WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This week, Americans commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which killed 2,403 Americans. It was the worst attack on American territory until the terrorist strike on Sept. 11, 2001.
Both surprise attacks signaled the beginning of a bitterly fought war for survival against a brutal, fanatical foe. And both the Pacific War and the present Global War on Terror pitted the United States, virtually alone, against adversaries on a "holy mission" to drive Westerners from "their" territory. The parallels don't stop there.
To the extent that today's schoolchildren are taught anything about the origins of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the unprovoked assault is explained away as the consequence of "Japanese expansionism," or worse yet, the result of America denying Japan "essential raw materials and oil."
Such historical contortions from the Blame America First crowd ignore the ideological conviction of Tokyo's leadership, from Emperor Hirohito on down, that the Japanese had a "divine duty" to cleanse Asia of Westerners and "inferior Western influences and institutions."
In short, the Imperial Army, Navy and Air Force became the instruments of a race war, waged with religious zeal. Today's radical Jihadists have precisely the same goal -- evicting the infidels, meaning "Westerners" -- and all their institutional influence from "Islamic lands."
The Japanese military never contemplated "invading" the continental United States. Nor do the extremist Imams, Sheikhs and Mullahs inciting today's jihad envision seizing U.S. territory. But then and now, our adversaries were -- and are -- willing to employ any tactic, violate any rule of "civilized war" and commit any atrocity to accomplish the "holy goal" of driving "Westerners" from "their region" of the world.
Thus the horrific images found in Fallujah's slaughterhouses -- even the broadcast TV facility uncovered this week -- have an eerie precedent in the films and photographs of Japanese soldiers proudly holding the severed heads of brutally murdered American, British, Dutch and Australian prisoners of war. Then, as now, those images were shown widely to the "home audience" as proof of oriental superiority over Western interlopers.
But in this kind of "holy struggle," being a "local" won't guarantee safety. During the Pacific War, Japanese troops were merciless with indigenous populations that failed to appreciate their "liberation." Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese, Indonesians, Indo-Chinese and Pacific Islanders who were believed to have cooperated with the hated Westerners were raped, tortured and violently murdered.
Today, Iraqis, Afghanis and other Muslims who help coalition forces, or even benign Western aid organizations, face the same horrors. Thus, Iraqi government workers, policemen and supporters of democratic elections -- institutions peculiar to Western civil order -- are as vulnerable to Jihadist's retribution as Christian missionaries were on New Guinea in 1942.
There is yet another parallel between the Global War on Terror and the Pacific War: martyrdom. Though most histories record the sinking of the USS St. Lo on Oct. 25, 1944 as the first organized Kamikaze attack of the war, there had in fact been hundreds of prior "killer-suicides." Japanese Banzai charges on Guadalcanal -- starting in August 1942 -- were ground-based versions of the same tactic: convincing a young fighter that he will be granted eternal rewards and promising his family material benefits for dying the right way while killing a "Westerner." Substitute "Christian," or "Jew," or "infidel" for the word "Westerner," and the description fits today's "Islamic martyr" in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan ? or on Sept. 11, 2001.
During the Pacific War, an estimated 40,000 Japanese soldiers died in suicidal Banzai charges, and another 2,100 perished in Kamikaze aircraft. On Saipan, more than 800 Japanese women and children committed suicide rather than surrender to American troops. And hundreds of incidents were recorded throughout the Pacific where wounded Japanese soldiers pleaded for help -- only to blow themselves up with hand grenades or explosives in an effort to kill the American medic, corpsman, soldier or Marine who tried to treat their wounded adversary. To the practitioners of Japanese Bushido, compassion was a weakness. So it is with today's "Islamic martyrs."
In August 1945, President Harry Truman stopped the bloodletting and forced the Japanese to surrender unconditionally by dropping the only two nuclear bombs ever used in war. Since the use of such weapons is out of the question in the Global War on Terror, how do we convince the perpetrators of today's jihad to stop killing? Those who think that withdrawing from Iraq will solve our problem aren't paying attention to what's happened in Fallujah.
The opponents of democracy in Iraq aren't just remnants of Saddam's regime. Among those captured and killed in Fallujah and Ramadi are Jihadists -- not insurgents -- from at least 12 different countries including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco and Algeria. They came to Iraq to stop the January election. They -- and those who enticed them to the "Jihad" -- know that women's suffrage, private property rights and respect for other religions, all part of the Iraqi election, will have the equivalent effect of a nuclear bomb.
And while it's not obvious from all the hand-wringing in the so-called mainstream media, we are faring far better in this campaign than we did during World War II. It wasn't until the Battle of Midway in June 1942 that the "turning point" was reached in that war. By then, tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Guardsmen were dead, prisoners of war or missing in action. Reinforcements were sent. Intelligence was improved. And the tide of war shifted in our favor.
That's what's happening today. The smartest and best educated, trained and equipped military force in history has suffered fewer than 2,000 killed in action and one missing in action in three years of fighting the Global War on Terror. Thanks to their heroism, perseverance and selfless sacrifice, Afghanistan has its first democratically elected government. In Iraq, the terrorists are on the run.
Reinforcements are on the way. And if we are steadfast, years from now, historians will look back and note that the turning point in the Global War on Terror began with the Battle of Fallujah and ended with the Iraqi elections on Jan. 30, 2005.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.