Monday, December 07, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day 2009

68 years ago today an American naval base in Hawaii was massively attacked by over 400 Japanese carrier-based airplanes. The result was the damage or destruction of 21 American naval vessels including several of our main line battleships and the outright sinking of two. Indeed the life lost on just the USS Arizona amounted to nearly half of the total of 2403 lives lost that day.

It was labeled a “sneak attack” in that Japan had not declared war before the first bomb fell, and American intelligence was left completely flatfooted.

Americans rose with righteous indignation and entered World War Two later that week.

Now unfortunately, all of the signs of Japanese desperation were evident before their attack was ever mounted. The Hilo Tribune-Herald, as it was called at the time, ran a front page article on November 30th that the Japanese “May Strike Over the Weekend.” The article, however, focused on Singapore – closer to Japan and a British colony at the time. Singapore was attacked as a part of their initial aggression in December 1941.

But that notwithstanding, an attack on American naval facilities by air was predicted by General Billy Mitchell in 1925. That same year a British reporter, Hector Bywater by name, published a fanciful novel called The Great Pacific War: A History of the American-Japanese Campaign of 1931-1933 in which he predicted a Japanese attack by carrier-based airplanes, but not in Hawaii. Bywater predicted an attack on Subic Bay, in Manila.

Something they ended up doing as well.

Trouble is, with information like this, you need almost 20-20 hindsight to be able to divine where and when the Japanese would eventually attack.

Why dwell on this, 68 years later? Most people alive now weren’t alive 68 years ago.

Well obviously, it’s because after all this time we haven’t learned much. I still cannot believe that the warnings in the NIE that was issued to Bush a month prior to the 9/11 attacks, attacks that resulted in the loss of human life in numbers greater than on December 7th 1941 were not acted upon.

You know, the intelligence report that said this:

“Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”

See? It was all there for anyone to see. All except for one thing. Yes, airplanes had been hijacked, but in the past, this was a vehicle of extortion. Yes, the World Trade Center was previously bombed and it was known that Osama bin Laden wanted to “follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and ‘bring the fighting to America.’” Trouble is, who could have predicted from that information that the planes would be hijacked and used as gigantic bombs to level important buildings?

Who could come up with a fantastic scenario like that?

Tom Clancy did.

And by an odd happenstance, the fictional perpetrator was Japanese.

No comments: