Dates that should not be forgotten

Did last Saturday’s date – December 7 – mean anything to you? It should, because of what happened 72 years ago and what occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

On both dates, the United States was attacked by foreign powers. In the aftermath of both assaults, Americans vowed to eliminate the enemy to prevent future aggression.

Not many Americans living today have personal recollections of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Fewer still have memories of military service during World War II.

Within four years, Americans furious about Pearl Harbor had led the Allies to victory over Japanese militarism, German Nazism and Italian fascism. “Never again” was the vow many made.

For decades, Americans made it a point to observe the anniversary of the Dec. 7 attack, for several reasons. First, we mourned those lost in the assault and the ensuing global conflict. Second, we celebrated the courage and fortitude of those who won the war, both in the armed forces and on the home front. And third, the observance was a time when we reminded ourselves of the necessity for vigilance against our foes.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we paid the price for dropping our guard. Another foe attacked America. This time the target was innocent civilians, not a military base.

Once again, Americans were stricken with grief – and beside ourselves with anger. But our opponent in this new war is different. In World War II, destroying enemy governments ended the threat. Now, we fight a vicious, militant ideology.

We have toppled one government that served Islamic terrorists. We have killed thousands of them and taken more as prisoners. By the dozens, we have eliminated their leaders.

Yet al-Qaida and related terrorist groups remain strong and determined. New al-Qaida leaders are adapting tactics and strategies in their efforts to get around our defenses.

Our collective memory seems to have grown shorter. Like Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001, is quickly becoming the stuff of history books and videos.

That is precisely why it is dangerous in the extreme for us not to bring the two dates that live in infamy to mind, not just on their anniversaries but throughout the year.

If our resolve to “connect the dots” should fail us again, the consequences could be much worse than when the Japanese, or al-Qaida, attacked us. The members of our Armed Forces currently charged with maintaining that vigilance -and the millions of military veterans who served before them – deserve much better than that.

And so do our families, neighbors and friends. Those who rely on terror to advance their political agendas have clearly shown they have no qualms about striking “soft targets” and slaughtering innocent civilians. The Sept. 21 terror attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, is a prime example – we should have no illusions about the willingness of our enemies to attack those who are defenseless.

For these reasons, Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001, are dates that should not only have meaning for us now, but also for generations to come.