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The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I had completely forgotten that it's Pearl Habor Day.  64 years ago today the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in an unprecedented attack on the native soil of the United States of America.

I'm not a World War II buff, but I certainly know how important this day was in US and world history - it was the day that America was inexorably pulled into WWII.  It was a day that sparked unparalleled patriotism and a day that began sacrifice on the part of Americans as men, goods and money went to the war effort.  It was a day that created the heroes of the near- and distant-future.  It truly was a day that will live in infamy.

Read on.

President George W. Bush spoke about Pearl Harbor today as well.  If, like me, you were unable to watch or listen to the speech, here's an excerpt:

Today we mark the anniversary of a fateful day in American history. On December the 7th, 1941, our peaceful nation awoke to an attack plotted in secret, and executed without mercy. The strike on Pearl Harbor was the start of a long war for America -- a massive struggle against those who attacked us, and those who shared their destructive ambitions. Fortunately for all of us, a great generation of Americans was more than equal to the challenge. Our nation pulled together -- and despite setbacks and battlefield defeats, we did not waver in freedom's cause. With courage and determination, we won a war on two fronts: we liberated millions, we aided the rise of democracy in Europe and Asia we watched enemies become allies, and we laid the foundation of peace for generations.

On September the 11th, 2001, our nation awoke to another sudden attack. In the space of just 102 minutes, more Americans were killed than we lost at Pearl Harbor. Like generations before us, we accepted new responsibilities, and we confronted new dangers with firm resolve. Like generations before us, we're taking the fight to those who attacked us -- and those who share their murderous vision for future attacks. Like generations before us, we've faced setbacks on the path to victory -- yet we will fight this war without wavering. And like the generations before us, we will prevail.

I can't tell you how angry it makes me to hear a man with no sense of service or responsibility invoke the spectre of heroes like my grandfather, a decorated WWII bomber pilot and bonafide hero.  I can't articulate how disgusted I am to think about my other grandfather, who rushed to serve his country in the Navy, and have the causes for which he fought compared to the shameful war in Iraq.  One grandfather is spinning in his grave in Arlington Cemetary; the other just switched off the television in abject disgust.

Yes, we were attacked on September 11th.  It was a vicious attack perpetrated on civilians.  It required retaliation on our part.  In some ways, the days following 9/11 felt like what my grandparents would describe as the national feeling immediately followig the bombing of Pearl Harbor - a feeling of horror and fear and life inevitably changed, but also a feeling of strength and unity.  United against our enemy, leaders rose up and crafted the vision and plan that would defeat our enemies and secure our freedom.  I wasn't alive during WWII - but to hear my parents and grandparents describe it, we knew who the enemy was and we understood absolutely what constituted "success".  We achieved that success definitively and without question.

Who must we defeat to achieve success in the War on Terror??  Is it Osama bin Laden?  I don't think so.  Symbolically, finding and killing bin Laden would do as much harm as good.  So when we say "War on Terror", what are we fighting?  Who and where are we fighting?  Afghanistan was a necessary step.  Denied of a base of operation, terrorist leaders at least experienced disruption in their activities in having to flee that country.

Yet it's been four years since we drove them into the fierce hills somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Four years is more than enough time to reconstitute the infrastructure necessary to conduct attacks against the United States, other western nations, and democratic interests across the world.  It's more than enough time to facilitate the planning of another catastrophic attack.

The "War on Terror", unlike WWII, has a vague and unaffiliated enemy.  In WWII, we truly "fought them over there" so we wouldn't have to fight them here... Not so with the War on Terror.  We fight, but only with a vague idea of what we hope to accomplish.  US and allied servicepeople die, clinging to the idea that they have participated in the liberation of an oppressed people - the people of Iraq - and they have.  And they should be proud.  But that's not the War on Terror.  

The War on Terror inexorably must have a US-based component - I would argue that, due to the nature of the enemy, it should be solely US-based.  Border security.  Transportation security.  Internal and external intelligence operations.  Cargo inspections.  Financial enforcement.  Information sharing.  Modern surveillance and communications equipment and techniques.  You get the idea.  All the things the 9/11 Commission says we are failing to accomplish four years after the day the President invokes as comparable to Pearl Harbor.

Four years after Pearl Harbor (roughly), the Americans and allied forces had defeated their enemy.  They had liberated a people designated to receive the most horrendous treatment and death imaginable at the hands of another human being.  Four years after Pearl Harbor, American soldiers were coming home to face the challenges of re-acclimating to civilian life.  They were picking up the pieces of their families, getting to know their children, buying homes, settling into new jobs...

What will our soldiers come home to, those who are able to come home at all at some undisclosed point in the future?  What jobs will they have?  What future will they face?  In coming back to the United States, will they truly be safer than they were when deployed in Iraq?  At least in Iraq it was commonplace to carry a gun and wear protective gear - the soldier back in the US that has failed to address the real issues and requirements of the War on Terror will be defenseless in a country that has failed to defend itself at home.  Their children will live their lives under threat.

