15 dead in Colorado school shooting : A nation at war ... with itself

                    By the Editorial Board
                    The killing of at least fifteen high school students and teachers at
                    Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado has left America stunned
                    and sickened. Scenes of wounded and bloodied youth carried away on
                    stretchers, images of terrified young girls describing how fellow students
                    around them were systematically murdered in a school library -- all of this
                    provokes horror, sadness and, yes, anger.

                    This is a terrible event, but it is not the first of its kind. Since 1997 a
                    series of killings has erupted in schools, most notably in Pearl,
                    Mississippi; West Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas and
                    Springfield, Oregon. The Littleton shooting conforms to a pattern: an
                    apparently contented suburb--invariably described as "Anytown,
                    USA"--suddenly rocked by fatal violence. The perpetrators are
                    "outcasts" or "loners." School officials and local politicians are shocked;
                    they promise to seek out and counsel troubled students and tighten
                    security. The President appears before the cameras and deplores the
                    violence. A commission is summoned. After a week or two, the issue of
                    school violence is dropped by the media ... until the next murderous

                    Can anyone with a functioning brain or eyes continue to argue at this
                    point that these terrible incidents are not the expression of profound
                    social tendencies? What is going on in this country?

                    Even before the dead have been identified and buried, the ideological
                    cover-up has begun. The commentators know their lines. They base
                    themselves on the same self-satisfied premise: the economy is doing well,
                    the population is contented. These are isolated cases, essentially
                    inexplicable. Some mutter about individual responsibility and the
                    breakdown of the family.

                    Clinton set the tone in his inimitable, sanctimonious style. "Perhaps we
                    may never fully understand" the event, he observed. Then, as usual, the
                    authority of a biblical personage was invoked to deflect critical thought.
                    "Saint Paul," he continued, "reminds us that we all see things in this life
                    through a glass darkly, that we only partly understand what is happening."

                    This is self-serving nonsense. To understand an event one first has to
                    look honestly at the context in which it takes place.

                    Indignation will greet any suggestion that there is any connection between
                    the mayhem in Colorado and the violence that America is presently
                    unleashing on the world. In this age of high-tech wars and precision
                    guided munitions, the Pentagon conducts wars which allow the US
                    military to kill thousands from afar without the loss of a single American
                    soldier. The media packages the war as entertainment without real
                    consequence--at least for Americans. No thought is given to the deeper
                    links between the wars waged by the United States against more or less
                    defenseless "enemies" overseas and the internal contradictions of the
                    domestic social order. Nor is there any consideration of the corrosive
                    impact on this society of the death and destruction that America visits
                    upon people beyond its borders.

                    Without explanation, the American military is flinging bombs and missiles
                    against Yugoslavia, destroying cities and towns, reducing its infrastructure
                    to rubble. Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan have also come under attack in
                    recent months. US forces burst into a country and start shooting it up.
                    Each international horror resembles a crime scene in which American
                    fingerprints are inevitably found. The media incites the public to glory in
                    the exercise of American military might. Under these conditions, how is
                    one to react to Clinton's statement, in the wake of the Littleton shooting,
                    that "we must reach out to our children and teach them to express their
                    anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons"?

                    The war in the Balkans is not simply the product of commercial and
                    geopolitical strivings. It also has ideological underpinnings. This is a
                    society without a moral compass, obsessed with the stock market, sports
                    stars and lottery results. Elementary human solidarity has been
                    undermined. The worst elements have risen to the top. The internal social
                    contradictions -- papered over and ignored -- fester and turn
                    gangrenous. The violence explodes and implodes in forms that appear

                    America's rulers claim, and perhaps believe themselves, that they can
                    conduct clean, surgical wars from which US society can be insulated.
                    They may have deluded themselves into believing that the images they
                    manufacture comprise reality. But every objective act has objective
                    consequences, and filthy acts have filthy consequences. There is a
                    connection between the bombs that fall on Belgrade and the bullets that
                    were fired into the helpless children in Littleton.

                    For the past two decades the political establishment and the media have
                    cultivated militarism, chauvinism and every form of social backwardness,
                    the breeding grounds for anti-social and fascist elements. They have
                    produced the Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs. The dead suspects
                    in the Littleton shooting, who turned their weapons on themselves,
                    belonged to a group that disdained black and Hispanic students and
                    reportedly painted swastikas on their bodies. April 20 was Adolf Hitler's
                    birthday. Colorado, moreover, is one of the centers of ultra-right
                    Christian fundamentalist operations.

                    The events in Littleton represent another serious warning. The homicidal
                    eruptions of hatred and despair that leave schoolrooms littered with the
                    bodies of America's youth must be made intelligible and revealed for
                    what they are--the product of irrational social relations and reactionary
                    policies that desensitize, debase and dehumanize.