Build The Memorial: Why The Global War on Terror Deserves a Memorial

The fallen veterans of the Global War on Terrorism deserve a national memorial. Sixteen years have passed since the vicious jihadist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sixteen years of constant war – the longest war in our nation’s history. Sixteen years of deployments in some of the most hostile parts of the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. And sixteen years of untold bravery and selfless courage by our men and women in uniform. Enough time has passed since this generational conflict began: it’s time to honor the fallen heroes of the Global War on Terrorism with their own memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. This is an effort being led by the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation in conjunction with sponsors in Congress, but ultimately it’s up to us – We the People – Democrat, Republican, & everything in between – Left, Right, & Center – to help make it happen. Memorial Day might be behind us now, but honoring our fallen must not be relegated to just one single 24-hour period each year. It’s time to #BuildTheMemorial.


When you live in Washington D.C., it’s easy to become slightly jaded: the scandals, the intrigue, the partisanship, the here’s-my-business-card transactional relationships, the House-of-Cards fantasy mentality that some seem to have. But for me, those negative feelings melt away every time that I go for a run on the National Mall – a public green space stretching from the U.S. Capitol Building all the way to the great seated visage of our nation’s 16th President, lined on all sides by museums and galleries and Smithsonians that contain some of our greatest national treasures within their walls. So living in D.C. does have some benefits. Being able to gaze up at the Capitol Dome, a moving and enduring symbol of our Republic and being able to run up and touch the white stone of the Washington Monument. And there’s no better way to start a day than by finishing a work out on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at dawn as the sun slowly rises over the horizon and scatters its first light across the Reflecting Pool. But the National Mall contains something more powerful than any of that – it is home to some of our most searing and consequential war memorials.


The World War Two Memorial – with its stone pillars and archways, its bronze sculptures, and its jets of water – is an homage to the 16 million men and women who served in & the 417,000 who died during our victory over the twin threats of Nazi Fascism and Japanese Imperialism. The less-imposing but still-moving Korean War Memorial with its nineteen larger-than-life-sized soldier statutes representing each service branch and forming a squad out on a mission – built in honor of the 5.7 million service members who fought and the 54,000 who fell (36,000 of them in-theater) – seems to come alive especially at night. (My grandfather on my mom’s side fought in World War Two and my grandfather on my dad’s side fought in that war too as well as almost losing his life in Korea, so you can imagine why those memorials hold a special place in my heart.) And then of course there is the Vietnam Memorial Wall (sometimes just called “The Wall”) – two jet black walls that begin low & sunken into the ground only to rise and rise until they meet at a ten foot high apex that looms above you – where you can read the names of the 58,315 service members who died or are still unaccounted for etched into the stone as your own reflection peers dimly back at you through the dark polished wall. The memorials are monuments to the bravery, the honor, and the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who did their duty and who lost their lives in service to the nation. They are places of reflection for visitors to the nation’s capital and they are places of healing and remembrance for the friends and families of those who have served. But the men & women who have served and fought and died during the Global War on Terrorism – during what is our nation’s longest war – and who are currently still serving and fighting and even dying in this war – have no such memorial. It’s time for that to change.


Everyone remembers exactly where they were on September 11th, as planes hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorist operatives slammed into both buildings at the World Trade Center, with another ripping a gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon and yet another burying itself in a quiet field in Shanksville Pennsylvania after a brave passenger revolt. These attacks – which came in the wake of al-Qaeda bombings of the WTC and of African embassies in the 1990’s as well as the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 – were the clearest indication that were in a new kind of war, whether we liked it or not. I was only 14 years old at the time (I skipped one of my morning freshman classes that day and watched the second plane strike one of the towers on live TV) and I clearly remember that, when the Twin Towers came crashing down, the general expectation for days was that tens of thousands had likely died. The official figure ended up being a still-devastating 2,996 innocents killed, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in history – an attack even worse than the surprise strike against Pearl Harbor by Japan that awakened America from its slumber and led her into the Second World War. It was, in fact, the worst encounter by a foreign enemy on American soil since the War of 1812. In the wake of 9/11, there was a brief but important moment of national unity – members of both parties of Congress gathering on the steps of the Capitol to sing “God Bless America” being the most poignant. And even as that sense of unity, of bipartisanship, of we’re-all-in-this-togetherness all descended fairly quickly into the usual political rancor and into a national division that lasts to this very day, one group remained steadfast and firm – the United States military. The men & women of the 9/11 Generation – those who would step up and answer the call in the wake of these horrific attacks – would unfailing carry out their duty around the globe.


