Sunday, March 21, 2010

The United States has brought millions of dollars and many tons of aid to Haiti, but one thing we brought is not welcome: the American flag. For awhile, it flew over the compound where the Joint Task Force Haiti was operating, but no more. Apparently, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive thought it implied a U.S. occupation, and so, in a pitiful example of political correctness, it was lowered. This is even more ironic given that the French contingent proudly flies its flag and France held Haiti as a colony until a bloody revolution.

If the Haitian prime minister is unhappy with having the U.S. flag on his soil, we certainly can remove it. We can fold it nicely and place it in one of those giant containers full of food and medical supplies we brought, take one of the many pieces of construction equipment we brought, load it on one of the many planes and ships full of more of the same, and take them all back to the United States.

The prime minister should be so lucky as to have the United States occupy Haiti. Perhaps then his citizens could enjoy security and prosperity that he couldn’t deliver even before the earthquake. Haiti consistently has been the worst place to live in the entire Western Hemisphere. But we are not there to occupy the country; we are simply doing what we always do. When the world dials 911, the phone is answered at the Pentagon. We may or may not be the world’s policeman, but we certainly are its first responders.

Whenever a disaster occurs, man-made or natural, the U.S. military is the only force on Earth that can and does respond. No matter where, no matter who. When I served in Army Special Forces, we regularly came to help when tropical cyclones, typhoons and even the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines left people in need of humanitarian aid. We always showed the American flag, as it is a signal of security and safety in times of crisis. It also enabled those we helped to know who brought them relief. Surprisingly, instead of wondering whether we were there to occupy them, most people were smart enough to understand we were there to save their lives.

The idea that we have a reason to be ashamed or something to hide for doing this is disgraceful. It is one thing to be cognizant of the feelings of other countries. It is quite another to act as if the American flag is something other than a shining beacon of freedom and safety. Sadly, this is just another example of the current administration’s feeling that America has more reasons to apologize than to be proud. The U.S. military does more humanitarian work around the world than anyone, and we should be flying our flag proudly over those operations.

Jim Hanson served in 1st Special Forces Group and writes for the military Web site

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