I have massive sympathy for the victims of the bomb blasts on Monday 15th April – in multiple locations with at least 42 people killed and over 257 wounded it is a story that deserves to have featured highly in news bulletins. Sadly yet another series of bombs targeting civilians in Iraq does not seem to have warranted much coverage by western media. In Boston, however, an equally shocking yet far less lethal attack at the finish line of the marathon did receive wall to wall coverage.
The media coverage continued, enabling the world to watch as two suspects were rapidly identified and tracked down; at times it seemed just like an episode of ’24’ or similar. The media did seem to treat both suspects as guilty despite no trial having been conducted; they certainly appeared to present plenty evidence to support this. I truly hope that the numerous law enforcement agencies continued to consider alternatives throughout the ensuing manhunt – I don’t know enough about the exact details to dispute the decision to pursue the brothers, but I can imagine that two innocent people subjected to such high profile media coverage might be panicked into flight rather than giving themselves up. I certainly hope that the correct suspects have been identified and that the motivation behind the attack may soon be revealed.
It has now been announced that the surviving brother has been formally charged with, among other things, use of weapons of mass destruction. Again, without meaning any disrespect for the victims, I find it rather ironic the the US are so outraged by the bombing of innocent civilians in Boston when for many years large numbers of Irish Americans seemed to be more than happy to offer moral and financial support to the IRA who were regularly causing death and carnage by bombing innocents in Northern Ireland and mainland UK. Throughout all this time it always seemed sufficient to refer to the devices as bombs and IEDs, rather than WMDs. It has always been my understanding that a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ is defined as a weapon that kills or injures civilian as well as military personnel, and is particularly referenced to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Given the number of fatalities and casualties in Boston, I feel sure that many of the legally held automatic weapons so treasured by the NRA must also now be re-classsified as WMDs.
In years gone by there were several organisations in Boston which raised funds for the Irish Republican movement, some of which was allegedly used to buy weapons for the IRA. Following the September 11th attacks, the US Government increased its pressure on the Irish Republican movement in the US. In October 2001 the IRA announced their intention to “decommission and put their weapons “beyond use”. The change of attitude was mirrored by an Irish-American taxi-driver in Boston; in a report following the announcement, he said “I never thought of the IRA as terrorists before 11 September,” and added “but now I see where the Brits are coming from.” A republican activist Kevin Fagan, who in his seven years in Boston had switched to drinking Budweiser instead of Guinness, believed that the US Government pressure was Tony Blair’s pay-back for Britain’s military support in Afghanistan. The situation regarding motivations is clearly complex and multi-layered.
The only way that the Boston attack and other similar ones are ever likely to succeed is if the general population stops doing things for fear of unspecified threats. I actually believe that those caught up in events in Boston are likely to be as resilient as members of the UK public were when faced with ongoing IRA threats. I have already read reports that people who have lost limbs are looking ahead to being able to dance again or to complete future Boston Marathons; the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. On the other hand, something else continues to amaze me; a chilling fact to consider alongside the reaction to events in Boston on 15th April – more than 85 people, including 8 children, are killed with guns on average day in US and more than twice that number are injured, and it’s also estimated that, to take one city as an example, in Chicago 20-30% of children have witnessed a school shooting. Given such statistics following on from ongoing mass shootings, I continue to find it extremely difficult to understand the resistance to introducing some form of gun controls – the only logical explanation surely has to be the desire to profit from gun sales.
I ‘treated’ myself to an entry in the Edinburgh Marathon for my 50th birthday – to date, my only marathon – with two years to go until my 60th birthday, I now feel that I have another incentive to aim for a second.