Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DECEMBER 7, 1941 AND SEPTEMBER 11, 2001


 Readers will notice that I wrote the following essay several years ago.  Today, the situation is worse.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, and from time-to-time since then, it has been said that the day was akin to the one about which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke: December 7, 1941.  The comparison is apt—but not completely.  Despite the similarities, the differences in what followed each of those days are profound and the aftermath of September 11, 2001, may well portend far worse consequences than did World War II for the United States of America.
The esteemed historian Samuel Eliot Morison, in his The Oxford History of the American People, has written of December 7, 1941:
At the end of this sad and bloody day, 7 December 1941, the “day that shall live in infamy,” as President Roosevelt said of it, 2403 American sailors, soldiers, marines, and civilians had been killed, and 1178 more wounded.
In Hawaii, nearly 150 planes had been destroyed on the ground, at least six battleships had been sunk or rendered non-operational.
Soon, American air assets in Manila would be destroyed.  The Japanese would roll over the Malay Peninsula and take Singapore.  Guam and other islands in the Pacific would fall.  Hong Kong would be taken. The fate of Bataan and Corregidor would be told by the Death March and hellish prison camps.  And more.  Much more.
Morison, again, about December 8, 1941:
To millions of Americans, whether at breakfast in Hawaii, or reading the Sunday paper in the West, or sitting down to dinner in the East, this news of disaster after disaster, seemed fantastic, incredible.  As the awful details poured in, hour after hour, incredulity turned to anger and an implacable determination to avenge these unprovoked and dastardly attacks.  On 8 December, Congress with but one dissenting vote declared a state of war with Japan . . . .  President Roosevelt, in his war message . . . declared, “Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty and civilization.”

Yes, on December 7th and September 11th there were sneak attacks.  Yes, each day was one of infamy. Yes, there were considerable losses of American (and other) lives.  Yes, substantial symbols of American power—the Pacific Fleet and the World Trade Center—were destroyed.  Yes, Americans fought back at Pearl Harbor and on United 93.  Yes, the news on those days was “fantastic, incredible.” 
And yes, then, as now, “Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty and civilization.”
And yes, on December 8th and September 12th there was among our people “an implacable determination to avenge these unprovoked and dastardly attacks.”
But with these comparisons, the picture changes. 
In 1941, and for nearly four years after, we saw full mobilization of our great nation’s resources: military, economic, social, spiritual, political.  Every sector of our society was engaged. 
Men and women volunteered for the armed services.
Women went into factories
Rationing was imposed. 
Religious leaders prayed, and went into combat with their flocks. 
Politicians joined hands, giving FDR what he needed to fight ruthless enemies. 
Civilians willingly endured shortages and blackouts. 
Kids (like me) collected newspapers, tin cans, used fat and grease—all for the war effort. 
The radio, newspapers, and magazines supported the war effort, and exercised disciplined self-restraint about what they published. 
Celebrities, who hadn’t enlisted, sold War Bonds and entertained the troops. 
Images kept patriotic spirits high: Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the Iwo Jima flag raising; MacArthur wading ashore in the Philippines; repatriation of emaciated POWs from Japanese prison camps; Patton, with his pearl-handle revolvers; the London blitz; the liberation of Paris.  VE-Day.  Then, VJ-Day.  Times Square overflowing with joy.
And the man-in-the-street, and his wife, and his children, and all other Americans, knew that we were fighting Germany and Japan (and Italy) because, as FDR said, they posed a grave threat to “life, liberty and civilization.”
As do the radical Islamists who on 9/11 showed us a preview of their nihilism-driven corrupt religion’s vision for mankind, and who, before and since, have maimed and murdered thousands of innocent men, women, and children throughout the world.
But after President Bush’s rousing post-9/11 speech to Congress and the American people, after flags flew everywhere for a few months, after passage of some useful but inadequate legislation, do we see within our country Morrison’s “implacable determination to avenge these unprovoked and dastardly attacks”?
Sadly, we do not.
Indeed, we see the opposite.
