American Legion Daily News Clips 1.13.20

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, January 13, 2020 which is Korean American Day, Make Your Dream Come True Day, National Clean Off Your Desk Day and National Rubber Ducky Day.

[Editor’s Note: Apologies if the clips seem discombobulated today, I’m so befuddled by that Chiefs/Texans game yesterday I think it may have broken my brain. I’m still not sure what I watched.]

This Day in History:

· On January 13, 1128, Pope Honorius II grants a papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God.

· In the midst of depression and a steep decline in his musical career, legendary country singer Johnny Cash arrives to play for inmates at California’s Folsom Prison on January 13, 1968. The concert and the subsequent live album launched him back into the charts and re-defined his career.

· On January 13, 1842, a British army doctor reaches the British sentry post at Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the lone survivor of a 16,000-strong Anglo-Indian expeditionary force that was massacred in its retreat from Kabul. He told of a terrible massacre in the Khyber Pass, in which the Afghans gave the defeated Anglo-Indian force and their camp followers no quarter.

· On January 13, 1982, an Air Florida Boeing 737-222 plunges into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., killing 78 people. The crash, caused by bad weather, took place only two miles from the White House.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Military Times: Esper says he never saw evidence of threat against four US embassies

· CNN: First on CNN: More than a dozen Saudi servicemen to be expelled from US after review of December shooting at Naval Air Station

· Military Times: U.S. leaders dismiss Iraqi requests to remove all military forces

· AP: Iran says it ‘unintentionally’ shot down Ukrainian jet

· FoxNews: Army veteran says his prosthetic legs were repossessed and VA won’t pay for them

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Military Times: Esper says he never saw evidence of threat against four US embassies

Meghann Myers

20 hours ago

2.8K

Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the morning rounds on two Sunday news shows, echoing President Trump’s assertion that not only was Gen. Qasem Soleimani planning more attacks on the U.S., he had four embassies in his sights.

While only citing intelligence about the threat in Baghdad, Esper told CBS’s Margaret Brennan that his opinion wasn’t based on any specific intelligence citing threats against four embassies.

“I didn’t see one, with regard to the four embassies,” he said. “My expectation was, they were probably going to go after our embassies.”

“Probably” and “could have been,” Brennan said quoting Esper, sounded more like assessments than evidence.

“Well the president didn’t say ― he didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence,” Esper said.

Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he also believed multiple embassies were under threat.

“What the president said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well,” Esper said. “He said he believed that they probably ― that they could have been targeting the embassies in the region. I believe that as well, as did another national security team members.”

Esper declined to cite any specific intelligence about the threats. Tapper countered that the president had shared the threats publicly, including on Fox News.

“The president said very publicly that he believed ― believed is not the same as evidence,” Tapper said.

But the president was not citing intelligence when he said he believed in the threat, Esper countered.

Members of the administration briefed Congress about the Soleimani killing and the threats he posed to Americans, but many ― on both sides of the aisle ― denounced the briefing as vague and dissatisfying, and have since come out to say they were never told that four embassies were at risk.

“Why is Trump telling this to Fox News, but the administration is not briefing Congress on this threat of four embassies, unless there was actually no specific intelligence that there was a threat to four embassies?” Tapper said.

Senior members of the House and Senate, as well as the top leaders of their intelligence committees, were given all of the classified details, Esper said.

“The bottom line is, we had exquisite intelligence that can only be shared with the Gang of Eight, so I understand the frustration of many members of Congress,” he added. “I’m not going to go into details of what they were briefed, partly because I wasn’t there.”

He also invoked the threat against U.S. service members, arguing that he felt the risk of not doing anything was too great.

“I’d rather be here discussing this topic with you, rather than going up to Dover Air Force Base and standing there while flag-drapped coffins come home, and I have to explain to husbands and wives, sons and daughters, why their service member died when I had information that could have prevented it,” he said.

While Esper touted the U.S. achievement of deterring Iran from further attacks, after the country’s military launched 16 rockets onto coalition bases in Iraq on Tuesday night, he lamented the shooting down of a commercial flight on Thursday that killed 176 passengers.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Iranian state news reported that tensions with the U.S. had contributed to what it has now called an accident.

“It’s a shame that the first reaction of the Iranian government, to show their corruption ― one, to say that it was American propaganda, when clearly it was just a horrible mistake,” Esper said. “To somehow allow Iran to play the victim card with the international community is just ridiculous.”

Going forward, however, the administration is hoping to sit down with Iran’s leadership to discuss shifting from hostilities to a diplomatic partnership, where Iran commits to conducting itself like a “normal country.”

“The president has drawn no preconditions, other than to say we’re willing to meet with the Iranian government,” Esper said.

