Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Difference Between Then and Now
Photo source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-eur/normandy/normandy.htm
Peggy Noonan wrote in Friday's Wall Street Journal about a touching encounter she had in the fields of Normandy in the summer of 1991. She and some friends were hot-air ballooning and landed in an old farmer's field. Upon realizing they were Americans, the farmer told them he had not seen any Americans since the Normandy Invasion. He went back to his house and brought out a bottle of ancient Calvados. Glasses were poured all around and he toasted "To old times."
Ms. Noonan then wrote,
"He didn't welcome us because he knew us. He didn't treat us like royalty because we had done anything for him. He honored us because we were related to, were the sons and daughters of, the men of the Normandy Invasion. The men who had fought their way through France hedgerow by hedgerow, who'd jumped from planes in the dark and climbed the cliffs and given France back to the French. He thought we were of their sort. And he knew they were good. He'd seen them, when he was young."
She then goes on to describe how our American soldiers in Iraq are doing great things there, building hospitals and schools, joking with schoolchildren in the streets.
"We know of the broad humanitarian aspects of the occupation--the hospitals being built, the schools restored, the services administered, the kids treated by armed forces doctors. But then there are all the stories that don't quite make it to the top of the heap, and that in a way tell you more. The lieutenant in the First Cavalry who was concerned about Iraqi kids in the countryside who didn't have shoes, so he wrote home, started a drive, and got 3,000 pairs sent over. The lieutenant colonel from California who spent his off-hours emailing hospitals back home to get a wheelchair for a girl with cerebral palsy...I hope our soldiers know what we really think of them, and what millions in Iraq must, also. I hope some day they get some earned tenderness, and wind up over the hills of Iraq, and land, and an old guy comes out and says, "Are you an American?" And they say yes and he says, "A toast, to old times."
I too hope this happens. But I wonder if it will. There are big differences between the goals of the Americans who sent troops to France during the Normandy Invasion and of those that sent troops to Iraq.
The Americans who landed on the beach in Normandy were invading France in order to liberate the French from a foreign invader. It was part of a real war, where the Nazi armies were invading other countries and trying to take over all of Europe and beyond. The Nazis were rounding up millions of innocent people and marching them off to death camps. America and the other Allies were truly fighting for their lives. When the Allies landed in Normandy, France was under Nazi Germany's rule. Of course the people of France appreciated their efforts and were thankful a half-century later.
But in Iraq, from the perspective of the Iraqis, it is the Americans who are the invaders. The Americans bombed their country, deposed their leader, and killed countless civilians. The pictures in this link show what has happened in Iraq as a result of its "liberation" by America. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a bad man. But until the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and the so-called coalition of the willing, his country was intact, people were living their lives and raising their children, and Saddam Hussein had done nothing to the United States to warrant an invasion.
Yes, our soldiers are building schools and hospitals - because they were destroyed by American bombs. Yes, they are helping to rebuild infrastructure - that was destroyed by American bombs. Of course, some of the destruction happened not from American bombs but from those of the insurgents. But there wouldn't be insurgents if the Americans hadn't invaded in the first place.
And the rebuilding is not being done just by the soldiers, but by a bunch of private contractors who include Americans, Iraqis and foreigners. (And of course, Darth Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, is one of the big beneficiaries of this rebuilding effort). There are more of these private contractors in Iraq than our own soldiers, according to the LA Times, and a lot of missing money.
So how will our soldiers be remembered? As invaders, or as the "good guys" that Iraqis will want to toast fifty years from now? Only time will tell.
But it will be a shame if the Iraqis' memory of American soldiers - brave and dedicated men and women that they are - will be a memory of invasion, death, destruction and greed. And if that is the case, the only place to lay the blame is on this administration, which willfully sent them to war against a country that did not attack us, under false pretenses, by making up lies in order to benefit their own pockets and egos.