Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day @ 65: Thoughts on Obama's Remarks at Normandy

President Obama spoke this morning at Omaha Beach to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy which commenced on June 6, 1944.

I was struck by this portion of the speech in particular:

At dawn on June 6th, the Allies came. The best chance for victory had been for the British Royal Air Corps to take out the guns on the cliffs while airborne divisions parachuted behind enemy lines. But all did not go according to plan. Paratroopers landed miles from their mark, while the fog and clouds prevented Allied planes from destroying the guns on the cliffs. So when the ships landed here at Omaha, an unimaginable hell rained down on the men inside. Many never made it out of the boats.

I cannot help but think if Barack Obama was alive and well in 1944 and things had not gone so well on the first day of the invasion he would have chided FDR and General Eisenhower for "poor planning"; something he has consistently done to the Bush Administration with regard to Iraq. I cannot imagine Obama having the patience nor the foresignt to see things through with the D-Day invasion. Consider this passage:

The sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so memorable. It also arises from the clarity of purpose with which this war was waged.

We live in a world of competing beliefs and claims about what is true. It's a world of varied religions and cultures and forms of government. In such a world, it's all too rare for a struggle to emerge that speaks to something universal about humanity.

The Second World War did that. No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good. But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity. Nazi ideology sought to subjugate and humiliate and exterminate. It perpetrated murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior. It was evil.

The nations that joined together to defeat Hitler's Reich were not perfect. They had made their share of mistakes, had not always agreed with one another on every issue. But whatever God we prayed to, whatever our differences, we knew that the evil we faced had to be stopped. Citizens of all faiths and of no faith came to believe that we could not remain as bystanders to the savage perpetration of death and destruction. And so we joined and sent our sons to fight and often die so that men and women they never met might know what it is to be free.

So this is Obama's backhanded way of saying the War in Iraq wasn't waged with a clarity of purpose and was not viewed by a large segment of the population as essential. But If WWII was waged with such a clarity of purpose and if all knew this war was essential then why were those in this country who opposed America's involvement?

I wonder if Obama ever saw the movie The Best Years Of Our Lives. It was released in 1946 only months after the end of WWII and won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Harold Russell (a real life double amputee who lost his hands in an accident while serving stateside.) In one scene the Russell character gets into a fight with a customer at a drug store who thinks America fought the wrong people (the scene begins about four minutes into the clip.)

President Obama is right to say that the fight against Nazis wasn't a battle of competing interests but a competing vision of humanity. So is our fight against Islamic fundamentalism. But Obama insists we are not at war with Islam and never will be. It's right under his nose and Obama can't see it. Or perhaps he just chooses to look away.

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