Opinion---Standing on the edge of history and world war…The year was 1979. The peace accord between Israel and Egypt had been signed in March. There was a heady feeling of relief. A few short months later, in November of the same year, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was taken over by 300 to 500 Iranian students.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
The year was 1979. The peace accord between Israel and Egypt had been signed in March. There was a heady feeling of relief. A few short months later, in November of the same year, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was taken over by 300 to 500 Iranian students. The terms “Great Satan” for the United States and “Little Satan” for Israel were coined by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The latter would spell a change forever, perhaps longer lasting than the peace accord.
It was a lifetime ago, but I remember it well. A Navy wife at the time, my spouse was deployed on what we thought would be a normal six-month cruise. It was an era before cell phones or email so communication was largely by traditional mail. We generally knew where the task force would make port calls. However, with the peace accord in place this was one of the first times a U.S. Navy task force had stopped in both Alexandria, Egypt, and Haifa, Israel. The reception in Alexandria was one of jubilation.
As the deployment continued we were advised that it would be extended. In military tradition you simply did not talk about where your spouse was, especially when on the phone to friends or relatives. Soon a letter arrived, which shed some light on their new destination. The combination of new personnel on board and sand-colored helicopters in the hanger bay pretty much told us where they were headed. At the time, we had no details of the secret and ill-fated mission. In April, an attempt to rescue the remaining 52 Iranian hostages resulted in eight lives lost. A small memorial to them is located at Arlington National Cemetery. During the next couple of decades, I would find myself in Washington, D.C., a number of times. Regardless of why I was there, a stop at Arlington would almost always find its way into the itinerary. Pausing at the memorial to those lost during Operation Eagle Claw was a reminder of that we were a small part of that history.
Years later, and in a different life, I had a chance to meet one of the 52 hostages while on a study mission, which included Laos. Victor L. Tomseth had continued his career in the U.S. Foreign Service after his release and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Laos from January of 1994 to August of 1996.
In January of 1998, we again found ourselves in the company of a career U.S. diplomat. This time we were in Nairobi, Kenya. We had the extreme pleasure of having dinner on two occasions with the U.S. Consul General Julian Bartley and his wife Sue. We were part of a small delegation, including other Hudson residents who together traveled to Africa. The Bartleys were warm, welcoming and seemed to truly enjoy visiting with fellow Americans. Sue gathered the women the next day taking us to a few of her favorite “shopping places.” Julian, a career diplomat, spoke of his hope that he would someday be selected to be a U.S. ambassador.
A few short months later, in August, the headlines cried out, that two of our embassies had been bombed. Julian and his son were both murdered, along with ten other U.S. citizens. A total of 224 people were killed and over 5,000 wounded between the two bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Soon, it was known that al Qaeda was responsible.
Being a visual person, I can recall images, composites and I can still see the joyous couple enthusiastic about their assignment to Kenya.
On Sept. 10, 2001, I took my daughter-in-law to Red Wing. Unexpectedly she was admitted to the hospital to deliver our first grand-child. The afternoon became evening and somewhere around before 10 p.m. Jocelyn was born -- tiny, a bit premature but healthy. The birth was like a family reunion, but once all was settled, we headed home arriving in Hudson after midnight.
Our world changed the next day. Groggy from the late night, I stopped at the Old World Bakeshop for coffee and sugar. Peering around the corner I noticed a small crowd had gathered, staring at the elevated television screen. The image of one of the World Trade Center towers, smoking was on the screen.
As the day went on and the reality of what was happening penetrated our national psychic, I remember being thankful that by the “Grace of God” Jocelyn’s birthday would not be on the same day the United States was attacked. On that day, 2,977 mostly civilians died, from 90 different countries. It was worst attack since Pearl Harbor and far more sinister. The Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 killed 3,500, mostly military personnel.
Today, over a decade later, we are still under assault, in a “World War” with an enemy that follows no “rules of engagement” nor cares about the internationally agreed upon Geneva Convention originally ratified in 1864. The current version was updated in 1949.
Tremendous sadness engulfed me as I watched the reports of the newest attack in the “World War” on the United States of America: the violent murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. As the protests continue around the world, there is no doubt in my mind that the release of the translation of the controversial video was planned, its distribution timed and the resulting foment was encouraged by the few knowing that thousands would take up the battle call Death to America.
Our death, or demise, will not be the result of the extreme forces of radical Islam. It will be in large part our own undoing from our own citizens, some of whom want nothing more than to witness the economic collapse of America to the complete fiscal mismanagement of our government which has brought us the brink of financial disaster. Both political parties are complacent. Our “enemies” know that we are weaker than we have ever been.
For the first time in history our debt is equal to 104 percent of our GDP. It is larger than the nation’s total economy. While both candidates agree the economy is a problem, neither seem to want to be truthful with the voters as to the magnitude of the crisis. As citizens and voters we have to take responsibility that we have allowed, by our votes or lack of, our fantasy to continue.
Recovery will not be easy. Our level of spending is completely unsustainable and as such there is no utopia of equality or truly egalitarian society around the corner, neither of which are sustainable in the long term, regardless of the economy.
The threat from radicals around the world is grave but our own economic crisis is much more of a threat.
I will close with this quote, by Hillary Clinton, written in 2006 in her introduction to the 10th anniversary edition of her book “It Takes a Village.”
@ti:“Even more than adults, children are aware of the threats posed by global climate change, catastrophic environmental events, and the spread of deadly diseases that know no national boundaries. We can sustain our kids’ future by investing in alternative energy: reducing the pollution that causes climate change, cleaning up the environment, creating new American jobs. But our ability to address these and other challenges is imperiled by the federal debt that has grown by $3 trillion in the last five years, placing a birth tax of $28,000 on the tiny shoulders of each child born today.”