CNN: First on CNN: More than a dozen Saudi servicemen to be expelled from US after review of December shooting at Naval Air Station

By David Shortell and Evan Perez, CNN

Updated 10:14 PM ET, Sat January 11, 2020

(CNN)More than a dozen Saudi servicemen training at US military installations will be expelled from the United States after a review that followed the deadly shooting last month at a Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, multiple sources told CNN.

The Saudis are not accused of aiding the 21-year-old Saudi Air Force second lieutenant who killed three American sailors in the December shooting, two sources said, but some are said to have connections to extremist movements, according to a person familiar with the situation.

A number are also accused of possessing child pornography, according to a defense official and the person familiar with the situation. The FBI and Justice Department declined to comment.

"In the wake of the Pensacola tragedy, the Department of Defense restricted to classroom training programs foreign military students from Saudi Arabia while we conducted a review and enhancement of our foreign student vetting procedures," said Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a spokesman for the Department of Defense. "That training pause is still in place while we implement new screening and security measures."

About a dozen Saudi trainees at the Pensacola base had been confined to their quarters as the FBI investigated the shooting as a potential terror attack, and the Pentagon initiated a review of all Saudi military trainees in the country, numbering around 850 students.

The Justice Department is expected to conclude that the Pensacola shooting was in fact an act of terrorism, according to a US official.

No co-conspirators have been charged as part of the investigation, and the Saudi government has pledged its full support.

Military Times: U.S. leaders dismiss Iraqi requests to remove all military forces

Leo Shane III

2 days ago

8.2K

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said U.S. military forces aren’t preparing to completely withdraw from Iraq but may trim down force numbers in coming months as officials reassess ongoing missions there.

The comments came in response to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s request that the United States send delegates to prepare for the full removal of U.S. military forces, following an Iraqi parliament vote last week to oust the foreign troops.

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the prime minister said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.

But Pompeo, in a White House briefing Friday morning, characterized the diplomatic request differently, saying he viewed it as part of ongoing discussions about the role of U.S. troops in ongoing missions to counter Islamic State fighters.

“We are happy to continue the conversation with the Iraqis about what the right structure is for our mission,” he said. “We’ve been there to perform a training mission to help the Iraqi security forces be successful, and to continue the campaign against ISIS … We’re going to continue that mission.”

But Pompeo added that with recent successes against ISIS, the United States may be able to continue that work “with fewer resources.” He added that increases in NATO troops in the region could also lead to decreases in U.S. personnel there.

About 5,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed in Iraq assisting and providing training to Iraqi security counter-parts to fight the Islamic State group.

State Department officials said any delegation sent to Iraq in coming days “would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal.” Defense Department officials have also stated publicly they are not preparing for a large-scale troop withdrawal from the country.

Discussions on U.S. force levels in Iraq have grown heated in recent days following President Donald Trump’s decision to order an air strike to kill Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3.

Iraqi officials were not given advance notice of the attack, and many political leaders there decried the action as a violation of Iraqi territory. In a non-binding vote, members of parliament ordered the Iraqi government to formally request a withdrawal.

On Friday, the White House issued a statement outlining new economic sanctions against Iran and defending the air strike as a necessary step to prevent future violence against America.

“The Iranian regime has threatened United States military service members, diplomats and civilians, as well as the citizens and interests of our allies and partners, through military force and proxy groups,” the statement said. “The United States will continue to counter the Iranian regime’s destructive and destabilizing behavior.”

Pompeo said Trump was reacting to “imminent” threats by Iran and Soleimani “against American facilities including American embassies and military bases” throughout the region.

“This was gonna happen, and American lives were at risk,” he said. “We would have been culpably negligent … had we not recommended to the president that he take this action. He made the right call. And America is safer as a result of that.”

Protests organized by various factions in the Iraqi parliament were scheduled throughout Friday to criticize the United States for its continued military presence there.

But the demand for withdrawal is not universal. Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers opposed the parliament resolution. The Sunnis see the U.S. presence as a bulwark against domination by the majority Shiites and Iran, while the Kurdish security forces had benefited from American training and aid.

AP: Iran says it ‘unintentionally’ shot down Ukrainian jet

The Associated Press

2 days ago

16.3K

WASHINGTON — Iran has announced that its military ‘unintentionally’ shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 aboard.

The statement Saturday morning blames “human error” for the shootdown.

The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at U.S. forces.

Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft. But then the U.S. and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft.

The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.

A deadly night

In the pitch black, pre-dawn sky on the outskirts of the Iranian capital Tehran, a tiny fast-moving light can be seen racing up through the trees, as someone films from the ground. Then there is a flash of light as it seems to collide with something in the air.

It is the ill-fated Ukrainian International airliner which had taken off Wednesday just hours after Iran had fired missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq in retaliation for the slaying of its top military man, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Western leaders have said the plane seemed to have been unintentionally brought down by a surface-to-air missile near Tehran. Iran denies that a missile was to blame.

