The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


My father was a WWII veteran. He was fortunate, landing in Europe only after the D-Day invasion, an event that happened 63 years ago today. The stories he told about his experiences in Europe during that awful time made a mockery of those on the Left who today suggest that “evil” is a debatable or somehow relative characteristic, perceived through a cultural filter that makes the word moot.

D-Day was a day of supreme sacrifice. Thousands of American soldiers, the same age as those who fight today in Iraq—volunteers and draftees—died in the days of and immediately following D-Day. Not 1 or 10 or 100, but thousands! Not in a period of a month or a year or four years, But in less than one week. One can only wonder what the current “anti-War” movement (or for that matter, the current group of Democratic Presidential candidates) would have said about our losses in Europe in the time immediately after D-day. I wonder if they would have recommended “withdrawal,” blamed FDR for lying about the Nazi threat, condemned the US for “atrocities” that occurred as we battled a vicious fascist enemy. But there’s no way to overlay historical periods, so we’ll never know.

A commenter at The Belmont Club named “Dan Patterson” writes:
Men do not come into the world as good and decent beings--charitable, kind to strangers, selfless and pure. Instead we emerge screaming as hungry animals with a demanding instinct to survive at any cost, and it is only because our mothers have an instinct to provide are we able to live. As generations have passed a sense of honor, duty, decency, and justice was cultivated that has allowed men to civilize and live together with mutual benefit and agreement. An unfortunate fact is that along with that civilizing influence other cancerous ones grew as well, and World War Two was the inevitable and possibly cyclical collision that results. It is axiomatic that the big one's eat the little one's, the strong take from the weak, and to the victor go the spoils. The men at D-Day put a stop to that.

To view the efforts of the men of the Normandy Invasion as a tactical example of military maneuvers misses the larger point of their heroic sacrifice: To protect liberty at the risk of their own lives. And to protect their comrades from the enemy, and be willing to pay the ultimate price for it. Those men did not drop from the skies, wade and then run, bleed and die on the sand in order to conquer a foreign land for its raw materials. There was no desire to expand the borders of a host nation and enslave a people. They saw a very real and dangerous threat to liberty and chose not to run from it but to battle against it against nauseating odds.

Because of men like those men like me have the luxury of editorializing and learning from history. In other times I would have grown up as a slave to the conqueror, or crushed under the wheels of a re-education campaign. But because of the debt paid for me by men like those of Easy Company, and countless others, I live in the lap of luxury damned by my inability to thank them for their sacrifice.

A special prayer today for the men who answered the call.

Are there any parallels between then and now? Many believe there are not. And that is the most frightening thing about the times in which we live.

Update (6/7/07):

Victor Davis Hanson comments further:

What can we learn, then, on this anniversary of the Normandy campaign?

By any historical measure, our forefathers committed as many strategic and tactical blunders [VDH recounts these earlier in his article] as we have in Afghanistan and Iraq - but lost tens of thousands more Americans as a result of such errors. We worry about emboldening Iran by going into Iraq; the Normandy generation fretted about empowering a colossal Soviet Union.

Of course, World War II was an all-out fight for our very existence in a way many believe the war against terror that began on 9/11 is not. Even more would doubt that al-Qaida jihadists in Iraq pose the same threat to civilization as the Wehrmacht did in Europe.

Nevertheless, the Normandy campaign reminds us that war is by nature horrific, fraught with foolish error - and only won by the side that commits the least number of mistakes. Our grandfathers knew that. So they pressed on as best they could, convinced that they needn't be perfect, only good enough, to win.

The American lesson of D-Day and its aftermath was how to overcome occasional abject stupidity while never giving up in the face of an utterly savage enemy. We need to remember that now more than ever.