In front of a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush would declare: “On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack … Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”


America’s response to these attacks would take our military all around the globe as we combated the various pernicious manifestations of terrorism and jihad. To the mountains of Tora Bora, where we routed al-Qaeda and the Taliban alongside our allies in the Northern Alliance. To the Korengal Valley, where our soldiers would push back against a renewed Taliban insurgency. To Fallujah, where our troops would carry out some of the most intense urban combat in decades as they went door-to-door against the brutal members of al-Qaeda in Iraq. To Mosul, where our special operations forces have helped deal blow after blow against the would-be Islamic caliphate. There are countless heroic battles that many people have likely already forgotten: the toppling of the Taliban; the removal of Saddam Hussein from power; the twin battle against an al-Qaeda insurgency and against Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq; and of course the ongoing struggle against the Islamic State and its various manifestations around the world. There are the villains that we’ve vanquished: Osama bin Laden, Saddam, Uday, & Qusay Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Anwar al-Awlaki, and countless terrorists worldwide. But there are still villains that remain at-large: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. No matter what we asked our military to do – regime change, COIN, “Surges” of both the Iraqi and Afghani varieties – they’ve proved that they really are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Whether fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or Yemen or Somalia; whether battling Al-Qaeda or ISIS or Boko Haram; whether patrolling the dusty blazing hot streets of Baghdad or driving convoys across IED-strewn roads on the Afghan-Pakistan border or conducting perilous helicopter raids deep inside Taliban-infested territory; and whether being honored in death with posthumous accolades or falling in battles so secret that we still don’t know about them and maybe never will, the men & women who have fought in this global struggle against terrorism have proven their worth and their mettle.


As mentioned earlier, the organization leading the effort to establish this national memorial is called the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation. Founded by Andrew Brennan – an Army Aviation Officer and Afghan War veteran – the organization states that it is “a non-profit whose mission is to provide the organizing, fundraising, and coordinating efforts to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor our fallen warriors, US services members, their families, and all those who supported our nation’s longest war.” The group aims to change existing federal law – specifically the 1986 Commemorative Works Act – to allow for the establishment of a GWOT Memorial. Under current law, a war must be over for a full ten years before a memorial can even be authorized. It is a well-intentioned law that unfortunately did not account for the sort of generational (or even multi-generational) conflict that we find ourselves in during the struggle against radical Islamic terrorism. This war has already been waged for nearly two decades and, given its nature, it could potentially last another couple decades or longer. Thus, in order to build a memorial, the law needs to be changed. This project has broad military support – its advisory board includes General David Petraeus. General George Casey, and General James Conway. Jan Scruggs, the Founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, is also on the board. And numerous fantastic veterans service organizations like Got Your Six, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Gold Star Mothers, and the Wounded Warrior Project are all big supporters & partners in the endeavor as well. What is lacking at this moment, however, is what might prove to be the most important ingredient – broad public support, likely due to a simple lack of public awareness about the effort. If this memorial is to be successful, it will need the public to support the effort both legislatively and monetarily. That is why the word needs to be spread far & wide.


Importantly, the proposal for the memorial states that the memorial itself will emphasize & highlight the qualities and values of those fighting in the Global War on Terrorism itself: “Endurance. Sacrifice. All-Volunteer. Global. Multi-Cultural. Unfinished.” To me, the most guideline for the proposed memorial that stands out most is that it will be unfinished. Like the war itself, the proposed memorial will be unfinished – ongoing – a work in progress – an effort not yet completed – an endeavor not yet fully resolved. It will stand as a stark reminder that, even as we remember those who have fought and fallen, the war continues until our last soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman is safely home.


