Tears for Paris

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151116-eiffel-tower-red-white-blue-1240p_d36e114e055a1af8ffe687a50888fb6d.nbcnews-fp-1200-800Tonight’s PBS News featured a story of Isis radicals training young boys in Afghanistan to kill infidels. So we have another generation growing up thinking that they’re doing God’s work to slaughter innocent people who might or might not be Muslim.

When I was a theological student, I read the Koran and I don’t recall any such admonition to murder people. But that’s the line these killers of 129 people in Paris must have believed. As of this writing, only one of the men identified as one of the killers remains at large. From news accounts, I gather the others were killed by police or committed suicide.

Last week’s tragedy created different reactions. It put ordinary people in a mood of grief and anger throughout Europe. Here in the United States, most people joined the French for this time of mourning.

But we also saw Republican presidential candidates seeming to blame the terror attacks in Paris on President Obama. Apparently a few desperate politicians know no shame. I can’t imagine the decent mature Republican presidential candidates of the past exhibiting such immaturity. I’m thinking of Gov. Bill Scranton and Sen. Dick Lugar.

We’ve visiting Paris and no doubt we walked or been driven by the buildings where the terrorists shot and killed so many innocent people. We have a French friend and neighbor, a professional singer, who spends part of the year in our Indiana city and part of the year at his apartment in Paris.

After the killings he e-mailed from Paris all his friends that he was safe. No doubt, Friday’s killings left him shaken as they did most people in the city. Judging from the TV pictures of Parisians, still a few days later, you see those on the city streets looking dazed.

A day after 9/11 in New York City, I met a former colleague at our downtown library for lunch. As we walked out of the building, he asked, “What has this accomplished?” To be sure, that tragedy caused Americans to be on alert for worry about possible terrorists in their neighborhoods and cities.

But we got a homegrown Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma city bombings. You don’t have to be a radicalized Muslim to want to kill innocent people.

I have no doubt that the Western governments, now on high alert, will destroy Isis and their followers. In fact, planes from France have already bombed one city in Iraq that the terrorists control. Such counterattacks I’m sure mark only the beginning of an all-out assault on Isis.

Today, being Tuesday, we seniors get a small discount at Kroger’s. That’s where you could find me shopping. But it was hard to get my mind off of Paris, the busy streets, a cathedral high on a hill, the Arch of Triumph and the Eiffel Tower, now alight in red, white and blue colors of the French flag.

I join all Americans to mourn those who were senselessly killed. We gladly commit our country’s resources in this struggle against terrorist ideology on behalf of all humanity.

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Commies under the bed, again

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snowden102way_sq-e640efc5481e6a88137c4aa402822717bc5c48b2-s6-c30I’m not sure we’re going to have an honest public debate about all this domestic spying the government has been doing.

The scale of it all is staggering. It’s bad enough that the National Security Agency is recording our phone calls and e-mails. Millions of them. I gather every day. Then when Sen. Ron Wyden asked about it in a hearing, NSA director James Clapper lied about it. That was before Edward Snowden.

After Snowden, the private contractor, blew the whistle on this surveillance program, Clapper apologized for the lie. Of course, Democrats as well as Republicans won’t demand Clapper’s firing or indictment for lying to Congress.

Most of them seem to be in cahoots with the administration on the spying. This has become such a comedy. President Obama said he welcomed the public debate. He should have thought of that when he agreed to the program in the first place. Some constitutional lawyer.

Meantime, we’re told we shouldn’t worry about our constitutional rights being violated. All the spying has the OK by the secret court – the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court – which is protecting everybody’s rights. This is joke. Of the 30,000 requests for warrants,
FISA judges have denied the grand sum of 11.

The NSA claims the program has foiled terrorist plots. Well, where are the suspects?
Where are the arrests? Where are the charges? Who’s going to prison?

In the past few years, we have seen terrorist plots foiled. But those weren’t foiled because of government spying. One would-be terrorist’s motor scooter bomb fizzled in Times Square, as I recall. He’s in jail. Then there was the famous underwear bomber on a Detroit-bound airliner. But it was passengers and flight attendants who stopped him. That guy probably will spend the rest of his life in prison.

