Column, 641 words

Stopping the Senseless Carnage

Could we just cut back on warfare a little?

Donald Kaul

It was a confusing week, dominated by the Boston Marathon bombing, the evil act of two young men who had been welcomed into this country and had repaid the kindness with unspeakable cruelty.

Then, for grim comic relief, letters believed to contain the deadly poison ricin were sent to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator, and a local judge. The FBI immediately arrested a serial letter-writer in Mississippi who is an Elvis Presley impersonator.

From the very beginning, the Boston Marathon attack smelled like the work of international terrorists — maybe al-Qaeda — rather than a domestic nutjob. Homemade bombs that spew deadly shrapnel have the feel of Iraq and Afghanistan, not Oklahoma City.

Kaul-Violence-Doctress Neutopia

Doctress Neutopia/Flickr

But the Boston brothers who authorities believe carried out this outrage — one a U.S. citizen, one who was trying to be — didn’t really match the international terrorist profile. They seemed more like regular immigrants, ethnic Chechens who were struggling to be assimilated into our culture. Until they weren’t. What made them turn so violently against a country that had treated them rather well?

Beats me, although they were not the first homegrown “international terrorists” — mainly Muslim extremists, who have killed or attempted to kill Americans in the name of jihad.

Some say the problem is the way we’ve allowed our “War on Terror” to become a war on Islam, at least in the eyes of many young Muslims who are taking up arms against us. Could be.

Maybe this was their version of giving us “a taste of our own medicine.” Why, after all, should we be exempt from the senseless carnage that is all but universal?

Certainly the Boston attack, hideous as it was, wasn’t terribly exceptional. Only last week, for example, the news contained the story of at least 185 people dead in a Nigerian fishing village in the aftermath of a gunfight between the military and Islamic extremists.

Meanwhile, back in Syria, 80 people died during a government raid.

People in the Middle East, Asia Minor, and North Africa live in constant dread of an imminent attack by their enemies. Sometimes the toll is a few, sometimes a few dozen.

The other day the media showed the photos of a row of dead Afghan children lying on the ground. Or were they Pakistani? They’d been killed in a drone attack. Ours.

There are those who’ve called the Boston bombers “cowards.” I don’t buy that. They were something, but cowardly wasn’t it. The eldest brother apparently launched a suicidal charge at the police who ultimately killed him. Crazy is more like it. There seems to be an epidemic of crazy these days.

Cowardly, it would seem to me, is much more descriptive of killing people with drones — a lethal robot that puts the killer at no risk at all. And when the wrong target is hit or the wrong person killed, it’s written off as “collateral damage.” If that’s not cowardly it’s at least a long way from heroic.

Does that mean I’m in favor of replacing our drones with troops who can go into enemy territory and look our enemies in the eyes before they kill them? By no means. I’m not in favor of putting American troops in harm’s way.

What then? I don’t know, but I think it would help if we didn’t get involved in so many wars. We call ourselves a peace-loving people, but we’ve been involved in wars, invasions, and attacks almost constantly for the past hundred years.

There have been one or two brief periods of relative peace in our recent history but not many more. I don’t suggest that we become a nation of pacifists or isolationists, but could we just cut back on warfare a little? Limiting ourselves to one war at a time would be a start.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

  • Paula Kelly

    “An epidemic of crazy”…pretty much sums everything up. From terrorism to Senate rejection of background checks for guns to sequestration.

  • leeniowa

    Mr. Kaul,
    Back when I was a young boy I delivered the Des Moines Register in the small town of Fremont, IA. I occasionally read your editorials and was never sure if you really believed what you wrote or if you were just trying to stir the pot. I usually disagree with your writing.
    I certainly don’t like the idea of innocent men, women and children being blown up and discarded as collateral damage. I assume that the death of innocents is probably inflated for effect. The truth is that even if we stopped the drone attacks and sent our soldiers in there would still be death of innocents and we would be hated just as much. In reality I don’t believe that we can play nice and expect the world to be taken over with love.
    Finally, the extremist have never been worried about collateral damage as the explosives that they use don’t just kill the bad guys.
    As I said I don’t always agree with you but I think that you did a good job on this writing.

    The following was extracted from an email sent by a friend today. I have been too lazy to check it for factual correctness but it is interesting. Have a good day. Larry Lee – Mason City, IA

    1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by Muslim male
    extremist between the ages of 17 and 40.
    2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics , athletes were kidnapped and massacred by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    3. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by
    Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    4. During the 1980’s a number of Americans were kidnapped
    in Lebanon by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    5. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up
    by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    6. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and
    a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his
    wheelchair by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    7. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a
    US Navy diver trying to rescue passengers was murdered by Muslim male
    between the ages of 17 and 40.
    8. In 1988 , Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by Muslim male
    extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    9. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first
    time by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    10. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were
    bombed by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    11. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were
    used as missiles to take down the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by Muslim male extremists between the of 17 and 40.
    12. In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan
    against Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    13. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and
    murdered by– you guessed it– Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.
    No, I really don’t see a pattern here to justify
    profiling, do you? So, to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people…

    Absolutely No Profiling!

    They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women,
    little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are
    members of the President’s security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe Foss,but leave Muslim Males between the ages 17 and 40 alone lest they be guilty of profiling.