Wednesday--October 16
, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 399
Christopher "Terrorist?" Columbus:
The Sniper of 1492...Or...2002?

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, October 16 -- On October 12, 1492, some claim the father of all snipers landed in El Salvador and launched a history of Terrorism upon the indigenous people that has wormed its way through history to include the recent sniper attacks around Washington D.C.   The father of all snipers, these pundits claim, is none other than Christopher Columbus, the esteemed pioneer who founded the Americas.   

Columbus landing in San Salvador

       It was 510 years ago, just about 14 generations past, that Columbus made his first of four journeys to the "New World," in an eighty-foot boat--a miraculous achievement since he was trying to find Asia, not discover America.
        He was met by peace-loving, non-violent natives, the Taino people.   According to an article in the New Yorker's Oct. 14th edition by Elizabeth Kolber, the natives were so unaware of weapons they cut themselves feeling the sharp edge of swords.  He wrote in his log the following:
       "They do not bear arms, nor do they know them, for I showed them swords, and out of ignorance, they took them by the edge and cut themselves."  Their innocence led to near extinction.
       In a subsequent bloodbath, over a third of the peaceful population was killed, launching in many historians view, a reign of Terror that has gestated through 14 generations and birthed a sniper, who, like Columbus and his men, now attacks the unarmed innocent, peace-loving civilians of the suburbs of Washington D.C.  Killing for killing's sake ruled the land five centuries ago, and it rules a giant ring around Washington D.C. as our country prepares to wage war on Iraq.
      It must have been just as perplexing to the Taino people when Columbus's troops whacked off their ears, or indiscriminately killed villagers as it is to the people around Washington D.C. who are chosen at random to be targets--for no other reason than to induce pure terror.

      The current sense of helplessness among the general "indigenous" population of suburban Washington D.C. is summed up in what 50-year-old businessman, Zuhair Massoud, told a New York Times reporter yesterday about seeing the latest victim lying in a pool of blood as her husband knelt beside her minutes after the sniper took his 11th victim.     "How can you predict what this guy is going to do?," he said. "When it comes to this kind of terrorism how do you fight it?"
      Five hundred and ten years ago the indigenous people of El Salvador had the same question about Columbus.  How do you fight Terrorism?
      My older daughter tried.  She and a small band of other "internationals" stood up to the Beast of Terrorism.

       A decade ago she packed her bags and headed for El Salvador to protest the 500th Anniversary of Columbus's arrival and enslavement of the indigenous people of that land.   She made her way through what is called the "Jesuit Underground," a network of peaceful protestors who find refuge through and with another in a country known, at the time, for brutal killings and tortures of anyone who opposed the militant regime that controlled the country.
        She ended up living with a group from the village of  Nueva Esperanza (New Hope).  The villagers had been displaced from their land, and 500 of them were forced to hide in the basement of a church for five years while government troops hunted them, seeking to kill them so they wouldn't lay claim on land stolen from them.
       In a final act of defiance, the villagers decided to perform a "land take," where they roosted on their land and employed an ancient privilege of reacquiring land by "squatting on it."
      My daughter and a handful of other "peaceful protestors," some from the United Nations, lived with the villagers to avoid their slaughter by the military.   Witnesses cause Terrorists to shy from indiscriminate killing.  And killing witnesses brings the wrath of the international community upon the criminals.  The "guardians"  were Soldiers of Vigilance standing belly-to-belly, nose-to-nose, against the Beast of Terror.    

Jesuit preaching in San Salvador

     On the day of the land-take the villagers were surrounded by the military.   Machine guns were leveled at them.  Via bullhorns, they were told to disperse of be killed.   A Jesuit priest led the land-take.  To stave off a confrontation, he began to say Mass.   The Catholic military held back, observing the reverence of the ceremony as they prowled the circle of villagers, waiting for the Mass to end.
      Five of the six foreign observes were snatched by the El Salvadorian police and loaded in trucks, then taken to a prison.   The police tried to grab my daughter and jerk her away from the safety of the circle, but the village women formed a human knot around her, defying the military, protecting our daughter with their  bodies.  The formed a Circle of Vigilance.      

