Monday, May 01, 2006

Why We Fight

Today Israelis remember their fallen servicemen and women, and Americans reflect on the long war that began on 9/11.

22,123 soldiers Israeli fighters have died since independence - equivalent to 220,000 Brits (almost their KIA in WW2), or 1.1 million Americans (four times their KIA in WW2). Israel's sacrifice built and maintains a bastion of light in a region of darkness.

A retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel reminds us how our long war connects to our past:

The sky may have looked empty around Flight 93, but it in fact it was crowded.

Off the right wing of Flight 93 flew the 60 B-17's that fell attacking Schweinfurt on 14 October, 1943. Off the left wing flew the 54 B-24's that went down attacking Ploesti earlier that same year. Down below flew the TBD Devastator torpedo planes of Torpedo Squadron Eight that went in against the Imperial Navy carriers at Midway in 1942. Top cover was provided by Butch O'Hare in his F4F Wildcat, the one he flew when he single-handedly stopped 9 Japanese bombers from sinking the carrier Lexington.

Here's Gerard Vanderleun's lesson from United 93, hat tip LGF (my ellipsis): the end, saving themselves was not so much on their minds. I think that, at that time and in that place, they understood that those chances were slim indeed. Instead, I like to think that the men and women of United 93 had their souls set upon, in those last moments, the refusal to die as passive victims with seatbelts fastened as the monsters in the cockpit pushed their evil mission to its appointed end.

In a film of brief but telling moments, there's one moment towards the end where you see one man reach down and remove his seatbelt. In that moment you can sense that he goes from being a passive victim to a man who has decided to stand up and engage the evil that has taken control of his life; to take the controls back from thugs and the cut-throats and the mumbling fanatics of a wretched and burnt-out god.

That man, like the firemen who went up the stairs (at the burning WTC), and his fellow passengers who attacked up the aisle in those last moments, became, in the end, one of the Americans who decided on that day and the days that followed, to stand up. Soon after, that man and all the others on United 93 went into the smoke of that fire in the field.

"United 93" is a simply told, near-documentary look at how that fire in the field came to be...(it) has no message, but if you -- as I finally did -- choose to go, it will pose you a question: What would you do, an ordinary person in an extraordinary moment when life and death, good and evil, were as clear as the skies over America on September 11? Will you, as so many of our fellow citizens yearn to do these days, stay seated? Or will you stand up?

On one of our days to come, there will be another test. You'd best have an answer prepared.