Friday, March 4, 2011

I'm Pearly Like the Whites of Your Eyes

Not everything is in those day/date calendar reminders. I meant to pass along this past Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the cease-fire ending Operation Desert Storm, a phrase that for close to 11% of the world's population has no first-hand meaning since they hadn't arrived here on the Big Blue Marble. Welcome to one and all now, though, right?

I was still living in Germany when Saddam Hussein conducted his staff visit into Kuwait and I watched US media reports on what everyone (on both sides of the bomb line) knew would be a massive effort to take back Kuwait. Actually last Saturday was a huge day in Kuwait as that was the day twenty years the Iraqi occupation was over.

Very little in this life ends or ends completely and some have argued the seeds for the conflicts going on in the Near East (or 'Southwest Asia') as well as the murmurings and clamorings for democracy sweeping across the region have their roots in events twenty years old. I suspect that's only part of the equation and that trying to unravel the ball of yarn back to the starting point is not only futile but without value.

This time around, again, it's not how we got started, it's how we'll end. Sometimes, I fear, the jury is still divided between bang and whimper (not sure which side of that I'm keen to support) while at other times one event whose outcome is still evolving can overshadow another that had far more clarity.

Here's a blast from my past, "Captive Nations." Yeah, it has the feel and smell of Cold War rhetoric as well it should. It was an article of faith in US foreign policy for decades that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (three of the charter members of the Captive Nations Club) would someday 'be free.' I'm not sure we would agree on what 'free' meant, but it sure sounded pretty and became one of the tent poles of the big top we built in Western Europe as the NATO three ring circus set up shop.

Practically unnoticed in the middle of last month, one of the former Captive Nations, paused in its headlong rush through the 21st Century to take stock of where it had been twenty years earlier, when it was reborn. The eloquence is breathtaking, read it for yourself.

To reduce generations of the constant fear of the knock on the door in the dead of night, the threat of unspeakable torture and death to a reminder that "(t)here are people, entire nations and regions, that are ready to die to unseat dictators, to give their children freedom and human dignity." And to realize the farther out in space you go, the more alike we look so that a father wanting a better life for his family in Benghazi or a daughter demanding equal rights as a human being in South Yemen are all part of our family.

And when we tire of 24/7 news that reduces the daily efforts and sacrifices of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to just so many words inside a newscast (with film at eleven) and are weary of endless war and those who wage it on innocents whose only crime is in wanting to be happy and free, we can look at calendar dates like Kuwait Liberation Day and celebrate ourselves and all of those who make such days possible.
-bill kenny

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