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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Boston Marathon bombing

Whenever an innocent person loses his life, or is seriously maimed, it is of course tragic. A life is a life, and it's hard to value one over another.

But somehow planting bombs at the finish line of a marathon seems particularly cruel.

Most of the hardcore runners I've known have been a relatively likable bunch. People whose big goal in life is to run 26 miles without stopping, or to do so faster than they have before, are a relatively innocent breed. Trying to kill them is almost like planting a bomb near a group of people building cabins for Habitat for Humanity: why them? (Okay, marathoning is an egotistical and not an altruistic pursuit, but still, this is not a group whose energies are spent hurting others.)

But it's not as if we can politely ask al Qaeda to next time please plant their bombs at a maximum security prison, preferably near the Death Row section.

The number of injured yesterday evidently far exceeded the number killed. And there have evidently been a lot of amputations. Again, that's obviously terrible for anyone, but somehow seems particularly so for those who love to run.

It also seems particularly cruel to place the bomb right at the finish line, where the runners are finishing their 26 miles. They were exhausted, and probably a little discombobulated. They were proud as well, but those who had just finished when the bomb went off had no chance to savor their accomplishment.

The people closest to the bomb were those cheering them on, in front of the hotel but behind the barricades lining the course. The last thing they -- or the runners -- were expecting was terrorism.

But of course that is precisely how terrorists succeed, by doing the unexpected.

So far the police have said they are detaining one "person of interest," a 20-year-old Saudi national, though there is evidently some question as to whether he is the actual culprit. Certainly nobody expected a bomb at the end of a 26 mile race.

If the 20-year-old is indeed the terrorist, all of these subtleties undoubtedly escaped him. He is probably just a dumb guy who was weaned on hatred for the Great Satan, and figured he was striking a blow for a good cause. The last thing on his mind was the types of individuals he would be killing.

Back in the Mideast, terrorists sometimes plant bombs at weddings and funerals, simply because they know lots of people will be gathered there.

That seems particularly cruel too.

Of course, all this is really beside the point. The real cruelty is robbing people of their lives and their limbs, no matter what the occasion is. And it's most tragic when a young person loses his life.

Martin Richard, the 8-year-old who was killed while cheering on the runners, has gotten a fair amount of publicity, as one would expect. He was evidently a normal, nice, innocent boy who loved to climb and ride his bicycle.

The 400 or so children estimated to have been killed by U.S. drones aimed at killing our enemies have gotten exactly zero publicity. (We don't even know their names, for the most part.) They are just referred to by our press as "collateral damage" -- even though most of them were probably just as cute and lovable as Martin Richard.

To their relatives and countrymen, of course, we are the terrorists.

It's hard to justify any war in which innocents like children -- or even 70-year-olds trying to finish a marathon -- are killed. Especially wars in which we achieved as little as we did in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Perhaps the best response to terrorist attacks is not with war or even with drones, but with payment in kind. Blast victims regularly lose their limbs and eyes in these attacks. Surgeons can do miraculous things with transplants these days. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to catch the individual terrorists, and then surgically harvest from them whatever their victims have lost, be that arms or leg or eyes, then try to transplant those onto their victims.

Maybe what we should have done after 9/11 was focus entirely on catching bin Laden and his henchmen, then let them settle their debts to the wounded this way.

This would spare the life of innocent Muslim children. And it would deliver to the guilty what they deserve. It sounds barbaric, but would come a lot closer to real (Old Testament) justice than what we have now. And it would discourage further terrorism of the sort we saw yesterday, even if it would not dissuade suicide bombers.

I know, we are theoretically a civilized nation, and civilized nations do not maim.

But neither do they kill innocent children.


Dave Moriarty said...

I like the literal and eye for and eye view- or leg for a leg ...

The punishment fits the crime

But let's take it to baseball for a minute:

Suppose you were batting and the pitcher hits you with a pitch. You are not pleased and stand staring at the pitcher and offer some comments. He replies with words that trigger your fury. You charge the mound and tackle him. It turns out in his effort to defend himself he bends down but takes the brunt of the collision with his upper body.

Eventually everyone separates but now he feels pain and subsequently discovers he has a broken collarbone. He is very highly paid guy and is now out 8-10 weeks. (This actually happened recently.)

So , do we break the collarbone of the guy charging the mound. Do we deprive him of his income for 8 weeks?

Or do we say well that is the game. "these things happen, we have these events."

What i am really getting at is a basic philospohical question of what constitues justice in a circumstance where parties are aggrieved.

Now that is a topic for the philosophers.

John Craig said...

You bring up some interesting philosophical questions. (Definition of a philosophical question: one to which there is no right and wrong answer.)

The problem with the guy charging the mound is, there are too many intangible elements: did the pitcher bean him on purpose, or throw a brushback pitch on purpose? Did the guy charging the mound intend to break the collarbone of the pitcher? What did the pitcher say to inflame him? Do either of them have a history in this regard?

With the terrorists, it's much simpler: they mean to maim and kill, so the punishment should fit the crime.

W O D said...

I found the whole dancing and partying in the streets weird (such an American thing, would never happen in Australia.

Looking at the picture of the young dude I just feel sad. There is no crazy stare or empty eyes like I wanted.

Then are ask myself do some races need war to live? and I think they do.

John Craig said...

W O D --
Now that you mention it, the dancing and partying does seem very American.

I wouldn't read too much into a face. There are a lot of sociopaths with bland faces. My initial impression was that the younger brother, the one still alive, was led astray by his bad older brother, who'd been a boxer and was known for having beaten his girlfriend. But then I read that the younger brother had partied on Wednesday night with his U Mass Dartmouth classmates, and according to them had seemed perfectly fine and normal (and guilt-free), two days after he left those bombs -- which says to me he's not perfectly fine and normal, but most likely a sociopath.

I'm not sure about certain races needing war. Chechens certainly have a warlike reputation, and the Beslan massacre didn't do any favors to their reputation. But every race has some history of being warlike and brutal at some point in their histories. (If they didn't, they probably wouldn't be around today.)

W O D said...

Interestly suspect one had been busted for DV as has the sister, Mum had been busted for shoplifting. This story is bloody interesting.

You mention they have a war like reputation (and there's a reason why sterotypes exist!)

John Craig said...

W O D --
Steve Sailer just carried an article by War Nerd about the Chechens which colorfully illustrates the point about their warlike natures: