- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

NEW YORK. — Here I am in our nation’s Apple, or Big Apple as the phrase has it. Its air has recently been polluted by the foul oratory of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (always pronounced with a jazz beat) and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. Speaking at the United Nations, they appeared back-to-back, as unhygienic as that may sound.

Mr. Chavez called the president of the United States “the devil.” Mr. Ahmadinejad, wearing his trademark Sears Roebuck windbreaker, took the high ground, speaking of “humanity … commitment to the truth, devotion to God, quest for justice, and respect for the dignity of human beings” — particularly if the womenfolk appear in burlap bags and the menfolk pray in Islam’s traditional “Bottom’s Up” position.

The image of America these haranguers summon up is that of some nationalistic behemoth about to roll over on the Earth’s lesser nations. To hear them roar, the U.S.A. is a vast menacing race, threatening … well, threatening “humanity,” “truth” “justice, and the “dignity of human beings,” as the Iranian rabble-rouser put it.

Perhaps Mr. Ahmadinejad should have stayed in New York a while longer and looked around. America is nothing like the behemoth he claims to fear. It is a country of immigrants from different lands and different religions, all drawn here by the lure of freedom, prosperity and the rule of law. Yet despite the diversity of race, religion and national origins, we Americans all get along pretty well. There is no Sunni district of America where a Shi’ite American is unsafe. Our small populations of Kurdish-Americans have nothing to fear from the variegated Americans around them. Here the rule of law and the promises of our Constitution keep us living together in relative peace.

Next week this city holds its annual Columbus Day Parade, celebrating the achievements of Italian-Americans, but open to all Americans to enjoy. We have all arrived here as immigrants but have been absorbed into the American melting pot and added our different spices to the American stew. Presidents Chavez and Ahmadinejad should have stuck around to enjoy the parade, and have a slice of pizza.

This year’s Grand Marshall of the Columbus Day Parade would particularly fetch their attention. He is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace, a second-generation American whose Italian parents arrived on these shores just before the Depression. A Marine, he is the first from the Corps to head the JCS.

Gen. Pace also is a fellow with much to say about the success of immigration and tolerance here. Appearing before the Armed Services Committee not long ago, he was eloquent on the service of immigrants in the military who gain their citizenship by fighting for their adoptive country. Some 8,000 a year do this.

In that appearance, Gen. Pace spoke of his parents’ hard work to raise their four children and of the children’s achievements: a sister who is a lawyer, two brothers who are Naval Academy graduates, a younger brother who is a successful businessman. “No other country on the planet,” he told the committee, “affords so much to those who come here” as America.

Then he added a line that ought to get the foul-mouthed dictators thinking. “I am still on active duty today for one primary reason, and that is I still owe those who served with me in Vietnam.” He keeps two pictures on his desk. The first is of Lance Cpl. Guido Farinaro, the first Marine to die under Gen. Pace’s command in Vietnam. The second is of Sgt. Matt Maupin, our only service member currently missing in Iraq.

Gen. Pace remains a soldier out of his sense of duty, loyalty and honor. On Columbus Day, he will head out onto Fifth Avenue with pride in his Italian heritage and in his country, the good old U.S. of A. He will have Italy and America in his heart but he will have Vietnam and Iraq there too.

Our troops serve abroad to protect freedom and to advance it. We failed to advance freedom in Vietnam — though the antiwar movement of the day insisted that if we withdrew, freedom would flower. A generation later freedom has yet to flower in Vietnam. The general wants to do better in Iraq.

And, remember, in Italian “pace” means “peace.”

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of “Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.”

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