War against Terrorism
Iraq: Weighing the Losses
Joseph B. Sheppard
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Thousands of Americans were dead. The sneak attack shocked an unprepared nation and quickly unified a country of diverse peoples in their indignation and resolve to do justice for the unprovoked attack. It was December 7, 1941, the day that would "live in infamy." Japan had attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and 2,400 servicemen and civilians lay dead.
Above, the USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Below, a small boat rescues a seaman from the burning USS West Virginia.
Already, a madman in Germany had determined to seize Europe for his "master race." In his warped mind, Hitler felt it was his destiny to subjugate the "inferior" races and expand his Third Reich. He now had Europe except for one country, Great Britain, which was soon to prove its mettle during its "finest hour."
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were respected voices that opposed a US entry into war in Europe. One, a true American hero, had said:
"I have been forced to the conclusion that we cannot win this war for England, regardless of how much assistance we extend. I ask you to look at the map of Europe and see if you can suggest any way in which we could win this war if we entered it. Suppose we had a large army in America, trained and equipped. Where would we send it to fight? The campaigns of the war show only too clearly how difficult it is to force a landing, or to maintain an army, on a hostile coast.
"Suppose we took our Navy from the Pacific, and used it to convoy British shipping. That would not win the war for England. It would, at best, permit her to exist under the constant bombing of the German air fleet. Suppose we had an air force that we could send to Europe. Where would it operate? Some of our squadrons might be based in the British Isles; but it is physically impossible to base enough aircraft in the British Isles alone to equal in strength the aircraft that can be based on the Continent of Europe..."(1)
1. The words of Charles Lindbergh given in a speech to the America First Committee in New York on April 30, 1941. Louis L.Snyder, The War - A Concise History (1939-1945), New York: Julian Messner, Inc., 1960, p. 182.
Charles Lindbergh was referring only to the war in Europe when he said the above words. Seven months after his opinions were voiced, there no longer existed a Pacific naval fleet to escort British ships. Even if the fleet had existed, they would not have been able to stop the German u-boats. Yet by September 2, 1945, after a world war not envisioned by Lindbergh, both Germany, Japan and their allies had surrendered. The United States suffered over 406,000 military and 11,700 civilian casualties. The US losses accounted for about 2% of the total Allied force losses.
Today we face a different sort of world war. There is not one madman to be defeated, but thousands. There are no enemy soldiers in uniform to be challenged on the battlefield. The targets the enemy chooses are not primarily military, but civilian.
This war began with the surprise slaughter of almost 3,000 unsuspecting civilians on the mainland of the US, not a military base on a territory in the Pacific Ocean. The weapons used against us were our own commercial aircraft, not the weapons of a foreign military power. The enemy believes the world should be a Mohammedan theocratic state and does not allow for any compromise on the way to this goal. These enemies are willing to commit suicide in the attempt to kill others. Those killed are not only other combatants, as in the case of the kamikaze pilots of WWII, but most often innocent civilians.
This enemy does not stop terrorizing a country just because a country refuses to fight against it. Spain, intimidated by acts of terrorism, left the field of battle, but still is under attack. Germany and France will likewise find themselves continually terrorized.
More than 42,500 persons died in car accidents last year. Should Americans stop driving to prevent these deaths?
As in WWII, there are voices that say that this war cannot be won, although the voices could hardly be called those of American heroes. These voices cite the over 2,000 US soldiers that have died in the war in Iraq as a reason for ending the fight against our terrorist enemies there.
As of this writing, 2,360 US military deaths have occurred in Iraq. This is too high a price to pay, they say, for giving the people of Iraq a chance of making their own choices for a future government and providing greater security for our own country in the process.
Ironically, many of these same voices have no problem with the estimated 3,700 abortions that occur each day in this country. Perhaps priorities might be put in perspective if they would take into acount that 42,636 people died last year in auto accidents, pursuing the freedom of the open road. Maybe we should all stop driving. Surely such a freedom is not worth so many deaths...
Posted December 7, 2005
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