Why Didn't the Pentagon Report Chinese Laser Attacks Injuring 2 C-130 Crew Members?


There could very well be a new Cold War brewing, but this time it might not be between the United States and Russia.

Instead, it’s very plausible that the next nation in that scenario could be China. The rising Asian giant has already begun challenging America on the economic stage, and has been steadily expanding its military capabilities at the same time.

If there were any doubt that China is stretching its muscles against the U.S., a recent incident should raise eyebrows. According to The Washington Post, American troops have already been attacked by sophisticated weapons — and the Chinese military is almost certainly behind it.

“The United States has formally complained to China after alleging that the Chinese military injured two U.S. airmen by directing high-grade lasers at American aircraft,” the newspaper reported in 2018.

These were no kids with laser pointers. The devices used in the incident, in the African country of  Djibouti, were military grade and suspected by experts to come from either a naval base or a Chinese ship.

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“The incidents with the lasers, which can temporarily blind pilots, come as one of the first major dust-ups since China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti,” the report continued.

So if the incident took place a year ago, why are we bringing it up now? Because what was almost certainly a targeted laser attack by the Chinese was downplayed by U.S. officials, and strangely left out of a recent Pentagon report.

As The Washington Free Beacon pointed out, the laser incident was suspiciously missing from a Department of Defense report about the Chinese military, despite that fact that less serious altercations between the two nations were mentioned.

“The annual report to Congress on military and security developments regarding China mentions a few provocative Chinese military actions…,” the Free Beacon on Monday.

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“However, there was no mention of the more serious incident involving injury to U.S. military personnel.”

The Washington Post article did not identify the type of aircraft targeted. But the Free Beacon reported it was a C-130 transport plane.

Considering the fact that the U.S. military at first seemed to purposely stay quiet about the laser use attack and left it to the non-military FAA to issue a warning to pilots, could it be that the administration made a decision to look the other way? It’s certainly possible.

“Firing a military-grade laser at military aircraft normally is considered a hostile action. However, the Pentagon and the larger Trump administration took no action in response,” reported the Free Beacon. “The inaction has raised concerns among some officials that the attacks may be repeated in the future.”

The Free Beacon reported that Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn had no comment about why the incident wasn’t mentioned in the report to Congress. Conservative Tribune, a section of the Western Journal, also reached out to Eastburn, but had received no response as of Tuesday morning.

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While the Pentagon’s apparent wish to downplay the laser altercation shouldn’t be a huge red flag by itself, it does raise questions about this administration’s strategy as it relates to China moving forward.

It’s very possible that President Donald Trump is wary of an escalating military standoff in the region, or he could be focused on using economic pressure as an alternative response to the provocation. That approach could be part of his decision to threaten China with tariffs this week, a move that of course antagonized the president’s critics.

No matter the decision-making calculus within the White House, it’s worth remembering that this administration has been dramatically underestimated before.

Trump’s ability to see a path forward on North Korea while nay-sayers preached disaster is just one example where he ended up being more competent than his opponents dared give credit.

In other words, the president may be playing a long game with China. Incidents like the use of military lasers against American pilots shouldn’t be allowed to go ignored, but it’s worth trusting that the administration might actually know what it’s doing — at least for now.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.