I’ve commented before about how the Maryland sniper does not hold any significance for us in the War on Terror. Now that it’s become pretty clear who the sniper actually is, and that he was inspired, at least in part, by Al Qeada and radical Islam, that statement must be amended slightly: the Maryland sniper holds almost no significance for the War on Terror. Indeed, I’m not really sure what, if any, proscriptions the revelations about John Muhammad entail. Be more aware of the possibility for homegrown copycats, I suppose?

But fundamentally, I believe my original proposition holds true: the fact that catching the sniper took so long and that so many individual attacks were allowed to happen before he was stopped does not have any bearing on the WOT, because those very same factors that made him difficult to catch or stop also effectively limit him in the amount of harm he can do, so that he is confined to the realm of pinprick annoyances in terms of his effect on society. He didn’t cause damage to our financial institutions or deliver a blow to our military, and he didn’t paralyze the public with fear. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it can be said only that he killed a handful of people and made a lot of people around Maryland a little more tense than normal (And indeed, many it did not affect at all: my girlfriend’s uncle lives in Maryland and he never gave a second thought to the sniper. Admittedly though, he’s a statistician at the Pentagon, and is probably on the end of the spectrum in terms of perspective on the relative danger of the whole situation. For instance, he was well aware of the fact that he was more likely to die driving to work than getting shot by the sniper).

I don’t want to downplay the suffering of those people who were injured or killed and that of their families, but I grieve for them with the mental framework similar to when I learn a shopkeeper or bank teller has been killed by a robber. They are individual tragedies, not wholesale dangers to our society.

When I wrote that post, I was responding to a typically thick-headed editorial in the Guardian, which basically trotted out the “We are all doomed” line, saying in effect, “If those bumbling fools can’t catch one little sniper, how are they supposed to stop Al Qeada?”

Yes, yes, I know. They can’t help it, they are the Guardian, after all. I imagine they have editorial meetings where they all come up with ideas for opinion pieces and judge whether or not they’re dumb enough for publication.

“Listen here chaps, I’ve got one: ‘DC Sniper Reveals Deadliness of US Gun Culture.'”

“Hmmm. .. I like the silly reference to a deadly gun culture, but the connection just isn’t tenuous enough. After all, the leftie yanks say that kind of thing all the time. We’re the Guardian! We have to raise the bar.”

“How ’bout this then: “‘DC Sniper Shows War on Terrorism is Hopeless.'”

Now you’re thinking like a Guardian writer!”

Well, not surprisingly, they’ve trotted out something based on similar silliness: “All men are equal in the sniper’s sights”. The subtitle further informs us, “Americans need to face up to some frightening home truths.”

Thanks, I’ll take it under advisement. It seems that daily the Guardian is selflessly informing us of some truths that we need to face up to, be they frightening, disconcerting, alarming, ominous or scary. And what are these truths?

The two weeks of the DC sniper were a preview of a different kind of terror: unpredictable, unpreventable, rendering a whole population terrified and helpless. In the city where the director of homeland security has his office, his department’s name was made useless. This is the terrorism of the future: bullets pinging through innocent air, poisons in the water supply, gas attacks. The arrests cannot make that vision of domestic defencelessness – and its future implications – go away.

Unpredictable? Yes.

Unpreventable? Well, they did catch the guy after all, right? And they would have caught him a lot sooner if they had disregarded that profiler silliness about him having to be white, married, etc.

Rendering a whole population terrified and helpless? Don’t think so, friend . See above.

And the Department of Homeland Security, for all the silliness that agency embodies, was not in any way “shown up” by the sniper. The sniper was a homegrown criminal who killed, admittedly, because of similar motivations that spur on Al Qeada and the like, but his crime spree was just that: a crime spree. Suppose a man and his son go on a three-state odyssey of robbery and mugging, taking more than two weeks to catch them. Does that mean that Homeland Security has failed? Please.

A few “bullets pinging through innocent air” is of a fundamentally different operational caliber than “poisons in the water supply” or “gas attacks.” The two latter threats require significant resources, planning and personnel to be carried out with any kind of effectiveness, and those points of logistics are also points of exposure where they are liable to stick out and be noticed by law enforcement. And there of course is the little fact that our water supply has not been poisoned, nor have we experienced any gas attacks. That’s a non-trivial point. It’s hard to poison the water or obtain and successfully use poison gas, and thus requires a lot of work to go into it. It’s easy to cut a hole in your car, buy a $700 rifle and snipe at random people standing perfectly still from a few hundred yards away.

Hopeful voices might interject that the two suspects do not seem to have been terrorists in the accepted sense: no links to an organisation have been proved. But the fact that they are reported to have expressed sympathy for America’s enemies and that one is a convert to Islam touches on another of the country’s deepest fears: the enemy within. American racists have in the past had to contend with the inconvenient fact that American serial killers are almost always white. In an increasingly paranoid nation, the sniper case will be used as ammunition by the bigots who host and phone radio talk shows.

Wow .

I have to admit, this one really caught me by surprise. I’ve heard this reaction before. Over at WarBlogger Watch, when the sniper’s identity was revealed, the general sentiment was “Oh, that’s just too perfect for all those racists over at LGF. They must be squealing with delight at this.” I wasn’t really surprised by that when I saw it at WBW. After all, those guys are idiots. I expected just a little more from the Guardian (but not much).

The comment is mighty stupid, of course, but it’s also just ugly in its bigotry. After reading the whole paragraph, I was surprised that he didn’t use scare quotes and say, “the enemy within,” because really the only reason he brings it up is so he can show his disdain for the idea and suggest that the entire concept as only existing in the fevered minds of a bunch of rednecks with gunracks in their rear windows and confederate flags painted on the hoods of their trucks, who will now of course go out and start beating any black/muslim/person of color. It’s doubly amusing (in a pathetic sort of way) that he chooses an instance in which there really was an “enemy within,” and furthermore one who wasn’t caught sooner specifically because no one thought it could have been a black man doing it, while trying to portray some sort of ill-concieved mass hysteria about a brown fifth column in the US.

And then he closes it out with an offensive swipe at “red” America. You know who I’m talking about: people who listen to talk radio! Most of them voted for Bush, I hear. What a jerk.

The third piece of bad news for America and its president is that those airwave ranters and others on the right will surely now at least have to discuss the fact that the sniper came out of a culture legislated to be a marksman’s paradise.

We will? Ok, let’s discuss this. Would you like to talk about how Maryland, and also just about every corner of America was and is still a lot safer than London with it’s enlightened “total ban” of all firearms? Is that the discussion you had in mind?

Well, I didn’t mean to go on this long, but there were just too many points of idiocy .

Sigh. Oh well, at least I can take heart in the fact that it will probably be a whole nother week or maybe even 10 days before the Guardian reprints the same silly argument by a different author. I wonder if they have some sort of “form article” template they’re using…

last update : 19-4-2018

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