        The Jesuit priest, Steve Kelly, offered one of the longest Masses in history to wear down the military.  There was an unwritten rule not to kill people during a religious ceremony. It was bad Karma.  Eventually, the military gave up and left as the Mass went on and on, a spiritual filibuster that probably saved many lives that day, including our daughter's.
      Those arrested were deported.  They were called "terrorists."  The newspapers alleged they were plotting against the government, fabrications of course, but sufficient enough for them be placed on airplanes as personas non grata and told never to come back to El Salvador.
       A few years later the United Nations honored the village people who stood up to the military and risked their lives to face Terrorism.  It was a small battle, probably not recorded in history.  But it proved what people could do when they banded together, and became Sentinels of Vigilance.

        This past Monday, October 13, my wife and I went to the Columbus Day Parade in New York City.   It was also "Italian Day," with flags from Italy flying in honor of Columbus who was born in Genoa. 

Bomb scare at Columbus Day Parade draws news crews

        Terrorism wasn't far away. At the beginning of the parade,  a bomb scare forced the crowds away from a vehicle while bomb-squad technicians and bomb-sniffing dogs scoured the area.  It ended up a false alarm.

       Police lined the streets as they do at every parade, but the presence of the bomb dogs and flack jackets and SWAT teams weaved the web of Terror-threat through all who cheered and watched.   Our older daughter, the El Salvador protestor, now a mother of three, preferred her children not go to the parade with us--not in protest to it necessarily, but out of a concern for the children's safety.    She is Vigilant about not exposing her brood to crowds where something might happen and put them at risk.  She also isn't a Columbus fan.
      In another aspect of Terror-Reaction, Mayor Bloomberg boycotted the parade.   He had invited two of the cast members of the HBO mafia-show, The Sopranos, to march with him.   Italian-American protestors who prefer to white-wash the past image of "Italian crime" went to court to bar The Soprano cast members from marching with the mayor.    In retaliation, Bloomberg  had lunch with the actors, opting out of the ceremonies.
       I thought it ironic that Columbus, known for his Terrorization of the indigenous people, would be the centerpiece of the parade while actors representing a television show would be banned.   While washing their hands of one set of celluloid blood, they parade officials wiped them on a bloody historic towel of indigenous blood.  I wondered what Columbus would have thought of it all.
       I understand there is good and bad about conquerors.   In many respects, Columbus was a brave sailor.  He made four Great Voyages to the New World, despite poor maps, bad calculations and no viable information.    He was also a terrible navigator who, according to history, ended up finding the New World more through "dead reckoning" than though astute navigation and accurate cartography.
       And while his "invasion" of a peaceful land and the turmoil and bloodshed he brought to bear upon it might taint the pages of history, he indeed paved a path for civilization's advance that ultimately led to the Declaration of Independence and the formation of the United States of America.
       Ironically, our threatening of Iraq is viewed by many as a "Columbus Invasion" of the Middle East.   America is being called by many nations the "Imperialistic Beast," hungry to consume the oil fields and natural resources of the Middle East just as Columbus was eager to tap into the gold of the New World. (His deal with the king and queen of Spain was that he received 10 percent of all the booty from the New World.  He never got it, and died on May 20, 1506 still fighting for his rights.)
       Further, America's willingness to kill and maim to get what it wants from Saddam Hussein likens us to many as modern day Columbus-like Terrorists.    With our "super technology" and unlimited financial resources, we are the Goliath and Iraq the David.    But David has more than a few rocks in his sling.  He's got the power of biochemical warfare, and, some suggest, the rudiments of nuclear capacity.

        According to Iraq officials, just the other day 100 percent of the 11,445,638 eligible voters answered "YES" for another seven-year term of rule by Saddam Hussein.   Hussein has ruled Iraq for 23 years. 
        The timing of the election was keyed to rebuke America's claim that Hussein is a tyrant, feared by his people.  And by toppling his leadership, Iraqis will be free of the despotism suffered over the last two decades. 

Saudi women voting in blood

         To reinforce the fierce loyalty of the citizens to Hussein,  pictures of women voting by cutting their fingers and placing their "YES" vote in blood, were released.   However, foreign press are allowed only to talk to "citizens" with an Iraqi "monitor," listening.   News from the nation is filtered through these monitors, so no one is exactly sure what anyone really thinks.
        In an interview recently with one of "dissident" citizens, a former Kurd leader now retired, when the question was posed about removing Hussein with American force, the dissident responded:  "We can take of our own problems.  We don't need America to do it for us.  Besides, America can't even stop a sniper in its own country, how can it manage ours?"

