Sixty-four years ago, the US Navy's primary base in the Pacific, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, was bombed by a large sneak attack. Many many service members died that day, and many more in the war that we joined the next day.
It was a different era. The Japanese had all but destroyed our ability to defend the Pacific coast. In Europe, Germany had everyone on the run, with only a very battered Britain standing its ground.
The Japanese were notorious for ill-treatment of prisoners. The Germans put on a show of doing the same, while running death camps that processed and killed over 12 million people.
And even then, even then, with the world full of so much darkness, death and destruction, the United States did not abandon its dignity, its humanity, its self-respect. The United States did not embrace torture. Our government's record was not without blemish, what with the Japanese internment camps locking up US citizens behind barbed wire right here in their own country.
But we were not monsters. And we did not justify monstrous behavior just because there were bad people in the world -- even bad people with a lot of power to hurt us.
When we won the war, and occupied what had been enemy territory, we were greeted as liberators. Insurgencies? None worth mentioning. We were the benevolent power back then.
Today, with a threat much more unpredictable, perhaps, but let's face it, much less threatening than how things looked in World War 2, our government leaders try to justify torture and secret interrogation camps, saying that times have changed, and we can't be bothered by silly, quaint things like morality or dignity or self-respect. They want us to respond with fear and fear alone.
And stubbornly, pig-headedly, "decisively" they continue to play right into al-Qaeda's hands, by driving the most powerful nation in the history of the world to depraved, inhumane behavior. And no longer are we liberators, we are oppressors, invaders, torturers. And it will be a long, long time before anyone can heal the mistrust of America that has been sown into the world.
Pearl Harbor led us into our shining hour in history. How times have changed. How our leaders have changed.
December 7, 1941. Remember.