NOTE–This is a reprint. I wrote it more than two years ago while working on Ford’s Island at Pearl Harbor. Ford’s Island is akin to Gettysburg. You can literally feel the ghosts of history. It touches your very soul.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 let me suggest we need to calm down and stop acting like this was the worst blow the United States ever suffered. (If you lost a loved one on that day, you are excused. That’s a scar that doesn’t go away.) Yes, the events of 9-11 were a tragedy. But we have lost complete perspective on those events. I guess we continue to pick at this like an infected scab because it happened to us and many watched it live on TV. It was the ultimate in reality TV.
So let me try to give this some perspective. Let’s go back to World War II. When German bombers started hitting London in September 1940, British civilians were killed as indiscriminately and unexpectedly as anything Americans experienced on 9-11. The German bombing lasted 8 months. During this period more than 40,000 Brits were killed. That’s about 15 times the casualties we suffered on 9-11. Brits sucked it up and moved on. Us? Many are still weepy and weak knee’ed.
How about the original ground zero–Pear Harbor?
I am currently on Ford Island working a military exercise. Ford Island sits smack dab in the middle of Pearl Harbor. On the morning of December 7, 1941, US battleships were berthed along the shore of the small island. The surprise Japanese attack decimated the fleet of US battleships. The USS Arizona blew up and sank with almost its entire crew still on board. You can visit the memorial, which floats above the Arizona. If you are on Ford Island you can simply walk to the shore and actually view the wreckage, which is about 25 yards off shore.
The USS Okalahoma also suffered a fatal blow. The remainder of the US ships, while badly damaged, were subsequently repaired and sailed again. Total deaths that day? 2402. While less than the total loss in the four attacks/hijackings on 9-11, the military damage was potentially more devastating. Yet, somehow, we recovered and defeated the Japanese in less than four years.
My fundamental problem is that we have not learned a damn thing in the last ten years. Yes, there is a threat of terrorism. But all of the terrorists combined today do not pose the kind of threat that confronted our country by the Germans and Japanese empires 70 years ago.
But you wouldn’t know that from listening to the media. Terrorism, fear of terrorism and combating terrorism remains big business. The US Government has expanded dramatically the number of employees and bureaucracies devoted to fighting terrorism. Few are willing to blow the bullshit whistle on this boondoggle. Ten years after 9-11 we have the National Counter Terrorism Center. It is a useless bureaucratic appendage filled with earnest civil servants whose sole task is to continue to feed the fear factor that grips our country whenever the cable news decide to hype the latest questionable report of terrorists plotting mayhem.
Then there is the civil liberties problem. Many Americans are content to let the Government declare the unilateral right to designate a person as a terrorist, without any due process, and then hold that person in jail for as long as the government likes. Once the state delcares you an enemy of the state you are an enemy by definition and have no right to anything. We fought a cold war against the Soviets for almost 70 years to counter that very ideology. Now? We have embraced it.
Torture? Sure, why not. Let’s ignore the standards we applied to Germans and Japanese soldiers and politicians in the aftermath of WWII. That conflict killed more than 50 million people. Now we are confronted with terrorism, a threat that has resulted in the deaths of less than 100,000 people since we started keeping track of terrorist attacks in 1968.
Do you get it? When it comes to actual loss of life and actual property damange we are taking the least of the threats and transforming it into the equivalent of a global nuclear holocaust.
So count me out for the 10th year maudlin faux memorialization that will grip much of our country tomorrow. I personally think it is bullshit. As long as we use the events of 9-11 to justify continued violations of civil rights and the manipulation of fear in order to cow Americans I don’t care to participate.
UPDATE–Here are some photos I snapped today on Ford Island. Ford Island sits in the middle of Pearl Harbor. Pearl is located on the southern part of Oahu, about ten miles west of Honolulu.
Here is a picture of the battleship USS Missouri, which is berthed on the east side of Ford Island. This shot was taken from the mid-point of Ford Island looking north:
The USS Missouri, which was the site for the signing of Japan’s surrender in September 1945, is now berthed in Pearl Harbor and can be toured. It is a magnificent experience and is a must see if you visit Hawaii:
One hundred yards north of the USS Missouri is the memorial and final resting place for the USS Arizona. I took this shot from the shore. The Arizona sits about 30 yards off of the northern tip of Ford Island.
Here is an overhead view of the USS Arizona and the Memorial chapel that sits above the wreck:
Ford Island is a special place. It is akin to Gettysburg as a sacred site of American history. As we remember the events of 9-11 let us also remember those Americans who died on the shores of Ford Island and in the waters of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.