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Sandy Hook: tragedy and perspective

John Bell

December 15, 2012

The mass shooting at the Connecticut elementary school that left at least 27 dead, including 20 children, has rightly horrified people around the world. On the same day, a man in rural China stabbed 22 school children and an elderly woman before being subdued.
It is impossible to put oneself in the mindset of anyone who would deliberately target innocent children. The Connecticut shooter, 20-year-old Paul Lanza, also murdered his mother.
The murders have sparked yet another round of debate about the ready availability of automatic weapons in the US, and the difficulty accessing healthcare and support for those with mental illness. These are useful debates.
There will be tears–most genuine–and hand wringing. But you can be sure nothing will actually be done.
In July a gunman murdered 12 people and wounded 58 more at a screening of a Batman movie. There were pious words and lowered flags, but nothing concrete was done.
Just days before the latest shooting, a US Superior Appeals Court struck down an Illinois state law banning carrying concealed weapons. It is now legal to carry a hidden weapon anywhere in the United States.
The National Rifle Association remains one of the most influential and well-funded lobbying organizations in the US. It spent $7.2 million in 2010 on political advertising. There are 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the US; to put that in perspective there are fewer than 40,000 grocery stores.
But restricting the discussion to one about gun control misses the point. The ready availability of automatic assault weapons is a symptomatic problem, but not the real disease.
In a 2002 article, US socialist Paul D’Amato wrote this: “After the 1999 Columbine massacre, when two heavily-armed teenagers killed 12 fellow students, President Bill Clinton made a speech to the parents and students of Columbine, in which he called for ‘a culture of values instead of a culture of violence.’ As he made this speech, the former Commander-in-Chief was in the midst of leading a systematic bombing campaign against Serbian cities. Vonda and Michael Shoels, parents of Isaiah Shoels, a Black student gunned down in the massacre, penned a letter to Clinton that Michael Shoels read aloud at Clinton’s speech, saying, ‘Those who made pipe bombs may well have cheered your bombs dropping over Kosovo and Yugoslavia. There is a connection.’ The Shoel’s hit upon a central hypocrisy of capitalist politicians. They make a lot of noise about the impermissibility of violence–except when it is the violence they employ in pursuit of their own interests.”
Racism, militarism and poverty
According to an August 2011 article in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, at least 167 Pakistani children had been killed in the previous seven years by US drone attacks. One 2006 drone strike hit a school, killing 68 children. The death of those children barely rated a headline.
Questions will be raised about the mental health of Paul Lanza, but what about the sanity of those, from the White House to the Pentagon, ordering drone attacks on targets where civilians are certain to become “collateral damage.”
The very phrase “collateral damage” was popularized to shrug off civilian deaths leading up to and during the 1991 Gulf War. Before that war, justifying economic sanctions against Iraq that had resulted in the death of as many as 500,000 children due to illness and malnutrition, then US Secretary of State Madeline Albright declared: “We think the price is worth it.”
According to website Global Issues, 21,000 children around the world die each and every day of preventable causes. Poverty, disease and “natural disasters” are the culprits. That totals 6.7 million children each year.
The personal wealth of just Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s richest man “worth” $69 billion (US), would be enough to save most of those children by providing decent food and sanitation.
That a handful of individuals control so much wealth when millions die from want is violence of the worst order. Those who quote scripture, saying the poor shall always be with us, abet that crime.
The senseless death of 20 Connecticut children is a tragedy, but must be put in perspective of a system that mass-produces tragedy.

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Embedded Video: 
Madeline Albright justifies the death of half a million Iraqi children.

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