How Soon We Forget

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii–Sunday, December 7, 1941, 7:48 AM

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. (click for link) 

On December 8, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began with these words; he ended with his request for Congress to declare that a state of war existed with Japan, as is consistent with our Constitution. 

Over sixteen million Americans served in the military in the Second World War, with 405,000 dying—292,000 killed in battle. Throughout the world, 1.9 billion people served in various armies, air forces, navies (including coast guards), and marines resulting in 72 million deaths.

The Japanese had not signed the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, killing, torturing, or enslaving Americans and their allies.

Nazi Germany established a series of efficient death mechanisms, including death factories (camps) to systematically murder over 6 million Jews, along with the handicapped, Roma (calling them gypsies is like using the n****** word), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other innocent people who the Nazis considered unworthy or inconvenient.

How times change. That was the last war in which Congress passed a Declaration of War.

We won, and to the victor belongs the spoils, so by tradition, we could take whatever we wanted from those we vanquished. Instead, America provided aid to our allies and many of our former enemies so they could survive, recover, and rebuild. 

 This was not a business decision, it was a moral decision and the right thing to do. This was a long-term investment, which would cost the “greatest generation,” but benefit the children and the grandchildren of those who took the moral high ground. Many of these countries have worked together, with America as a senior partner, toward common goals, for decades. Together we have grown morally, intellectually, and economically. There is competition, of course, and we don’t agree on everything, but for over 70 years we’ve been able to resolve disagreements with these nations in western European and with Japan without a single shot fired in anger.

Today, if you ask people about the Second World War, many cannot tell you when it was fought, who we fought, or why. As the last veterans of that war die, is the knowledge and wisdom dying with them?

Although the United States has had military troops in combat more often than not since 1945, Congress has not enacted a declaration of war since 1941. They’ve avoided making a decision, but as was said in the 1960s, “Not to decide is to decide.”

This great nation of ours that broke the bonds that held them to King George III has, over time, allowed each president to assume more unilateral powers; to make the executive order as powerful as law—and if they’re not careful—as powerful as the constitution.

So, where are we? Without our leadership, other countries who once “had our back” are following our example and more concerned about how their nation can prosper regardless of the consequences.

 In 1775 it was “Give me liberty or give me death!” In 1836, “Remember the Alamo!” In 1864, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” In 1898, “Remember the Maine!” In 1918, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” In 1941, “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

 Today, it’s “I want mine.”

 Unfortunately, December 7th didn’t live in infamy and its lessons are barely remembered.





How Did Washington Get Broken?

The United States is sometimes referred to as an experiment in liberty; we were the first to try a Democratic Republic, so calling it an experiment–even after 229 years–is not inappropriate. The formula, if you will, for the experiment is the US Constitution–an imperfect document written by imperfect men–but a masterpiece nevertheless. Thirty-three amendments to the Constitution have been proposed, of which 27 have been ratified by the states and become law.

The Constitution created three branches of government: the legislature, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, to write law; the judiciary, which interprets law to ensure that it is not in conflict with the Constitution; and the executive branch to carry out the laws.

At some point, it seems that the legislature abdicated much of its authority and many of its responsibilities. Their focus was on getting re-elected, rather than looking out for the country as a whole, at least for anything that might be politically unpopular. The change happened so gradually that no specific time can be discerned as to when it happened. Some say during the Kennedy Administration, others point to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” while others say it’s always been that way.

The Judiciary picked up some of the slack, using judgments to fill in the blanks where written law was insufficient or inadequate. Much of the credit for whatever progress we’ve made in civil rights, especially for African-Americans, belongs to law created by judicial rulings.

In the meantime, the Executive Branch also got into the fray–with a vengeance. Many agencies under the Executive Branch were able to write their own rules, have internal administrative law judges to interpret them, and act as law-giver, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.

Then, of course, there are the Executive Orders that look like law, walk like law, and quack like law. Executive orders are much more effective than the bully pulpit.

So, today, we have a Congress that is essentially a theatrical production. Members spend most of their time promoting their own particular interests; this is why, if you watch C-SPAN, you’ll see members of Congress making impassioned speeches to a virtually empty room. The judiciary, for good or for ill, tries to make sense of the law that does exist, and the Executive branch charges off in whichever direction the current president pleases.