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Don’t Let Our Guard Down

December 7, 2013
By THE INTELLIGENCER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Does today's date - December 7 - mean anything to you? It should, because of what happened 72 years ago and what occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

On both dates, the United States was attacked by foreign powers. In the aftermath of both assaults, Americans vowed to eliminate the enemy to prevent future aggression.

Not many Americans living today have personal recollections of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Fewer still have memories of military service during World War II.

Within four years, Americans furious about Pearl Harbor had led the Allies to victory over Japanese militarism, German Nazism and Italian fascism. "Never again," was the vow many made.

For decades, Americans made it a point to observe the anniversary of the Dec. 7 attack, for several reasons. First, we mourned those lost in the assault and the ensuing global conflict. Second, we celebrated the courage and fortitude of those who won the war, both in the armed forces and on the home front. And third, the observance was a time when we reminded ourselves of the necessity for vigilance against our foes.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we paid the price of dropping our guard. Another foe attacked America. This time the target was innocent civilians, not a military base.

Once again, Americans were stricken with grief - and beside ourselves with anger. But our opponent in this new war is different. In World War II, destroying enemy governments ended the threat. Now, we fight a vicious, militant ideology.

We have toppled one government that served Islamic terrorists. We have killed thousands of them and taken more as prisoners. By the dozens, we have eliminated their leaders.

Yet al-Qaida and related terrorist groups are stronger than ever. New al-Qaida leaders are adapting tactics and strategies to get around our defenses.

Our collective memory seems to have grown shorter. Like Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001 is quickly becoming the stuff of history books and videos.

That is precisely why it is dangerous in the extreme for us not to bring the two dates that live in infamy to mind, not just on their anniversaries but throughout the year.

If our resolve to "connect the dots" fails us again, the consequences could be much worse than when the Japanese, then al-Qaida, attacked us. So today's date, Dec. 7, and another one, Sept. 11, should mean something to Americans - otherwise the words "never again" will be meaningless.

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