17 February 2008

The Other Side of the Mirror

To prove my point about efficacy, a suicide bomber in Kandahar has killed as many as 80 men, depending on reports, in one stroke. The government blames the Taliban but that organization has not claimed responsibility as I write. They are blamed because, well, who else would do this? Also, the killer struck at a dog fight, and the Taliban had banned that pastime during their time in power.

So what was going through this person's mind before he exploded himself? Did he act on his own intiative, or at the command of some emir or mullah? Was it personal for him, or had he been convinced that it was his duty to sacrifice himself on this mission of pure terror? Was he off his meds, or was he on some to make himself more calm or compliant? To sum up, was he a murderer or a soldier? And is that distinction worth making?

I think the distinction is worth making, only to this extent: the American mass murderer's sense of autonomy, his ability to make a personal determination that other people should die, may not be shared by the Muslim suicide bomber. How many of those have acted alone in the same way that school shooters do? More often, or most often, they are recruited and trained to be suicidal killers. There's a passive element to their missions that's completely absent among the school shooters. Suicide bombers, as a rule, are tools -- weapons for someone else to use. School shooters are loose cannons, unguided missiles, and just as well hidden, indeed better and more widely hidden among us than terrorists might be. The suicidal terrorist might do more damage at any given time, but who is really the greater, more immediate and more persistent threat to the people of the United States?

Did you answer, "the school shooter?" If so, let's move on to the next round and ask why the government hasn't declared a war on school shootings and committed itself to eliminating the threat of school shootings by all necessary means. I'll give you some time to figure that out for yourselves, and we can return to the subject later.

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