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The July Fourth celebration next weekend reminds us of freedoms enjoyed from living in America and of the sacrifices of those protecting those freedoms.
Alaskans have been especially lucky in the past two months, welcoming summer with beautiful spring weather. We enjoy outdoor activities and end-of-school activities with proms providing memories for a lifetime.
The biggest problem for 630,000 Alaskans is how to manage a $28 billion reserve that grows with every gallon of crude oil pumped. We see no problems for Alaskans. We see opportunities, thanks to living in America.
Parents and grandparents who smiled at recent graduates really were smiling at memories of their proms and commencements. Great-grandparents remember proms in the blackout era when the world ignored an earlier terrorist threat until it was almost too late. At that time, girls kissed the boys goodbye. Some of the girls left, too. Today, young Americans who enjoyed proms only a few years ago are assuring that terrorists don't again shroud proms in a blackout.
Last month, Americans recognized the supreme sacrifices of earlier generations who beat world terrorists. The World War II Memorial was dedicated May 29 in Washington, D.C. Memorial Day was observed solemnly May 31. On June 6 in France, the 60th anniversary of D-Day was observed near 9,000 crosses marking the final resting place of young Americans and their allies. They died securing the beachhead for taking Europe back from the darkness of Nazi tyranny and terror.
Former President Ronald Reagan died two days before the June 6 observance. His death raised the level of patriotism among Americans who remember that his policies won the Cold War against communism. ("Cold War?" It was pretty hot for those who fought in Korea and Vietnam). Reagan's appeal to Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" separating East and West Germany is a historical classic. Its destruction signaled the capitulation of communism.
President George W. Bush directs a new world war, the War on Terrorism, precipitated by 20 years of terror attacks culminating with the loss of 3,000 lives on Sept. 11, 2001. Bush is assailed by critics, as was Reagan. Bush must rally people to win this war, as Reagan and the Korean and Vietnam vets won the Cold War, and as great-grandparents won World War II. The enemy is clearly identified - masked cowards beheading and burning innocent civilians, reminiscent of Nazi and Imperial Japanese atrocities.
Our major media, running pictures of naked Iraqi prisoners guarded by U.S. troops, complain that the prisoners were humiliated to the point of torture. How does that compare to the photo last week on Arab television of the body of American Robert Anderson lying on his stomach, his severed head sitting in the middle of his back? What does it take to convince some Americans that we are at war, a war we can't lose? We must not abandon the Middle East to barbarians who seek to turn the world back to the dark ages. Would giving them the Middle East even keep them from our shores? They say not.
It is ironic that the Germans, the French and some in England are opposed to Bush's policies in the War on Terror. Don't they remember the price of appeasing barbarism? Americans responded effectively 63 years ago, finally convinced by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that evil sought to enslave the world.
It bailed the world out again in the Cold War. Now the United States is leading the effort to save Europe, Japan, China, India - all of the countries depending upon Middle East oil. How important is winning the war against terrorists headquartered in the Middle East?
The United States imports from the Middle East only 11 percent of its daily demand. Most U.S. imports, 70 percent, come from the Western Hemisphere. Increased Western production and conservation can offset that 11 percent.
But in Europe, 42 percent of its oil imports are from the Middle East. For Japan, 75 percent of its oil is from the Middle East. Other nations, recovering from dictatorial yokes defeated in the Cold War, need increasing amounts of oil.
It is understandable that many foreign counties and their people dislike Americans. America is a nation of immigrants whose forebears came from every country in the world seeking freedom from dictators - religious, cultural, military, socialist, communist. Those immigrants performed the miracle of converting a relatively virgin land into the dominant and most free nation in the world in the historically short time of 228 years.
Naturally, those left in the Old country are critical and envious. Some still live under a cultural yoke from the dark ages. Many still flock to America. The planes fly both ways. They are not loaded with people - even critics of America or President Bush - flying back.
So this July Fourth as the flag goes by, give a salute and add a prayer of thanks to our forebears and to today's protectors. Be proud of America. We will win this one, too, without again shrouding proms in a blackout.