Veterans Day, 2004
This Veterans Day is more special than others because American soldiers are engaged in combat at this very moment, in Fallujah. The city is largely under U.S. control now, but the ability of Iraqi government police to maintain the peace remains in grave doubt. Lack of willpower and leadership on the part of the friendly government forces is one of the valid parallels with Vietnam. Belmont Club has press statement by an Iraqi resistance leader that sheds light on the strategy of the formerly dominant Sunni faction. The factionalized sociopolitical structure in Iraq stands in sharp contrast to Vietnam, having both postive and negative aspects. For thoughtful perspectives on what's going on in Iraq, I'd recommend Sgt. Stryker. For an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who have made bodily sacrifices, visit Disabled American Veterans.
Some heroes never get to become veterans, however. It is for those who have died in service of our country that we have Memorial Day. Today's Washington Post included another installment of the "Faces of the Fallen," an appropriate way to remind ourselves of the human cost of war. (Pictured are, clockwise from the top left, Sgt. Jack Hennessy, Sgt. Russell Collier, Spc. Christopher Merville, and Pfc. Oscar Martinez.)
Until 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of The (First) World War in 1918. Even as we honor the sacrifices of soldiers, airmen, and sailors, we might also reflect on the original meaning of this holiday by celebrating peace -- when we are so fortunate -- or else by rededicating ourselves to understand how peace is best preserved.
Few peace-loving people will mourn the death of Yasser Arafat, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with martyred Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Another Peace Prize recipient, Jimmy Carter, had this to say today:
While he provided indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement and was instrumental in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from the negotiating role in more recent years.
Huh? It must be pointed out that Arafat's "exclusion" was self-inflicted. Rather than accept the nearly ideal peace terms offered by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he resumed the Intifada in 1999, stoking the hateful fires of the fascist movement of which Osama bin Laden was a part. When his moment of truth came, he just could not rise above his terrorist past and live up to the vain hopes of the Nobel Committee by transforming himself into an elder statesman. Instead, Arafat reverted to his comfortable old ways, thereby showing himself to be a complete coward -- much like all terrorists! I'm afraid that Jimmy Carter's judgment in recent years has deteriorated from questionable to simply abysmal. There is no need to spit on Arafat's grave, but Americans and Westerners in general need to remember that his broad popularity in the Arab-Muslim world is the heart of the problem! There is simply no point in trying to accommodate the nationalist sensibilities of people who revere such a shameful figure. Whether or not they mature and leave barbaric ways behind is up to them, not us.
Even more winter birds
On a walk down the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad this morning, I saw the first Hermit thrush of the season, as well as a Yellow-rumped warbler, a Towhee, a Red-bellied woodpecker, a Downy woodpecker, a Yellow-bellied sapsucker, some Golden-crowned kinglets only a few feet away (Arghhh -- no camera!!), a Chipping sparrow, and two Sharp-shinned hawks within 100 feet or so. One of them was probably the same hawk that killed a small bird in our back yard on Tuesday. Pine siskins reappeared in our back yard again several times today.
As part of the ongoing, long-overdue reorganization of this Web site, the Wild Birds pages have been modified heavily, with a more consistent format in the archives. While updating some of my records, I came across an interesting pattern: I saw the first White-crowned sparrow of the year on October 25 in 2002, 2003, AND 2004. Amazingly consistent!