If there is a mass shooting and anyone is asked where, the answer is likely to be the United States. The reason of course is the easy availability of guns, even guns that fire like machine guns. The Second Amendment allows the ‘right to bear arms’ — to prevent tyranny say the proponents. Yet, the world has moved beyond guns for the tyranny we face today is a tyranny not of guns but of the mind.
Psychiatrists say the psychosis gene, if present, expresses itself in the twenties or sixties. The Las Vegas shooter, a self-made millionaire, was 64, the San Bernardino pair 28 and 29. Unless they have previously sought medical help and labeled dangerous, guns can easily and legally be bought by such disturbed people.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, Senator Diane Feinstein introduced a bill banning “bump stock” weapons — an adaptation allowing machine-gun-like rapid fire — but it was defeated in the Senate. So if you are a nutcase seeking ultimate renown, the U.S. welcomes you with weapons of your choice including machine guns. Note, however, the country’s president has already topped you: he is threatening to nuke North Korea. The ‘land of the free’ is also the ‘land of the freak’.
The prevailing belief that Donald Trump plans to pull out of the Iran Nuclear agreement might have been the final catalyst for the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Norway. It awarded it to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Unlike Aung San Suu Kyi or Barack Obama, it at least is not going to dim its luster and blacken the award.
That war, so glorified in history, does not have an equivalent honor seems a curious omission. Of course, there are always the spoils of war, and individuals persuaded to serve as gun fodder are beribboned and bemedaled, but no Nobel War Prize. We really do not know if Alfred Nobel would have approved although surely all the promoters, the war merchants (now the military industrial complex) have enough resources. So how about something named after Henry Shrapnel, inventor of the single most devastating killer from the battlefield of his day continuing through to the artillery carnage of World War I. Awarded to the world’s most belligerent, it has interesting possibilities: For example, Barack Obama would have been among the few, the very few, holders of both the Nobel and the Shrapnel.
Likely aspirants are busy. On Wednesday (October 4) a joint U.S. and Niger Special Forces patrol was ambushed near the Mali border about 200km north of the capital Niamey — where the U.S. has a drone base. A second drone base costing $100 million is planned for Agadez. Now how many people in the U.S. know there are 800 men stationed in Niger, a number likely to increase as the new second drone base is readied. The drones have to be serviced, the base guarded and protected, even though the drone pilots may be sitting at a terminal back in the U.S. itself — an odious thought and a precursor of the future as people kill at the other end of the world from the safety of an arm chair in an office.
The cost of the Niger ambush: Four U.S. dead, two injured seriously enough to be flown to a base hospital in Germany. What is happening in Nigeria, Niger and Mali is a direct result of Libya’s dismemberment. Once it led Africa on the Human Development Index and kept fundamentalists in check, now it’s a hornet’s nest of factions spilling arms to Islamic extremist groups like the one that attacked the patrol in Niger. Blowback from bad policy and a growth opportunity for the U.S. Africa Command.
The U.S. has been using war as a solution to global problems and disagreements for too many years. It is a state of mind, a national disease, causing incalculable loss — countries destroyed, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, millions of lives devastated, a refugee crisis affecting European cohesion, even the recent German election, etc., and who is to say it did not affect a disturbed man in Las Vegas. Glorification of war and its inevitable heroes has its costs.
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.