Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Shooting

The first response is shock. Then, as a blogger, I feel myself with nothing to say that adds anything to what has been said. What topics are there to discuss?

There are the facts of what happened. I have nothing to add there.
There's opinion of what it means. Not enough facts to assess that yet, if ever.
There's condolences for those killed, those injured, and their families and friends. Meaningful words that bring any comfort to the grieving are hard to put together and deliver. Nevertheless, my thoughts are with those who have lost family and friends. Others share your grief knowing there is little we can do to make your burden any lighter.

But then I start thinking other thoughts and feel myself self-censoring. Part of this is respect for those in mourning. There's a time of emotional response where rational discussion is irrelevant. People must work through the emotions first. How long did it take after 9/11 for people to be able accept any response but a reverent awe of the enormity and terror of the events? To start raising questions about why in a city of skyscrapers, the fire department's best response plan was to walk up the stairwells with heavy packs at about one floor per minute was attacked as demeaning the heroes. Criticisms of the President's response were condemned as disloyal at best, as treason at worst.

Can we use events like these to get perspective on other events? One feels the pressure to hold off because one might be accused of using this tragedy for partisan political gains. Certainly that was used to discredit criticisms of the response to Katrina. I'm not working with any political party at the moment. I'm not pushing any candidates. I'm just trying to think some of this through. Besides only a few people are ever likely to read this.

What can we learn from the campus shootings? I'm sure yesterday's events will not be quickly forgotten by most Americans, just as Columbine is not forgotten. But how many Americans remember this event?

BAGHDAD (AP) — An explosion outside a Baghdad universityas students were heading home for the day killed at least 65 people on Tuesday in the deadliest of several attacks on predominantly Shiite areas.

This is from USA Today, January 16, 2007, exactly three months ago to the day. I didn't hear a single commentator on the radio yesterday mention this. I don't begrudge the coverage of yesterday's events. This is a big story. But the horror we feel should help us get a better sense of what it is probably like in Bagdad. Here, in the US, at least, most of us know this was a relatively isolated event that will not directly affect our lives. Yes, University security departments and local law enforcement agencies will be forced to devise new procedures for campus security. But unlike in Bagdad, we don't see this sort of attack as something that could happen in our neighborhood any day. At least if we don't live in areas where gang violence regularly brings gunshots onto our streets. We don't plan our lives, our shopping for food, going to work or school, with strategies to avoid being shot or blown up. The terror the students felt yesterday and which affected all of us at least vicariousy is a daily fact of life in Iraq.

The current level of violence in Iraq, whether we like it or not, is our responsibility. While Saddam Hussein's police and army were responsible for horrible crimes against the Iraqi people, the killing was never as widespread, frequent, or random as it is today. It was the American people's willingness to support President Bush in the emotional, fearful aftermath of 9/11 that has put our military in the impossible position it is today, and has given the Iraqi people daily events as horrific as the attack at Virginia Tech. And the ongoing and pervasive nature of the violence in Iraq makes it far more horrific. The only Americans who can truly understand this are the troops and others who are over and see it and feel it.

So my reaction to Virginia Tech is the hope that it helps us understand the horrors we have caused in Iraq. And that it may motivate a few more to move the US to take action to find a better way to end the violence and give the Iraqis their lives back.

Will things automatically calm down if the US pulls out of Iraq? That's unlikely. The pullout must be accompanied by committed the multilateral forces that the President did not bring together before he took the US into Iraq. Ideally it will include Europeans, Arabs and other Muslims, and as well as the Chinese. It isn't going to be easy. I'm sure many people around the world who opposed our invasion of Iraq take some pleasure in being proven right and watching us struggle with the results of our folly. And humility and contrition are not Bush strong points. This isn't going to be easy.


  1. I registered on the Blogger, and I can post my comments by using my registered number

    that's the point.

  2. i can't agree with you any more on this events.
    i think the most horrible thing is not horror itself,but the apathy of others' misfounture.
    I hope President Push can understand this.

  3. After having heard the arguments from pro-gun groups for many years, I suddenly come to realize that their arguments only scratch the surface: don't get me wrong, I mean they have never pushed the argument far enough! The best way to protect ourselves from potential aggressors is not just to allow everyone to carry a gun: we should in fact amend the constitution so that it would permit everyone to carry or store nuclear weapons! And make a law so that the government has the obligation to produce portable nukes so that not a single aggressor would dare to come close! How is that?


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