Then and now

Posted: Nov 26, 2004 12:00 AM

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the host of "War Stories" on the FOX News Channel, I have the best job in television -- all I do is hang out with American heroes.
Whether it's in Iraq, Afghanistan or a military base here in the United States, or interviewing the warriors of wars past, it really is a magnificent privilege. Best of all, it gives me the opportunity to let them -- the eyewitnesses to history, the participants in some of mankind's momentous events -- tell their own story. And at this time of year, when we give thanks for our many blessings, it is especially meaningful.

 Of all the many things for which we should thank God in this holiday season, the men and women who serve in uniform on the frontiers of freedom ought to be at the top of our lists. It was, after all, a military man -- George Washington -- who first officially proclaimed in 1789 that we ought to be grateful for those who serve, as he put it, to protect the "peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness."

 As we celebrate our freedom and enjoy the fellowship of family and friends throughout the holiday weekend, we need to remember the young men and women in uniform at home and those serving overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, Korea, Japan and many other parts of the world defending this country.

 What was true decades ago is true today. These young defenders of freedom, like their counterparts before them, will spend yet another holiday away from their families defending American values.

 The media have questioned the ability and determination of these young warriors, suggesting they could never measure up to those in the "Greatest Generation" who fought and won World War II. But the media are wrong. I've spent many months with them, on eight different trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are every bit as capable of defending this country and winning this war.

 The media also get it wrong when they describe the Global War on Terror as a unique experience in the defense of America -- a war unlike any other we've ever fought. Perhaps those reporting today don't know their history because we've been through this before. In fact, the parallels between World War II in the Pacific and the War on Terror are uncanny.

 Consider that both World War II and the Global War on Terror began with a surprise air attack. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was possible only because our immigration controls, intelligence services and FBI let us down. The same was true leading up to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Strangely enough, the American death toll is almost the same: 2,403 at Pearl Harbor and 2,966 on Sept. 11.

 The Pearl Harbor attack occurs after years of "warnings" that went ignored. The Japanese had made it clear that they were going to evict Europeans and Americans from the Pacific. They had been at war in China since their 1930 seizure of Manchuria and the 1937 invasion of China -- but they still caught us flatfooted.

 The same kinds of events happened in 2001. Osama bin Laden had attacked the United States at the World Trade Center in 1993, in Doha, in Tanzania, in Nairobi and on the USS Cole. But we were still caught by surprise on Sept. 11.

 In the Pacific, our adversaries were fanatical Japanese soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians who believed that they had a divine mission to drive us out of the Pacific. They weren't just willing to die for their cause, they wanted to die -- killing a Westerner. And it wasn't just the military. On Saipan, more than 800 Japanese civilians committed suicide rather than be captured.

 The Banzai charges starting at Guadalcanal and the Kamikaze attacks that begin at Leyte were beyond the comprehension of most Americans. The Japanese routinely booby-trapped the bodies of their dead, ambushed Americans under false flags of surrender and filmed themselves committing terrible atrocities -- including beheadings. Many even wore headscarves with symbolic messages.

 Today, the Jihadists believe they have a divine mission -- to drive the "infidels" out of "Islamic lands." The suicide terrorist is eulogized as a martyr; they routinely videotape and photograph the most heinous murders of their hostages and proudly display the images; if you look carefully at these horrific videos and photos, you will see many of them wearing headscarves emblazoned with verses from the Koran.

 Today's enemy is every bit as brutal as the enemy we faced in the Pacific during World War II, and they are every bit as determined to destroy America. The one difference between the Pacific engagement in World War II and today's War on Terror -- though the media ignore it -- is that we are making more progress in less time than during the start of World War II.

 January's elections in Iraq will make that nation more secure and will be a major step toward stability in the region. That is something for which all Americans can be thankful.