It's said often, by way of joking, that what we did in going into Iraq to fight the "War on Terror" is tantamount to deciding to attack Sweden in response to Pearl Harbor.  I think sometimes ridiculous examples make the point with the greatest emphasis.  That is what it's like.  

And, when it happens again, American soldiers will be called back up to face the endless, relentless so-call-war-on-terror that this President seems intent on inflaming.

I can't think of a better reason to invest my spirit, fueled by the memory of the service of my grandfathers, in removing from power those who fail to properly honor my family's service to our great country.

posted by RenaRF at 9:50 PM 7 comments links to this post


Blogger DavidByron said...

There's a lot of erroneous data in your post which I'd like to list. I should also say that your views about foreign policy are not left wing but right wing -- as anyone not from the US would tell you. A left view of foreign policy would, for example, insist that a country obey international law and avoid acts of terrorism and aggression.

In fact I think the first time I commented on something you said about the US criminal occupation of Iraq -- which you support -- I was quite mean to you, which was because I was angry that you presented these warmonger / internationally criminal views as "left". They are not. So I appologise for what I said, but I have to repeat your views are not "on the left tip" or even centre-left on foreign policy and I repeat that what you are saying is immoral.

It's really just not good enough to not be as bad as Bush on this.

Ok I guess I'll get to the specifics in a second post.

7:04 PM  
Blogger DavidByron said...

Pearl Habor didn't exactly happen the way they teach you Americans. It wasn't a surprise attack by the Japanese against America. It was a scheme cooked up by the US president to get Americans to support his war of choice. Bush is entirely correct to draw the parallel with 9-11.

WW2 had been going for about two years by the time the US entered. It was a big issue in the presidential elections. Roosevelt was in favour of war but he promised to not enter the war in the campaign because it was unpopular. Once he was elected he set about entering the war by deceit.

He engineered an attack on the US territory of Hawaii (Hawaii was not a state - it had been an independent kingdom until America invaded it criminally and took over, creating a big military base there). He knew that creating an attack would rally Americans to his cause.

He came up with a list of issues to provoke the Japanese Empire. Most of these issues were what are called "acts of war" - aggresive and hostile acts which traditionally have been seen as a "casus belli" - an acceptable excuse for escalating to war. Roosevelt pressured the Japanese to attack America and simultaneously made sure that Pearl Habor was left defenceless as bait.

These days (since the UN charter outlawed war) even "acts of war" are not considered a legal excuse for war. Nothing is short of an actual attack by the other guy. However this was before the UN charter so it can be argued that it was the US who started the war against Japan in as much as they commited acts of war. Of course it was real Japanese who took the bait and initiated the war itself, just as it was real Al-Qaeda agents who attacked America.

The US president was aware of the Japanese plans and allowed Pearl Habor to be attacked, sacrificing the lives of thousands of American soldiers so as to give Americans the impression of a "day of infamy". If Americans could be deceived into thinking the Japanese started it then they would all support entering WW2 (which would automatically mean war with Germany since the Japanese were allies).

The comparison to 9-11 is pretty clear.

President Bush is known to have provoked Al-Qaeda to attack America just prior to the 9-11 attack. As with Pearl Habor the attack was allowed to go ahead when the president knew information that could have led to the attack being prevented because sacrificing a few thousand Americans was considered worth it to get the country united behind war.

As with Pearl Habor it was important to present the attack as unprovoked and unexpected whereas it was a response to specific US provokation and we know the Al-Qaeda agents were under observation prior to the attack.

And this sort of shit gets repeated endlessly in US history by the way. Hardly a war gets fought without this tactic. Sometimes instead of provoking an attack the US simply declares that it was attacked when it wasn't ("Gulf of Tonkin"). The same tactic is used again and again because it works. It worked fine on you and that's why you support endless war against countries that never attacked you -- Afghanistan and Iraq.

7:41 PM  
Blogger RenaRF said...

Ok. First thing's first. Yes, I remember your first comment and I did not respond to it because I felt you were angry enough that no response would have been sufficient. Thank you, however, for acknowledging that and I'll continue start by addressing your first comment here (I haven't gotten to the second one yet).

Let me be very clear: I have never supported the war in Iraq. I never thought it was justified, I always believed that it was being "hyped" and that the media was falling down on the job in some delirious post-9/11 love-fest with our American President. I believe now (and did then) that a case was being "built" so that we could indulge some pet issue on behalf of the administration.

Now. Let me tell you that given that we are there my feelings are very conflicted. It was morally wrong to go in there - it's morally wrong to invade anyone unless it's in demonstrable defense to an attack. Where I get into confliction is when I think about what the fact of going in there did to Iraq - it destroyed their infrastructure. It ruined their economy. While no one would say that the Saddam days were golden, at least it was a system that Iraqis understood. Pulling out would leave chaos. I can't get away or turn away from that and that would be another moral injustice to me. So do two moral wrongs suddenly equal a virtue? I don't have the answer to that.

Understand also that my feelings go back and forth on this because I don't have an answer and I don't see a way out that isn't devastating. These are just my feelings - and they are honest. I don't have these answers and can only do the best that I can do.

