Surprise Attacks on America

Why is war inevitable in the world?  For centuries, since the beginning of time, people have been raging war against one another.  Wars have been fought over the most mundane of reasons: from issues over land holdings to the control over people’s lives.  The senseless killing of countless people has taken place due to war, yet without fighting for something to believe in, there is nothing at all.  Especially in the United States, we have seen war effecting people and their opinions towards the country.  War, even with all of its brutality and destructiveness, can turn out benefiting the world as a whole and fighting for the chance to make it a better place in which to live.

In the “Pearl Harbor Address,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States, is trying to address the American people right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a military base in Hawaii.  The compelling speech was made to encourage the American people and to keep their hope up for revival of the country after the unexpected attack.  It was also made as an encouragement for the American people to join in the war and contribute to its cause, a cause that Roosevelt was trying to make them believe in for the sake of their country and its freedom.  Franklin Roosevelt was a prominent figure in modern history and was the only president ever elected to office four consecutive times, undoubtedly making him the most powerful American president ever and making this speech one of the most prominent throughout American history.  With this power, Roosevelt was trying to inspire and unite the American people with patriotism and a willingness to fight against this new threat.  He used forceful words and encouragement by stating that “the American people in their righteous might will win through absolute victory” (476).  This statement was one to convey absolute confidence in the American people, the government, and their inevitable prevail over what had threatened their natural order of life.  Victory was definitely assured, and it motivated people to want to volunteer for the army because the confidence of winning was there and it would give them a chance to defend their beliefs and country.

He also focuses and names the enemy directly.  He says that the Japanese made an “unprovoked and dastardly attack” (476) on the United States.  He also uses the anger of the disregard for human life and loss of American people as a tool for motivation for the public.  He reinforces his conviction against the Japanese enemy by repeating over and over, “Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.  Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.  Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.  Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island” (476).  The continuing reference to Japan and what other countries this nation had recently made surprise attacks upon all pointed to a worldwide assault on our freedoms; that we were not alone in this endeavor against our freedom and our way of life by this attack.  There were other people in the world who were facing the same kind of terrorist attack against their nation as we were.

The feeling that Roosevelt’s speech evoked in me was the same as the more recent attack on the Pentagon and the twin towers in New York on September 11th 2001.  George W. Bush, our current president and the president that we had at the time of the attacks, reacted strongly towards the terrorist group, Al Qaeda, who attacked us.  In his “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People” speech it was blatantly stated in both speeches how serious the issues were.  The speeches were both given less than a week after the attack, and they reflect forethought and insight into the issues that the country was now having to face.  The strong leadership with which both presidents seem to have dealt with the surprise attacks seems astonishing.  I don’t think many American people can forget the most famous words of Roosevelt’s speech, “a date that will live in infamy” or be haunted by the meaning of those very words.

The September 11th Address played on the nation’s feelings of insecurity and how the country was going to triumph over it.  Bush states, “Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.  Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution.  Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”  Bush calls for everyone to defend not only the freedom of the United States, but also the freedom of the entire world.  Repeatedly mentioned in Bush’s speech is the fact that “freedom itself is under attack.”

Bush tries to focus more on a worldview of the attack by drawing in all of the other countries in which people were from and who were killed in the September 11th attack.  Bush inspires a world war of anti-Semitism against Al Qaeda and the group’s radical beliefs.  He also goes so far as to threaten Afghanistan, the country harboring the terrorist group Al Qaeda, “They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.”  Bush, though, not only wants to eliminate the Al Qaeda terrorist groups but all active terrorist groups in the process which threatens the security of the world’s freedoms.  Addressing the world, one of the most powerful things Bush says in his speech is “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”  Bush is basically telling the rest of the world that if one is in support of freedom and the belief in a good world without suppressing terrorist regimes, then one should support the United States in its endeavor to stop terrorism from happening.  He also goes to great lengths to emphasize that “This is not, however, just America’s fight.  And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom.  This is the world’s fight.  This is civilization’s fight.  This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.”  This is the fight of the world and he expects everyone to take a part in the fight against this new found oppression that is now facing everyone’s freedoms and threatening the stability of society.

