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Jewish World Review Dec. 7, 2001 /22 Kislev 5762

Don Feder

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Pearl showed there's no safe Harbor -- IN light of Sept. 11, Friday's 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is particularly poignant. As in 1941, once again, we were jarred out of peaceful slumber by explosions and the cries of victims.

As Japanese planes flew away from Pearl, 2,388 of our countrymen lay dead or dying. The World Trade Center death toll hovers around 3,900.

Thousands of Americans are still buried beneath debris of what were the tallest buildings in Manhattan. The USS Arizona is the submerged graveyard for more than 1,000 men.

Both days saw stirring examples of the best of our national character. Although it may never achieve the fame of "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition," Todd Beamer's "Let's roll," shouted as he and other passengers charged hijackers on Flight 93, reflects the determination of another generation of Americans.

Of the 15 Medals of Honor awarded at Pearl Harbor, eight were posthumous. At the Kaneohe Naval Air Station, Ordnanceman John Finn set up a machine gun and fired at incoming Zeroes. "Although painfully wounded, he continued to man his gun and return the enemy's fire vigorously ... and with complete disregard for his personal safety," Finn's Medal of Honor citation read.

On Sept. 11, the police and firefighters who perished while rescuing victims also acted with complete disregard for their safety.

Father Mychal Judge, a 68-year-old fire department chaplain, died while giving the last rites to a fallen comrade. Eugene Raggio, the N.Y. Port Authority's night manager at the World Trade Center, fell as he helped to evacuate the building.

In Hawaii and New York, America paid a terrible price for innocence. In 1940, there were fewer than 400,000 men in our armed services. Our military was rated below Bulgaria's.

In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton (who conned his way out of the Vietnam War) presided over the decimation of our armed forces. Active duty personnel fell from 2.2 million to 1.4 million. The fleet went from 567 ships to just over 300.

Leading up to both disasters, repeated warnings went unheeded. We knew from their earlier war with Russia that the Japanese struck without warning. On a Sunday morning in 1932, two U.S. aircraft carriers staged a simulated attack on Pearl, to demonstrate the fleet's vulnerability.

In January 1941, both Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew warned that hostilities with Nippon might commence with a "surprise attack" on Pearl.

From the declarations of the Ayatollah Khomeini ("We will export our revolution to the whole world until the cry of 'Allah Akbar' resounds over the entire earth"), to the slaughter of 241 Marines in Beirut, to the 1993 World Trade Center attack, to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, we should have known how this enemy wages war.

The crucial lesson of history we never seem to learn is the folly of letting the enemy think you're weak and irresolute. After World War II, Thomas H. Moorer (who later rose to the rank of admiral) was part of a team that interviewed senior Japanese officers on their pre-Pearl Harbor thinking.

Moorer says they all had the same message: "Our perception of you was that you would not fight. We observed that the United States Congress only passed the draft law by a single vote; the Congress refused to fortify Wake and Guam islands. ... And the U.S. Army was training in Louisiana with wooden guns."

What signals did we send to the International Jihad with our rush to unilaterally disarm after the Gulf War, Clinton's neglect of our intelligence services, making political correctness the military's primary mission ("don't ask, don't tell," and women in combat) and our weak response to other terrorist incidents?

In 1941, America confronted two superpowers bent on world conquest. Today, we are the last remaining superpower. Still, the threat is more diffused but no less deadly.

After Sept. 11, the United States struck back in a matter of weeks. But, like FDR and Churchill, do our leaders have the will to settle for nothing less than total victory in this world war? Only then can the dead of September and December truly rest in peace.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate