Sunday, September 10, 2006

Another Date That Shall Live In Infamy...

Almost 65 years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippines, and Wake and Midway Islands. FDR said, “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

In the Pearl Harbor attack alone, the Navy and Marine Corps suffered a total of 2,117 deaths; the Army lost 228. In addition, at least 57 civilians were killed. Admiral Bill Halsey, speaking on the day of the attack, said, “When this war is over, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”

As horrific as the Pearl Harbor attack was, it was carried out against military targets – the U.S. Naval Base and Hickam Field.

The attacks of September 11, on the other hand, specifically targeted civilians (including – perhaps not inadvertently – a large number of Muslims who worked in the WTC in a variety of capacities). This is, of course, a basic tenet of terrorist operations – target those least able to defend themselves, those whose death by “random” violence will generate terror in the hearts and minds of others (witness various attacks by the Red Army Faction, Sendaro Luminoso, Baader-Meinhof, Black September and the myriad other Islamic terror groups).

The (estimated) 2996 fatalities included 343 New York fire fighters, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers, most of whom died while trying to rescue trapped victims (I am assuming that at least a few Port Authority officers were killed in the crash and initial explosions, although I am not 100% positive of that). Of the rest of the victims, hundreds died as the planes plowed into the towers. Others burned or suffocated in the choking toxic smoke, while dozens jumped to their deaths. Most, however, were killed during the dramatic collapse of the Twin Towers.

A gravely-injured New York City swept aside decades of racial, political, sexual, and religious rivalries (and, regrettably, some hatreds) and pulled together, working with one goal: to recover. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani already had his hands full running one of the most troubled, unruly cities on Earth; suddenly, he had to deal simultaneously with the worst terrorist attack in history. Giuliani, who was also dealing with personal problems that affected his official performance, led the city in the aftermath of the attack better than perhaps any other man could have. As a result, he was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2001.

As news of the attacks spread, there were spontaneous outpourings of grief and sympathy around the world, both from traditional friends like Britain and France, as well as some more unexpected places like Russia, North Korea, Iran and Iraq. [I had links to several websites that gathered photos of these memorials, but I can’t locate them at present.] The attacks united the world in horror and revulsion against the terrorists.

Speaking to rescuers at “Ground Zero” on September 14, George W. Bush said, “I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

We soon learned that “the people who knocked these buildings down” were members of a radical/fundamentalist Islamic group known as Al-Qaeda, a group also tangentially implicated in the 1993 bombing at the WTC. Bin Laden and his followers (as do most of the terrorists these days) practice a perverted form of Islam, and visualize a world-wide “caliphate” of fundamentalist Islamic supremacy.

Bush subsequently announced his determination to hunt down Al-Qaeda, and capture or kill its leaders, operatives, and supporters. His announcement was greeted with almost universal acclamation. It was as if every government, every nation, every person on Earth, had said, “They attacked you without provocation. They attacked innocent civilians. Go ahead, hunt them down and kill them. F**k them.”

Had Bush maintained that focus, he would probably still be enjoying the same astronomical approval ratings he had in late September of 2001. Had he turned lose the full might and power of the United States to track down those Al-Qaeda monsters, they would be dead and rotting by now. Had he had the balls (and I’m not sure any president would have) to release some of the “specialized” units from the CIA (the semi-civilized contract killers, torturers, and assorted other mayhem-makers), the terrorists and their sympathizers would have gotten a taste – just a taste – of what exquisite forms of torment might await them if they tried to pull this shit again.

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