to a violation of a norm they are not so quick to break.

“I don’t think it’s good for the nation,” said Dennis Wilder, who retired in April after serving for over three decades in several senior intelligence and diplomatic roles. “It’s the precedent it sets.”

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“It wasn’t appropriate for 37 years, and it’s a habit I got into that I’m not getting out of just yet,” he told VOA. “The debate on foreign policy should stop at our shores. We shouldn’t be criticizing each other overseas. I don’t think it’s good for the nation.” (VOA)

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ISKCON Devotees Recall When Donald Trump Helped Them Conduct Rath Yatra

Recalling an incident from 1976 Rath Yatra, when current US President helped ISKCON devotees

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Current US President once helped ISKCON devotees back in 1976. Pixabay

By Muskan Bhatnagar

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, abbreviated as ISKCON is a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu religious organisation which was founded 53 years ago, in 1966.

At present, ISKCON consists of 850 temples, ecovillages and centres worldwide, out of which India comprises of over 150 temples.

The motto of ISKCON is ‘Krsnas Tu Bhagavan Svayam‘ which headquarters in Sri Sri Radha Madhav Panchatattva Temple (ISKCON Mayapur), Mayapur, West Bengal, India.

Recalling an incident from 1976, the organisation was planning to conduct the first massive Rath Yatra in New York City with the permission to use 5th Avenue. The massive wooden carts were to be made within the reach of the starting point of the parade and hence a huge empty site was required.

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The ISKCON devotees were not able to find a large empty site for Rath Yatra preparations. Pixabay

Everyone who was approached refused due to understandable insurance risksand whatnot.

When almost all devotees had lost hope, they were informed that Donald Trump had recently purchased the old railway yard and suggested to approach him regarding the issue.

The ISKCON devotees were not able to find a large empty site for Rath Yatra preparations. Pixabay

Also Read: McDonald’s Reveals Plan to Open More Drive-Thru Restaurants in UK

The old railway yard was a perfect location for the organisation but why would Trump be any different from the dozens of people they had approached previously?

The devotees went to his office with a big basket of Maha Prasadam and a presentation package. Trump’s Secretary received the devotees and their package and warned them saying “He never agrees to this kind of thing. You can ask but he is going to say “No”.

The devotees received a call three days later from the same secretary. “I don’t know what happened but he read your letter, took a bit of food you left, and immediately said “sure, why not?”, said the secretary, adding “come on down and get his signed letter of permission.”

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Indian-American Businessman Urges Trump to Reopen with “common sense precautions”

Danny Gaekwad, Indian-American businessman has urged Trump's administration to reopen the country's economy with "common sense precautions"

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Reopen the country's economy with "common sense precautions", suggests Indian-American businessman. Pixabay

A prominent Indian-American businessman has urged US President Donald Trump administration to reopen the country’s economy with “common sense precautions”, highlighting the struggles America’s hoteliers were facing during the COVID-19 lockdown, the media reported.

Speaking at a roundtable of hospitality and tourism industry, hosted by Vice President Mike Pence in Orlando on Wednesday, Danny Gaekwad, Chairman of OSEM Hospitality Management, said such a move will “help our industry and our state get our economy moving again”, the American Bazaar reported on Thursday. Gaekwad was speaking as a representative of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA).

Besides Pence, the event was attended by Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and several prominent business leaders from the state. Gaekwad and other industry leaders proposed a number of steps and a phased reopening of the economy. “This pandemic hit the hotel industry particularly hard, and owners and employees alike continue to struggle,” said Gaekwad, also a prominent Republican donor, told Pence.

“Reopening our businesses with common sense precautions that prioritize the health and wellbeing of employees and guests will help our industry and our state get our economy moving again.” Gaekwad, a resident of Ocala, in central Florida, drew Pence’s attention on the liquidity crisis members of AAHOA, who own nearly one in every two hotels in the country, were facing.

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Industry leaders proposed a number of steps and a phased reopening of the economy to Trump administration. Pixabay

“If there is no guest, there is no dollar. If there is no dollar, don’t even think about liquidity. Do we have liquidity? Absolutely not,” the American Bazaar quoted the businessman as saying.

Also Read: Alarming Rate of Deforestation Threatens Biodiversity

“As an immigrant, my whole family works in a business because it does bother us. I represent here more than 20,000 (AAOHA) members. We all came with an American Dream. I thought I saw 9/11, I thought I saw the greatest recession. I have never seen this and I was never prepared for this.” (IANS)

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Trump Universe Comes to A Stalemate

The tale of Donal Trump and his petty politics continues

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Trump failing at handelling the crisis. Pixabay

BY SAEED NAQVI

When the tortoise agreed to ferry a stranded scorpion on its back across the river, which was in spate, he didn’t know what he had bargained for. Midway, the scorpion stung the tortoise, deep, through its hard shell.

“Why have you done this?” asked the tortoise. “Now we shall both drown.”