         The Columbus Day Parade was a sum of much conflict both within America's borders and without.   The sniper, threats to invade Iraq, a bomb threat, a boycott by the mayor, honoring a man known for Terrorizing the innocent--was a  potpourri of emotional pushes and pulls--some Terror based, some Vigilant based..

          The highlight of the parade, for me, wasn't seeing a bust of Columbus rolling down the street, or a guy dressed up as him on the prow of a model of the Santa Maria throwing out books and toys to children.  My highlight was seeing French firemen marching in the parade, their silver dress helmets shining in the sun, their rigid military steps proud and dignified.    France, one of America's biggest critics regarding the war against Iraq, was there in full support--not of Columbus--but in honor of their brother firemen who suffered such horrible losses in the World Trade Center on Nine Eleven.

French Firemen at Columbus Parade

       It reminded me that labeling Terrorism by country or nationality or religion or ethnicity is an error.    Our Washington D.C. sniper could be white, brown, red, yellow--who knows?   He could be a right winger, a left winger, a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian.   He could be Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist.   No one knows for sure what he is, or frankly cares at this point.   All they want is him to be dead, or locked up forever.

         When we try to decide who is the worst Terrorist, the true "Evil One," we miss the point of Vigilance.  Vigilance is about the smallest Terrorist, not the biggest.  It can start when a child feels unloved, or thinks he or she is not worthy, or good enough, or smart enough.   Or, if a child thinks he or she is better than, more privileged, "above the salt."   These Terrorisms of a child can grow into hatreds of others, or into feelings of Almightiness, allowing one to "justifiably" lash out against our "victimization" by "victimizing" others.  This is where Terrorism must be fought--at its root level--in the children, and the children's children, children.   If we are Vigilant, we can stunt Terrorism's growth by quashing it before it becomes malignant.   To achieve this, we need "counter-sniper tools."
        When people band together under the Pledge of Vigilance, when they start to stand up for the Principles of Vigilance--Courage over Fear, Conviction above Intimidation, and Right Actions in place of Complacency--Terrorism will have little room to navigate.   
        I maintain the sniper isn't eager to kill people as much as he is to scare people, to frighten them, to make them shudder helplessly and utter Complacent words such as Mr. Massoud who said: "When it comes to this kind of terrorism how do you fight it?"
        This is simple Complacency.  It is akin to what the Taino people must have asked themselves 510 years ago when they cut their fingers on Columbus' sword.   
         We can fight Terrorism by making a Circle of Vigilance similar to the one that possibly saved my daughter's life a decade ago, on the soil where the blood of innocent, peaceful people fertilized the soil    Five-hundred years later their Fear had become the Courage to face the barrels of machine guns, their Intimidation had involved into the Conviction to fight for their rights--even if it meant death.   And rather than continuing in the world of Complacency of hiding in the bottom of a church, they stood and rose and marched to their rightful land, taking Right Actions as one body of Vigilance against the Beast of Terror.   
        I believe those villagers learned something we haven't yet.  They learned that together we can beat Terrorism by facing it with Vigilance, not by ducking and running and hiding in Home Depot parking lots or waiting for the government to protect us by sending out "spy planes" that couldn't find Osama bin Laden.   We must become one out of many.   We must become Citizens of Vigilance first and foremost.   

         In a bizarre way, the 100 percent vote of the people in Iraq suggests that a nation can form a solid wall against any threat.   Even if the votes were manipulated or coerced, there is something to be said for a people's right to decide their own destiny.    If E Pluribus Unum has value as a creed, it is a rally cry for "Vigilance."   Out of many--One, can only occur when there is a prior commitment to fight the Beast of Terror.

       That commitment, I am convinced, is the Pledge of Vigilance.   It will serve as America's 100 percent vote against any Terrorist who tries to inflict Fear, Intimidation and Complacency on a nation unprepared as the Tainos to deal with it.  
       Let the Pledge of Vigilance be your armor against Terrorism.
        And, whether Columbus was a good guy or bad guy, I don't know.
         But I do know that Terrorism can take many faces.
         It can even be found in some mirrors.


Oct 15--"Youth Vigilance Corps"

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