Sixty years ago today, June 6, 1944, was the day the Allied assault on German forces began that tipped the scales for victory in Europe. This year's tribute to the men and women who fought in that war is especially poignant.
The inauguration of the long overdue World War II monument in Washington has prompted particular reflection on the meaning of what older people call "the war." It is also sadly true that the veterans of it are now dying at a rate of 1,200 a day.
That war was different. The wisdom of fighting it is evident. Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust, the Japanese, and Pearl Harbor don't leave room for debate. The United States had to help other Europeans and Asians fight them over there, or they would have been in our faces over here.
Their intention was to create a world in which the United States could not live in freedom. They had to be destroyed. It was the last war that excited that much national will on the part of Americans. Everybody pitched in. The speed and lethal force of the American mobilization and victory catapulted the United States to world leadership.
One problem with this year's D-Day celebrations is the coincidence of the 60th anniversary and the 2004 elections.
It was probably inevitable that President George W. Bush would seek support for the Iraq war by drawing parallels with World War II, including quotes from General Eisenhower.
The weakness of the parallel is obvious. Though President Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for re-election himself in 1944, five months after D-Day, electoral timing did not enter at all into the Normandy invasion. Its date was determined entirely by how soon it could be carried off, and by the weather.
The United States as a country at that point had risen so far above electoral politics that it is unimaginable that Mr. Roosevelt would have sought to reap political gain from D-Day. It is a dishonor to those who fought and died in World War II to compare the Iraq war to it. The only valid parallel is that Americans are dying.
On this day, for many veterans and their families possibly the last 10-year anniversary of D-Day that many of them will see from down here, let us honor them and thank them profoundly for what they did.
An international order dominated by the Hitlers, Hirohitos, and Mussolinis of this world would not have been one in which Americans could have lived and developed as we have over the past six decades. For that, we honor our heroes and heroines and express our profound gratitude.