Videos verified by The Associated Press show the final seconds of the jet and what likely brought it down, killing all 176 people on board.

One video seems to show the impact. Buildings can seen from ground level below the darkened sky as the tiny light arches upward, then the flash. The scene is silent, except for a dog barking nearby. Then 10 seconds later, there is a frightening boom, like loud thunder.

A second video appears to show the plane on fire and crashing. A white blaze plummets downward across the black sky, sometimes letting off sparks. Then it disappears behind trees, and a huge fireball lights up the sky as it hits the earth.

Someone off-camera says in Farsi “The plane has caught fire. Shahriar. Ferdosieh. In the name of God the compassionate, the merciful. God please help us. Call the fire department!” The names are two suburbs of Tehran near the airport.

Another clip, filmed from inside a traveling car at distance, shows a pinpoint fiery light moving at speed. This footage then shows the plane exploding far on the horizon, illuminating the darkened sky.

As part of the verification process, the AP compared buildings in view with map locations and in the precise context of where the jet went off the rad

The Western allegation that Iran shot down a Ukrainian jetliner offers a grim echo for the Islamic Republic, which found itself the victim of an accidental shootdown by American forces over 30 years ago.The July 3, 1988 downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the U.S. Navy remains one of the moments the Iranian government points to in its decades-long distrust of America. They rank it alongside the 1953 CIA-backed coup that toppled its elected prime minister and secured Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s absolute power until he abdicated the throne before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

As recently as last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani referenced the attack in criticizing President Donald Trump’s comments that U.S. forces had picked out 52 targets to be attacked in Iran if needed, one for each of the American hostages held after the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover.

“Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655,” Rouhani wrote on Twitter. “Never threaten the Iranian nation

FoxNews: Army veteran says his prosthetic legs were repossessed and VA won’t pay for them

By Sam Dorman | Fox News

Fox News Flash top headlines for Jan. 10

Fox News Flash top headlines for Jan. 10 are here. Check out what’s clicking on Foxnews.com

A Mississippi Army veteran who served in both Vietnam and Iraq says his prosthetic legs were repossessed and returned in an unusable state, and he says the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) won’t pay for them.

Jerry Holliman, 69, told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper that prosthetics vender Hanger repossessed his artificial limbs two days before Christmas. Although he was encouraged to use Medicare to find replacement prosthetic legs, Holliman said he wanted the VA to pay for them. Medicare also required he submit a co-pay, which he did not want to pay.

"Medicare did not send me to Vietnam," Holliman told the paper. "I was sent there by my country… with the understanding that if something bad happened to me, that it would be covered by the VA."

During his service, Holliman received two Bronze Star Medals and was exposed to Agent Orange. He reportedly suffers from diabetes and has survived three forms of cancer.

VETERANS DIVIDED OVER DECISION TO REMOVE STAR-RATING SYSTEM FROM VA HOSPITALS

Doctors amputated Holliman’s legs after he became afflicted with gangrene. This past August, four months after his left leg was amputated, Holliman received the prosthetics from Hanger.

Holliman said that it wasn’t until he underwent a few rehab sessions that Hanger told him the VA wouldn’t pay for his artificial legs.

A spokeswoman for a Jackson VA Medical Center told the Clarion-Ledger that privacy laws precluded her from commenting on his case. Hanger similarly said it couldn’t comment unless Holliman waived his privacy rights. A spokeswoman added that the company didn’t remove legs after "final delivery."

A VA spokesperson told Fox News on Saturday there is its Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service, "which also has more than 600 local contracts with accredited orthotic and prosthetic providers, [and] stands ready to deliver comprehensive support to optimize health and independence of our Veterans."

"If eligible veterans do not wish to take advantage of these services, VA is unable to intervene and correct issues arising with personal purchases," the spokesperson added.

According to Holliman, he never received a privacy rights waiver he could sign. And final delivery only occurred when "a patient has signed a verification of receipt that allows a claim for payment to be submitted to the applicable insurance payer."

Hours after the Ledger met with Holliman on Jan. 2, the company returned his legs. However, Holliman says that they haven’t been adjusted properly and he can’t use the devices without one of the legs collapsing.

"’You can have ‘em,’” Holliman says he was told by the Hanger employee who returned the limbs, “but they’re not going to do anything to them until the VA pays them.”

The Clarion-Ledger reported that the VA did pay for a motorized wheelchair before Holliman lost his legs. However, the kitchen is the only part of his house that is wheelchair-accessible. He currently lives in a Veterans Home in Collins, Miss.

"I wanna go home," Holliman told the paper. "This place is not for me. It’s a dignified place for these guys to die, that’s what it is… It’s probably every other month somebody dies here. And you know what they do? Put a flag over them, and play ‘Taps’ and take them outta here.”