Thursday, July 16, 2015


Lithuania in Thailand, and a bit about USA and Japan
















Lithuania in Thailand, and a bit about USA and Japan
Walking in Chiang Mai, Thailand today I spotted a full sized American flag hanging respectfully from a pole in a restaurant. That in itself is not uncommon in Chiang Mai as this is an international town with people from all over.
But there was something curious about this flag. I talked with the owner who turns out to be from Lithuania -- which country happens to be mostly very fond of the USA. 
Lithuanians were important Coalition partners in Afghanistan and I had the privilege to go out with the Lithuanian Army on so some civil affairs missions. 
The Lithuanian Army in Ghor Province was providing security for Japanese JICA. (JICA is like Japanese USAID.)
JICA was putting billions (with a B) dollars into Afghanistan and getting no credit for it, and not asking for any credit. Japan is amazingly generous around the world.
Anyway, I greatly enjoyed my time with Lithuanian Soldiers. Those guys love basketball like you never would believe. I do not know why Lithuanians love basketball so much.
Back during World War II, Japanese Ambassador to Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, helped save the lives of thousands of Jews. 
Ambassador Sugihara was writing by hand transit visas to Japan and saving Jews literally by the thousands. This was during a time with the United States turned away Jews and many are believed to have died as a result.
Hitler wanted Japan to kill the Jews but Japan refused. 
Some of those so-called Class-A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni actually helped save Jews. (A dirty little secret that Americans and many others would prefer to forget.)
Ambassador Sugihara is a hero to Jews who know the story.
And so there I was...oddly enough, an American in Ghor Province with Japanese JICA and the Lithuanian Army as they worked to build infrastructure for Afghans.
But one time earlier I said something that caused an uproar in Lithuania. It was all over the Lithuanian press. 
Our defense attache in Vilnius (the capital) immediately contacted me saying there was uproar in Lithuania over my comments, which actually were obviously meant as a compliment to Lithuanian Special Forces but we had some language obstacles that caused confusion. 
To calm things down and help keep our relationship strong, I apologized immediately to the Commander of Lithuanian Special Operations Forces with this letter in 2008:
(Sort of like a little Kono Statement to Lithuania, only they took it well and in a good light and life moved on.)

Michael's Dispatches

Letter to Commander of Lithuanian Special Forces

I sent this letter directly to the Commander of Lithuanian Special Forces

No comments: