The moon, heading into its final quarter this week, was a cup into which Jupiter appeared poised to fall when Koko, Paele and I went out walking. It was chilly enough that I grabbed a sweatshirt, and damp from the night’s passing rains. In the distance, I heard the call of a Newell’s shearwater as clouds tumbled and rolled, turning red and orange and yellow, until finally the sun rose into a pyramid of gold and scarlet that resembled a funeral pyre.
The news was filled over the weekend with stories of death in Norway — death dealt to innocents by a gunman and bomber described as “an anti-Islamist, right wing extremist” whose attack was apparently ideologically motivated — and initially blamed, by the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, on “jihadists.”
I read some of the comments following one AP story:
How can anyone justify killing innocent people just to put forth a political doctrine.
Yes, I wondered that myself when we bombed civilians in Afghanistan after 9-11, when we conducted “shock and awe” in the cities of Iraq.
this guy is not dumb and he is not crazy. He is a cold blooded murderer, who had an agenda. He was smart enough to make a bomb and plan all this. No punishment is enough for a heinous crime like this.
And it struck me, how, really, is this any different than what we’re doing in Pakistan, where civilians — innocents — are killed almost daily by American drones? How are the people operating those drones — people driven perhaps by their own anti-Islamist ideology, or even worse, by their desire for a paycheck, because let’s not forget that today’s soldiers choose their “professional specialties” — any different than a lone gunman carrying out his own murderous political plans?
Except, of course, that the gunman is arrested and sent to jail, and the news media make great hay out of the killings in Norway while sparing Americans the bloody details of our own government’s daily death-dealing in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, as the Republicans and Democrats haggle over how much to slash Medicare, day care, Social Security, social programs, to keep the nation from defaulting, Reuters is reporting that America has wasted — not spent, but wasted — $34 billion on contracts with private service providers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We need, as a nation, to get honest about our endless wars and the toll they are taking on us economically and morally. As Americans wring their hands and express pity and sympathy for the poor victims of the Norway massacre, we need also to be aware of the tragedies we inflict daily on families who are unlucky enough to live in nations that we’re trying, for reasons that are increasingly unclear, to control.