“It’s in my nature,” said the scorpion.

Given its own self-esteem, the US should have been “ferrying” the world through the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the country is itself so overwhelmed by Corona that it has no time for leadership. Fair enough, let the US attend to protecting its people. But Trump’s Washington is not only making a mess of its own crisis, but it is also aggravating the world’s problems. The tortoise did not live to digest the lesson: a cooperative order is simply not possible with Trump.

If US capitalism in the post-Cold War world were scripted like a Webster melodrama, the audience should prepare itself for some frenetic tattooing by the “scorpion”. Even as the world is focused on fighting coronavirus, US claws are out, groping the Venezuelan coastline, using Columbian territory as its very own. Eight mercenaries are reported dead, even as two pedigreed Americans are in Venezuelan custody, presumably, singing like canaries by now. Wordsmiths have already named the expedition as the “Bay of kids”, so infantile has this latest US adventure been to unseat President Nicolas Maduro. Former US Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau has claimed responsibility. President Trump has closed his gloves in front of his face like a pugilist on the defensive. “I knew nothing about it.”

Of course, he knew just about as much as he did about the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince’s idea of “privatizing” the Afghan War. Don’t laugh, Prince’s 100-page dossier spelt out details of how Afghanistan should be privately governed. The proposal was considered by freaks in the administration. According to the plan, Afghanistan would be ruled, just as India was, under a Viceroy. The plan was shot down. But Prince proved his resourcefulness once again in Venezuela. According to The Guardian, London, Prince secretly met one of Maduro’s closest allies, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who also looks after security. About eight months ago, Prince was suggesting an invasion of Venezuela by “a private army of 5,000.” This was after the US had recognized Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s “legitimate President.” Which side of the street was Prince playing? The tricks have not worked. Trump will have to go into elections with a military failure in his backyard. Will his cohorts allow him to?

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The US criples against the pandemic fight. Pixabay

The world has been persuaded to put its head down on Corona. But this does not come in the way of Trump’s military adventure: holding US-Sri Lanka joint training in March and April at Sri Lanka’s Air and Naval base in Trincomalee, despite a ban on travel because of the pandemic.

This military bonhomie at a time when the coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has been advised to dock at Guam. More than 4,500 crew members have been moved ashore. The spike in corona cases among the Sri Lankan Navy and Army can be traced to the companionship with US military personnel.

How can one raise fingers at the island nation’s obsequiousness when the great nation to its north circumvents its own rules to ship Hydroxychloroquine to the US because Trump has threatened “retaliation” if he were not helped in his hour of need.

This is not all. The man who is building a wall to keep Mexicans out, delivers a stark message to his southern neighbour: American economic interest supersede Mexican health interests. In other words, allow workers to operate factories essential not for Mexico but to the US — pandemic or no pandemic.

Germans coped with that mentality in March: the Trump administration tried to lure a German firm, CureVac, to the US. This is not where the audacity ends. The vaccine, jointly developed, would be available to the Americans first. The Angela Merkel establishment politely showed US negotiators the door.

In the German episode, the US comes across as almost elegant compared to the highway robbery at the tarmac of Chinese airport loading protection gear against the virus’ for European destinations. American “highwaymen” paid three times the amount and diverted the equipment to the US. French officials called it the “war of masks”.

Donal Trump
Donal Trump and his petty politics don’t pause even in the wake of a world pandemic. Pixabay

Meanwhile across the sea, Trump’s Sancho Panza (or is it the other way around), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up airstrikes against Syria, attempting Drone assassinations of Hezbollah field commanders, and, in brief, trying to pulverize the “axis of resistance”, with Iran as the prime target. The idea is to provoke just sufficient retaliation to enable Netanyahu to survive corruption charges, also to give Trump an opportunity to beat war drums, always a useful strategy in the election season, particularly when ratings are not promising.

The “Bay of kids” and his Gulf gyrations pale before the high wire act he appears to be developing (or bluffing) vis-a-vis China. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times is one of the many commentators who have chastised Trump’s “irresponsible” diatribe without any credible evidence.

The supremacist, neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, some years ago, attended openly by the KKK and sundry white nationalists, created ripples and waves which never really subsided. “There are very fine people on both sides” was Trump’s immortal observation, balancing between Klansmen and counter-protestors.

From that persona, Trump never really distanced himself. The result is rampaging anti-Semitism. Israel’s respected newspaper Haaretz has expressed concern. Several protests against the measures taken by states to control coronavirus have featured swastikas and worse.

Also Read: Fair is foul and foul is fair in the Trump universe (Comment)

Jewish Centre for Public Affairs CEO, David Bernstein is convinced, that “as more people become economically disaffected the more they will look for scapegoats.” Since the economic downslide is on an epic scale, so will corresponding racism grow in the US and elsewhere. Should this President get a second term, we shall all surely go down like that tortoise, gasping. (IANS)