By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

How could I have not known?

Wick's World


March 14, 2019

One of the few brilliant statements ever to leave Donald Rumsfeld's lips was his quote about unknown unknowns. The quote was used in an attempt to explain away the failures and shortcomings of the Iraq War. Promises were made to march into Baghdad where we would be greeted with flowers. Unfortunately for that war's architects, Iraq's flower children never had a Woodstock Festival that taught them the fine art of poking the stem of a flower down the barrel of an M-16. Rumsfeld's quote is really one of the valuable lessons America should retain when a well thought out plan is vital and necessary to our country's interests. I will relay it in its entirety because, for me, it is the most important quote attributed to the Rumsfeld/Cheney/George W. Bush Iraq War.

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones."

I have been studying history recently and came across these tidbits and facts surrounding WWII that either I forgot or never knew in the first place. When David Howarth stated in his book "We Die Alone" that Finland fought with Hitler and his Axis of Evil in WWII, my gut reaction was "they did?!" For some time now, actually most of my life, I have held Finland as an example of a free country that takes care of its people. It did little to appease my mind when I learned that the Finnish government sided with Germany for a reason entirely different than the creation of a pure white race. They simply wanted the return of land that was stolen by Russia, and Nazi Germany was Russia's enemy. Therefore, they cut a deal with the devil that said that in return for supporting Hitler, he would gladly return Finland's stolen land and be greeted at their new border with flowers. To realize what a fallacy this wayward thinking was, one only need to look at the Rumsfeld quote to realize that this was not one of the unknown unknowns. This should have been a known known that Hitler never returned anything he conquered until he was forced to do so. At least Finland got on the right side of the War a few years before it ended in Hitler's defeat.

There's another little known fact that alluded me about WWII, and this was a big one. Around 9:00 P.M. on a warm summer evening while strolling the boardwalk at Jacksonville, Florida, Americans were greeted with a fireworks display that rivaled any Fourth of July celebration to date. Although it's coastline was already lit up like a Christmas display, it was about to get much brighter. The German submarine sitting offshore had to be drooling at this well lit, defenseless target. While Londoners crouched under their beds each evening throughout the blackouts required by much of Europe during WWII, America played on as if "the road goes on forever and the party never ends."

Even after coastal cities from New Orleans to Boston became the victims of Nazi submarine attacks, the lighting up of Jacksonville did little to deter American cities that went on with business as usual.

Maybe I was born a little too late. When I came into this world, WWII had been over for well over a year. As I was growing up as a kid on the shores of the Missouri River out in South Dakota, we would play war games such as "bombs away over Tokyo!" We would stick out our arms as far as we could away from our growing bodies and circle the playground as if we were the A-Bomb airplane, the Enola Gay. At the right time we would drop our bombs over Japan and if we had any left over, we would drop the rest over some unnamed German city. Not once, did any of us say, "bombs away over Jacksonville."

These are some of the unknown unknowns about WWII that was in my life. As a child, they must not of seemed that important. Today, they seem pretty big. I ask myself, how could I have not known?


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