Thursday, January 03, 2008

Killing Fields

Christmas was not a particularly happy time for the Bhutto family in Pakistan. Something about the assassination reminded me of JFK's murder in 1963. Although I always believed that Lee Oswald acted alone as the shooter, he probably was hired to do the job and Jack Ruby, a terminally ill night club owner, was sent to silence him for good. How else would a stranger with a handgun be allowed to approach the accused and shoot him at a close distance in front of television cameras, unless it was made easy for him? Perhaps we shall know the truth at some point when all the parties involved have died. JFK had a lot of political enemies as did Mrs. Bhutto. Video footage from Pakistan shows a man with a gun and another one behind him in what looks like a suicide belt. Was the latter present to finish the job and to make sure the gunman wouldn't talk if captured? Even if he didn't order the assassination, Mr. Musharraf cannot claim total innocence, and should offer to step down. Of course he won't because just like any other dictator he loves to be in charge and, as we all know, power corrupts.

Many South Asians seem to think that Pakistan is a downward spiraling nightmare of violence and mayhem, and that in ten years or less, today's Iraq will seem like a kindergarten playground compared to the situation there. At least in that country they have real WMDs. Perhaps if India had been able to become what Mahatma Gandhi envisioned it to be, there would be less unrest in the region. Pakistan as a country should never have been created: belief in Islam alone is not enough to form a nation. Former East Pakistan left the union long time ago to form today's Bangladesh. Yet the mother country, India, still has as almost many Muslims as today's Pakistan and, depending on who's counting, more than the poor Bangladesh. Somehow they manage to live in relative harmony with the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians. In the "pure" Muslim state of Pakistan people are killing their own brethren with bullets and explosives. And this is supposed to be a nation we can trust in the war against terrorism: with friends like these, who needs enemies?

American media has been full of reports of the mayhem in Iraq calming down. However, 2007 was the worst year for American casualties so far, hardly an indication of more peaceful times. This also contradicts the reports claiming that violence is increasingly between the different religious factions and no longer aimed at the occupying forces. The same media also recently said that the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli military is sharply down. This may be so, but the headlines across the ocean told another side to the story: one out of three Palestinians killed was an innocent civilian. It is interesting how facts can be twisted to serve one's intended audience. A typical trick is to publish news proving that a local or national problem is nothing at all: it exists everywhere, probably even in a worse form. Nothing is needed to back such claims; the fact that a "reporter" writes or says it is proof enough. It is not that long ago when people learned that our government was producing twisted news reports that were given to local media all over as factual. Of course these reporters were all invented and the contents of the "news" pure propaganda.

Back in home country, Finland, a young man snapped and went to his small school with firearms and managed to kill eight people, six of them students, the school's principal and nurse, before turning the gun to his own head. My countrymen have tried to understand why someone in the world's most admired school system would commit such a horrific act. Granted, this young man was inspired by the Columbine massacre, but according to many reports he had also been frequently teased by other students. Often it doesn't take much to make a person go over the edge. Just think of recent shopping mall shooting in Omaha, Nebraska. Hadn't the gunman just been fired from his job as a hamburger flipper? If one sees his/her life having been destroyed, suicide seems often the only solution in the mental state they are in. But like a Muslim with an explosive belt, person in a Western society, such as ours, doesn't want to leave this world without taking those responsible for his misery with him. How many husbands have killed their wives and children when they have learned about a spouse's desire to leave them? We have seen an endless number of cases where a former, or present, unhappy employee has shown up at the workplace with a weapon and caused a bloodbath. If I were in such a hostile job situation, for my family's sake I would have to dress up in bullet proof body armor every morning, especially if I had directly or indirectly caused devastation in an employee's life. More likely, I would relocate in a hurry, instead of waiting for the catastrophe to happen.

Mexico has seen thirteen musician murders in the last year and half, something that even the locals find puzzling and alarming. None of these crimes have been solved. All the victims have been well known country music performers. A 28-year-old singer survived the shooting but the killers followed her to the hospital to finish her off with two more bullets. Had the murdered been classical musicians, one would no doubt investigate a conductor, but this clearly isn't the case. Perhaps someone intensely dislikes country music south of the border. But back to Mesopotamia: the number of Iraqi civilians killed in 2007 was 23,000-24,000, close to one out of a thousand people. These are documented cases and published in a rather reliable source and the true number is probably quite a bit higher. In the United States the same ratio would translate to almost 300,000 dead in last year alone. And this we call progress?

John F Kennedy once said: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind."