Friday, April 20, 2007

The VT Massacre and What it Means to the War on Terror


By Emilio Karim Dabul

This past Monday was, unfortunately, the perfect weather scenario for the horrible series of murders that took place at Virginia Tech: endless gray and rain. The day was funereal before the first shots rang out. But before I cast more darkness on a week that has started out worse for the US than any other since 9/11, let me say out front that there's something we can learn here if we're only willing. Namely, that far from being prepared for the next 9/11, the 32 students slain this week in a matter of 20 minutes by one crazed individual should prove beyond any doubt that we have a lot more work to do to come up to speed to protect ourselves against terrorism. If we can learn that lesson now rather than later, then we may have a chance to actually shield ourselves against much greater catastrophe when the terrorists strike again.
You can be certain that Al Qaeda has taken note of what happened Monday and has filed the information for future reference. Think of how many more students would have died if there had been a group of homicide bombers and other armed individuals who had assaulted the campus. 9/11 happened because we did not properly consider or prepare for the unthinkable. And Monday at Virginia Tech took place because we do not like to think of our college campuses, or our amusement parks, malls, and grade schools, as launching pads for massacres. Well, we need to. We're way past the point of having to debate the obvious. America has changed forever since those hijacked planes crashed against the Towers, and our security measures need to be able to meet the threats posed in this new era.

Let me put it more simply: there is no reason in the post 9/11 world that 32 students should have died Monday. Had the school been wired with high tech surveillance from end to end, text messages sent out en masse to students' cell phones after the first shootings, armed guards immediately appeared, and the campus locked down right away, lives could have been saved. What preparation had the school done in advance of this attack to prepare students, faculty, and campus police to respond appropriately? And moreover, tell me, citizens of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, etc., do you know the evacuation plans and procedures you need to follow in the event your city's hit by a dirty bomb, a chemical attack, or, God forbid, an actual nuke? No, I didn't think so. I'm a New Yorker and I don't have a clue what I'm supposed to do if and when that day happens. Why? Because for all our talk about remaining steadfast in the face of terrorism, it's largely been business as usual since 9/11.

Well, here's the problem. If we don't properly prepare for the next inevitable terrorist strike, the country may come to a standstill, business wise and otherwise, that could make 9/11's aftereffects look mild indeed. Follow the continuum here. 2001 was the follow-up from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. You can be certain that with the next attack they will top by far what happened a little over five years ago. That's their pattern. It's not a question of when, but how, and they are working on that as I write these words.

We must think of the maniac on Monday as the advance guard from a much greater Army, poised to destroy us if we let them. But we owe our children this much: no retreat and no surrender from the war in front of us, and no excuses from our government or ourselves not to be prepared.

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