Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sergeant Pitts, Medal of Honor, Doctor of Humane Letters

On Saturday, for the first time in 61 years, I attended a commencement exercise at the University of New Hampshire. I wanted to hear the speaker, Ryan Pitts, who at 29 was adding an L.H.D. (hon) to his other accomplishments, which include the Medal of Honor, America's highest award for valor. (And even more than that, I wanted to know how 2,500 joyous and probably hung-over graduates would greet him. I was immensely pleased that they cheered him, not once but four times.)

I don't know if you can get through the paywall, but my op-ed on the occasion is in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Even better, you can go to YouTube and watch the commencement speech for yourself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More about the Little Green Men

As John Kerry and Vladimir Putin pledged to work together to solve the problem of Ukraine--a comical  notion, given that the country's major problem is Vladimir Putin--the intellectual heirs of murdered Russian activist Boris Nemtsov have published his findings on the Little Green Men who were so active in Crimea and southeastern Ukraine. It seems there were no fewer than 220 deaths among the Russian soldiers who went to fight in those supposedly spontaneous uprisings. Given what we know about the level of fighting, and the casualties, that means there were thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of Russian soldiers inside Ukraine's borders.

According to Mr Nemstov's findings, the soldiers were told to resign before crossing into Ukraine, to maintain the fiction that, well, if there are any Russians among the rebels, they must be civilian volunteers. Among the 220 fatalities, some families received the standard death payment of about $39,000, but most apparently did not.

Mr Nemstov was shot down in Moscow, one of many such murders of independent-minded Russian journalists and politicians. Mr Putin's government got a double benefit from the murder, silencing a critic while blaming the shooting on Chechen nationalists, the better to prosecute another war that the post-Communist regime has been waging since 1994.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Leading from the front

Angela Merkin, who spent the first half of her life living under Russian rule in Communist East Germany, yesterday gave Vladimir Putin a much-deserved scolding. Like most Western leaders, she boycotted the militaristic preening in Moscow on the 70th anniversary of Germany's surrender. Instead she arrived the day after with this message for the Russian president-dictator: 
“We have sought more and more cooperation in recent years. The criminal and illegal annexation of Crimea and the warfare in eastern Ukraine has led to a serious setback for this cooperation.... I would like also to recall that the end of World War II did not bring democracy and freedom for all in Europe."
Good for you, Angela! That was a refreshing contrast to the creepy-crawly comment of the UN secretary-general on Saturday, and I suspect with what John Kerry will have to say when he arrives in Moscow.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Terrorism works!

A new study of Israel's founding makes the argument that not only was the Irgun a terrorist force, but that terrorism worked for the Jews in Palestine. A Wall Street Journal review this morning takes a more, um, nuanced view, on the ground that Israel has a bad enough reputation already among the Good People, especially those in Europe.

This is hardly a persuasive argument. If terrorism worked for the Irgun (and one of the leading terrorists, the Polish-born Menachim Begin, later became the prime minister of democratic Israel) surely we should acknowledge that fact, and learn from it. Nor is Israel the only modern democracy founded by bloody-minded killers. The Irish Republican Army, from 1918 to 1921, conducted a murder campaign in Dublin and to a lesser extent in the countryside, and Ireland today is an exemplary democracy with one of the more vibrant economies in Europe. Even Nicaragua, where the defeated terrorist Daniel Ortega was eventually elected president, is a functioning and effective democracy, at least by Latin American standards. And indeed the United States has terrorists among its founding fathers. A tactic is not altogether to be condemned, if it leads to admirable results on more than one occasion.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Last Days in Vietnam

Last night I was hypnotized by this extraordinary documentary on PBS, telling of the events of forty years ago, when the Americans bugged out of Vietnam. (It wasn't just Saigon: one of the great epics was the escape of the American consulate in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, using two riverboats so as to bring out as many Vietnamese as possible, those whose association with the Americans would make them candidates for execution, imprisonment, or "reeducation.") I had expected the usual liberal-media breastbeating, but the docco turns out -- perhaps inadvertently -- to be a tribute to the courage and decency of the Americans who were stuck in a country that their own government had abandoned two years earlier. In the end, they brought out 170,000 Vietnamese, military and civilian. An even larger number, of course, remained to suffer the consequences.

One of the most moving interviews was with a student who was among those who couldn't get into the US Embassy at the end, and who saw the last helicopter pulling away on the morning of April 30, bearing the last eleven US Marines who'd held the fort since the airlift ceased at 4 a.m. He suffered reeducation but eventually escaped and made it to these shores, apparently without holding the slightest grudge for the nation that had left him behind.

PBS programs are often rebroadcast at odd hours over the next week or two. Catch this one if you can. The two-DVD set is sold on Amazon for a very reasonable price, and it's also available for streaming rental.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Greatest city in America!

Michael's War in print

Michael's War is out in paperback, in a neater and less expensive version than before. The cover is by Joy Sillesen. You can get it at the publisher's website -- and here's a coupon good for two dollars off the list price of $9.95:


The book should appears on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites in a few days. (Sorry, no discounts there.) It's also available as an e-book for $2.99 in the U.S. or a bit more elsewhere. Here it is on Amazon stores worldwide or see it on Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks Store, Scribd, Kobo, or Interra.

Go to DanFordBooks dot com for more about Michael's War.