Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine and Virginia Tech
by Anthony Gregory
April 19, 2007

This week in April marks the fourteenth anniversary of the Waco massacre, the eighth anniversary of Columbine, and, in years to come, the anniversary of the largest mass shooting in American history – the massacre at Virginia Tech.

It is also the twelfth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, which itself was carried out precisely two years after the Waco standoff ended in a deadly conflagration.

All civilized human beings see such horrific acts of mass killing as unspeakably tragic. In the midst of any such explosion of seemingly senseless violence, it is common to hear questions as to how and why such a thing happened, so we can formulate possible answers as to how such atrocities might not happen again, or at least happen much less frequently than they do.

Starting with the most recent of these horrors, and moving backwards in time, it is worth reflecting on the most commonly heard explanations for such violence.

Already, some conservatives are looking for some connection between the Korean student who committed mass murder on 4/16 and Islamist terrorists. Since 9/11, we have heard many acts of gang violence and individual criminality blamed on Islam itself. Ultimately, this is all to shore up more support for the state’s foreign and domestic war on terror.

The center-left media, however, are making the predictable inferences: The problem is easy access to weapons. It’s exceedingly easy to purchase handguns in the state of Virginia. What is ignored is that it’s illegalto bring such weapons on to the campus of Virginia Tech, and certainly illegal to use them for murder. Another law wouldn’t have disrupted the plans of a madman determined to kill.

As for madness, we are also hearing reports that Seung Cho had written disturbing stories and had a history of psychiatric treatment. Perhaps if the university community and local police had been more vigilant, his unsettling proclivity for violent fantasy would have been caught before it culminated in real-life slaughter.

Of course, thousands of American youth write graphically appalling stories and many more behave like loners and outcasts. The implication here is that a certain form of suspicious behavior needs to be caught early and somehow managed by schools and the government. People should take notice of who is in their communities, but when it’s politicized and taken to the extreme, this is the basis for criminalizing thought and censoring ideas, for the preemptive law enforcement we see in the dystopian film, Minority Report.

Just as thousands of students probably exhibit peculiar behavior, thousands probably wore trench coats in the late 1990s and millions saw The Matrix.But back in 1999, after the Columbine massacre transpired, the two killers had been in the “Trench Coat Mafia” and the conclusion was that somehow loners wearing such clothing and keeping to themselves, inspired by the violent action in the film The Matrix, should be watched closely. In that case, the perpetrators had broken plenty of gun laws, but weak gun laws were also blamed. Just as with Virginia Tech, odd behavior and inanimate objects were seen as the problem.

Rewind back to Oklahoma City in 1995 and it was rightwing, anti-government opinions that were blamed. It made little sense to attack the availability of such pedestrian items as rental trucks and fertilizer. So the focus was on ideas. Even rightwing talk radio had contributed to this terrorist attack, we were told. What was not so emphasized was the fact that McVeigh had been trained by the US military and had been a Gulf War veteran. He was said to have seen his victims as collateral damage in an act of war against the US government, largely for what it had done, exactly two years before, at Waco.

Going back to 1993, the Waco massacre would seem to have altogether different lessons. This couldn’t have been attributed to anti-social, anti-establishment, anti-government attitudes and conduct – could it? After all, it was the US government that was responsible for this tragedy. It had smashed the side of the Branch Davidian home, filled the inside with flammable and poisonous CS gas, and projected incendiary devices at the building. The fire that took the lives of about 80 civilians was the end of a 51-day standoff that the US government had initiated as a public relations booster for the ATF.

Yet, in response to Waco, the establishment line was simply that the Davidians, and especially their leader David Koresh, were crazed, dangerous and hostile. The rationales in this case were always dubious and shifting: determined to wage their staged raid, the feds had first claimed the Davidians had a methamphetamine lab, partly to bureaucratically justify assistance from the military, and then claimed they had illegal weapons. It was claimed that Koresh was totally irrational and beyond negotiation. He was at points compared to Adolf Hitler and other such dictatorial loons. The feds also claimed he was holding his followers hostage, yet when people tried to leave the building during the standoff, the FBI would throw flash-bang grenades toward the home, frightening them back into it.

Even Waco was blamed not on overbearing government, but on antisocial, extremist, anti-government thinking and behavior. The Davidians had been living at peace with their neighbors, but they were different enough, weird enough, to warrant state aggression.

And here we see the true commonality in all these massacres: They were all acts of mass aggression and inhumanity and they all existed in the context of a highly politicized world where state aggression is wrongly defended but private aggression is rightfully condemned.

The deaths at Waco were a direct result of federal violence against the Branch Davidians. Oklahoma City was Waco’s terroristic antithesis, conducted by men trained in the techniques and moral principles of government warfare. Columbine and Virginia Tech both happened at government facilities, where the soft, hidden coercion of gun control and government protection failed to protect anyone and only left victims defenseless. Both Columbine and Virginia Tech also each occurred against a backdrop of a foreign war of aggression – Clinton’s war with Serbia, in the case of Columbine, and Bush’s war in Iraq, in the case of Virginia Tech. Both Clinton’s and Bush’s wars consumed about as many lives per day as each of these school massacres did in a single instance, yet we are automatically supposed to regard one type of violence as completely different from the other type.

