Parcel bombs herald a new US ‘civil war’? | Sunday Observer

Parcel bombs herald a new US ‘civil war’?

As the United States of America reels from a spate of attempted bomb attacks against over a dozen top Opposition politicians and critics of President Donald Trump, it is difficult for the world community to focus on this incident (which had no casualties) in the face of continued bloodshed and starvation in Yemen and Palestine’s Gaza Strip and critical new geopolitical developments elsewhere.

Last week in Beijing, Japan and China inked a new co-operation agreement during Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe’s visit, indicating Japan’s continued shift into China’s orbit. Also last week, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman, and, the two Koreas announced the beginning of a phased reduction of border guards on the armistice line dividing the north and south.

The more the two Koreas interact it seems like the friendlier they get. Where will this leave the US military presence in South Korea? Americans do not have time to notice, pre-occupied as they are with their own emerging, home-made, political turmoil.

Since America is still learning the nature of its new era of vituperative and ideologically confrontational politics, last week’s attempted bomb attacks – all thirteen of the mailed bomb parcels that were detected early – have profoundly shaken the country. The first small parcel bombs were discovered in New York and Washington DC last Monday and then, over the next four days, more parcel bombs were found in different parts of the country at post office distribution centres or in the mailboxes of the targeted personalities.

Everyone immediately noted that all the targets were top leaders of the opposition Democratic Party, ultra-rich business tycoons prominently supporting the Democrats and, senior technocrats and ex-bureaucrats linked to Democratic Party administrations. They included both former President Barak Obama and former Secretary of State and ex-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, ex-Vice President Joe Biden and, several immediate past top officials: head of the CIA, Director of National Intelligence, US Attorney General. Also targeted were sitting Democratic senators and congresspersons, the New York offices of global news media giant CNN, as well as world famous cinema star Robert De Niro.

Moving swiftly and demonstrating the wonders of modern investigative technology, the US authorities have already arrested a Florida resident with a record of minor crime as well as a history of making verbal threats of violence. More importantly, the 56-year-old suspect is registered with the Republican Party.

This seeming attempt to terrorise the anti-Trump political sector must be coupled with a more violent attack last year on several Republican Congressmen at a sports facility in the US capital by a Democratic Party registered lone gunman. Commentators are noting the clear trend of American politics now gradually entering a new phase of armed confrontation.

More ominously, analysts continually remind us that due to its lax weapons control laws, America is literally awash with the latest guns, ranging from light pistols designed for women, to heavy calibre hunting rifles and, most alarmingly, to military style automatic assault firearms. If one has an easily obtainable gun licence, one can simply walk into any of the many gun stores that dot American streets and buy one’s weapon of choice as well as lethal ammunition by just paying cash over the counter. It’s as easy as buying laundry detergent or paint or an electric drill!

And, also note that some laundry detergents contain chemicals that have flammable or explosive potential when correctly mixed with other similarly obtainable household materials (like sprays, paints, gums). It gets worse: one can easily learn how to make such explosive mixes from Internet websites. One can also learn from the Internet how to make time-bombs or impact-bombs using these ingredients.

The ‘improvised explosive devices’ (IEDs – familiar term to Sri Lankans) used in last week’s wave of mailed parcel bombs are not the sophisticated, military style bombs created by trained and practised guerrilla groups (like the LTTE or Al Qaeda). Found to be made of probably home-assembled materials – the bomb casings are bits of PVC piping – the mail bombs used last week are just such easily made ordnance that could become the civilian weapons of a future American civil war.

Some 300 million firearms are currently in circulation among the civilian population. Since the US population totals 300 million, the firearms statistic indicates that many Americans own more than one weapon. The perpetrator of a mass killing by shooting in Dallas a couple of years ago apparently owned nearly twenty firearms, many of them military weapons, all easily bought.

Analysts point out that the bulk of voters favouring this ‘firearm freedom’ is in the Republican Party vote banks, while most Democrat supporters are against gun freedom. Thus, it is clear that already the American Right wing is far better equipped for violence than the American Left.

These incidents of seemingly deliberate use of firearms and bombs by civilians against one’s perceived political opponents, may indicate an ominous trend of social politics in the world’s richest, most educated and supposedly most democratic nation. As Sri Lankans, we know how violent such political conflict can get even without the gun freedom of America. Imagine what it will be like if increasingly politically incensed American civilian activists turn to armed confrontation.

They do not need to clandestinely smuggle arms from abroad (as done in most countries). They would just buy them from the nearest department store.

After all, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution empowers all American citizens to bear arms. This Constitutional provision originated with the formation of the independent American Republic itself when the various autonomously formed states defended their autonomy and went on to overturn British colonial rule by deploying self-armed civilian militia.

Thus, with the Second Amendment, the US Constitution protects the right of armed civilian militias to form at state level ostensibly to resist federal governmental impositions and defend the autonomy of the states. The logic is that such militias can only be formed by already weapons-owning citizens. Hence, gun freedom.

Thus, while the rest of the world is beset by many inter-state tensions and internal wars, it looks like America, which claims - on the basis of its social strength and political stability - to be the world’s ‘policeman’, is also heading toward instability and internal violence. Just as much as the West makes an issue of the danger of weapons, especially, nuclear weapons, being plundered in unstable or poorly managed countries, we must now guard against all kinds of riff raff and fanatics plundering the vast gun and nuclear weapons hoard inside the world’s sole superpower.

Again, last week, talks between Russian and US officials in Moscow indicated that both countries are now firmly moving away from the old Cold War nuclear arms control frameworks. The argument seems to be that the Cold War ‘east-west’ bipolar dynamics have been superseded by the new multi-polar geopolitics of the 21st Century. So both the US and Russia have begun a new arms race, this time with many others – not just China, Israel, India and Pakistan – joining in.

Meanwhile, in Ankara, Turkish President Recep Erdogan is demanding that the Saudi monarchy hand over the 15 named suspects in the Jamal Khashoggi assassination for trial in his country. Riyadh has now, belatedly, officially acknowledged that the death was not an ‘accident’ but an act of premeditated murder. Will those who ordered this cruel killing be ever identified? And, will anyone be really convicted suitably?

It remains to be seen whether the Saudi monarchy, the self-proclaimed ‘protector’ of Islam’s holiest shrine (if not only shrine – to follow Wahabbi fanaticism), will obey the injunctions of the very faith it is supposed to nurture. It also remains to be seen how careful will the so-called ‘democratic’ western powers be in observing their own principles in conducting their relations with Saudi Arabia.