The Global War on Terror continues to rage both in the West and around the globe, with the recent events in Britain throwing this truth into sharp relief. This is actually the third major terrorist attack in the United Kingdom in just three months – the Westminster Attack, the Manchester Bombing, and now the London Bridge Attack. And of course we cannot forget the Malawi attack in the Philippines which occurred at almost the exact same time as the Manchester Bombing. Elsewhere, there was also the Pulse nightclub shooting, the San Bernardino massacre, the attacks in Nice, the Paris attacks, the Charlie Hebdo slaughter, the Brussels bombings, the Berlin attack, the Istanbul attack, the Stockholm truck attack, the bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Madrid train bombings, the London tube bombings, the Bali nightclub bombings, the attacks of September 11th, the USS Cole bombing, the Khobar Towers bombing, the African embassy bombings, the first World Trade Center attack, and on and on.


And of course our soldiers continue to fight jihadists all across the globe, with some our soldiers recently falling in battles against ISIS in Afghanistan, against al-Shabaab in Somalia, against al-Qaeda in Yemen, and in battles we may not have even heard of yet. All told to-date, many thousands of Americans have fallen in the GWOT — some 4,411 Americans have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom, some 2,346 Americans have died during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and around 150 more (that we know of) have been killed in other operations around the globe. Each of these fallen men & women deserve to be memorialized and honored for their sacrifice.


“No greater love is there than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” So says the Gospel of John. That is the truth – and when soldiers lay down their lives, it usually is for the friend next to them. Don’t get me wrong: they serve for honorable & high-minded principles – for God, for flag, for country, for peace, for freedom, and so on – but in the heat of battle, when the enemy is closing, when split-second life-and-death decisions are being made, and when a soldier decides to jump on a grenade or step into the line of fire or stand their ground against a bomb-laden car barrelling down the road at them, they are almost invariably thinking about the friend, the fellow soldier, the brother-in-arms next to them. And when a soldier is killed, it is that brother-in-arms who is left behind. That is who this memorial is for – the families, the friends, & the brothers-in-arms who remain. General Patton once said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” So, let us thank them – and let us thank them in a way that at attempts to be worthy of their actions, however meager our efforts might be in comparison to their sacrifice. It is on us to get this memorial built, because if not us, then who? And if not now, then when? It’s time to unite around this as a nation – blue, red, Left, Right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican — as this is something we can all get behind. It’s time to honor our fallen and our veterans the way that they deserve – the way that previous generations occasionally failed to do. It’s time to remember both the battles already fought and those yet to come. It’s time to recognize the fallen of the GWOT alongside those who fought in World War Two and in Korea and in Vietnam. And it’s time to #BuildTheMemorial.

Honoring Robert E. Lee on Memorial Day

The first official Memorial Day observation (then called Decoration Day) was held on May 30, 1868 at the former mansion of Robert E. Lee in Arlington, Virginia.

Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

There were no “foreign” soldiers honored in that first solemn ceremony, since both Union and Confederate soldiers, dead in battle, were Americans.

Later, Lee, who forsook a call to guerrilla war and insurgency, put his country ahead of his heritage. Before all, Lee elevated reverence to God. After obtaining parole by oath of allegiance–the same one the soldiers under his former command pledged–Lee committed himself to healing the wounds of the war.

To a mother, who brought him her two sons, loudly expressing her hatred of the North, he said, ” Madam, don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States Government. Recollect that we form but one country, now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.”

We have not learned the lessons Lee taught us in those early Memorials.

Today, an increasingly bifurcated America places its patriotism in politics, tribal allegiance, and causes looking for hills to die upon. Just 150 years ago, men died upon hills for the same kinds of causes, politics, and tribes. Both sides believe they are the righteous, with either God or Reason as their shield and spear.

We can only wonder when we may again take up arms against one another.

Lee quietly served his remaining years as president of Washington College, and honored at Virginia Military Institute, teaching young people to honor their country without bitterness.

Lee came to Lexington on a mission. “I think it is the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony,” he wrote the trustees. “It is particularly incumbent upon those charged with the instruction of the young to set them an example.”

Now, the city of Charlottseville is dealing with removal of Lee’s statue (along with “Stonewall” Jackson’s) amid calls to scour the images and heritage of the Old South and Confederacy from America’s public places. (The city council voted 3-2 in February to remove the statue from Lee Park.)