But what underlies all these acts of mass violence is murderous aggression against the individual, the initiation of force against the peaceful. All such violence should be condemned and none of it excused. But the reason we instead hear complaints of out-of-season coats on teenagers or violent video games, easy access to handguns or gruesome stories, bizarre religions or conservative radio is because all such idiosyncratic scapegoats detract from the evil of aggression itself and thus serve the purposes of more government control.

The state is the embodiment of organized aggression. It is, after all, the legal institution that monopolizes the right to commit theft (taxation), kidnapping (mandatory attendance laws), slavery (conscription), and mass murder (war). It imprisons millions, loots trillions and slaughters civilians as a matter of course. Its powers cannot be expanded and directed to foster peace, since, to the extent it is empowered, it is at war with the principles of civilization and the rule of law – the principles that the rest of us must abide for us to be considered acting legally and peacefully among other humans.

Ultimately, the state attributes massacres to drugged or insufficiently drugged quirky extremists, gun accessibility and anti-American, anti-mainstream thinking because understanding the true universal evils – aggression, and the ideologies that allow for aggression, of which statism is the most common variety – would reveal that the state itself is the very fulfillment of atrocity. Indeed, statism is ubiquitous in our culture, and it is very mainstream. It is why governments get away with dropping bombs on children.

By deemphasizing the nature and evil of aggression itself and instead focusing on the quirks and antisocial habits of terrorists and criminals, the establishment line on all these tragedies and mass crimes effectively covers up that the greatest problem in all human affairs is interpersonal aggression, whatever the source. This serves the violent democratic state, which can always claim to stand for moderation, mainstream ideology and social normality.

But it is the democratic state in America that slaughtered American Indians at Wounded Knee and religious outsiders at Waco. It is that state that nuked Nagasaki and set Cambodia ablaze. It is that organization of moderation and the American way of life that was starving Iraqi children with a hunger blockade as the Oklahoma City bombing unfolded, dropping cluster bombs on Yugoslavia during the Columbine tragedy, and maintaining violent occupations abroad as Virginia Tech fell victim to the largest school shooting in America.

Is it wrong to point this out? Why should it be? The US government and its kept media spin every human tragedy as a reason to give more power to the state – even though, in nearly every such tragedy, the government either totally failed to make matters better or succeeded catastrophically in making matters much worse. Why shouldn’t we show, at every opportunity, that giving more power to the state only makes such tragedies more likely?

The state is not the direction to look for solutions to instances of mass aggression, for the state itself is aggression. Its aggressive nature only encourages more aggression throughout society, as it warps the public morality and gives example after example demonstrating that might makes right, at least from the mainstream political perspective. Its intimidation and extortion are clear every April when Americans have to turn in their tax forms, knowing they can be jailed if they made an honest mistake or even if the IRS simply bungles something. And the naked aggression of the state and its institutional disadvantage at protecting people should also be clear every April, as we reflect on the massacres the government has conducted, the ones it enabled, and the ones it failed to prevent.


i need a favour: i need someone to hit Hybrid Elephant, right-click on any image, choose “View Image” (or whatever it says like that) and tell me what happens.

if you wanna be really adventurous (and have the free time and web space), you can right-click, select “copy image location” (or whatever it says) and post the resulting URI in the appropriate image tag on a web page somewhere (in other words, hotlink an image from Hybrid Elephant), and respond to this with a link so that i can go and see what it does.

nothing bad will happen, i promise. 8) one disadvantage to having a fixed IP address is that it doesn’t work for me, regardless of which computer i’m using, and i don’t have ready access to any IP addresses other than my own…


Reid: U.S. can’t win the war in Iraq
April 19, 2007

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday the war in Iraq is “lost,” triggering an angry backlash by Republicans who said the top Democrat had turned his back on the troops.

The bleak assessment was the sharpest yet from Reid, who has vowed to send President Bush legislation calling for combat to end next year. Reid said he told Bush on Wednesday that he thought the war could not be won through military force and only through political, economic and diplomatic means.

“I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and — you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows — (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday,” said Reid, D-Nev.

Republicans pounced on the comment as evidence, they said, that Democrats do not support the troops.

“I can’t begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democrat leader of the United States Senate has declared the war is lost,” said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The exchange came as the House headed toward a vote Thursday on whether to demand that troops leave Iraq next year. Last month, the House passed legislation that funded the war in Iraq but ordered combat missions to end by September 2008. The Senate passed similar, less-sweeping legislation that would set a nonbinding goal of bringing combat troops home by March 31, 2008.

