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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 14, 2001

Island Voices
Terrorist attack isn't Pearl Harbor

By Steve Stephenson
Kea'au high school science teacher

Many are comparing the terrorist attacks on targets in New York and Washington to the Pearl Harbor attack. Certainly, there are similarities.

However, there is one important area of contrast: In 1941, the Japanese naval air forces struck a purely military target.

There were collateral civilian losses, to be sure, but the City of Honolulu was not targeted. Large numbers of American military personnel lost their lives, along with a much smaller number of Japanese airmen.

Tuesday morning, civilian airliners, filled with civilian passengers, were flown into civilian targets, along with one military target. It is probable that the number of Tuesday's civilian losses will greatly outnumber the military personnel killed or injured at Pearl Harbor (even including the casualties at Dutch Harbor and in the Philippines that were part of the coordinated Japanese attack on U.S. territories).

The timing of the Japanese attacks, prior to any announcement of hostilities against the United States, resulted in intense national revulsion. However, the military planes were clearly marked with the symbols of Japan and its naval air forces, and the attacks were immediately followed by a statement of hostilities by Japanese government officials.

Those who chose to attack noncombatant civilians Tuesday morning were too cowardly to announce either their plans or their affiliations. We are now a few days into this crisis, with no nation or organization claiming responsibility for this heinous crime.

What is yet to be seen is if our nation has the resolve to react to this act of war with the same level of response that was brought to bear against Japan and its allies. That response included the resolve to firebomb Japanese cities as well as purely military targets and, ultimately, the use of atomic weapons.

On the Mainland, and in Hawai'i, U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry were taken into custody based purely on fears of their racial heritage.

Will whatever organizations and nations that have assisted in the funding, planning, training and aggression now feel the full power of American forces, or are we now too "civilized" to make a profound statement to all that we will not tolerate attacks on our nation?

Let us hope that we are able to act to ensure future peace, and yet remember the errors of the past, and avoid retaliation against peaceful U.S. citizens simply because they look like our enemy.