9/11: Awaken a sleeping giant … at your peril

The following opinion piece appeared in The Atlanta Journal on Sept. 11, 2001.
By Richard Matthews

In the heady days after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, colleagues rushed to congratulate Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who had planned and executed the stunning operation. He was far less enthusiastic about his success; Japan, he feared, had only “awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

He was right, of course. America, roused to anger and outrage, mobilized itself with astonishing speed, carried the war all the way to the dragon’s lair, laid waste to its cities, crushed its dreams of perverted “glory” and forced it to accept total and humiliating surrender.

Today we are faced with an important question: Is the America of today as capable of “terrible resolve” as it was in 1941?

The terror attacks in New York, Washington and elsewhere are horrible calamities on a human scale, with thousands killed or injured. They are devastating in economic terms, causing billions of dollars in damage to commercial and government buildings. They are chilling in their effect on individual psyches, sowing fear in the hearts of ordinary people hundreds of miles from any actual threat.

What they are not, however, is a successful military and political operation. Or at least they will not be if this country has the will, the determination and the courage to react as it should — as it did in the wake of Pearl Harbor — with an unceasing, unyielding and unrestrained effort to find and destroy the monstrous and immoral criminals who have chosen the coward’s weapons to advance their damnable cause.

The World Trade Center is not the U.S. economy, buildings in Washington are not the U.S. government. America is its people, its beliefs and its ability, when tested, to do whatever is necessary to survive and to triumph.

The test has begun. We trust that it will not be so very long before those who once again “awakened a sleeping giant” will taste the bitter fruits of their brutal stupidity.

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