At the memorial ceremony for those slain at Virginia Tech, President Bush said today he did not know what the victims had done to deserve their fate. How this nation wept as one when thirty innocent Americans perished and twenty more were wounded! There is almost nothing else on the television news but this tragedy --- not even news from the ongoing slaughter of the war in Iraq.
Here we have the sorry spectacle of the man in the White House who made the war on Iraq, where a disaster comparable to the Virginia Tech massacre occurs four or five times a day every day, leading the nation in prayer! Yet when does this man go on television to ask the American people to pray for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been murdered in the illegal war he launched? And just as the students and teachers who perished at the hands of a crazed killer on the Virginia Tech campus had done nothing to deserve their fate, neither have the people of Iraq committed any crime to endure the unendurable they are suffering at the hands of a president who professed to be “horrified” at the events on a peaceful campus. If a South Korean student is regarded as a berserk killer for murdering thirty people what is President Bush, whose invasion to control oil-rich Iraq has cost nearly three quarters of a million lives, created four million refugees, and plunged the Middle East into turmoil?
The American people, including the families of the murdered Virginia Tech innocents, have collective blood-guilt on their hands. I have not gone to jail to protest the war machine, so I am no better than they and probably a good deal worse because I have given the issue some thought. How many of those parents in the audience hearing the President’s words had elected to Congress men and women who voted for lax laws on gun ownership? How many of those parents in the audience had also voted for legislators who backed the president’s illegal invasion of Iraq? Are we, as a nation, too obtuse to grasp the connection between our “gun culture” policy at home and our militarist policy abroad that murders and mutilates human beings at every turn? Practically any one in America can buy a gun, and abroad, any dictator in the world can buy weapons made in America because we just happen to be the world’s biggest arms peddler.
What kind of a society has America become? Why do we have two-million men in our prisons? Why, in some cities, is every second or third male either in prison or out on parole? Why is the murder rate soaring in so many cities? Why is there on average more than one killing a day in a city like Philadelphia? Why are our own home-grown terrorists murdering 30,000 Americans each year and injuring tens of thousands more with rapid-fire handguns of the sort used on the Virginia Tech campus? Do we realize, speaking of terrorists, that ten times as many Americans are being killed by Americans each year as all our troops in Iraq? Osama bin Laden is everywhere in America. He has a thousand faces. They are the faces of our own dispossessed, our own poverty-stricken, our own unemployed, our own underclass, our own idolized gangsters, our own youth who grew up in front of television sets that ooze violence and blood.
Who is responsible for the killings in Iraq except the same now bereaved parents of the murdered students at Virginia Tech? It’s not that some of them voted to elect George Bush. Anyone can be deceived, particularly by a notorious liar. But when the president broke the law and invaded Iraq, violating the UN Charter, how many of them protested? Today they are upset that a young, crazed student gunman has ran amok on the campus of a peaceful university, but where were they when President Bush defied the United Nations and ran amok in Iraq? Do they know, as Amnesty International reported on the same day as the Virginia Tech murders, the Middle East “is on the verge of a massive humanitarian crisis” because three-million Iraqis have been “forcibly displaced” by the war the grief-stricken Mr. Bush began? Who do the American people think made this humanitarian crisis in the Middle East if not the American people?
The same parents who weep for their children might consider that they and their neighbors are also spending a half trillion dollars a year so that the Pentagon, just over the horizon from Virginia Tech, can wage a war that is snuffing out the lives of children of other parents just like their own. Thousands of Virginians work for the military-industrial complex. They work for the Pentagon. They work for defense contractors. They work for the Central Intelligence Agency. They are in the business of killing directly or indirectly, yet how many of them are haunted by the consequences of their “jobs” in their dreams at night?
All across America, people who attend church and regard themselves as “good” people, such as the bereaved at Virginia Tech, are working in the plants that make atomic bombs and warplanes and napalm and cluster bombs and are creating new, demonical designs of germ warfare and space-based weapons so vile and horrible they defy description.
America as a nation has become an organized nightmare. Yesterday, the nation woke up to the pain of the kind of killing it has been inflicting widely around the world since its fleets of bombers roared out to destroy Dresden, since it leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since it laid waste to Vietnam, since it overthrew Chile, and now since it has invaded two Middle Eastern nations in its thirst for oil. Yes, weep for the innocent victims of Virginia Tech, who only wanted to study and live in peace. But weep also, America, for the people of Iraq! If President Bush cared as much for them as he cares for his own, he would have to hold four news conferences a day. He would never stop grieving.
(Sherwood Ross is an American writer who covers military and political topics.)