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"Bombing Lessons"

     The execution of Timothy McVeigh, confessed perpetrator of
the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, has
caught the attention of the American people.  Many have noticed
that we are one of the few "civilized" societies that still
practices capital punishment.  Some have tried to strengthen our
resolve to "stop terrorism," meaning individual acts of mass
destruction done for one political motive or another.
     It is noteworthy that in all our ranting against terrorism,
we seldom ask about those political motives.  What angered
Iranian "extremists" so terribly, that they hate the U.S. so much
and can resort to terrorism?  There are answers to that question,
which we have mostly left undiscussed.  Why are certain
Palestinians so desperate and so furious and so fanatical that
they are willing to kill themselves in order to kill at random
additional Israelis?  There are cogent answers to that question,
but we focus very little attention on them and simply continue to
denounce "terrorism."
     What were the motives, really, behind Timothy McVeigh's act
of terror?  What was he angry about?  What did he want to change? 
One dare suspect that the presence of a regional ATF office,
which may have contained storage space for explosive devices, 
helped him select his target.  As a people we have a knack for
not getting to the bottom of things, and not announcing publicly
all that is known.  Secrecy, and our obsession with secrecy, make
us appear somewhat dull.
     But there is another lesson from the Oklahoma City bombing
which is most obvious.  We don't like being bombed.  That part
they cannot hide.  All the detailed attention to the victims of
the bombing, which verged on the maudlin at times, made that very
clear.  We really didn't like it.  Here was a chance to learn
something about bombing, from the recipient's side, which we as a
society have so far refused to learn.
     Bombing is still part of our official policy as a people and
as a nation.  It is a major component of what we call "defense." 
But calling it defense doesn't make it that.  It is offense, and
terrorism, to create uncontrolled explosions which kill and maim
all life forms in the vicinity.  We as a people are still doing
it.  McVeigh used the term "collateral damage," but he didn't
invent it.  The Department of Defense, so-called, invented it,
and continues to use it.  We would be safer, and so would the
whole world, if we denounced and gave up the practice.  We would
be better defended, if we quit bombing people.  
     Note those who have been bombed by us, since McVeigh bombed
Oklahoma City:
          [1] The Sudan.  We blew up a pharmaceutical
manufacturing facility, in retaliation for the bombing of U.S.
embassies in Africa.  The claim that the facility was a source of
potential biological weapons has been withdrawn as unproved. 
Little was made of casualties, but there were some, and we can
safely infer from our own experience in Oklahoma City that the
Sudanese didn't like it.
          [2] Belgrade, and other parts of Serbia.  This is not a
totally undeveloped black-skinned country, but part of Europe. 
Our news reports mentioned very little "collateral damage," not
because there was none, but because they didn't want us to be
thinking about victims who could look so much like us.  Yet we
may safely infer that the Serbs didn't like being bombed and are
capable of imagining various forms of retaliation, which we in
turn will not like.
          [3] Puerto Rico.  Oh, it's true that that was
unintentional, that we were just practicing, but it makes the
same point anyway.  The people who were bombed at Vieques didn't
like it and have been aroused.  It would be better all around, if
we would quit practicing doing something which we need to quit
doing anyway.
     This new lesson, when it is learned, will have local
ramifications.  Almost all the budget at Los Alamos National
Laboratories has to do with preparations for bombing people --
"upgrading" the nuclear bombs we hold in readiness to use
anywhere in the world, guaranteeing their readiness, "improving"
them.  They had a firestorm there last summer, and didn't like it
much, and yet they continue to prepare firestorms for other
people.  A forest fire is not the same thing as a firestorm
induced by deliberate nuclear bombing, yet it is perfectly clear
that we would all be safer if the danger of deliberately set
fires was removed.  Los Alamos could change its mission from
bombing to solar fuel cells and other needed projects.
     The unhappy victims of the Oklahoma City bombing could
remind us and lead us to serious change in policy.  We are not
made safer by bullying and threatening the world with massive
terror.  It is often stated, "The world is a dangerous place," in
justification for all the bombing and all the preparation for
bombing.  But our own activities, our bombs and our willingness
to use them, constitute a huge part of the danger and increase
that danger, rather than reducing it.

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Copyright © 2001 Harry Willson

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