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Posted: December 6, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Remember Pearl Harbor

Last week, as I listened to the 44th president tell the entire world of his plan for administering the Afghanistan-Pakistan War, I was struck by how helpful the information he outlined was to the very enemies we seek to conquer.

Any rat hiding in a cave, wondering how much longer he'd have need of that cave, would gain inspiration from hearing his opponent state that it would be for just 17 more months. The rat would feel his efforts were bearing fruit, since the opponent's departure is now imminent. So the rat will strengthen his efforts, knowing that after a mere 17 more months of shoveling elephant dung against the tide he can leave the cave.

Not only that! The rat heard that whereas he gnaws and chews and murders his victims viciously, his opponent will not allow torture of captured rats and that the prison overrun with captured rats will soon be closed.

As the president spoke of these things before an audience of the very Army cadets who will be dangled as cheese before the cave rats for 17 months, I thought how ironic it was that our commander-in-chief now disseminates information to our enemies. And how especially ironic it was that the president would do so in December.

For on Dec. 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy," as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt branded it, the Japanese Empire struck a sleeping United States Navy early on a Sunday morning during peacetime. More than 2,400 Americans died in that attack on Pearl Harbor. Our Pacific fleet was crippled, which led to the fall of other American bases and the capture of more than 40,000 troops in the Philippines, more than half of whom died in the merciless, barbaric "Bataan Death March" perpetrated by the savage Japanese captors.

How sporting it would have been had the Japanese Emperor made a worldwide radio broadcast the month before warning Americans to vacate Pearl Harbor before December. He could have revealed details of how Japanese forces would sail from their home islands along seldom-used northern Pacific routes to avoid detection, how Tokyo would simulate routine radio traffic of the fleet to mask that the attack force was en route, and how Japan had been training pilots and developing modifications for aerial torpedo attacks in shallow water harbors for over a year.

Yeah, that'd have surely been nice. Our fleet could have moved back to San Diego for a month. We could have reinforced isolated Pacific bases, or evacuated them until America was ready for a two-ocean war. So many lives and vessels could have been spared, if only our enemy had told us in advance of their plan.

It'd have been nice if Germany's Adolf Hitler had announced that in December 1944, his massed armies would make a last-ditch push to split Allied forces in Europe. The 101st Airborne could've vacated Bastogne for a sabbatical, and the "Band of Brothers" who trained in Toccoa, could have spent Christmas of '44 in a warm Paris hotel. Instead, many of those men froze in place during "The Battle of the Bulge," with their own ultimate sacrifice sealing the Nazi's ultimate fate.

And it would have been especially nice if, in the summer of 2001, the rats now hiding in caves in Pakistan had made a worldwide announcement on the Internet, as they do these days with seeming impunity, warning of their intent to seize airliners and attack innocent Americans on Sept. 11 - a date forever etched in history as Nine-One-One.

Oh, but what's that, you say? Our enemies did not warn us of those dastardly attacks beforehand?

Well, we certainly will. We'll warn the rats in the caves that we're sending more folks to look for them, but that in 17 months we'll call it a day. Victory is ours! In just 500 more days, give or take a week or two. Load up the equipment, boys. Let's get home for the 2011 World Series.

One of the most popular contemporary tours in Vietnam allows tourists to clamber into the very tunnels once occupied by Viet Cong guerrillas, from whence deadly attacks on Americans were perpetrated. America's leadership had announced a transition of power to a fledgling democratic government and had set a date for withdrawal of American troops, you see. The rats knew they wouldn't have to stay in the tunnels forever.

"Afghanistan is not another Vietnam for America," the 44th president said last week. No, it's not. The rats are in caves now. They know what our plan is, and they can be patient, for they see the end in sight.

Remember Pearl Harbor? Some of us do. It's a damn shame not all of us do.

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.

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