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Anyone remember the incident resulting in the largest loss of life suffered by the US military over the past two decades?
Today is the 20th anniversary of the plane crash in Gander, Newfoundland, that claimed the lives of 248 soldiers -- all members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division heading home to Fort Campbell, Ky. -- along with eight crew members. The soldiers had just completed peacekeeping duties as part of a multinational force assigned to patrol the Sinai Peninsula. They arrived in Gander on an Arrow Air charter DC-8.That was yesterday's Washington Times. I'd have noted this yesterday, but time flies...
Upon arrival, many dashed to pay phones in the terminal for a quick phone call home. They would all perish shortly after takeoff just a few minutes later. None survived.
For the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, Dec. 12 is a dark day indeed. More U.S. soldiers died at Gander in 1985 than in other single incident involving U.S. forces over the last two decades. More died there than at the Marine barracks in Beirut two years earlier, for example. It was the worst single air disaster in history for the U.S. military, and it was Canada's worst air disaster as well.
I was on active duty back then, too, and I remember the event. They were returning from a peace keeping mission in the Middle East. An odd thing that, from a day when our real foe was Communism. There were still plenty of people in the military who had fought Communism in Vietnam.
I remembered it too when less then two years later I went on a mission to Egypt, and stopped at Gander. Then spent some time in the desert, on a base that featured notable landmarks such as the burned out shell of a Russian aircraft to break the otherwise unremarkable plains of sand. We were exercising with the Egyptians, but the Russians had their ties with them too. We had to be closer, to stem the tide of Communism.
Here's the latest on Communism:
"How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin," said Ronald Reagan. "And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."That's a conservative estimate. According to some sources (see also definition here) the number could be as high as 260,000,000. For simplicity we could just round to a quarter billion.
In the future, understanding Communism may not require dusting off an old copy of Das Kapital, but instead merely visiting the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"We hope to have it dedicated in the fall of 2006," says Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which was established by an act of Congress in 1993. "But there's still a little more work to do."
Suffice it to say, the experience demands forests of paperwork and mountains of patience. "It's all on behalf of the 100 million people who were killed in Communism's wars, revolutions, and purges," says Edwards.
From 1945 to 1987 the communists in Vietnam killed between 720 thousand and 3.6 million citizens - most in the purges following the overthrow of the South. They were pikers compared to the Soviet Union, whose estimated death toll is somewhere between 28 and 128 million - about half of those deaths occurred in "camps".
Reagan called them an "Evil Empire", and many sneered.
By 1990 I was fighting Communism more directly - in Korea, one of the last places we could really toe the line after the Soviets imploded. While there I saw the Berlin Wall come down - on TV - and the world rejoiced. But the North Korean propaganda we picked up assured us such would never be the case there.
The estimated number of deaths in Korea due to the communist regime between 1948 and 1987 were between 710 thousand and 3.5 million - since you asked.
But in the summer of 1990 I wasn't actually in Korea. I was sent away for Professional Military Education. For those unaware, those of us in uniform, regardless of branch, are periodically sent for training to prepare us for the next level of leadership we're expected to achieve. And that's where I was when Saddam invaded Kuwait.
"The greatest single threat we face in the world today," I distinctly recall an instructor telling the class, "is Communism."
The Soviet Union had fallen, freedom was breaking out all over Europe, and Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. I recognized that it takes a while to update the approved syllabus for these types of courses, so being young and foolish I spoke up.
"I'm sure that's the answer, if we see that in the form of a written question somewhere," I noted, "but don't you think there might be other, greater threats now?"
"The greatest single threat we face in the world today," I distinctly recall the instructor repeating to the class, "is Communism."
And that's all he had to say about that. He was wrong, but it's hard to get past those big numbers.
By the way, it wasn't on the test.
In my two years in Korea I was never once personally thanked by a citizen of that land for helping prevent the southward spread of Communism. But that's okay.
The fact that they can do this without fear of death in a gulag is thanks enough:
About 4,500 demonstrators, according to police estimates, rallied outside the Pyeongtaek train station to protest the American plan to move forces to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek. A group called The Pan-Korean National Task Force Against Expansion of U.S. Bases in Pyeongtaek organized the protest.But wait, there's more:
In a show of support for the U.S. military Sunday, the Korean Veterans Association and Songtan Chamber of Commerce held a rally that drew a crowd police estimated at about 4,000 outside the main gate of Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek’s Songtan section.
The veterans urged support for the U.S. military’s presence on the peninsula and its planned relocation of forces to Humphreys. They also denounced the anti-American activist movement in South Korea, which they said imperiled their country’s security.
On my way back from school to Korea in 1990 I spent some time at the airport in Tokyo. I was flying commercial because all the military transport aircraft were busy flying GIs to Saudi.
Between 3 and 10.5 million, if you were wondering the death toll caused by Japan between 1937 and 1945 - that excludes military deaths during combat. (see also here) My father and uncles helped bring an end to that (and also this) back in their day, and a few were still serving in Vietnam.
In WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, approximately 500,000 Americans died fighting totalitarian regimes.
In the 3+ years I've been in Germany, I've never once been personally thanked by a local for protecting them from Communism.
And that's okay.
Some fine day I may return to Iraq. A peaceful and prosperous Iraq. Few will thank me - and that's okay too.
But that's for the future. This is now
A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration's warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War.Good - we plan on keeping it that way. And now back to Communism:
The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. "There's no chance in the world that they'll succeed," he said. "It's a silly threat."
