February 20, 2010, - 9:28 pm
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE ****
I am very saddened to learn that while I was away for the Jewish Sabbath, General Alexander Haig–a great American and proud friend of the Jewish people and Israel–passed away. I am blessed that I had the opportunity–in my late teens and while working in Washington during college summers–to meet General Haig on several occasions. This proud patriot who served the country for most of his life was a great man and a key general in the Reagan Revolution, who made his mark on the Middle East, Central America, and the Soviet Union. And on the battlefield during the Vietnam War, this real-life American hero engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the VietCong to save the troops in his unit, who were outnumbered. Both my father and I were huge fans of this tremendous mensch and all-around class act. He was the living, walking definition of the word, “statesman.”
A brave warrior-diplomat, General Haig’s legacy is that–as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State–he rebuilt America’s image around the world, post-Jimmy Carter, into one in which the world not only feared the United States, but respected it. A Four-Star General, Haig didn’t do this by orchestrating Reagan speeches to the Muslim world begging them to like us and using his State Department to promote Islam and bring Muslim students here. No, he was smarter than that and didn’t believe in appeasement. Along with Reagan UN Ambassador Dr. Jeane Kirkpatrick, also now gone, he took the “kick me” sign off America’s back (the same sign that returned ever since Bill Clinton took office). There is a reason there were no Islamic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during Alexander Haig’s tenure in the Reagan White House. ( In fact, even the terrorist attacks against America overseas–the Hezbollah bombing and mass murder of 300 U.S. Marines and civilians in the barracks and U.S. Embassy in Beirut and torture murders of Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem, CIA Attache William Buckley, and Col. Rich Higgins–all happened on his successor, George Schultz’s watch, because under Schultz, President Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon to protect the P.L.O from the Israelis, a move Haig opposed.)
Haig was not only vigilant about America’s national security throughout his life–whether as a military man or as a key adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan–but he was also proud to be a friend of Israel and the Jewish people. He always believed in the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel and saw the tremendous strategic value of a strong U.S.-Israel alliance. Israel’s Moshe Arens, an Israeli diplomat and man whose opinions I greatly respect, captures it well in his farewell to Haig, “A Good Friend“:
Al Haig, who died yesterday, was a good friend to Israel – through thick and thin, both at the best of times and during difficult times. He never wavered in his friendship for Israel. A very cerebral man, Haig’s support for Israel was not only based on the rationale that the United States and Israel had shared strategic interests; it was also tempered by an admiration for Israel’s courage in the face of daunting odds. . . .
When I told him our prime minister, Menachem Begin, was concerned that after having made substantial concessions during the negotiations leading up to the peace agreement with Egypt, he might now be pressured by the White House to make additional concessions inimical to Israel’s interests, Haig responded by saying “not on my watch.”
Secretary of State Alexander Haig w/ Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin
General Haig was light years ahead of his time in understanding the threat of Islam, jihad, and growing Arab nationalism around the world. It is for that reason that he supported Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s, which was necessary to clean the PLO out of what had become known as “Fatahland.” He also orchestrated a last-minute veto of the U.N. condemnation of the invasion. And it cost Haig his Reagan Administration job.
But in the end, he was validated, as even Shi’ite Muslims, who are now vocal supporters of Hezbollah, welcomed the Israelis into their country, freeing them from the Arafat henchmen who killed their sons, gang-raped their daughters, and seized their homes and property. Israel’s only mistake was in not finishing the job, pulling out, and eventually removing itself from South Lebanon in 2000, which allowed Hezbollah to take over.
Unfortunately, the liberal, anti-Israel mainstream media and, sadly, many rival Republicans and conservatives, unfairly vilified Haig for his mistaken statement that he was in charge in the order of succession, when President Reagan was shot and Vice President Bush was not immediately available. (Technically, the statement–“I am in control”–was correct, as he assumed authority and was, indeed, in control.) But it was nothing–a red herring, seized upon by cretins who wanted to tear down Haig’s tremendous achievements and career, just as he was accomplishing America’s peace through strength foreign policy, which no President since Reagan has practiced.
Alexander Haig served America proudly and extraordinarily as a soldier, an advisor, and a diplomat. With his death, it is the end of an era. There are no courageous men and women like him and Dr. Kirkpatrick advising anyone in the Republican Party and anyone who might retake the White House. And that is a tragic loss for us all.
It’s not just his courage in strengthening America’s position in the Middle East that made him great. General Haig was one of the chief architects of what ultimately was the ouster of Daniel Ortega and his Communist Sandinistas in our hemisphere in Nicaragua. He was a key and early supporter of the Contras, the freedom fighters who, ultimately, neutered Ortega’s henchmen and thugs. . . until President George W. Bush allowed them to retake power, while he was too busy kowtowing to Muslims. Haig had to fight James “F— the Jews” Baker in order to get Reagan’s support on fighting the Communist takeover of Latin America.
Haig fought Soviet Communism by confronting it not just in Nicaragua, but in Cuba, and head-on, as he was a proud friend of the Free Soviet Jewry movement. He repeatedly pressed the Soviets on their atrocious human rights record, as well as on their nukes and other issues. He was a cold warrior who updated his diplomacy for the ’80s and succeeded. Haig is in no small part the reason that the Soviets and the Berlin Wall ultimately fell.
A proud Irish-American, General Haig was the youngest member of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s staff in Japan, fought in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, and the Purple Heart. And Haig knew the meaning of commitment off the battlefield and out of politics, too. He was married to the same woman for nearly 60 years–May 24th would have been his and the former Patricia Fox’s 60th wedding anniversary. And even as a kid, Haig became a man early when, at age ten, upon the death of his father, he began helping his mother raise the family as the oldest male Haig. He was strong and a survivor.
Alexander Haig will definitely be missed. If only there was someone like him running the State Department again, America would be invincible. Instead, we are woefully vulnerable and dissed. It breaks my heart that there is no one like Alexander Haig in public life or even on the horizon. Not even close. It’s truly, sadly, tragically, the end of an era. I mourn his loss deeply.
General Alexander Haig, Great American, Rest In Peace.
The Jerusalem Post remembers General Haig and has a couple of great quotes from him:
Haig once referred to Israel as “America’s largest aircraft carrier which never could be sunk.”
In 2001, he told the Post that it might not be a bad thing for Israel to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
“If the Israelis do launch a preemptive strike [on Iran], it may be saving the world a lot of trouble,” he said.
More on Haig’s relationship with and strong support for Israel from JTA.
**** UPDATE: Reader Joseph writes (and some readers have similarly noted in the comments, below):
Another bit of information about Haig is that when Israel was attacked in the Yom Kipper war, it was losing tanks at an alarming rate. This country had new anti-tank missiles, which Israel needed desperately. Haig took it upon himself with no authorization to not only ship the weapons to Israel (TOW Missles) but to train IDF soldiers sent to this country, in the use of this weapon. Haig rushed to the defense of Israel and was then followed by President Nixon who authorized official aid. He was a truly great man and one of a few friends that Israel could always rely on. Because of his help to Israel at that time, he contributed to Israel’s victory.
Tags: Al Haig, Alexander Haig, Cold War, communism, Contras, friend, Gen. Alexander Haig, General Alexander Haig, Islam, Israel, Jews, Jihad, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Reagan Revolution, Ronald Reagan, Secretary of State, Soviet Union, Statesman, terrorism, VietCong, Vietnam, warrior