Does Ilhan Omar know that a Jewish Army Veteran Was the First American to Die in Somalia?
I was out with dear friends last night; we went to see Timothy Mahoney’s new film “Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy.” Mahoney is a gifted Minneapolis based filmmaker with a wonderful personal story and a quest to find out if Moses really wrote the first five books of the Torah. (The movie is no longer showing locally but you can buy it.)
My friends, knowing that I write about the Refugee Resettlement Program run by the U.S. State Department, asked me if I had seen an article in The Wall Street Journal, “The Jew Who Died for Ilhan Omar.” I read it before calling it a day and have re-produced it below for you.
Congressman Gary Palmer, one of Omar’s colleagues, and an old friend of mine (he used to run a state-based think tank), wrote the commentary. Thank you, Congressman Palmer for calling out your colleague in the House, and calling on her to remember where she came from and how she got here:
Rep. Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, has become widely known for her attacks on supporters of Israel. Ms. Omar is a naturalized citizen whose Somali refugee family settled in the U.S. when she was a teenager. Tens of thousands of Somali refugees relocated to the U.S.—some 25,000 in the Minneapolis area—to escape the starvation, famine and civil war that turned Somalia into a lawless, failed state in the early 1990s.
Another name is worth recognition and remembrance, especially among Somali refugees: Lawrence Freedman. In 1992, the year after Ms. Omar’s family left Somalia, the U.S. sent troops there as part of a joint United Nations humanitarian effort. The U.S. intervention, Operation Restore Hope, began with the landing of U.S. troops near Mogadishu on Dec. 9.
Freedman was a U.S. Army veteran who earned two Bronze Stars in Vietnam. He was an original member of the Green Berets, reached the rank of sergeant major, and eventually became an instructor. He retired from the Army in 1990 and joined the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1992 the U.S. sent Freedman as part of an advance team to prepare the way for American troops in Somalia. On Dec. 23, two weeks after the troops had arrived, Freedman became the first American killed as part of the relief effort in Somalia.
Any American casualty is noteworthy, but Freedman’s sacrifice stands out because he was Jewish.
Thousands of Somali refugees who now live in Ms. Omar’s district had their freedom and security paid for with the blood of American soldiers—22 of them, including Freedman.
Ms. Omar’s words have caused concern in both the Somali and Jewish communities in Minneapolis, which have worked for years to build friendships and collaborate on charitable pushes against hunger, illiteracy and discrimination. These efforts to build and nurture relationships stand in sharp contrast to Ms. Omar’s anti-Semitic statements.
Despite calls for her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thus far the only consequence for her bigotry has been an anodyne resolution against hate speech, crafted by Ms. Omar’s fellow Democrats. Unfortunately, even before her election to Congress, Ms. Omar had a record of comments that raised grave concerns about her views toward Jews, and what she has said since her election has only heightened those concerns.
Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Freedman is buried in Arlington Cemetery beneath a black marker etched with a green beret and a Star of David. His epitaph reads: “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” Americans—including Ms. Omar—should remember him and those who died with him to give Somalis a chance to live in freedom.
Mr. Palmer, a Republican, represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District.
Appeared in the March 19, 2019, print edition.