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Jewish World Review June 6, 2002 / 25 Sivan, 5762

Tony Snow

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Musings | Here's a story from the I-didn't-make-it-up file.

Saddam Hussein elbowed his way into the headlines recently. First, he told Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat not to worry if Israelis should toss him into exile. Saddam promised to keep a room and bed handy for Arafat in Baghdad -- as if a month in Ramallah weren't bad enough.

The offer came at a time when other Arab nations were telling Arafat to shut down Palestinian violence or prepare to become an official historical figure.

Then, as if to make a complicated situation even murkier, Saddam went public with another promise. He said he would, in his majesty and magnanimity as a practicing despot, up the ante for suicide bombers by doubling the bounty for surviving family members of such murderers. The proposal obviously won't help Arafat dissuade violence -- or persuade skeptics that he has a real and lasting commitment to peace.

But then again, Arafat wouldn't be the first to realize that Saddam makes a better enemy than friend.

Baseball's players and management seem determined to destroy forever what used to be the distinctive and defining American sport.

Once upon a time, we idolized baseball players because we could relate to them. Honus Wagner was a rough farm boy who became the greatest shortstop of his era.

Babe Ruth rose from the back streets of Baltimore to the Olympian heights of sporting glory.

Lou Gehrig, an Ivy League graduate, worked harder than anybody in the game, and delivered the most eloquent farewell address since Pericles.

Now, however, the game is filled with sullen superstars and malevolent moguls, who bicker over billion dollar pots of gold. To make matters worse, players say they may walk off the diamond come August a tactic they last employed in 1994, a year in which there was no World Series.

At this point, I don't care who wins. If players and owners can't work it out this time, I'll write them both off and spend my summers watching NASCAR, where the millionaires at least have the decency to act like good old boys.

I noted last year that Memorial Day had lost its meaning for a generation of Americans unaccustomed to war. Well, history since has called us to action.

While the powerful like to believe that they alone shape history, the truth lies engraved in white stones planted in the fields of Arlington, Normandy and Anzio. Everybody can become a light to the world and a soldier for liberty.

The other day, pro football player Pat Tillman turned down a $ 9 million contract and enlisted in the Army. Last month, Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr., postponed his honeymoon to answer duty's call. Three weeks later, he died in action.

Memorial day has passed, but it is for such as these. Let's remember the faces and names, but let's reflect on something more: When warriors need strength, they turn to us. In dark hours: They recall sunsets, happy days, the flicker of love in a child's or spouse's eyes. The bond between defender and citizen -- a bond of freedom and affection -- that's what we really celebrate on Memorial day.

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