Those Who Hate Us on Our Day of Celebration
I thought it appropriate, on the occasion of this July Fourth, as we are heading into another Olympic Games in China, to reprise this column from four years ago, when France and Germany were headed by socialists who hated America. They are gone, now, but we still have to contend with people who hate us, including many right here in the United States. One has to wonder about a man who refuses to honor our flag, who associates closely for 20 years with a rabid, race-baiting minister who God Damns the U.S. and also with people who set off bombs to kill innocent Americans, and whose wife, a creature of comfort and the best a nation can give her, who was never proud to be an American until now. I think you know who I mean.
By the U.S.A.
How many countries have France and Germany liberated since World War II?
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Friday, August 20, 2004 12:01 a.m. Opinion Journal
Even Howard Dean's heart had to skip a beat when the Iraqi athletes walked in to Santiago Calatrava's magnificent stadium at the Olympics opening ceremony. Boy, did they look happy. Genuinely happy. Compare their elation--reaching toward the crowd, tapping their hearts--with the athletes from Iran or Saudi Arabia, who had that smile-or-disappear look Olympic athletes forlornly wore when they represented the Soviet Union or the "Eastern bloc" nations. In a word, the Iraqis looked free.
It occurred to me watching this pageant of superb sportsmen and sportswomen that much the same true freedom of spirit could be seen on the faces of athletes from a list of nations with familiar names-- Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Afghanistan, Grenada, Kuwait, South Korea, the former captive nations of Romania, Bulgaria, the Czechs, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania (all holding elections since the early 1990s), and the other former Soviet republics.
These Olympians have one thing in common: They come from the nations the U.S. has liberated since the end of World War II.
Across the past half century, the United States used the power of its soldiers, its financial power or its diplomatic power to liberate these people from authoritarian and totalitarian governments or invaders. Save perhaps for Cubans, there will be no defections to the U.S. at these Games. It is no longer fair sport to root against athletes from Communist Poland and Hungary. These two nations are now U.S. allies; their soldiers fight in Iraq alongside Americans.
Afghanistan's first election is scheduled for October 9. Iraq's is in January. We can expect the members of Iraq's soccer team, the miracle story of these Olympics, to return home to cast votes in their nation's first free election. Formerly they went home to be tortured by Uday Hussein, whom the U.S. recently killed.
How many nations have free France and free Germany liberated since 1945?
My apologies for ruffling the global fellow-feeling that lies officially beneath the summer Games. But for many of us it has become more than a little tiresome of late hearing how much the Europeans "hate us" and how the U.S. has "alienated" our "friends." And how all this global ill will is because George W. Bush "invaded" Iraq to wage an "unjustifiable" or unnecessary war.
The notion that we have become a lumbering, ham-handed interventionist in the private affairs of people like Saddam Hussein has been made an issue in the current campaign. In John Kerry's now-famous phrase, "the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."
Mr. Kerry draws attention to his vote against "Ronald Reagan's illegal war in Central America." But the athletes who strode into the opening ceremony from Nicaragua, representing a constitutional democracy, looked happy with the result of the Reagan intervention, which thwarted both a dictatorship and a Soviet beachhead in Central America.
Afghanistan's flagbearer was Nina Suratger. Is she displeased that the United States twice involved itself in her formerly godforsaken country--during its war with the Soviet Union and more recently to drive out the Taliban? Ms. Suratger herself wouldn't be carrying that flag had not Americans fought to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban.
Saudi Arabia had no women in its Olympic delegation, but it just might at the Beijing Olympics if the political process struggling to take root in Iraq spreads there--or to Syria, Yemen or Jordan. And if the notion of an Arab constitutional democracy makes your eyes roll, as it does for William Odom and Francis Fukuyama in the current National Interest, perhaps we can let Iraqi soccer coach Abdul Kareem Hajim speak for at least laying the cornerstone: "Now we have freedom. Our chains are broken. We just need a stable government to make sure everyone has work and a salary."
Let us consider Nedzad Fazliga, the 36-year-old flagbearer for Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is old enough to remember the friends who didn't survive the internecine war that burned in a corner of Europe for years until the U.S. sent in troops. Here is the official reason why the U.S. entered that war:
"Over the last four years, a quarter of a million Bosnians have been killed, more than half of Bosnia's people have been driven from their homes, a million of them are still refugees. We have seen parents divided from their children, children deprived of their dreams, people caged like animals in concentration camps, women and young girls subject to systematic rape. We have seen unbelievable horrors. But now we have a chance to end this misery for good, and we have a responsibility to act." That was President Bill Clinton, Dec. 2, 1995.
Here's President Bush speaking this week: "A free and peaceful Iraq and a free and peaceful Afghanistan will be powerful examples in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom. Free countries do not export terror. Free countries do not stifle the dreams of their citizens."
It is most certainly true that not all American interventions work out well for local peoples. Haiti and Somalia remain disordered. Sudan appears beyond reach. None has a team in Athens. Serious people can always measure and debate foreign commitments against America's interests, goals and resources. Dean Acheson in 1950 suggested South Korea lay "outside" America's defense perimeter. A similar argument is being made now about Iraq--that Mr. Bush overstated the threat.
In the meantime, perhaps the athletes from Bosnia, Afghanistan and Ceausescu's Romania will find their way to the Iraqi pavilion to hear familiar stories about living in a land of exterminations--of Shiite peoples murdered in southern Iraq and Kurds in the north. That has ended, thanks, as in many other places around the world, to American intervention, however unnecessary or poorly planned.
We thrill to see Olympic athletes strain across the ground or through the air and water to free themselves from limits set by nature on physical human effort. I for one am happy that America has strained to free many more people from man-made limits on personal freedom, most recently in Iraq.
Labels: America the Beautiful