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Politics & Policy

Remember When David Dinkins Was an Unabashed Militarist?

This New York Times story on the parade in New York City after the end of the Gulf War — complete with a simulated destruction of a Scud — makes interesting reading in the context of the current parade freak-out:

Three months after the last angry rocket of the Persian Gulf war, New York City lionized the victorious troops yesterday with a magnificent blizzard of ticker tape, patriotism and affection in a homecoming parade up lower Broadway’s Canyon of Heroes.

With painted yellow bows underfoot and a glimmer of blue between the skyscrapers overhead, brass bands exploded, flags and confetti whirled in the wind and what might have been another Monday in Manhattan’s gray financial district suddenly boomed into a dazzling holiday of music, marching, balloons and deliriously roaring crowds.

And last night, capping the day’s celebration, a giant fireworks display lighted the velvet skies over the East River with chrysanthemums of red, white and blue, thundering pirouettes of silver and gold and, for its finale, the simulated destruction of an Iraqi Scud by an American Patriot missile.

The crowd was enormous and the mayor at the time very enthusiastic:

The police estimated that 4.7 million people lined the one-mile route from Battery Park to Worth Street, and they called it the largest crowd for any single event in city history. The count, for all its seeming precision, appeared to be extravagant.

It implied that 235,000 people lined each of the 20 blocks on the route. The police conceded that it was based on a formula using square feet of street space and was a bit like numbering the blades of grass on a hillside. But it was in keeping with the hyperbole of the day.

“This was the mother of all parades,” beamed Mayor David N. Dinkins, who had been using the phrase for weeks.

Weapons weren’t the main event, but they were there:

A trio of vintage convertibles carried the grand marshals and their wives at the head of the line of march. Mr. Cheney, in a business suit, General Powell, in his dress greens, and General Schwarzkopf, in his familiar battle fatigues, waved constantly through the barrage.

Behind them came thousands of soldiers, sailors and marines, most of them in battle fatigues with helmets or barracks caps and desert boots, with rifles at shoulder arms or assault weapons slung tightly on the right.

They moved in lock-step mostly, shoulders back, chests out, heads up, battle flags in the vanguard of each unit, representing infantry, armored, cavalry, airborne, intelligence, mountain, support, engineers, maintenance, medical, supply, communications and reserve detachments.

A 15-foot Patriot missile, orange with a white tip, rolled by on a truck, followed by its launch system on a flatbed 12-wheel trailer. A few howitzers and battle tanks, ambulances and an armored car were in the parade, but it was not a show of weaponry or technology, which had been amply demonstrated during the war and seen in other parades.


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