17 April 2007

Terrorism in the USA

Everybody will agree that it was a tragic loss of innocent lives when 33 people died at Virginia Tech University yesterday, and the great outpouring of sorrow and disbelief were understandable because it was such an unexpected and dramatic event. Therefore, the unlawful killing of 33 puts into stark perspective the fact that similar numbers of victims are quite regularly killed by suicide bombers in Iraq. The suffering is no less in Iraq, I would suggest, but the reaction to such loss of life does not receive the same degree of sympathy as is happening today in the USA.

The reason that US and UK armed forces are still in Iraq is as a result of the perceived need to find those “weapons of mass destruction” that Saddam Hussein was about to unleash on the West - those weapons were never found. President George Bush was also vociferous about the war on terrorism, and he made it his personal crusade to take revenge on those he held responsible for the 9/11 attacks, when around 3,000 people died.

The talk about death tolls can belittle the significance of what those deaths actually mean in practice. Every time anybody dies it causes all sorts of pain and repercussions to family, relatives, friends, work colleagues, etc. The total damage is difficult to estimate. I find it puzzling that death from gun use in the USA does not receive the attention it deserves, because every year around 30,000 people die as a result of their use, and 2 or 3 times that number receive non-fatal injuries.

A neutral observer should find it unacceptable that so many people are killed and injured in the USA from the use of guns, owned by people who apparently have the legal right to carry them. What could be easier to resolve an argument in the school yard than to shoot the other kid, or how about ending a dispute between neighbours by an exchange of bullets? Anyone brought up on a diet of Wild West movies is likely to see a gun-fight as the uncomplicated way to solve a conflict. Even George Bush walks a little like a gun-fighter, in order to demonstrate his macho image to the world.

Every time one of these massacres has occurred in the USA, we hear the same gun lobby give the excuse that it is not the gun, but the person who is responsible. Americans must be allowed to own guns for protection, or whatever other reason they consider they need to have one or more weapons in their possession. After all, a gun is insurance in case of attack, and it is designed to kill cheaply and efficiently.

So, when a significant cause of death in the USA is the gun, it is surprising that the widespread sale of guns is not considered a weapon of mass destruction itself. What greater terror can there be, than the fear that anybody you have an argument with in the street may be carrying a gun, and that this could lead to a shooting. When it comes to terrorism, it would seem that the USA has more to fear from its own citizens than from some foreign extremist. From years of statistics it is pretty obvious that US citizens will happily kill each other in huge numbers, without the need for outside help.