By Robert Silvey
The murders at Virginia Tech are sad beyond words. The hostile outsider, the missed chances to stop him, the readily available weapons, the innocent victims gunned down methodically in cold blood. We all mourn the horrific loss and try to think of ways to keep it from ever happening again.
In Iraq, many people die every day, far more (day after day) than died on Monday in Blacksburg.
When George Bush spoke in Blacksburg on Tuesday, he allowed us a rare glimpse of his human feelings. He almost sounded as though he meant the words he said, and that’s unusual lately, as he retreats more and more into an impermeable bubble.
When Harry Reid compared Iraq to Vietnam yesterday, Bush bristled as though he had never heard the comparison. And he promised that nothing would change.
In his Virginia Tech speech, Bush’s sympathies were carefully modulated and tightly focused. It was all about comforting abstractions: “hearts full of sorrow” and “day of sadness” and “time of anguish.” And, of course, “the grace and guidance of a loving God,” imagined as an all-powerful being who somehow had no power to avert evil but remains available to provide “comfort” afterward. No wonder Bush is led to conclude, “It’s impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering.” He can’t make any sense of it. The specific events and their possible causes are beyond him. Evil just rains down on us, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Except prayâ€”and draw the wagons into a circle around a fearful “community.” (Who’s outside that circle, threatening us? Terrorists? Frenchmen? Liberals who want to limit our personal firepower? Koreans? Maybe it’s those English majors.) Trust in God, trust in the president, who’s a good “dad.” Patriarchy and business as usual. In short: Don’t worry, my little ones, but do be afraid.
Of course, it is good to mourn for the victims in Blacksburg. It’s good to seek solace from friends. But it’s also essential to make sense of the causes for violence; else we have no hope of keeping it from happening again. The job of civil servants like the president is to search for reasons and propose remedies, but that’s more than we can expect from Bush. There was something bathetic, unctuous, almost bizarrely narcissistic, about his speech Tuesdayâ€”particularly in contrast to his lack of sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Iraq War. And that’s one catastrophe we do know the reasons for, beginning with the misguided invasion and the feckless occupation.
The day after Bush’s appearance, nearly ten times as many people died violently in Iraq as died on that terrible morning at Virginia Tech. And scores more, hundred more, die every day. Juan Cole summarized yesterday’s toll:
Nearly 300 persons were killed or found dead in Iraq on Wednesday and hundreds were wounded. Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that the smell of blood and gunpowder wafted through Baghdad on Wednesday. In the capital alone, Sunni Arab guerrillas carried out five horrific bombings in Shiite neighborhoods that, with some mortar attacks and shootings, killed around 200 persons and wounded many more.
The morning began with a guerrilla bombing of a police checkpoint at the gate to the Shiite slum of Sadr City, which killed 41.
Then the terrorists opened the gates of hell, carefully placing high explosives in a Shiite market and detonating them as workers gathered to take minibuses home after a hard day’s work. The blast incinerated or tore apart some 140 persons and injured 150 more, according to Reuters.
Al-Hayat says: “Eyewitnesses said that furious citizens, who busied themselves with collecting bodies charred by the horrific explosion and gathering body parts spread over an area of fifty years, threw stones and the rubble produced by the explosion at a joint American/Iraqi force that came to the market, forcing it to withdraw before this demonstration of popular rage.”
Peddlers in the market put their wooden trolleys to work as ambulances for the wounded.
There were reports of children being pulled alive from beneath the charred corpses of their relatives.
Let us, by all means, mourn the dead in Blacksburg. But let us mourn also the dead in Iraq, where the only meaningful “surge” is the surge in mass murder.
Bush’s war of choice has now continued for 1,491 daysâ€”four months longer than the US fought in World War II. There is no end in sight. As of today, these are the numbers of the dead:
- more than 650,000 Iraqis
- 3,315 American military personnel
- 268 other coalition military personnel
- at least 393 coalition contractors
- at least 126 journalists
As long as American troops remain, this wholesale slaughter will continue. When they leave, there is some chance the civil war will begin to wind down.
Stop the mass murder in Iraq. Bring the troops home now.
[Cross-posted at Rubicon]