I ran the Boston Marathon back in 1968, and, my feet covered with blisters inside my Keds sneakers, dragged across the finish line to meet my waiting uncle at a time of about 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was close enough to the time that the current bombing happened in this year’s race — about four hours from the starting gun — that had I been running it this year, I might still been near enough to the finish line to have heard the blasts.
That really brings home to me the horror of what just happened.
At the same time, I’m reminded that back when I ran my Boston Marathon, which was only weeks after the Viet Cong’s bloody Tet Offensive, we didn’t give a thought to the idea of the Viet Cong bringing their war home to America. Now you have to at least wonder whether this bombing might in some way have been linked to America’s various wars abroad.
We don’t at this point have a clue who was behind this atrocity, but whether it was some foreign terrorist organization, a contingent of Taliban fighters seeking to bring the Afghan War to the US, or a domestic right-wing group protesting abortion, the income tax or the country’s “Kenyan” president, it should be a wake-up call to the nation that our violent national culture and our imperial pretensions will eventually reap us a whirlwind.
A country that goes around blowing up children in Afghanistan by the score, as happened last week in Kundar Province, Afghanistan, that claims for itself the right to kill anyone, anywhere, if the president or his designees in the Pentagon and the CIA decide that person is a threat or an annoyance (and that is willing to kill lots of innocent bystanders, including women and kids, to do it), a country that encourages its police to act like an occupying military force in their jurisdictions, breaking into homes in SWAT gear at dawn, pointing assault rifles in people’s faces, arresting people on trumped-up charges, such a country and its people at some point must realize that such behavior invites a violent response.
This time, it was apparently crudely made IEDs that killed three and tore the limbs from other people innocently participating in or watching a road race. Note, though, that we had never even heard of IEDs until Bush’s and Cheney’s criminal invasion of Iraq. Next time, it could just as easily be a home-made remotely piloted drone aircraft carrying a load of TNT or some other deadly explosive.
The point is you reap what you sow. Violence begets violence.
So America, the most violent country in the world today, lurches from one act of mayhem to another. It really matters little whether the slaughter is caused by a wack-job armed with a few high-capacity-clip automatic pistols or a foreign or domestic terrorist armed with a couple of crude IEDs. The victims are just as dead or maimed either way.
We cannot hope to escape this kind of thing if we go on as we are going.
If the government responds to this latest tragedy by doubling down on its domestic spying campaign, by enhancing police powers, by stepping up its deadly global drone war, and by invading or meddling in more countries abroad, we can expect more and more violent attacks aimed at killing Americans here at home.
I’m especially contemplating the danger of blowback because we learned here in Philadelphia only two weeks ago that the Pentagon has decided to set up a drone piloting base just two miles from my house on the site of the mothballed Willow Grove Naval Air Station. None of the local pols who were effusively praising the announcement, hailing it as a job-creating phenomenon, gave a thought to the reality that this was bringing the front line of the Afghan War to the suburbs of Philly, and that besides putting a bunch of killers in uniform in our midst, it was putting a big bull’s eye right in a suburb full of civilians. (See my article about this in the latest issue of Counterpunch’s new monthly magazine.)
Clearly we need a new approach — one that relies on fostering international peace and cooperation, and that here at home seeks to rekindle some sense of community, and of reverence for the rights and freedoms that many people have died for, but which have over last two decades been whittled away until they are vestigial or barely recognizable.
Maybe too, we Americans could look at the latest carnage in Boston and recognize it as the very thing that our military has been engaged in doing in our name in places like Iraq and Afghanistan — right down to the deliberate and sick timing of a second bomb to blow up people who are coming to the aid of victims of the first bomb, which is precisely the wretched MO of the US bombing and drone strike campaigns along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.
I’m disgusted by the attack on the Boston Marathon, and whoever did it is truly twisted, but no less twisted are the Pentagon officers and who planned the attack that killed those 10 children in Kundar, or the president who ordered the leveling of the Iraqi city of Fallujah. We Americans are far too selective in our sense of horror and outrage.
It all makes me sick. I’m going out for a run.