The government has released a series of aerial photographs of the September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attack on America. The photo set, appropriately presented and captioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) here, taken from a helicopter by Greg Semendinger of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), was made available to the public following an ABC News Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing. The record of this atrocity, currently the worst attack in U.S. history, speaks for itself. Nine years, two counterproductive military incursions, and over 6,000 dead Americans later, America is still at war with states that sponsor Islamic fascism. But we continue to evade that fact and, with religious dictatorship Iran vowing to destroy the West and a national foreign and domestic policy of self-sacrifice, I think we are ominously, rapidly heading toward our nation’s destruction. For more audio-visual records of this historic assault, read my 2006 roundup of recommended DVDs on the subject, or my 2005 article on DVDs with CNN’s coverage, other footage, and the Discovery Channel’s 90-minute chronological recreation of United Air Lines Flight 93, The Flight That Fought Back. Leonard Peikoff named 9/11 Black Tuesday. These photographs, which do not begin to capture the horror of that day, remind us why he is right.
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Look for a former French lieutenant’s tale of pre-Vietnam War, Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War (Random House hardcover, 752 pages, available February 23 for $ 35) by Ted Morgan. The New York City-based writer and journalist, who fought in the French Army in Algeria, has produced an epic account of the contest that ended French colonial rule in Indochina, the 1954 battle between France and a Communist-backed “people’s army” in Vietnam.
Using French military archives and exclusive firsthand reports, and tracking countless errors by the American government, Morgan reframes the six-week battle for Dien Bien Phu, a remote valley on the border of Laos along a rural trade route, which was fueled by Communism’s rise following World War 2, particularly by Chinese dictator Mao Tse-tung and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who were already waging a proxy war with the West in the Korean peninsula. Morgan, a Vietnam reporter who knew the late David Halberstam, provides facts according to his research, which point to the West’s chronic ignorance and appeasement of Communism, though he is more focused on what happened than how and why it happened.
Morgan, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has written biographies of Franklin Roosevelt (FDR), Winston Churchill, and Somerset Maugham (The Painted Veil). In the fully annotated and indexed Valley of Death, he provides an important perspective on the West’s foreign policy in mid-20th century. That America’s ineffectual war in Vietnam began with this climactic battle, and has continued with decades of lost battles and wars, culminating in our current debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, is unmistakable.
As Morgan writes on page 172, some opposed American involvement in Vietnam, including Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, a Republican who, Morgan writes, “called for an amendment that no funds should be given to the French until they ‘set a target date for … complete independence … the people of Indochina … have been fighting for the same thing for which 177 years ago the people of the American colonies fought.” Morgan notes that “this was the man whom [President] Lyndon Johnson called ‘trigger-happy’ when he ran against him in 1964.” Sen. Goldwater went on, observing that, by aiding France, “we are saying to the great men who penned the document and whose ghosts must haunt these walls, that we do not believe entirely in the Declaration of Independence.” Despite Sen. Goldwater’s warning that “as surely as day follows night our boys will follow this $400 million [aid to France]”, Congress defeated his amendment, approved President Eisenhower’s 1953 aid package, and soon entered the Vietnam War, one of several wars in Korea, Iran, and Iraq, that the United States neither declared nor won.
With diabolical new plots to attack America by Islamic terrorists and Iran continuing to threaten the West with nuclear destruction, Professor John Lewis makes the urgent case for “offensive actions in pursuit of peace” in Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, due to be published by Princeton University Press next year. Dr. Lewis, a friend and teacher whose military and ancient history courses are superb, promises on his Web site that Nothing Less Than Victory “shows that a war’s endurance rests in each side’s reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.” Dr. Lewis, whom I once interviewed for an article series about Alexander the Great, is both extremely passionate and knowledgeable, a rare and welcome combination among today’s intellectuals. His new book deserves serious attention.
Let us always remember those Americans enlisted in the United States Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force who died in the defense of our nation. Most of my recent war-themed articles are reviews of movies about those who served in the sacrificial military incursions initiated after the 9/11 attack on America. But there are a few others, including this 2000 book review of Breakout, by U.S. Marine Martin Russ, about a campaign in the Korean War, and this 2004 op-ed about a turning point in the so-called war in Iraq. Anyone who has fought for the United States of America knows we have lost many men and women and they are well worth remembering.
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