I'm a philosophy student in grad school. This is my first year in graduate school, and I left a large metropolitan city in the South in order to come to a small, isolated city in the mountainous Northeast. I really love grad school, and feel I am doing well... This is not an alienated job to me, but rather it is the work of life; what Marx meant when he called labour a "living, form-giving fire."
But I feel guilty... I haven't done any activism work since coming to grad school, despite the fact that I was a committed activist before grad school. And I am not sure how that will change, for there is just no time. Sleeping, cooking and making love are luxuries that one somehow steals in between teaching and researching here in grad school. And I will be here for at least six years, if not longer. And after that?
...The only academics in America who seriously shape the country are scientists, neocons and economists. So I feel stuck, both deliriously happy with what I am doing and at the same time wracked with guilt over what I am not doing.
- Academic Who Would Be a Revolutionary
Dear Academic Who Would Be a Revolutionary,
You are to be commended for trying to show your students what courage and personal commitment are required of those who would fashion themselves radical philosophers. Though I do not know what school you are teaching at, I imagine that few of your students have much experience fighting police. It is not one of the extracurricular activities one's parents urge one to engage in while in high school, in order to highlight it on college applications.
And yet fighting police can be crucial to understanding what power really is -- as hearing the clang of a metal door can be crucial to understanding what confinement is. And thus it can be educational. One must know and accept the consequences of one's ideas.
At a certain point in the near future, if the current oligarchy cannot be removed via the ballot, direct political action may become an urgent and compelling mission. It may then be necessary for many people in many walks of life to put their bodies on the line. For the moment, however, although pressing and profound questions have arisen about whether the current government is even legitimate, i.e., properly elected, there still remains a chance to remove this government peacefully in the 2008 election. (Or am I living in a dream world?)
I do think this regime's removal is the most urgent matter before the country today. And I do think that at a certain point the achievement of that goal might take precedent over our personal predilections for writing, teaching and the like. We might be called upon to go on general strike, for instance. We might be called upon to set up camp in the streets for weeks or months, to gather and remain in large public squares as the students in Tiananmen Square did, and dare government forces to remove us or to slaughter us in the streets.
...So what do I advise you to do? I advise you to stay in your position for now. For now, you are where you are supposed to be; you are doing what you are supposed to be doing; you are telling your students what they need to know.
"How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin," said Ronald Reagan. "And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."
Coincidently, I almost forgot to mention the shape of the memorial to the hundreds of thousands of dead caused by these people:
The current plan calls for a 10-foot-tall bronze statue based on the "Goddess of Liberty" figure erected by the martyred Chinese students of Tiananmen Square.
Today, near the crash site, a memorial plaque lists the names of those killed. A monument of three figures has been erected there, too. It sends a clear message. A lone soldier holds hands with two children. One child's hand extends an olive branch.
Blessed are the peacemakers - we've always got an olive branch in one hand.
Great post Greyhawk, as usual.Posted by Lucifer at December 13, 2005 08:36 PM
Wow! I hope you don't experience any bitterness about the lack of thanks - I know you say it doesn't matter - but it does. I guess I was lucky, the Afghans I dealt with were usually a thankful lot. So, Sir, just remember there are plenty of us who are grateful and wish to give you our thanks.Posted by Major John at December 13, 2005 10:26 PM
Wait... slightly OT here, but you were in Korea in '90? Where abouts? (I was there from 4/88 to 10/90 -- 102ndMI, Camp Hovey.)Posted by Russ at December 13, 2005 10:55 PM
"That's a conservative estimate. According to some sources (see also definition here) the number could be as high as 260,000,000. For simplicity we could just round to a quarter billion."
Remember the incident with the instructor and the student at the W.Virgina campus? In his nasty note back to the student he deemed such numbers as false. That is how the left gets around the horror of 20th Century communism. They are just the same as Holocaust deniers. Time to look into the PC instruction in our schools to see that such memories holes are not permited to exist. If they want to talk about American slavery [to include the 19th Century campaign by Anglo-American societies and movements to end slavery in the world - which usually seems also to be missing], they can certainly cover this story with as much energy.Posted by Don at December 13, 2005 11:53 PM
When I was in Korea ('85-'86) I was frequently thanked for being there. It was a bit humbling, and come to think of it, it hasn't happened anywhere else.
As you say, that's okay.Posted by Steve Skubinna at December 14, 2005 01:58 AM
I can remember a number of times I have been thanked by Koreans that live in the cities around the camps because many of them can speak English and even outside the cities everyone is extremely nice. The only place I have ran into problems is in Seoul near Korean colleges where all the communists hang out, just like an American college. I always tell people I have experienced more anti-Americanism in America than I ever have here in Korea.
Also in Iraq I can't count how many thankful people I met. I can remember rolling into an Iraqi town during the war and people came out to cheer us and even some had American flags some how. It was really surreal.Posted by GI Korea at December 14, 2005 05:05 AM
Oh, and I had some Bosnians quietly express gratitude - but never a German...funny that.Posted by Major John at December 14, 2005 09:57 PM
I've been on Germany a number of times and have never been thanked. Why should I be thanked? I didn't do a single goddamned thing for them except buy a used Mercedes and a Braun coffeemaker. But I have run into a great number of Germans who obviously held warm feelings for Americans.Posted by Wilson Kolb at December 15, 2005 05:37 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(8) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)