Bush said he would veto either measure and warned that troops are being harmed by Congress’ failure to deliver the funds quickly.

The Pentagon says it has enough money to pay for the Iraq war through June. The Army is taking “prudent measures” aimed at ensuring that delays in the bill financing the war do not harm troop readiness, according to instructions sent to Army commanders and budget officials April 14.

While $70 billion that Congress provided in September for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has mostly run out, the Army has told department officials to slow the purchase of nonessential repair parts and other supplies, restrict the use of government charge cards, and limit travel.

The Army also will delay contracts for facilities repair and environmental restoration, according to instructions from Army Comptroller Nelson Ford. He said the accounting moves are similar to those enacted last year when the Republican-led Congress did not deliver a war funding bill to Bush until mid-June.

More stringent steps would be taken in May, such as a hiring freeze and firing temporary employees, but exceptions are made for any war-related activities or anything that “would result immediately in the degradation of readiness standards” for troops in Iraq or those slated for deployment.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called the Democrat’s stance “disturbing” and all but dared Reid to cut off funding for the war.

“If this is his true feeling, then it makes one wonder if he has the courage of his convictions and therefore will decide to defund the war,” she said.

Reid has left that possibility open. The majority leader supports separate legislation that would cut off funding for combat missions after March 2008. The proposal would allow money spent on such efforts as counterterrorism efforts and training Iraqi security forces.

Reid and other Democrats were initially reluctant to discuss such draconian measures to end the war, but no longer.

“I’m not sure much is impossible legislatively,” Reid said Thursday. “The American people have indicated . . . that they are fed up with what’s going on.”

Al-Qaida chief appointed minister of war
April 19, 2007

CAIRO, Egypt – A Sunni insurgent coalition posted Web videos on Thursday naming the head of al-Qaida in Iraq as “minister of war” and showing the execution of 20 men it said were members of the Iraqi military and security forces.

The announcement unveiling an “Islamic Cabinet” for Iraq appeared to have multiple aims. One was to present the Islamic State of Iraq coalition as a “legitimate” alternative to the U.S.-backed, Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and to demonstrate that it was growing in power despite the U.S. military push against insurgents.

It also likely sought to establish the coalition’s dominance among insurgents after an embarrassing public dispute with other Iraqi Sunni militants.

The Islamic State of Iraq is a coalition of eight insurgent groups, the most powerful of them al-Qaida in Iraq. It was first announced in October, claiming to hold territory in the Sunni-dominated areas of western and central Iraq.

In the Cabinet announcement video, a man identified as a spokesman for the group appeared, with his face obscured, speaking from behind a desk with a flat-screen computer.

“It is the duty at our present stage to form this Cabinet, the first Islamic Cabinet, which has faith in God,” said the spokesman, wearing robes and a red headdress.

He denounced Iraq’s rulers for the past decades — including Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and the present government — saying they “spread corruption and ruined the country and its people, until God helped the mujahideen (holy warriors) bring torture upon them.”

“Now the Islamic State emerges as a state for Islam and the mujahideen,” he said.

He then listed a 10-member “Cabinet,” including Abu Hamza al-Muhajer as “war minister.” Al-Muhajer is the name announced as the successor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who was killed in the summer of 2006. The U.S. military and Iraqi government have identified him by another pseudonym, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

The names listed by the spokesman were all pseudonyms and their real names were not known — though the pseudonyms included the names of some major Sunni Arab tribes.

The Islamic state is led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who holds the title of “emir (prince) of the faithful.”

Sheik Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Falahi was named as the emir’s “first minister,” the spokesman said. Other positions included ministers of information, “prisoners and martyrs,” agriculture and health.

The video came on the heels of a rare public dispute between the coalition and other insurgent groups.

In past week, another Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, has issued statements accusing al-Qaida of killing its members and trying to force others to join its ranks. Al-Baghdadi tried to patch up the dispute by issuing a Web audiotape this week calling for unity and promising to punish any of his group’s members who kill other insurgents.

Al-Qaida in Iraq is blamed for some of the deadliest suicide bombings against Shiite civilians, as well as numerous attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers and police. The U.S. military has blamed it for a devastating bombing Wednesday in Baghdad’s Sadriyah market.

The message came after hours after another video from the group showing a masked gunmen walking down a row of men, blindfolded and bound, shooting each in the back of the head.

The video purported to show 20 Iraqi police and soldiers that the Islamic State in Iraq claimed six days earlier to have kidnapped northwest of Baghdad. It had threatened to kill them after 48 hours unless the government freed female prisoners and handed over police accused of rapes in the northern town of Tal Afar.

The Iraqi government has denied that 20 police and soldiers were kidnapped. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Thursday that the men in the video could not be identified and said the insurgents may have dressed up civilians to kill them.

“We checked with our commands then and all the troops were accounted for,” Khalaf told The Associated Press. “They are immoral criminals. They have used all criminal methods and we don’t rule out that they executed civilians who they dressed in military uniforms.”