I was browsing through my news feed yesterday morning when I ran across a story about the US bombing a wedding in Afghanistan. I thought something like “Jeez, again?”* and didn’t click through for the full story because it was so familiar. Now I can’t find it, but I think it said 30 dead. A few minutes later I ran across this story, which I also didn’t read beyond the summary but for some reason flagged in the feed: Bombs kill more than 30 across Iraq before local poll. (That turned out to be a very low, early estimate.)
It wasn’t too long after that, maybe 20 minutes, when reports of the atrocity in Boston began popping up on the feed, and among my first reactions when I saw the early accounts of two dead was “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad.” Less than the 30 dead at the wedding and the 30 in the other bombs in the other cities, anyway. It took a little while to locate some shock, and 24 hours later I still find myself thinking the same thing — horrible but could’ve been worse — and wondering the same thing that occurred to me yesterday when I was looking at stories about it: what would the papers be like if this was happening in an American city every week or two?
I got thousands of results when I searched Google News for the bombing. Initially they were the same two or three stories and then there were more. I stopped regularly watching television news more than 20 years ago — around the time the elder Bush’s Iraq extravaganza broke CNN’s Bernard Shaw — and haven’t seen more than an hour of it here and there since so I don’t know how that went, but I know how it went.
I don’t know how it went in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the wedding and the bombs and whatever other violence they suffered. I don’t know what they have by way of newspapers or what the penetration of television is. The Newseum in Washington, D.C., has a daily roundup of the front pages of more than 400 US newspapers (more than 800 worldwide) every day, but none from Iraq and only one from Afghanistan. All but a very few US papers have a Boston story today — I didn’t look at all of them but I only noticed two that didn’t. Many of the overseas papers do too. The one paper listed for Afghanistan, the Mideast edition of Stars and Stripes, doesn’t.
The US is responsible for much of the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t think Americans collectively are responsible; certainly some thousands of people should be in chains, and of course everyone who did their killings and kidnappings and whatever counter to the rules upon which the people who don’t go to war have settled. I don’t know what could have been done short of throwing some tens of millions of bodies upon the gears, in Mario Savio’s formulation; that is, climbing into the intakes of the engines on the troop and equipment transports, blocking the meetings of Congress, and otherwise physically impinging upon the ability of the concern to do business.
I guess that’s what we should have done, but that’s blood over the dam now. What I wonder, though, is how many Americans will wonder now what it’s like to live through a bomb at the marathon or the market or the church, or the missile attacks that may or may not be errant, every week or two or three, and whether if they get a sense of it then they might stoop to recklessness to stop the next reckless US government. Or whether we would just get used to it.
*This turns out to have been this, an 11-year-old London Daily Mail story that somehow burbled up in the feed.