My personal involvement with Islam started with the opening of a Mosque in Washington when I was a young fellow, new to the world. I recall driving down Connecticut Avenue and hearing the call for prayer. It was a moment to remember. A few years later, I was on board the USS Greenwich Bay, a small seaplane tender as it transited the Suez Canal on its way to become Flagship for the US Middle East Force on Bahrain Island in the Persian Gulf. I was working on deck when I noticed a fellow running along the bank, yelling in Arabic and throwing rocks at us. I had never experienced such overt anit-American behavior in my life. It was terrifying as it was my first encounter with hatred.
After spending the Summer in Bahrain, mostly on board the GB, where I had limited connection with the Bahranian people, except for my exploration of the island by cab. This exploration took me to the mounds of Ancient Dilmun and to a Portguese fort from, I think, the 15th Century. My main involvement came one night when a call from a local hospital to the ship asked for blood donors for a young Bahranian who had suffered blood loss in an accident. I voluntered immediately. Medical records, that is my dog tags, were checked and I had the right blood type.
The launch took me to the Jaffair Jetty and a car driven by a Bahranian took me to a clinic, where I rolled up my sleeve and gave a pint of blood. The clinic was sparse, the doctor competent, and when I met the fellow who got my blood, I was happy to help him. He was unconscious at the time.
The trip back to the ship was quick and I went on board sometime after midnight. My kind boss, later a friend, James Little, BM1, told me I could take the morning off. Such kindness. I learned the young man survived and wonder, even now, how my blood was doing. So, in a moment of need, the Muslim doctor reached out to American sailors for help.
The cruise continued and the ship visited, Karachi, where a goup of us met with a class in a local college who asked us about America, our government, culture and we also asked them about Pakistan. It was very cordial. Then off to Sri Lanka, Diego Garcia, Mombasa then up the coast to Port Sudan, Massawa, Aden, Jeddah and finally back through the canal to the Med and home.
At this time, as I reflect on that experience, I think of James Foley’s horrible death by decapitation by knife. Decapitations have occured in Europe, think of how Henry VIII ordered a swordsman to decapitate Anne Boleyn, and the French invented the Guillotine to perform the act quickly. The Muslims use a knife and saw though the living, for a while, neck of the victim. I have a visceral reaction to this particularly barbaric act. Barbaric is the right word, by the way. This is by the same culture that called the Greenwich Bay to see if one of the sailors would donate blood to an injured Muslim. They didn’t object to having a Presbyterian American’s blood tranfused into the Muslim patient. Our blood is interchangeable: I did it gladly and would do it again.
What strikes me in James Foley’s case is that he would have done the same thing I did. It is the humanitarian thing to do. He was killed because he was an American and the killing is an act of aggression against our entire nation. We must take action as our inclination to help people of all religions and races is no protection against radical Islam. This is a dangerous time and we need to protect ourselves and our friends.