Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Cries for help remain unanswered

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There are several biblical references that most Americans should be familiar with, the first being the story of the "Good Samaritan" told by Christ when asked "who is our brother?" Samaritans were an outcast sect in ancient Judea, despised by the Jewish community. The story tells of a man beset by thieves, beaten, and left for dead on a road. A priest saw him and passed by on the other side of the road. Then a Levite saw him and also passed him by, followed by a Samaritan, who took pity on the man, treated his injuries, and transported him to an inn, paying for his upkeep and recovery out of pocket. It's comparable to finding a homeless person injured and abandoned and caring for him today.

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs is an admonition to, "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?" (Proverbs 11:12)

The latter reminds me of the story related before in these pages of the actions of a Christian denomination in Nazi Germany in WWII. As they sang in church on a Sunday, a freight train pulled into a nearby station, transporting Jews to the death camps in the East. Their cries for water and mercy could be clearly heard by the congregation. Like all too many under the iron heel of the Nazis, their response was decidedly unchristian: They sang louder to drown out the cries of the doomed.

In WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt also turned a deaf ear to pleas to help the Jews. He denied requests to take in European Jews lest it upset labor unions' opposition to immigration and potential competition for jobs. Roosevelt turned away the MS St. Louis with more than 900 Jewish refugees that couldn't find a port anywhere in the world to dock, eventually returning to Nazi Germany where historians believe that many of its passengers died in concentration camps.

Roosevelt opposed assisting the Czech and Polish people during and after the war to re-establish their independence, surrendering to Stalin's Soviet Union sovereignty over their homelands.

The Poles especially had served the Allied cause well, breaking the German Enigma codes before the war, providing the Enigma cypher machine to the British. Thousands of Polish soldiers fought alongside the British throughout the war; Polish airmen fought with great distinction in the Battle of Britain, and the top fighter squadron in that seminal battle was the Polish Squadron, shooting down more Nazi aircraft than any other squadron.

So too did Poles fight with distinction on the ground, breaking through Nazi defenses in Italy, capturing the Monte Casino monastery after both American and British units were decimated. In Normandy Polish paratroops fought alongside the British and jumped into Holland during the Market Garden operation to seize bridges to facilitate an early crossing of the Rhine River into Nazi Germany. They experienced devastating casualties due to British malfeasance but still fought on with ferocity.

At war's end their country was betrayed at the Yalta conference, which gave Stalin a free hand in Eastern Europe. Repatriated Polish soldiers and Polish resistance fighters were sent to Soviet concentration camps, branded as "fascists" by Stalin because they fought with Allied forces, who were now the new enemy of the Soviet Union. The Polish accomplishments and Roosevelt's actions are detailed in Lynne Olson's 2017 book Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood that Helped Turn the Tide of War.

Today we stand by and watch as the people of Venezuela are crushed by armored vehicles, met with bullets against the stones they threw at Nicolás Maduro's armored vehicles in Caracas. They have no food; their young people scavenge in garbage trucks for any morsel. They have no water and gather what they can from sewer ditches. ATMs don't work as there hasn't been electrical power since the grid first failed in March, a result of years of neglect, cronyism, and corruption by the socialist government that first seized the power companies and then failed to maintain the system. There is no food to buy on empty shelves, and the Maduro government refuses to allow international aid into the country.

More than 30,000 people cross Colombia's borders each day to try to obtain food, assuming they have something to trade or buy it with. More than 3 million people have fled the country; those who could fled early; most cannot leave. The hospitals have no medicine, and those in intensive care or children's wards with serious illnesses or injuries are "left in the hands of God," as there is neither medicine nor electrical power to keep respirators and other life-saving equipment powered on. Venezuela is destitute and dying, yet we, who could do something, do nothing. We even have congresswomen who side with the Maduro regime and castigate America for even considering intervention.

Our military is a third of its former size in 1991 and heavily committed elsewhere; no carriers are en route to the Caribbean, no airborne troops alerted, nor Marine Corps amphibious units preparing to deploy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked in a press conference on May 4 that 20,000 Cubans, Russian Special Forces, and Iranians are present in Venezuela to protect Maduro, along with China providing cyber intervention to shut down resistance access to social media communications.

A humanitarian disaster with national security implications is unfolding in our backyard, and we are crossing to the other side of the road, refusing to see or help. Δ

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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