Wednesday, June 06, 2007

D-Day Remembered

Today marks the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, a day when over 2500 allied soldiers were killed and another 8000 were wounded in the heroic effort to liberate France from Nazi occupation. Defense Secretary Gates marked the day with a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery where 9837 American soldiers are buried, most of whom died either on D-Day or in the days immediately following the start of the invasion. (USA Today: Pentagon Chief Honors D-Day Troops.)

Rarely do I use the word "heroic", and rarely do I assign the hero label to any group of individuals. For the soldiers that executed the invasion on the Normandy beaches, however, words like "hero" and "heroic" hardly seem sufficient. Imagine just for a moment being in that first wave of amphibious landing craft heading for the beaches. Imagine for a moment knowing that the full might of the Nazi defense lines would be focused entirely on you. Imagine hitting that beach knowing your chances of surviving the next few moments were next to nothing. Yet these soldiers did precisely that, not because they were ordered to, not because it was their job, but because they knew that their sacrifice was essential if France was to be liberated from Nazi oppression. Indeed, the men and women alive in 1944 are not known as "The Greatest Generation" for nothing.

Why, though, with our troops currently engaged in a seemingly endless conflict in Iraq do I choose to focus on events 63-years past? Because the efforts of those servicemen in 1944, the sacrifices their families endured, and indeed the hardships and sacrifices we as a nation endured then are more relevant today than ever. In 1944 on the beaches of Normandy, our troops were fighting on foreign soil against unbridled evil. They were fighting an enemy that was systematically attempting to eradicate entire races in their quest for world dominance. They were fighting an enemy that was focused on the subjugation of all of Europe, and despite popular belief, also had its hateful eye on the United States.

Today we face a similar enemy with similar goals. We face an enemy that seeks the eradication of not only an entire race, but also of entire religions. We face an enemy that would reshape the world into their image, and not only has its sites set on the United States but has actually attacked us here and seeks to do so again. The difference today, though, is that the enemy does not have a single head of state. Rather, the enemy is scattered, with each pocket of soldiers more fanatical than the last. The enemy does not wear a uniform and does not wage war along a standard front using traditional weaponry. Indeed, the enemy we face in 2007 is far more dangerous than the one we faced on the beaches of Normandy in 1944.

What's worse, though, is that today, unlike 1944, we as a nation do not think or act like a nation at war with a deadly enemy. We complain about Iraq being a quagmire, and we lament over the soldiers and civilians killed in homicide bombings in Baghdad, but we lose sight of the larger picture. 19 civilians were killed by a Fedayeen car bomb yesterday in Fallujah, and that garners a lot of press and results in even more "we shouldn't be there" rhetoric. But how many of you reading this know about the 15-year old boy murdered by Islamic radicals today in Thailand? How about the courthouse bombing in Algeria today that killed one person and injured 8 others? You haven't heard of those? Well surely you know about the Afghan doctor that was beheaded yesterday by Sunni extremists, or the female head of a girls school in Afghanistan that was killed yesterday by Islamic fundamentalists? No? Well, that is at the heart of the problem.

Make no mistake about it, we are at war, and I don't mean in Iraq. We are at war world wide against Radical Islam. Iraq is getting the headlines these days, but Iraq is only one location in the global war against an enemy that seeks to destroy every religion except their own brand of Radical Islam, and to subjugate every nation in the name of Allah. The anti-Iraq crowd will continue to count the American casualties since our invasion and overthrow of Hussein. Well, here's another count that is more significant, at least to me. As of this date - June 6, 2007, Islamic Extremists have committed 8508 acts of terror since 9/11. We are at war, folks. Let's make sure we win this one.

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