10:27 PM  
Blogger RenaRF said...

Ok. Now to your second comment. Although I was certainly taught the "official" version of our entry into WWII, I have (of course) seen various accounts of the more conspiratorial version you reference. I really have almost no response to that because, while it makes for fun speculation, it's just that - speculation. I appreciate you taking the time to type them out and further to visit my blog (truly I do) but I can't give you more than this as a response to your second comment.

10:33 PM  
Blogger DavidByron said...

It's not "speculation".
You need to be able to tell the difference.

In fact the investigations into Pearl Harbor began immidiately and there were many of them. The suspicion that Roosevelt provoked the attack was commonly held at the time and even stated in so many words in congress by some, although for the most part the gambit worked to rally support for the war. The US senate a few years ago voted to reinstate the full war time military rank to the two commanders at Pearl Habor (Kimmel and Short?) because they concluded that Washington had deliberately kept them in the dark about the "surprise" attack. At the time of the war the Hawaii commanders had been blamed. This post-humous reinstratement of rank was in effect the Senate's way of saying they knew the truth after 50-odd years. This happened under Clinton. I beleive it was prompted by requests from the families upon the opening of more paperwork that cleared their names of the blame for the attack.

You throw around the word "conspiracy" theory in a very irresponsible way. Nearly everything the government does in wartime is a conspiracy. Governments are often secretive.

Incidentally Bush has started to reclassify previously disclosed government documents about Pearl Habor. As you know usually secret documents get opened up after so many years but a lot of the papers surrounding Pearl Habor are still undisclosed 64 years later. Some lies are so important that they have to be maintained as part of America's perception of itself.

Wouldn't you have thought that when the Senate concluded that Roosevelt had knowledge of the "suprise" attack on Hawaii that he never forwarded to the local commanders -- wouldn't you think that would have made the news? overturning as it does a popularly held myth about a core event in American history?

It's because the US government keeps all these old documents and gives the public the right to demand them after a certain amount of time that we know about these old conspiracies. Many of the papers have been opened as a result of a torrent of FOIA requests. These records are not "speculation" as you say. You need to be able to tell the difference.

12:24 AM  
Blogger DavidByron said...

Fundamentally what is immoral about your attitude is that you assume the right to dictate to the Iraqis. You presume to have the right, or claim America has the right, to decide whether to stay occupying Iraq or not. It's the same issue as determined the morality of the invasion.

You have no such right. Occupation is a crime and you have no right to decide. The only people who can make that choice are the Iraqis themselves and they have plainly stated that America must leave.

In going on about the pros and cons of occupation, in saying it's a hard choice or saying you are conflicted about it, you fundamentally claim the right to have a choice at all -- of whether to commit war crimes or not.

At that point you are in fundamental agreement with every warmonger in history. They all claimed the right to invade, occupy, terrorise and kill. They all endorsed the idea that might makes right and that violence is a legitimate way to resolve issues. They all opposed the UN charter outlawing war under all circumstances.

The only difference perhaps is motivation. You claim to have the best interests of your victims at heart whereas perhaps when Hitler claimed to have the best interests of the Poles at heart, or when Bush claimed to have the best interests of the Iraqis in mind, we might say they were lying.

Frankly that isn't much of a difference because whether for good intentions or bad, dead is dead.

The only real question is whether you will obey the law and respect other peoples' right to live their own life, or whether you claim to have the right to play God with other peoples' lives and force your will upon them by violence.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Geoffrey Hirschfeld said...

However much I agree with you sumation that the American system needs to follow along with international law(and I am one of very few Democrats that will step out and say that not only do people like Kissinger, Bush 41 and 43, but BILL CLINTON deserves to be on the dock at the Hague right along side of them as well), I take serious issue with the Roosevelt issue. In your haste, you forget that Roosevelt was elected in the same year that Hitler was on the rise, and the Japanese were marching in Manchuria. Hitler marched into the Sudenland in '36, into Austria in '38, and then into the Sudetenland not much long after this. Churchill, the not much heralded gasbag that everybody seems to want to blow(including the boys from Galipoli), was chomping at the bit for us to get in the war. He knew that he did not have the resorces to get into a fight with Germany. The Japanese, on the other hand, knew what they were doing. Manchuria for raw materiels, Korea of slaves/whores, Phillipines for rubber, Malaysia/Indonesia for Oil, and onward and outward to expand the empire. Did we know? Judging by the actions of Roosevelt in America, I doubt it seriously. Why were the battleships in harbor that day? Why not just a few little ships, dead civilians, and a lot of smoke? People were already getting pissed at Japan in the first place for Manchuria and we angered them further with the ban on the sale of Iron ore and scrap metals, something that Japan desperately needed. Roosevelt, under the dark cloud of what may be, was a warm and caring individual in many ways. He, along with America, were prevoked into war with Japan. It helped that the tripartie pact included a "the enemy of my friend is also my enemy" clause, but Roosevelt was not in the same category as Dubya.

3:17 AM  

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