Notes on DC Snipers

I-95 through the DC area is a route with attendant delays even on the best of afternoons. Yet on the afternoon of Friday, October 11, the culmination of a week of what are being called sniper attacks at gas stations and other repositories of the public trust, I-95 was a route on which the travelers are beset by more than the sclerosis of afternoon traffic. These travelers were beset by state terror in one of the purer senses of the term, as “pro-active” law enforcement search “every white van within 100 miles”, as reported by Cliff Van Zandt on MSNBC. Adding to the uncertainty was [and to hear certain newscasters, is] the prospect of a roadway full of folks in stalled-out cars, idled beyond the limits of their gas tanks. After all, who would risk pumping gas when a fill-up earns you a bullet to the head in addition to the free carwash?

Chris Jansing reported with approval that “the schools are under lockdown” because of this national menace, this extra bullet or two a day. Her broadcast colleague in the Guardian Angel getup told us that we’re “better off safe than sorry” even as he expressed concern over how the recent spike in the DC area’s murder rate might affect turnout at the Christian Coalition event Saturday. All these serious news people, talking with such concern about this spate of murders in DC of all places. As if they had never spent time in Southeast DC, or had never seen two winos beating all hell out of each other on a Metro train for no apparent reason, as neither of them looked to have anything left worth protecting.

Better to be safe than sorry. I’m sure that’s what Tom Daschle, who imagines that he’ll be appointed President one day, was thinking when he predictably capitulated and lent his support to our Hessians cakewalking through Baghdad to serve and protect the interests of the world’s oil companies. “Both parties should speak with one voice” on critical issues like this war on Iraq, apparently somehow still in doubt even as US forces bomb the Basra airport more often than I water my plants.

“The threat posed to us could be tantamount to an attack,” Daschle said in an interview with Pat Buchanan and Bill Press, and who are we to doubt the Senate Majority Leader? After all, the polls are with the Government’s official position, as has been so often the case since the 1991 ground attack on Iraq. The polls are with them, even as Ari Fleischer teases us with visions of a nice, clean assassination attempt on Saddam. And these visions have their allure, just as phrases like “could be tantamount” have their utility for those too craven to stand in the way of this next set of massacres.

If we in fact are involved in a “War on Terror”, the recent spate of shootings could be interpreted as abject failure if it weren’t so clear that the sniper attacks are being used, like so many “high-profile crimes” this summer, as grist for the propaganda mill. The case could not be made directly for Amber Alerts or for surveillance technology as part and parcel of the public square. Cases for tyranny and the instruments thereof have to be made on the slant, as they have been at least since the days of Lincoln; clearly, the Bush people know that as well as anyone could, and are acting accordingly.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI, a Spokane, WA freelance writer, lived in Washington, DC while studying and teaching at American University. He welcomes comments at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.


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ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

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