Archive for Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Attacks considered worse than Pearl Harbor

September 19, 2001

The last time the United States experienced any sort of attack on the nation with a magnitude similar to the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. last week were almost 60 years ago.

Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, was the last time America was attacked by outside forces, until last Tuesday when terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with hijacked planes.

Karen Exon, Baker University professor and chairman of the Department of History, Political Science and Sociology, said even though both attacks surprised the United States, last week's events were more significant to Americans.

"The Pearl Harbor attack was principally a raid on military installations," Exon said. "Last week's attacks weaponized civilians. They were attacks on civilians."

Baldwin resident Archer Carlson, a World War II veteran, said he also thought the recent attacks were more significant than Pearl Harbor.

"It's because of the fact we have no secure enemy identified as such," Carlson said. "Pearl Harbor was a military attack. Military attacks don't compare to terrorist attacks. Terrorist attacks are insidious in design, cleverly maneuvered and impossible to control. They are hard to plan for, watch for and secure against and we don't know who the enemy is."

Even though feelings of shock, sadness and anger were felt in both attacks, Exon said there is one big difference between now and then.

"Technology and communication," she said. "During World War II, they got their information from radio broadcasts and newspapers. It wasn't instantaneous.

"But last week, thousands of people watched it as it happened," she said. "This is the first attack, literally, that's been in the living rooms live. That's traumatic because you don't have the opportunity to black out or beep through explicit language or behaviors."

Exon said last week's events will also play a big part in American history.

"This was the first time ever at this magnitude that civilian populations were weaponized and attacked," she said. "Even though it's too premature to judge the impact it will have on world history, it can't help but have a huge impact on the study of American history."

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