The “Pearl Harbor Address” was very short, but it was to the point and clear which made what he was saying all that much stronger and more effective in the eyes of the American people, whereas Bush’s speech is more drawn out and elaborate.  He talks a great deal about how much we have overcome already and how we need now more than ever the support of the people to overcome everything.  The feeling in both speeches emphasizes the Presidents’ feelings on the recent attacks and also their own conviction that the country can win over these attackers and fight for a better chance at freedom for everyone as a whole.  The tone in both of the speeches is very strong and decisive, conveying no doubt as to the outcome of the impending wars.  They have a confidence in their words with displays assurance in the war and how great of a cause it is.  The word choice in Roosevelt’s speech is very effective and precise because he uses few words but makes everyone of them count.  Bush’s speech is a little wordier and he rambles on quite a bit.

The main theme of both of these speeches focuses on war and was each delivered right after the tragedy occurred while the people were still in shock over the blatant attack and disregard for human life.  Mutually the Pearl Harbor attack and the September 11th attack were surprises to the United States.  They also led into the United States eventually going to war with the opposing country or group that had attacked the United States.  Roosevelt and Bush attacked the “enemy” in their speeches to the American people.  They both wanted to go to war against the Japanese (Pearl Harbor) and Al Qaeda (September 11th).  Both of these United States presidents built the “enemy” up to be a world wide threat and enemy to the rest of the civilized portion of humanity.  They were trying to make the people of the country understand that they needed to fight against this threat to ensure their future freedoms and way of life.  The presidents fought for the freedom of the country and the protection of its stability.

However, this new, more recent war against Iraq since September 11th has been unlike any war the United States has ever fought before.  This war is one with no rules of moral conduct and no boundaries of the terrorist organizations.  Just like Pearl Harbor, the senseless killing of innocent lives just to make an impact was seen again by the planes running into the twin towers and the Pentagon on September 11th.  Though unlike Pearl Harbor, those attacks seem like they could pose a new threat to the security of the United States through new terrorist organizations that are just trying to enforce what they believe by taking innocent lives.  This is exactly what happened on September 11th when hijackers flew two planes into the twin towers and one into the pentagon, another was lost in Pennsylvania.

The United States is handling the two surprise attacks, almost fifty years apart, in a similar way.  Although, in the Pearl Harbor attack, we joined a war that had previously been started between Russia, England, and Germany, whereas, in our current war the president is getting only a little more support than the country did in the Vietnam War.  Not as many people are supporting the “War on Iraq” as they did during the Second World War.  Many people are also starting to think that President Bush had ulterior motives for wanting to go to war against Iraq and their leader, Saddam Hussein.  Also, there is the fact that the United States does not have the full support of the United Nations and that many other countries seem to think that the United States should not be in a war with Iraq because there is no reason to be.  The war on terrorism has turned into something on a much grander scale than it was intended; it has also been dragging on for more than five years with United States soldiers being killed every day.  This pointless loss of life is just further contributing to the support of this “war” being diminished by the American people and all of our allies.

Pearl Harbor and September 11th are the only two major surprise attacks that have occurred in the United States.  The speeches influenced the resistance to fight against the threatening attacks made and to win over the obstacles they presented.  They most likely will not be the last, and hopefully the United States can rally enough support and confidence to overcome future obstacles they will have to face.  War, even with all of its faults, gives a sense of hope for a better world; a sense of freedom and of something greater to come.

Works Cited

Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People.  20 September 2001.  Office of             the Press Secretary.  23 January 2006 http://www.whitehouse.gov.

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano.  “Pearl Harbor Address.”  Creating America.  Ed. Joyce Moser and             Ann Watters.  New York: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.  475-6.

Salladay, Robert.  “New Kind of enemy, new kind of response Civilization confronts warriors             who have no limits.”  San Francisco Chronicle 30 September 2001: A9.

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~ by wolfangel87 on January 31, 2011.

One Response to “Surprise Attacks on America”

  1. It is extremely interesting for me to read this post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more on this blog soon.

    Katty Smith
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