January 20, 2010

HIS TOUCHING STORY REQUIRES JUST ONE THING...:

WHY WE ARE IN HAITI -- BECAUSE WE'RE AMERICANS (Richard Reeves, 1/19/10, UExpress)

Giving is more blessed than receiving. I'm on the road now promoting my book, "Daring Young Men," about the pilots and crews, American and British, who gave up part of their lives and risked their lives to deliver food, fuel and medicine to West Berlin in 1948 and 1949. Soviet troops blockaded the city's land routes to try to drive out the Allies, and "we," if I can use that word, kept the 2 million desperate people of the former enemy capital alive by landing rickety war surplus planes every 90 seconds until the Soviets finally gave up.

Those young men did change Germany and the world. But the work of the airlift changed most of them just as much. In researching the book in four countries (the United States, Germany, Great Britain and France), I was surprised that the men involved, many of them war heroes or figures of great distinction later in life, saw the airlift as the highlight of their lives.

"All I saw were starving women and children," said Lt. Gail Halvorsen, a C-54 pilot. "They looked at us like we were angels from heaven. ... I came from a dirt farm in Utah. We were religious people. I felt a lot better feeding people than killing them."

Of course, we weren't all angels by any test, but as Lincoln had said, there are missions that bring out the better angels of our nature. And I decided to write about the airlift, almost forgotten in history here, at a time when I saw few better angels. When an interviewer here asked me why I decided to write the book, I said, "Abu Ghraib."

It was not only that "incident." It was the fact that I could not stand the America of "preventative war," of "extraordinary rendition" -- of torture. That was not the America I grew up in, a small boy, part of a nation I thought did the right thing because it was the right thing, a country that led by example rather than power -- even when we had so much power.


...that you pretend that Berlin was divided and starving because of some sort of act of God or something, rather than because of the cold calculations and moral cowardice of American leaders. The fifty years of misery in Eastern Europe is what happens when you don't fight Iraq-type wars of liberation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 20, 2010 6:13 AM
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