Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Kathleen

Capital Area Food Bank, Washington, November 21

Thanksgiving is not a celebration that Patrick and myself usually celebrate but due to our many new, and old, American friends it is one that we have come to appreciate. We even had the opportunity a few years back to celebrate our first ever Thanksgiving with our American friends the Chatman family which gave us a real insight into how Thanksgiving is celebrated by real American families. 

Thanksgiving this year, for many of us who gather here at Politicalgates,  is accompanied by a collective sigh of relief. The relief that President Obama, supported by his family, political friends and many, many people around the globe, is still in charge of what is unarguably the most important leadership job on the planet. How important that fact is became crystal clear when within a very short time after the election the State of Israel and the State of Palestine renewed their lack of tolerance of the "other" and began bombing each other yet again. 

Many innocent people died during those so called "exchanges". Most of the deaths occurring on the Palestinian side because for one thing Israel obviously has many more weapons at its disposal. Regardless, and also because the modern war machine is a much more sophisticated model, this now means that it is citizens and their homes who are "legitimately targeted and who are suffering more than ever. War would now seem to be about which nation or state can bring down the will of the people fastest by directly attacking civilian populations. These days soldiers seem to rarely die in such attacks, instead they are deliverers of misery with the sorry excuse that they are sure that the enemy is either hiding in certain buildings or deliberately occupying them in order to deter the other side from targeting them. A sorry excuse when such supposedly occupied buildings are bombed in any case.........killing many innocents in the process. 

Fortunately, President Obama was able to send Hillary Clinton to Israel and a new unsteady ceasefire has been arranged, although many of us, and most especially the relatives of those who died, wish that the President had done so much sooner, I shudder to think how a Mitt Romney administration would have handled the situation as he himself is not exactly known for his diplomacy or tact. 

Unfortunately, tensions between the two States remain super high and the United Kingdom is still advising against travel to the area. To be perfectly honest I have little confidence that the present truce as it stands will hold for very long as there do seem to be ungodly forces on both sides full of hellish intent to destroy each other. There must be a permanent solution to the Palestinian Question and now is the perfect time for President Obama to truly show his mettle. I myself will be disappointed in him if he does not announce that he himself will meet with the leaders on both sides very soon and that a solution must be obtained. To start with the borders between Israel and Gaza need to be reopened. If the siege on Gaza is stopped then the a cessation of the sporadic rocket attacks on Israel should follow. 

So this Thanksgiving let's hope, and yes even pray, that President Obama and Hillary Clinton recognise that this moment is an opportunity for them both to shine a light and that that light should be one of lasting and enduring peace. 


I have also learned that Thanksgiving in America is followed by another tradition, Black Friday. Black Friday is a day during which many Americans can, if they so wish, "shop until they drop" in shops where huge discounts are on offer. Others choose not to participate and instead in the spirit of Thanksgiving contribute to charities of their choice. You can find reputable and trustworthy charitable organisations to contribute to at the Charity Navigator. Their link is here. 

Graphic found on Facebook

Have a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving everyone. 


UPDATE by Patrick:

Hi everyone, I would like to make an update, which is not directly related to Thanksgiving, but still pretty interesting, I believe.

During the last days, Andrew Sullivan published some fascinating posts, or should I better say he published a considerable number of fascinating readers' opinions about the amount of medals that American soldiers can obtain these days during their time of service. This highly entertaining discussion was sparked by the fairly gigantic amount of ribbons which General Petraeus displays on his chest during official occasions. Apparently there is a certain "inflation" of medals in the US Services these days (as opposed to earlier times), as the long discussion reveals, which can be read in full at Andrew Sullivan's blog here, and several of his readers voiced their hesitation to wear all their earned ribbons due to the inflationary nature of some of them.

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers writes:

You observed that so many journalists stand in the presence of men like Petraeus with "open jaws and worshipping eyes." That brings to mind the military's cultural shift in its medals, ribbons, and badges.

Consider these portraits of Generals Petraeus and Eisenhower. Petraeus is wearing over 30 ribbons and badges on his uniform. I'm sure he earned each of them. But of that 30, how many civilians will notice that only one item was for heroism (Bronze Star with "V")? Eisenhower earned only ten U.S. decorations (plus countless foreign ones), and - as was the custom of the day - typically wore only three or four at a time. 

So few of us have military experience. We see a solider decked out with all kinds of razz-mataz and we assume he's a modern Audie Murphy, a Rambo ten times over. But the truth is, most accoutrements merely denote successful completion of an assignment, or time spent overseas - not necessarily in combat. Servicemembers can even earn a ribbon for volunteerism in their personal lives. 

Too many in America stand in awe of the military partly because the awards and decorations system has become so inflated. We used to hesitate to adorn soldiers with ribbons, medals, and the like - it smacked of European symbols of nobility. The pendulum has swung too far toward over-recognition of service. We ought to chasten ourselves, put the brakes on this ridiculous, clown-like boastfulness where every troop looks like a Libyan field marshal. But with so many of us slack-jawed at the sight of a soldier, who among us has the political courage to scale back on the excess that creates this over-adulation of the soldier in the first place?

This particular discussion was also triggered by an angry commentary by Republican Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal ("We are becoming a conceited nitwit society, pushy and self-aggrandizing. No one is ashamed to brag now. And show off.").

In case you are interested: The medals by General Petraeus which he wears on his uniform can be seen on this high-resolution photo and can be compared with the details of the awards he has received.

Screenshots from Andrew Sullivan:

However, not every medal is awarded for "good behaviour" or just for "being there", of course, but medals are also awarded for real bravery. On this occasion I would like to mention a story from May 2010 which I came across only a short while ago: Several American soldiers received the German Gold Cross, the highest German military medal for bravery, which is very rarely awarded, for rescuing German soldiers who were on a mission in Afghanistan.

From the ISAF website:

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan - Under an overcast sky, on the same airfield where they carried wounded German Soldiers to safety only 5 weeks before, 14 U.S. Soldiers were awarded the highest German medal for bravery, May 12.

International Security Assistance Force Chief of Staff German Army Lt. Gen. Bruno Kasdorf, presented the German Gold Cross of Honor medals to the medical evacuation helicopter pilots and crew from the 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, Katterbach, Germany. 

The German Gold Cross is equivalent to the U.S. Medal of honor, only four other German Soldiers have ever been awarded it. The medal is for outstanding deeds at the risk of one's life. 

The aircrew rescued eleven German Soldiers who had come under attack by insurgents during a dismounted patrol outside the Chahar Dara district, southwest of Kunduz, on Apr. 2. 

"It is an honor for me to day to hand over these badges to the U.S. servicemembers, who risked their lives to bring their German wounded comrades to safety," Kasdorf said.

On that day, the German Soldiers had been on a foot patrol searching for IEDs when insurgents attacked them with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades.

The volume of fire was so intense that the American MedEvac helicopters couldn't land on their first attempt. 

"I was the responsible person on the ground for getting the helicopters to the landing zone," German Paratrooper Master Sgt. Patrick Bonneik, said. "My biggest concern was that they would leave us.

"You could see the sparks coming off the helo [from small arms fire]," the joint terminal attack controller said. 

Rocket propelled grenades passed under one of the helicopters by 10 yards, added the bearded Bonneik. 

The helicopters were able to land on their second attempt. They continued their rescue mission under fire as they flew the wounded German troops back to the PRT Kunduz base.



Watch this moving video:

So we say a big "Thank You" to the Americans who put their life at risk to rescue the German soldiers, and I am sure that they will wear this ribbon without any hesitation!

This one ("Bundeswehr Cross of Honour in Gold, Special Version for Outstanding Deeds"):

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