- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2008

GREAT DAY

The Fourth of July is a “great day to be an American,” the U.S. ambassador to Japan said in his annual Independence Day message.

As he has done for the past three years, Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer posted his annual greetings on the U.S. Embassy Web site (tokyo.usembassy.gov), expressing his hopes of inspiring Americans living in Japan who will miss the fireworks and picnics that mark the Fourth in the United States and explaining the festivities to Japanese citizens.

“From the spectacular Independence Day Parade and National Symphony Orchestra concert on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to the countless heart-warming events down the main streets of small towns from coast to coast, it is a grand celebration and a great day to be an American.”

Most of the time, Mr. Schieffer is busy defending U.S. interests in Japan or occasionally haranguing the Japanese government over some issue of the day. Recently he complained that Japan is spending too little on defense and relying too much on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. On Tuesday, he defended the Bush administration against complaints from Japan over removing North Korea from the U.S. terrorist blacklist.

However, on the Fourth of July, Mr. Schieffer delivers a history lesson and expresses his hope the United States can inspire freedom around the world.

“On each anniversary of the adoption of our Declaration of Independence, we give thanks for the tremendous courage and conviction of our Founders, 56 brave men who signed their names to that bold creed of freedom drafted by Thomas Jefferson 232 years ago,” the ambassador wrote.

Mr. Schieffer added that Americans “aspire to a world in which all citizens” will one day enjoy those rights. He noted that those freedoms defined in the Declaration of Independence “are at the basis of the U.S.-Japanese alliance.”

AFGHAN REFLECTION

The ambassador from Afghanistan is marking the Fourth of July by thanking Americans for liberating his country and helping Afghans achieve some of the freedoms celebrated on Independence Day.

“In 2001, U.S. soldiers entered Afghanistan to liberate the country from the tyranny of the Taliban and help the Afghan people fight for the same principles that motivated America’s struggle for independence,” Ambassador Said T. Jawad wrote on the Web site, embassyofafghanistan.org.

The United States overthrew the Taliban, which had imposed a harsh brand of Islamic fundamentalism on Afghans, because the movement sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are still battling a Taliban resistance hiding along the lawless Afghan-Pakistan border.

Mr. Jawad noted that since the U.S. invasion, Afghans have elected a president and parliament and enacted laws to protect women, whose human rights were regularly abused by the Taliban.

The ambassador conveyed his condolences to the relatives of the 541 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan.

“These deaths are tragic, but they did not die in vain,” he said. “They served with bravery and distinction, and their sacrifice will allow Afghanistan the freedom, justice and equality that so many patriots have fought for and that Americans celebrate every Fourth of July.”

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