Our country recently observed the eighth anniversary of Sept. 11. With unusual clarity, I recall that day in 2001, and where I was one year later: directly across the street from Ground Zero, watching as the last piece of debris was removed from the “pit.”As I think about Sept. 11, 2001, I also reflect on Dec. 7, 1941, “A day which will live in infamy.” On both days our country was attacked by an enemy intent on inflicting great harm. On both days thousands of Americans lost their lives; almost 3,000 on Sept. 11, and over 3,600 killed or wounded on Dec. 7.
After Sept. 11 our country became embroiled in two wars: Iraq and Afghanistan. From the iCasulaties Web site today 4,343 Americans have died in Iraq and 824 have died in Afghanistan.
After Dec. 7 our country plunged into the depths of World War II. Over 290,000 Americans killed, over 670,000 wounded. Some estimates put the global death toll at 50 million.
We should all be appalled at the horrific loss of life. Yet we seem to think that because of the mounting losses, or other perceived failures, we should not be involved in Iraq or Afghanistan. Should we not have been involved in WWII as well?
The principles for these conflicts appear to be the same: when we’re attacked, we strike back at our enemies. When that enemy perpetrates atrocities against humanity, even in countries far from our shores, we intercede on behalf of those who are unable resist their oppressors. We understand “That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…”
In a news article from Sept. 8, NATO forces reported on a German air strike in northern Kunduz province, in Afghanistan. Estimates indicate 82 people were killed, including 37 civilians. And the world is shocked. We react as if the Germans should be more careful; we should be able to fight a war without any civilian casualties, like we do in video games.
During early 1945, thousands of Japanese civilians were killed during the fire bombings of Tokyo. In a single night, March 10, B-29’s dropped incendiary bombs on Tokyo with the full knowledge that the resulting fire would do far more damage than explosive munitions. Almost 16 square miles burned that night. And 267,000 buildings and homes were destroyed. Estimates indicate that 97,000 were killed, 125,000 were injured and as many as 1 million were homeless.
So the wars started off similarly – we were attacked by an enemy, American lives were lost. People in far off places were threatened by oppressors; Nazi’s in Europe and Japan in the Pacific, or Islamic extremists based in Iraq and Afghanistan. And whether it was for those people or for our own interests, we deepened our involvement to stop the oppression over the citizens of the nations involved.
And yet today, we view the wars very differently. During WWII, our nation was focused to achieve victory over Germany and Japan. The country sacrificed significantly to fight two concurrent wars, one in Europe and one in the Pacific. Our country paid dearly for the victories that we achieved.
Yet we see very little focus for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s very little sacrifice required of the country at home. We have the attitude that “others” are taking care of the war. “Those people” in the military can take care of it. In our nation’s Capitol, there’s bickering and finger-pointing. There are politicians who are putting the lives of our military and intelligence officers at risk for some political gain.
Where are the will and the resolve for victory that we showed during WWII.
I was returning to Phoenix recently and the flight attendant announced that one of our passengers was en route to deploy to Iraq – for the third time. He’s a doctor named Steve and he’s returning to treat casualties. These are the heroes who are “Taking care of it.” They’re us. Just like in WWII.
I think they understand what we’re fighting for. And if we forget, just think what the world would look like if Nazi Germany had won the war in Europe and if Imperial Japan had won the war in the Pacific. What will the world look like if Islamic extremists win the war on terror?
Bill Richardson and his wife, Annelle, have lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for more than 14 years and together, they own a small management and technology consulting company. They have four children.