Prepare, prevent and prevail against terror


James F. Burns - Guest Columnist



Purposely putting a bullet into the body of an innocent human being is pure evil.

I cringe whenever I think about Adam Lanza executing 20 children at an elementary school. I feel a similar revulsion when I picture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb directly behind young spectators at the Boston Marathon — and walking away.

And now young adults trapped in a Paris concert hall are among the latest helpless victims of merciless murderers. How much hate — for others or yourself — do you have to have in your heart to commit such heinous acts?

While the Paris attack was more diversified in weaponry, a similar set of coordinated attacks in a major European capital was launched in London by the Irish Republican Army in 1973.

The Price sisters, IRA bombers from Belfast, were prime members of the team of 11 who planted four car bombs timed to detonate at 3 p.m. on a weekday in central London.

The sidewalks by the cars would be packed with pedestrians whom Delours and Marion Price obviously did not know. Whoever died would just be human cannon fodder for their cause. No more, no less.

It was early days in the annals of terrorism for such a sophisticated and ambitious attack. Two of the four car bombs were found and defused, though the bombs at Old Bailey and Great Scotland Yard exploded on schedule. The results were mediocre at best in IRA eyes, only one person killed and 180 injured. But it was a start.

My first contact with Irish terrorism was an IRA incendiary bomb engulfing a government building on Malone Road in Belfast in a giant bubble of flame. A similar bomb at the La Mon Hotel months earlier had incinerated a dozen people and horribly maimed and disfigured 23 others.

The bomb I witnessed killed no one — but a mother’s reaction brought home to me that all this terrorism business remains distant and detached unless we have a personal connection. Her daughter attended school next-door to the building attacked by the IRA, and the mother was still visibly shaken as she told me of previous bombs traumatizing her little girl.

I made eight trips to Belfast and wrote four articles a year on Northern Ireland for 30 years. I had retired from teaching and writing about terrorism — until that bomb in Boston that the younger Tsarnaev brother placed directly behind the family of Bill and Denise Richard. Their two younger children suffered the most grievously; eight-year-old Martin died from the blast while his seven-year-old sister Jane had her left leg nearly torn off — and later amputated.

The Richard family was from Dorchester — my wife and I used to live nearby in Quincy.

But a stronger personal link came from that bomb’s shrapnel — sent sailing across the street with a powerful shock wave from the blast. Brian Bridges was helping my friend Kris and her handicapped daughter Kayla, competing in the wheelchair division, near the finish line at Copley Square. Brian took shrapnel to the head but survived — and shielded Kris and Kayla from the full force of the blast.

Kris and Kayla’s close call sent me into a “writer’s rage,” resulting in 50 articles, including a series of seven on radical Islamic terrorism last fall — on through the Charlie Hebdo bombing in January. While lone-wolf attacks were popularized, I wrote about “wolf-pack attacks” involving multiple terrorists, noting that the “barbaric beheading savagery of the Islamic State and its cyber-smart methods of murder present a new level of lethal evil.”

My writings characterized IS as “evil incarnate” and conjectured that World War III will be an “ideological struggle between what America means to us and what radical Islamic jihadism means to its practitioners.” I’m worried that our younger generation — the age of those at the Paris rock concert — might be less steeped in Americanism than their jihadist cohorts are in their apocalyptic ideology. Read what they say below.

Mohammad Sidique Khan, London suicide bomber: “Thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe … Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger … We are at war, and I am a soldier.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Boston bomber: “He who Allah guides no one can misguide … The U.S. government is killing our civilians … I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all …The mujahideen are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven.”

A French official has suggested that the six-site Paris attack was just the beginning, a jihadist pilot program for future mass murders in Western population centers. Let’s prepare, prevent and prevail.

Paris Strong, American Strong, and always on guard.

James F. Burns

Guest Columnist

Burns is a professor emeritus at the University of Florida.

Burns is a professor emeritus at the University of Florida.

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