June 6, 1944. The beaches of Normandy.
On a Paula Priesse post on FB today I saw a quote today attributed to Colin Powell:
Colin Powell once said, “The United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond its borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”
As always, I do some research to confirm accuracy and I found more than I expected. Colin Powell did indeed say this. There is obviously an email circulating attributing it to a context that was inaccurate. However, what “Truth or Fiction” did share was a number of quotes that I thought worthy of sharing on this anniversary of D-Day.
In a question-and-answer session afterwards (during which the phrase “empire building” was never mentioned, incidentally), the secretary of state was asked by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey if he felt the U.S and its allies had given due consideration to the use of “soft power” — promulgating moral and democratic values as a means of achieving progress towards international peace and stability, basically — versus the “hard power” of military force.
Here, in part, is how Colin Powell actually responded to Carey’s question:
There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power — and here I think you’re referring to military power — then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can’t deal with.I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.
So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world. [Applause.]
We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.
It wasn’t the first time Colin Powell had used the figure of speech. During an “MTV Global Discussion” on February 14, 2002, he was asked how he felt representing a country commonly perceived as “the Satan of contemporary politics.” Here is the relevant part of his reply:
[F]ar from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, “Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us”? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.
That is indeed the kind of nation we are.
So, say thank you to a veteran or member of our armed forces today and remember our history.
Here ends the history lesson for today 🙂