What about the psychiatrist who killed a bunch of people at Fort Hood? He had been in regular contact with a radical cleric in Yemen.

I can guess why members of Congress aren’t howling about the spying. Nobody wants to look soft on terrorists just as in an earlier time members of Congress didn’t want to look soft on Communists. In that era Commies seemed to be everywhere. So only a couple of senators had the guts to vote against LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War. Not very patriotic, although right.

If there’s merit to the current program, you’d think police would have arrested the Chechen brothers before they could set off bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line. That attack killed three people and seriously injured scores. In the attack’s aftermath, the brothers also killed an MIT security guard.

The younger brother goes on trial today in Boston federal court. This young man could face the death penalty. Just one of the lives forever changed. And to what end?

In so short of time, the spying has become old news. Snowden remains in a Moscow airport waiting for a country to grant him asylum. House Republicans have gone back to harping about the new health care law and finding fault with the immigration reform a bipartisan coalition just passed in the Senate.

The country’s reaction to the NSA domestic spying? About half of Americans approve. That disappoints me. As people thought J. Edgar Hoover would save us from the Commies, a lot of people today apparently believe tapping telephones and tracking e-mails will keep us safe from the terrorists. I think this is so naive. In any case, I don’t think the program justifies violating the U.S. Constitution.

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The Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston

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It was early afternoon on 9/11. I had stopped by the library to talk with Evan about the destruction of the twin towers in NYC.

He and I had worked together on The Journal Gazette editorial page for many years. I was retired by that day. He had become a research librarian. I was eager to hear his reaction.

As I recall, his first words of greeting were, “What in the world does this accomplish?”

April 15 I had the same reaction to the two bombings near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Two brothers apparently set off the bombs.

Their family, nominally Muslim, had Chechen origins. But Tamerlan Tsarnaev,26, and Dzhokhar, 19, had lived in the Boston area for years. The younger brother, in fact, is a U.S. citizen.

Piecing together the accounts, I found that Tamerlan had encountered lots of setbacks in his life. Clearly, he was a troubled young man. Recently, he visited Russia where he spent time at a mosque led by a radical imam. So we assume the older brother had become radicalized. His life came to an end in the shootout with police.

The younger brother? You get no sense that Dzhokhar was any more than a happy-go-lucky teenager. He’s still recovering from his wounds.

We get a few clues about their motives from a note that he left in the boat he was hiding in when police, on the homeowner’s tip, caught up with him.

In this note he claims the bombings were in retaliation for U.S. military actions in Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. Huh? The brothers’ bombs didn’t hurt the military or U.S. political leaders. Who did the bombs hurt?

Innocents.

The brothers killed three spectators to the marathon, including 8-year-old Martin Richard. Their bombs injured more than 250. These survivors now must recover from their injuries. For many, that includes learning to live without limbs they lost.

I keep thinking about my friend’s reaction to 9/11. Indeed, what was accomplished in the Boston bombings? Certainly nothing that the terrorists sought. Quite the opposite. Over the decade or so since the twin towers went down, the United States has been more militarily involved in Muslim countries than before.

I’m afraid the Tsarnaev brothers only stirred up suspicion of law-abiding Muslims
in this country. Their bombs probably made passing immigration reform in Congress more difficult. Plenty of Americans who will fault unfairly Islam itself for fostering violence.

No doubt, more will come out as we learn new details about the brothers’ lives. Maybe we’ll even learn how the FBI and CIA failed to act on information from Russian intelligence that warned about the older brother.

As for justice for the younger brother, we’ll be poorly served as a country if a federal court gives the 19-year-old the death penalty. It’s just such twisted revenge logic that seems to have motivated these brothers.

Meantime, you can be sure police agencies are drawing new lessons about how to protect crowds at such mass public events. That’s a proper response to the bombing. The other response is to cheer those thousands of dedicated runners at next year’s Boston Marathon. Yes, you can be sure, that race will go on.

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