Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Friday, August 09, 2002

In a letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune Hugh Palmer, the president of the American Refugee Committee, responds to an anti-American diatribe in which a Columbia University professor (can you say this surprises you?) "The world thinks we are fighting for ourselves. What people say is 'You're so rich and powerful, you don't even think about us -- unless you need something.' ". While admitting we are not perfect he shares some experiences he has had:

• Nationwide flooding, triggered by Hurricane Georges, shut down every major road in the Dominican Republic. Shortly after dawn I rode a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter into a tiny village isolated by floodwaters. Beside me sat the local Catholic bishop. While he asked village leaders about health emergencies, I helped U.S. and Dominican soldiers hand food and medical supplies to a bucket brigade of men, women and children.

An old woman in a mud-spattered dress gripped my wrist and spoke to me. I couldn't understand her through the noise of the helicopter engine. "What did she say?" I asked the bishop's interpreter. "She said, 'God bless America,' " he replied.

• High in the mountains of Kosovo, 200 villagers hid under makeshift shelters from the Serb paramilitary forces that had burned their village. I stood outside the armored van that members of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission had used to bring me here. "We'll bring you food and water purification tablets," I said. An old man responded, "Thank you for your help, but what we really need is peace."

I shook my head, "I'm not a diplomat or a soldier," I said. "I can't bring peace. We should all pray for peace." The old man nodded, "We will pray for peace," he said. "But we will put our faith in the United States of America."

• I was a bit nervous to be the first American official to return to Baidoa, Somalia, since the collapse of the peacekeeping mission in the early 1990s. I shouldn't have been. People swarmed around me as if I were a celebrity. A young man from the crowd pulled me aside and, in excellent English, said, "Please tell the families of the American servicemen killed here that their young men did not die in vain. They saved the lives of tens of thousands of our people. We will never forget them or America."

< email | 8/09/2002 12:30:00 PM | link

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