- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2011

LIFE, LIBERTY, PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

American ambassadors celebrated Independence Day from the tranquility of the Bahamas to the front line in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, where U.S. soldiers are sacrificing their lives for a government that calls them “occupiers.”

In Kabul, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry spoke of the friendship between the American and Afghan peoples and noted that the United States is nearing an end to its 10-year war in Afghanistan. President Obama last month ordered the beginning of a drawdown of 33,000 U.S. troops with the ultimate goal of turning security over to the Afghan army after a full withdrawal.

Mr. Eikenberry referred to a “turning point in our campaign to establish security and stability” in Afghanistan.

“As this happens, the Afghans must know that our partnership is enduring,” he said.

Only two weeks ago, the ambassador upbraided Afghan President Hamid Karzai for calling U.S. troops “occupiers.” More than 1,500 U.S. troops have died defending Afghanistan from Taliban militants and their al Qaeda terrorist allies.

However, at his early Fourth of July celebration on Saturday, Mr. Eikenberry was conciliatory with his guests in one of his last receptions before ending his tour.

“On this holiday, it is worth remembering that no matter what country we call home, we all strive for the same things as those who signed the American Declaration of Independence in 1776: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

In Pakistan, Ambassador Cameron Munter also spoke of shared “values and ideas,” even though the Pakistan government has become more critical of the United States since U.S. commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in May.

“Even in these difficult times, we are close friends,” Mr. Munter said at an Independence Day celebration Saturday in Karachi.

He asked his guests to remember “the people who died fighting” for “freedom, tolerance and democracy.” He mentioned Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister killed in 2007 while campaigning; Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian member of Parliament killed in March; Saleem Shahzad, a reporter found dead in May; and Salmaan Tazeer, governor of Punjab assassinated in January for opposing Islamic blasphemy laws.

In Harare, Zimbabwe, Ambassador Charles A. Ray invited guests to a picnic on Friday to celebrate Independence Day.

Mr. Ray, a frequent critic of autocratic President Robert Mugabe, praised the Zimbabwean people who want “justice, tranquility, liberty and prosperity.”

Ambassador Harry K. Thomas in the Philippines talked about the qualities that make an American.

“We honor those who lived and died by the concept immortalized in our Declaration of Independence 235 years ago,” he said.

“We are a strong nation, but the core our strength lies in our ability to make and build relationships: to make friends, not war; to project the power of our ideas, not the strength of our arms.”

However, the projection of power was on display in the tropical paradise of the Bahamas, where Ambassador Nicole Avant held a cocktail reception aboard the visiting USS Vicksburg guided missile cruiser.

Independence Day is a “holiday where we express pride for our country, rejoice in our freedoms and are humbled by the heroic men and women in uniform to whom we are indebted for all they do to protect our freedom,” she said.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Thursday

• Cayetano Llobet, a prominent political analyst in Bolivia, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.

• Gita Wirjawan, chairman of Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board. He discusses Indonesia’s economy in a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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