Lee would have (and in fact did) opposed any statue depicting himself in Confederate uniform, leading troops in war. For him, the war was over and peace became his purpose. These statues were erected (including the one in Charlottesville) long after his death. He would likely have been in favor of any action to remove statues of himself if it would further the cause of unity.

But he would rather we didn’t dismantle the lessons he held dear from the time of war.

In the summer of 1869, Lee was asked by David McConaughy to visit Gettysburg. Lee declined. He wrote McConaughy to say: “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife & to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”

As we celebrate Memorial Day, let’s remember that our heritage as Americans is one heritage. Whether a grave is Confederate, Union, or in one of the National Cemeteries that dot our nation, our men and women who died in battle did so as Americans.

Whether the grave is a Navajo “talker” from the Pacific in WWII, a Jewish soldier who helped liberate a death camp (550,000 Jews fought in the U.S. armed forces in WWII), a member of the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Squadron, or a Japanese member of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, they are all Americans. There is no difference between the grave of Captain Humayun Khan and Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, killed in combat in Afghanistan on April 8. They both died serving the same America.

In death, there is no racial identity or family heritage, only honor and gratitude to be given for those who gave “the last full measure of devotion.”

We, the living, must dedicate ourselves to a larger concept of our nation, not as hyphenated Americans, but as members of a singular nation. Surely, that’s what Robert E. Lee would have wanted on Memorial Day.

[Edit: the original implied that Lee was president at VMI. This has been corrected.]

America Has Chosen The Hard Way

As we wind down the barbecues, bid friends and family goodbye, and head home from vacation spots (at least two friends I know spent time at Disney), we can turn from gazing at the past, reflecting on their sacrifice, to the future and its attendant uncertainty.

Our government is as disconnected and infected with elite gnosticism and what Peggy Noonan called “civic decadence” as we accuse other, less developed countries of being. And of course, there’s the man who claims to be the cure for our ills, the orange-hued billionaire who built his own fortune alternately sucking up to or opposing the hedonists within.

Noonan reminds us of how casually Hillary Clinton lies:

Which brings us to the State Department Office of Inspector General’s report involving Hillary Clinton’s emails. It reveals one big thing: Almost everything she has said publicly about her private server was a lie. She lied brazenly, coolly, as one who is practiced in lying would, as one who always gets away with it could.

But Trump’s best answer is “it takes one to know one.” Plus, there’s no guarantee that the man who says he’ll clean up Washington won’t do it by trashing every American government institution and making for himself a kleptocracy that Paul Manafort’s former clients would envy.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel,” Mr. Trump said Friday, as the crowd of several thousand booed. “He is not doing the right thing. And I figure, what the hell? Why not talk about it for two minutes?”

Judge Curiel ordered the release of a raft of smoking gun documents in the Trump University lawsuit. Some of the documents show that the business was more interested in its students’ wallets than their education. One document “instructed employees to rank students by liquid assets to help determine what kind of course packages they could afford to buy.”

I wonder what a President Trump could do to make a federal judge’s life miserable? (A lot, I would think, including abolishing that particular bench, which is constitutionally in the chief executive’s power.)

Trump has tapped into a movement of those fed up with our decadent present and looking forward to a more decadent future. The GOP, as a party, will never be the same. It’s significant that Trump, who claims he’s given the Republican Party a new, larger constituency than ever before, refers to the party as “they” in response to independent candidate rumblings (raising the question: Who is “we?”).

As much as we think America is in new, uncharted territory, the past shows it’s not. The young generation of coddled, safe-space-seeking milquetoasts bent on their own empowerment and self-discovery is an Internet-powered echo of the post WWI decadence 100 years ago.

But then, the incessant moral busybodies weren’t global warming activists or politically correct social justice warriors (although there were plenty of SJW’s of a sort back then). The most egregious example of progressive and populist governing gone wild is the temperance movement. The Eighteenth Amendment was an ill-thought-out and horrible piece of legislation–the result of elites who were sure of their righteousness and disdainful of those who disagreed.

