Editorial: Heavy Price

The following editorial comes from Arab News (The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily). I came across this editorial during one of my oft visits to Watching America.

The massacre of 32 students at Virginia Tech University has left Americans dumbstruck. It is the latest and so far the most bloody in a series of murderous attacks at US educational institutions. At each of the appalling crime scenes, youngsters have settled grudges or played out video game fantasies with powerful automatic weapons. And those weapons are sold over the counter in virtually each of America’s 50 states. However at this hour of America’s horrified grief, in which all decent people worldwide share, it is worth pointing out that there is a lesson here which, on past evidence, no US administration will choose even to hear, let alone learn.

That lesson is this: if a suicide bomber walks into a crowded market in Iraq and blows himself up along with 32 innocent bystanders, it is terrorism. If the same thing happens in America, it is not. Americans — and by extension anyone in the country — enjoy a constitutional right to bear arms. However anachronistic this may seem to outsiders given that the days of frontiersmen and citizens’ militias are long past, there still remains a powerful lobby, funded by the weaponry manufacturers themselves, that defends what it claims is a fundamental right.

Yet at the same time, the Americans lose no time in insisting that others around the world surrender their weaponry — whether the weaponry belongs to Afghan tribesmen, Iraqi neighborhood patrols or, on a larger scale, the nuclear arms of North Korea and the suspected Iranian atomic program. The scale of the weapon is irrelevant. There is an inherent moral contradiction in the rights that Americans seek to maintain for their own citizens and the demands they make on the citizens of other countries. The unfortunate truth is that because the US has consistently sought to impose different standards on non-Americans, it has left itself open to charges of hypocrisy. Its partial treatment of Israel with its own nuclear weaponry, created from stolen or supplied US technology, only compounds this. All nations naturally and understandably maneuver to gain the best advantage. It is part of the international power game. But America, the sole superpower, needs the trust of its friends and allies if it is to play an effective international role.

Its constant use of double standards destroys that trust. The damage unfortunately goes much further. Most Americans simply do not see the falsity of their own position. So sure are they of their own moral rectitude that they utterly discount the standards and concerns of others as either irrelevant or wrong. This is all the easier for them because of the widespread ignorance of the outside world which, in the present administration, extends from the man in the street all the way to the president himself. This lack of international knowledge and awareness is the more remarkable given that America is such a rich mix of races and cultures. Yet once within the capacious US borders, immigrants sign up to a constitution which includes this obsolete right to carry guns whose sole purpose is to kill. Gangland murders and campus massacres by deluded youths armed with lethal firepower are the price Americans pay for this blindness. Though they may be terrified and deeply disturbed, they do not see such crimes as terrorism or indeed as constitutionally state-sponsored terrorism.

There are times when I wonder how the rest of the world looks at the US. And here is a fine example.

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