Columnist Jim Cahillane: Multiple evils of international, domestic terrorism

  • People attend a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, on May 23, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead.  AP FILE PHOTO

Published: 6/27/2017 8:54:58 PM

That blasted day in May, the television, internet and newspapers screamed the news that a suicide bomber attacked a concert aimed at children in Manchester, England. May that heartless terrorist burn in hell!

James Corden spoke a tearful tribute to Manchester and its people on his “The Late Late Show.” Corden is a native of England whose voice carried the weight of someone who’s lost a much-loved friend in an act of senseless violence. James is a man of great heart who I’ve come to admire since I saw him working hard in a West End show called “One Man, Two Guvnors.” He closed his tribute to Manchester with a wish that everyone “hold your children close tonight.”

Twenty-two years ago my column was in reaction to the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Then-President Clinton called those domestic terrorists “evil cowards.” Pundits said that we would have to look to Britain for advice on combating homegrown terrorism.

That was then. Today, we face the multiple evils of international and domestic terror. The question in 1995 was whether we should empower the FBI to infiltrate self-proclaimed militias? Following 9/11, then-President George W. Bush reorganized America’s domestic agencies into the Department of Homeland Security. Despite those changes, we still hear tales of information stovepiping by the FBI and CIA. The concept of secrecy seems to have been lost in our more than ever-connected world.

It still boggles my mind to read that 10,000 men and women worked at England’s Bletchley Park during World War II. Those code-breakers were the best and brightest of their day, but their mission was greatly unknown.

America’s Manhattan project to build the atom bomb had more leaks. In my final Air Force year at RAF Fairford, I was staff sergeant in charge of classified files. My security clearance never went above secret, which was invariably assigned to aircraft accident reports.

I’ve been a skeptic of excessive classifications ever since.

I don’t envy the job of FBI and CIA agents whose most secret projects revolve around placing human eyes and ears into groups that by their nature are comprised of like-minded, ethnically bound haters. China, reports the New York Times, executed twenty Western spies in one fell swoop. Spying’s not a job that promises long-term benefits.

The Manchester atrocity has parallels to our own Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. There, a close-knit pair of brothers formed their very own terrorist cell. Two pressure-cooker bombs were constructed using internet instructions and readily available material. American society rightly values its First and Second Amendment rights, but from just reading or watching the news you can see that they come with a bloody price. Statistics tell the tale better than I ever could. That America loses 32 people a day to gun homicides and twice that number to gun suicides is beyond justification. Their tearful families comprise an uncountable statistic.

Winston Churchill: “Nothing in life is more exhilarating that being shot at without result.” Reinstating the assault rifle law will save lives. Orlando, Florida, suffered five workplace deaths on June 5. A London attack tops the news, yet our targeted Congress kowtows to “GUNS R US.” Sad!

Manchester’s youngest victim was an 8 year-old girl, Saffie Roussos. The Boston Marathon bombing’s murdered 8-year-old was Martin Richard. He had made a sign in school with his wish for our world, “No more hurting people —Peace”. Jesus asked us to turn and “become like little children,” or never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Today, on the evidence, that’s a difficult standard to meet.

Becoming a grandparent changes everything. Movie murders did not hurt before, now they do. In the Valley, Springfield TV has morphed into a shooting-gallery tally. City Councilor Bud Williams blames the violence on illegal guns.

Broadcasters themselves are so numbed-down that they ignore the longtime rule of television news: “If it bleeds, it leads.” No more. I’ve tuned out most crime shows — not so much for the detectives or lawyers —it’s the young victims I can’t abide.

Today, I say that old cross-your-fingers prayer:” There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Every TV news cycle parades druggies, criminals and victims — mostly young – making me hesitate to turn on the set.

Speaking of criminals, have you seen President Trump’s budget? As Stephen Colbert noted, it’s designed to “Repeal and replace grandpa.” Our representatives and senators are the nation’s last line of defense. Forget that border wall down south; we’re being killed by our own.

Where has civility gone? E Pluribus Unum governs everyone.

In her sensible speech to this year’s Wellesley College gradates, Hillary Clinton called on them to take up their diplomas and address the mess previous generations have made. To paraphrase Hillary: Most of the answers cannot be found on Google, but in actions. Put on your boots; grab a sign and, using your education along with native smarts, ask questions over and over until solutions are found.

Today, I’m just a citizen with reasoned worries looking for heroes to pinch-hit — right now — before America loses this ball game!

Jim Cahillane lives in Williamsburg and writes a monthly column.




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