We see a narrow Supreme Court majority, infatuated with the romance of international law at the expense of American sovereignty, giving due process rights to terrorists, ignoring established precedent to nullify military tribunals, and treating irregular enemy combatants as if they were mere burglars to be dealt with by our domestic criminal law system.
We see international busybody organizations inspecting our detainee facility at Guantanamo, and solemnly pronouncing a verdict on our treatment of Islamic murderers who would make American citizens their next victims.
We see those murderers coddled—uninterrupted sleep, prayer time, outside recreation, nutritious food, health care—by a soft administration bent on mollifying these international busybodies and their domestic crybaby cousins.
We see America-hating organizations such as the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Center for Constitutional Rights enlisting thousands of lawyers whose task is to monkey-wrench the terrorist adjudicatory system, as if they were representing O.J. Simpson in a Los Angeles courtroom.
We see leading newspapers disclosing top secret defense information—surveillance, money tracing, secret interrogation facilities—not only with impunity, but to the cheers of America’s left and those in the world who would destroy us.
We see a mostly partisan Democrat Party—in Congress and at the National Committee—playing politics with laws essential to our national security.
We see a weakened Republican president proffering legislation for military tribunals that provides for terrorists process at once unnecessary and dangerous, only to be trumped by the likes of grandstanding Republican Senators McCain, Warner, and Graham, who, not content to provide Islamic murderers with all the due process enjoyed by domestic criminal defendants, want to provide them, as well,  with classified information about “sources and methods.”  We see this senatorial trio also determined to prohibit the time-tested “good cop/bad cop” technique of interrogation, sleep deprivation, loud music, dietary manipulations—apparently believing that our military and CIA are dealing with some Chicago street gang, not savages out to destroy us and our way of life.
We see public officials acquiescing to the demands of homegrown Muslim organizations, in an effort not to offend—blinding themselves to that religion’s core belief in jihad, martyrdom, and its ultimate triumph.
We see in America, according to a nationwide Scripps Survey Research poll, that more than one-third of our countrymen suspect the government “assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East.”  Worse, if that be possible, is that sixteen percent of those polled attribute collapse of the World Trade Center towers not to the jet planes hijacked by Islamic terrorists, but to agents of George W. Bush who somehow, clandestinely, blew up the buildings.
We see in our colleges and universities an inbred corps of fanatic intellectuals whose life’s purpose is to brainwash the young minds entrusted to their care into believing that the enlightenment, Western values, and the political philosophy that created and sustained our nation are all malevolent, and that Islam, the religion of nihilism and murder, is mankind’s true aspiration.
We, who at the Battle of the Bulge shot captured German troops wearing American uniforms and on Guadalcanal incinerated Japanese defenders with flame throwers, we who firebombed Dresden and Tokyo, we who dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, now send Senators to Washington who fight the president over “harsh” interrogation of terrorists who often have information that can save American lives.  We see the recruitment of radical Islamists in our prisons, aided and abetted by radical Islamic clergy—paid for by the American taxpayer.
We see politicians willing to turn over America’s national security, and perhaps the ultimate survival of our civilization, to unelected judges, responsible to no one, many of whom have been cloistered for so long that they lack an adequate understanding of the real world.
We see the much heralded publication of the Army Field Manual, providing Geneva Conventions protection barring “outrages against personal dignity” like “hooding,” forced nudity, and duct-taping eyes, to Islamic terrorists who behead, dismember, and disembowel captured Americans.
We see, in short, an utter, indeed a frightening, lack of understanding of the principles that animated our creation as the freest most successful nation ever to exist on this earth, principles that carried us through revolution, civil war, world wars, and a cold war.
We see that too many Americans have become ignorant and complacent, and thus broken faith with those who fought at Yorktown, died at Gettysburg, survived the trenches, landed at Normandy, froze at Chosin, and were imprisoned in Hanoi.
We see our country in thrall to pernicious ideas that have sucked from us the understanding of what we face and the will to face it. 
And time is running out. 
Unless America wakes up fast—parents, clergy, intellectuals, workers, educators, veterans, celebrities, students—one day, perhaps sooner than later, we will look up and no longer see Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”
We will see a Mosque.