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Thursday, December 07, 2006December 7
Today is December 7... and it is the 65th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. On that day 2,403 Americans lost their lives in a sneak attack on the naval installation by the Japanese. 68 of those lives were civillians, also commonly referred to as non-combatants. This was only the second time in history, the first being the War of 1812, that the United States was attacked on its home soil... and another attack wouldn't happen again until 60 years later.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt cited it as, "...a day which will live in infamy..." to Congress in a statement that saw only one dissenting vote to declare war on Japan and the Axis Powers of Germany and Italy. That statement, and that decision, is what has shaped more of the world today than any other event.
The most memorable ship to be sunk on that day was the USS Arizona. There were 1,177 lives lost when she was sunk, almost half of the casualties from the entire attack. Today she remains below the waters of the harbor with a memorial placed above her and as a marker of the 1,102 crewman who rest with her. The USS Missouri, upon whose deck the Japanese surrendered to Douglas MacArthur, maintains a constant vigil docked nearby. A very fitting guardian if ever there was one.
I had often wondered exactly why Japan would attack the United States. I finally got my answer in a college history class where this quote from the Japanese Cabinet after a meeting in the fall of 1941 was read by my professor:
Our Empire, for the purpose of self-defence and self-preservation, will complete preparations for war ... [and is] ... resolved to go to war with the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands if necessary. Our Empire will concurrently take all possible diplomatic measures vis-a-vis the United States and Great Britain, and thereby endeavor to obtain our objectives ... In the event that there is no prospect of our demands being met by the first ten days of October through the diplomatic negotiations mentioned above, we will immediately decide to commence hostilities against the United States, Britain and the Netherlands.That of course had not been made public knowledge until after the war. There is much more behind the whole thing including the Panama Canal, oil embargoes, and so on. The first line about self-defence and self-preservation is what sums it up to me. That line is also the reason I have zero problem with the Japanese internment camps of that era... or why I really have zero issue with Guantanemo Bay today. It is after all the same thing we are doing... or is it?