Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Harbor Remembered

For those few readers who may not be aware, today is the sixty-sixth anniversary of the Japanese attack on the United States Pacific Fleet as it lay at anchor in Pearl Harbor. The attack precipitated official American involvement in World War II, as it was followed shortly by Germany declaring war on the United States, thus finally bringing the U.S. into the fight alongside the British Empire.

The attack was meant to have been announced by the Japanese ambassador just as the attack commenced, thus avoiding the image of a sneak attack, but due to a combination of circumstances, the diplomats were not able to get the ultimatum translated and typed in time to deliver it before the Japanese planes attacked. the results of Pearl harbor were devastating for the US Pacific Fleet- all eight battleships out of action, most of the warplanes destroyed and over two thousand Americans were killed. The only bright spot for the United States was that the attack failed to catch any of the Pacific Fleet's three aircraft carriers in port- all were out on missions at the time. President Franklin Roosevelt, in his speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war, called the attack 'a day that will live in infamy', and so it should be. But it should be remarked that much of the anger came from Japan's attempt to meet the letter of the law while violating the intent.

And to the credit of the nation, where there had been a strong peace movement, the attack overnight essentially ended the protests. Despite a year of constant defeat, despite horrendous casualties and despite the loss of men, ships and armies, the American public did not give up- they persevered until at last General Douglas MacArthur was able to dictate peace terms to Japan from the deck of the battleship Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.

This brings up an interesting point. In the news today, many news organizations mark the anniversary fo Pearl harbor. Yet not a single one seems to have made the point that the Pearl harbor attack differs in several significant ways from the recent attack on Manhattan's Twin Towers. And these differences are important.

First, the attack on Pearl Harbor targeted military personnel and installations- a perfectly legitimate target by any rule of war. Pearl Harbor was not a civilian establishment- it was the main base of the United States Pacific Fleet. Second, the men at Pearl had the ability to defend themselves. True, there was incompetence and cowardice displayed throughout, but there was also much heroism, as shown by fighter pilots Taylor and Welch, who managed to take off and shoot down several Japanese planes, despite being incredibly outnumbered. there was the battleship USS Nevada, who desperately made a dash for the sea, only to be deliberately grounded to avoid blocking the channel. The point, however, is that the defenders had the machines and methods to fight back- they were not defenceless civilians.

So where is the outrage about September 11? Pearl harbor is to this day remembered as a sneak attack. Yet September 11 was even more so, perpetrated by cowards who did not have the courage to engage in open combat with the United States, but rather hid and used unarmed civilians as shields. And it ought to be noted that many of those killed in the September 11 attacks were not even Americans, but rather foreigners who happened to be working or sightseeing there. No one killed at Pearl Harbor was a civilian that I am aware of.

My point is simple. The Japanese are rightfully condemned for their duplicitous methodology. However, why cannot our press and our politicians bring themselves to be as righteously outraged about a much more cowardly and duplicitous attack, carried out for equally ignoble motives (Islamists want world domination and see us as the primary obstacle)? To me, the perpetrators of September 11 are far more despicable than the Japanese government and military of 1941. I wish that more of our so-called intelligentsia shared that opinion. But I fear they are too blinded by their hatred of all things related to our President to even admit that he got something right.

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