After the populist presidency of Republican Teddy Roosevelt and the disastrous protectionism of Smoot-Hawley, the Great Depression ended the Bohemian paradise. The GOP became the party of business and the Democrats became the working man’s party. Trump hopes to reverse that, but the social dynamics remain the same.

Our federal government is headed for insolvency, a place where the country’s productive output cannot support our debt load, entitlements and obligations without a massive shift in social responsibility to the very disaffected elite government-types who got us in this mess. The bubble will pop at some point, because it has to. And either America will fix its own problems through personal responsibility and ending the reign of the hedonists, or we’ll face more than just a 2008 recession.

Or we’ll face war if we think we can default on trillions of dollars of debt and leave foreign countries (like China) with no recourse, or if we blackmail our allies into paying for our military friendship. War is a hateful, awful, wasteful thing but it does tend to focus the country on what matters.

Which brings us back to Memorial Day. If we can take any lesson at all from those who gave their lives in war, from WWII to Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that we shouldn’t be unserious about our future. Even though it seems like we’re headed to hell in a hand basket, we’re not there, and history shows these things have a way of working themselves out. Our responsibility is choosing how they work out: The steady path, or the hard way.

For the next four years, however, it’s very clear that America has picked the hard way.

President Obama, You Remembered Hiroshima, Do Not Forget Pearl Harbor

The American presidency has developed influence beyond those enumerated in our Constitution. As America’s power and prestige has grown, so has a president’s ability to color world opinion. It’s the bully pulpit that Theodore Roosevelt was fond of referring to. President Obama used the power and prestige of his office this past week to bring attention to Hiroshima, the place where the United States dropped an atomic bomb and hastened the end for Japan in World War II.

Presidents bring a view of America and the world to office with them. President Obama has spent his presidency nurturing his view of America as an oppressive power and has taken every opportunity to make amends for this characterization.

The president danced carefully last week not to advertise his visit as an American apology for our use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end that terrible and costly war, but here in New Hampshire, it sure did feel like an apology to me.

President Obama and I are the same age, our birthday only two weeks apart. It has surprised me since I first became aware of the junior senator from Illinois, that his and our view of America and the world could not be more different. I grew up believing that the American people were good and generous and that democracy, free market capitalism, and rugged individualism were the genuine best path to peace and prosperity.

With this year’s Memorial Day remembrance upon us, it is sad that I wonder if our president has any plans to bookend his Japan tour with one to Hawaii to commemorate the 75’th anniversary of Pearl Harbor this December.

World War II became real to our people on the first Sunday in December, 1941. It is an honor and duty for a sitting president to remember and commemorate the heroics and sacrifice demonstrated by our service men and women and citizenry at that time and place.

There are a dwindling number of Pearl Harbor survivors left.

During the 50th anniversary of Japan’s attack, then-President George H.W. Bush offered heartfelt remarks honoring the young men of his generation who demonstrated great valor at Pearl Harbor. He spoke of a “bright Sunday morning” where “thousands of troops slept soundly in their bunks. Some who were awake looked out and savored the still and tranquil harbor”. He spoke of how a far away war becomes real, in “one horrible instant”.

He spoke of the Arizona.

Every 15 seconds a drop of oil still rises from the Arizona and drifts to the surface. As it spreads across the water, we recall the ancient poet: “In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair against our will comes wisdom through the awful grace of God” With each drop, it is though God Himself were crying.

Only 334 of a full complement of over 1500 officers and crew of the Arizona survived that day. The last surviving officer of the Arizona, Ensign Joseph Langdell, passed in 2014. He was 100 years of age. His obituary said he was born in my home state of New Hampshire. He was born the same year the hull of the Arizona was laid down in the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard.

Mr. Langdell started his career as a junior accountant in Boston before patriotism got the best of him and he enlisted in the navy in 1940 in response to the war raging in Europe. His decision to serve brought him to Pearl Harbor and the battleship Arizona.

You can count on one hand the number of surviving crew of the Arizona.

Last Thursday another survivor passed. Adolph Hengl, an aircraft maintenance officer aboard the Tennessee left us, aged 99. His ship was moored next to the Arizona. As he tells it, he came out to the Quarter Deck as a bomb exploded sending him flying into a metal wall.

