Letter From the Editor 

The difficulty of stopping — or catching — terrorists in the U.S.

The only way to stop a bad guy with a bomb is a good guy with a bomb, right? Probably not. How about good guys with guns? Yes, probably, at some point, near the endgame. But the most effective way to stop a bad guy with a bomb — or, at worst, catch him after he's done his dirty work — is with good guys who have computers and surveillance data.

I recently saw the film Zero Dark Thirty, about the search for Osama bin Laden. While, in the end, it took good guys with guns — and high-tech night-vision goggles and helicopters and small explosives — to capture the Saudi mass murderer in his Pakistani lair, determining where he was took years of monitoring cell phone calls, satellite surveillance, and on-the-ground spy work by the CIA and military intelligence agencies.

By the time you read this, the FBI may have rounded up a solid suspect in the case of the Boston Marathon bombings. The Taliban have disavowed any involvement, which, whether true or not, has led to speculation that the bombings were the work of a domestic terrorist (or terrorists). And the fact that the bombings occurred on Patriots' Day, widely seen by some American antigovernment activists as symbolic of federal oppression, heightened that speculation.

On Patriots' Day in 1993, after a 52-day siege, federal ATF agents and the FBI attacked the Waco, Texas, headquarters of the Branch Davidians. Leader David Koresh and 82 others inside died, some as a result of the assault; most from a fire the Davidians set during the attack. Two years later, the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building on Patriots' Day was widely perceived as retribution for the Waco assault. Coincidentally or not, the Columbine school shooting in 1999 and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 also occurred on or around Patriots' Day.

But given the recent history of American mass murders, we shouldn't be surprised if it's yet another mentally unstable young American male living out some warped fantasy or video-game-inspired violence. In fact, as was noted by several websites on Tuesday, a recent episode of the show Family Guy featured a character setting off two bombs at the Boston Marathon in order to win the race. Inspiration? Horrific coincidence? Who knows?

The sad truth is that nothing can stop all the bad guys bent on mass destruction. All we can do is try to make it more difficult for them to pull it off. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this latest tragedy — and to those attempting to catch the bad guys. It appears to be a war with no endgame in sight.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments (49)

Showing 1-25 of 49

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 49

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Intermission Impossible

Muslims, Jews, and Shakespeare: Rhodes Hosts a Timely Symposium

Exhibit M

Resources for Artists

Beyond the Arc

Beyond the Arc Podcast #70: Grading the Grizzlies

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Infinity Stairs

Tiger Blue

Memphis Tiger Super Sophs

Intermission Impossible

Blood & Ballet: Dance Two Ways

Exhibit M

Make Art Great Again

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • Why The Fuss?

    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Two Trains Running

    There's two, two trains running,

    Well, they ain't never going my way.

    One runs at midnight and the other one

    Running just 'fore day. — Muddy Waters

    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Lightning Strikes

    It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...

    • Nov 19, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation