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Saturday, June 05, 2004

Sixty years ago 

It is midnight on the east coast as I write this, and at this time sixty years ago, while most of the east coast slept, the men of the Allied Expeditionary Force were about to face the greatest test of their--perhaps anyone's--lives. Some were already on the ground behind Hitler's Atlantic Wall, having jumped or glided into Normandy in the predawn darkness. Many others at this moment were being tossed about by the stormy English Channel in Higgins Boats or amphibious tanks and trucks. They were a mere thirty minutes from setting foot on beaches and climbing sheer cliffs to push the German army the first few hard-fought yards back toward Berlin.

Many were afraid, and few had any idea what awaited them on the beach. Many prayed, aloud or in silence.

Far too many of those men never made it off the beach, or even out of their boats. Many more were killed in the days that followed as Operation Overlord pushed inland.

Those men, mostly American, British, and Canadian, but from many other countries as well, began the most important fight in history 60 years ago. They fought and they died for nothing less than the future of humanity. What a huge burden for the 18 year old Private or 22 year old Lieutenant to shoulder! But they did, willingly, professionally, and honorably. They rid the world of the greatest evil it has ever known.

Over 9,000 of my country's finest men who died to free Europe are buried at the American military cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer, France, atop a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach.

The cemetery is an awe-inspiring place. The neat rows of white crosses, with Stars of David scattered here and there, cover over 170 acres of impeccably-manicured grass. A soaring, hopeful monument rises on one end, while a small and simple chapel stands near the center.

It was to this cemetery that French friends of mine took me as part of a full day touring Omaha Beach, the D-Day Museum in Caen, and Colleville-Sur-Mer. Visiting the cemetery after the beach, I was struck by the magnitude of what had happened there. My friends were silent as I paced along a row of crosses, reading the names of American heroes that I had never known, and as I stepped into the chapel to say a silent prayer of mourning, and of thanks to these thousands of men who had died decades before I was born.

And creeping into my thoughts that day was a question: "If called upon, can I ever hope to measure up to the standard set by the Americans who fought and died here?" You see, just a few days before my visit to Normandy, I had learned that I had been offered an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

I have not, thankfully, been called upon to face what they faced in the dark days of 1944. I don't know if I would prove myself worthy to follow in their footsteps. I hope so, but one never knows until the test has been faced.

I have a picture, taken that day in Normandy, of myself next to a monument on the beach. The monument is in the second picture down on this page. It is a simple monument, with a simple message in French and English:

"Ici le 6 juin 1944, l'héroïsme des forces alliées libère l'Europe."
"Here, on June 6th 1944, the heroism of the Allied Forces liberated Europe."

It is the most somber picture of me ever taken, I think. I kept it on my desk for four years at Annapolis as a reminder of why I was there, and of what I owed the men who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy.

As I wrap up this post, it is 12:30 AM on the east coast of the United States.

Sixty years ago at this hour, an ocean away, ramps were lowered on innumerable landing craft and the liberation of Europe commenced.
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RIP President Reagan 

We had a retirement ceremony at the Reserve Center today, and among the letters of congratulations that were read was one from Ronald Reagan. Little did we know that at around the same time the letter was being read, or shortly after, President Reagan passed away.

He was a gentleman of principle. Whether you agreed with him or not, nobody can say that he didn't know what he believed in or that he didn't stick to his beliefs.

He had the courage to do what was necessary to end the Soviet threat--namely to show them that it was futile to try to match the United States militarily, and impossible under their economic system. Communism fell because of his policies. And today, the former communist nations of Eastern Europe are to varying degrees free-market democracies. Some of them are flourishing, and the western alliance of NATO now includes a number of past Soviet republics and client states. Whatever your opinion of Reagan-era military spending, it tipped the scales and we live in a better world because it.

New threats have emerged, of course. The world which Reagan helped to end has given way to a much more uncertain world, and maybe a more dangerous one. In facing the threat of unpredictable terrorism and potentially unstable rogue nations, we need to maintain the kind of resolve he had, and do what needs to be done to emerge victorious.

President Reagan's legacy should inform us that we will win if we're willing to see things through to the end, by being tough when necessary (proposing a Strategic Defense Initiative), and through negotiation when possible (American-Soviet disarmament treaties).

We must remember the lessons of his presidency.

And regardless of politics, we must solemnly recognize the end of a distinguished life, and extend our sympathy to his grieving family.

Some, of course, are unable to do this, and I knew exactly where to find them. One disgusting and utterly predictable Democratic Underground reaction here.

I take heart, knowing that they are a tiny minority of hateful people who do not represent the left, the Democratic Underground community as a whole, or indeed anyone but themselves.

The rest of America mourns.
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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Tinfoil logic 

In a post appropriately titled "Tighten Those Tinfoil Hats," Atrios appears to have exceeded the limits of my logic skills. See if you can help me out.

In short:

- Man meets hijackers in Louisiana in September 2000, a year before 9/11.
- Man tells the FBI about the meeting.
- Man writes as yet unpublished book about meeting said hijackers.
- Man gets poisoned.
- Thus, man must have been poisoned by the evil Bushies to silence him, because he knew about something the Clinton administration screwed up before Bush was even elected.

Everyone got that? If you haven't read Atrios' post yet, go do so, and see if I'm missing some crucial line of reasoning here. I appreciate the help.
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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

UN aiding Palestinian terrorists 

From The Command Post (via Instapundit via WorldNetDaily), a story about Palestinian terrorists using UN-owned ambulances for transportation. It really is as simple as that.

Last week, an Israeli television station aired footage of armed Arab terrorists in southern Gaza using an ambulance owned and operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Palestinian gunmen used the UNRWA emergency vehicle as getaway transportation after murdering six Israeli soldiers in Gaza City on May 11. The footage shows two ambulances with flashing lights pull onto a street. Shots and shouts ring out during the nighttime raid. A gang of militants piles into one of the supposedly neutral ambulances, clearly marked “U.N.” with the agency’s blue flag flying from the roof, which then speeds away from the scene.
From The Command Post:

Commissioner Peter Hansen continues to demand an apology for “baseless charges” against UNRWA ambulance drivers. His e-mail address is h.unrwa@unrwa.org.
If you don't want to take anyone else's word for it, and if you want to see for yourself, here's the video.
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Catch the Spirit 

Spirit of America is doing great things to help the Iraqi people and they want your help. Their goal is to build a nationwide network of volunteers to greatly expand the scope and the scale of the good work they are doing for Iraq. If you care about the people of Iraq and the future of their country, and if you have a little bit of time or money to spare, you should help.

To quote Jeff Jarvis,

If we can help the Iraqis build their nation and their democracy and if we can connect with them on a personal level — if, to be blunt, we can demonstrate that Americans are not ugly — then we create a foothold for democracy, freedom, modernity, civilization, and just friendship in the Middle East.
It's hard to find a more worthwhile goal than that. Help out!
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