Bush concluded in his remarks twenty-five years ago at Pearl Harbor with the following.

The heroes of the Harbor … fought for a world of peace, not war, where children’s dreams speak more loudly than the brashest tyrant’s guns. Because of them, this memorial lives to pass its lessons from one generation to the next, lessons as clear is this Pacific sky.

If I were in the president’s place, I would not have toured Hiroshima last week. Any person with an ounce of humanity would regret the terrible loss of life at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and wish that it were not so. The Japanese Empire acted as the brashest of tyrants leading and all the way through World War II. President Truman ended the war in the Pacific swiftly and saved American lives. That was a moral decision and action.

Mr. President, please do not forget to honor and remember “the heroes of the harbor” with the grace and honor they deserve before they pass from this place.

Photo credit: Steve Berman took the photo from the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor in 2008. It is looking up through the “bridge” over the ship’s sunken hull where oil an oil slick still marks her final resting place. The photo below was taken from the same location on the same day.



Obama At Hiroshima: Men Without Chests

The Japanese have no need to apologize for Pearl Harbor, Saipan, Leyte, Iwo Jima, Okinawa. The Japanese lost the war.

A man who instinctively knows how to be inappropriate for any occasion, President Obama flew to Japan just before America mourns her war dead. Not just Japan, but Hiroshima, one of the two cities where America used the ultimate weapon to end World War II.

“The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace,” Mr. Obama said. “What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

[Source: The New York Times]

In World War II, the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy were prepared to fight to the last man’s death. Japanese who lived in their homeland were prepared to fight to the last standing person, to the death. They’d been steeped in racial propaganda, believing that Americans were less than fully human. We know what they did to the Chinese and Koreans during that war.

People in Asian countries that were brutalized by imperial Japan had warned that a presidential apology at Hiroshima would be inappropriate. Mr. Obama not only did not apologize, he made clear that Japan, despite a highly advanced culture, was to blame for the war, which “grew out of the same base instinct for domination, for conquest, that had caused conflicts amongst the simplest tribes.”

Despite the fact that Obama acknowledged that Japan was not innocent, that doesn’t cover for the fact that he’s the first U.S. president to actually go to Hiroshima, and right before Memorial Day to add insult to injury. That he did it in the last year of his presidency is very, very telling.

Obama also wished for the genie of nuclear weapons to go back into the bottle.

“We have known the agony of war,” he wrote in the guest book. “Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”

We all know that’s not going to happen–that in fact it can’t happen–because physics is objectively true, unlike Obama’s worldview. If America were, today, to destroy all our nuclear weapons, along with Russia, the U.K., China, India, Pakistan and all the other nations with that capability, someone else would develop them. That genie is forever out of the bottle.

The Japanese have no need to apologize for Pearl Harbor (2,403 Americans killed, 1,143 wounded, total 3,546 casualties), Saipan (16,612 casualties), Leyte (15,584), Iwo Jima (26,821), Okinawa (49,151). The Japanese lost the war and paid with their sovereignty for decades while America rebuilt their economy better than it ever was.

If America had invaded the Japanese home islands–an area the size of Alaska–the consensus was that even for the first landing on Kyushu, casualties could surpass a quarter of a million, with KIA and MIA rates topping 40 percent. That’s 100,000 American war dead. For the rest of “Operation Coronet,” which Truman never approved, the estimates topped out at a mind-boggling 500,000 dead, with over a million casualties.

Historian Edward Drea describes the situation: “It was as if the very invasion beaches were magnets, drawing the Japanese forces to those places where the Americans would have to land and fight their way ashore. It was also very clear in those messages that the Japanese intended to fight to the bitter end.”

Obama’s bankruptcy of moral fiber is obvious to all who possess those things called honor and virtue. C.S. Lewis referred to this bankruptcy as producing Men without Chests.

And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Our president’s sacrilege in despoiling an American Memorial Day in a gesture which offers no apology for Japanese barbarity yet invites us to consider ourselves morally culpable that many of us live because a half-million of our progenitors did not die invading Japan is sickening and truly bereft of virtue.

The saddest part is that we expect nothing more from this man.