- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

At an American military cemetery in Belgium, President Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. and its allies must remain vigilant against nations that threaten world peace.

“We must never, ever take our progress for granted,” Mr. Obama said at Flanders Field cemetery, site of a major World War I battle. “We must commit to peace.”

Reminding his audience that chemical weapons were used for the first time in World War I, which began 100 years ago, Mr. Obama said the U.S. and its allies are still grappling with that lesson in Syria.

“Our nations are part of the international effort to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons,” he said. “Our efforts send a powerful message that these weapons have no place in a civilized world.”

Flanders Field cemetery is the only American World War I cemetery in Belgium. The burial ground holds 368 U.S. military dead, most of whom gave their lives in liberating Belgium in World War I. Their headstones are aligned in four symmetrical areas around a white stone chapel.

The president did not mention the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where Russian troops have seized the Crimea peninsula and have raised fears of a further invasion. Mr. Obama laid a wreath at the cemetery and viewed some of the graves.

“We know a level of peace and prosperity that those who fought here could have scarcely imagined,” Mr. Obama said. “What I’ve seen in Flanders’ Fields will stay with me always. Americans and Belgians will always stand together for freedom, for dignity and for the triumph of the human spirit.”

The president is on his third day of a weeklong trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia. He will meet with Pope Francis in Italy on Thursday.

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