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Deadly Games and What's to Blame

I turned "gun-shy" at the age of six when my Daddy took us hunting because of the loud noise of the shotguns and what they did to birds and squirrels. My fear of guns led me to study the history of weaponry and convinced me that making weapons for use against people is the human species' greatest folly.

Alex Todorovic, who previously was editor of a weekly paper in Columbia,SC and a regular on my radio show, wrote a piece for the Washington Post on April 18 from the perspective of a Serbian American in Belgrade. Alex e-mailed me from Belgrade: "War is wrong. My uncle said to me the other day. 'Imagine, it only costs a few cents to make a bullet, and that bullet can take away 25 years of life. All that effort it takes by a family to raise a child -- all the love, guidance, and everything else - with one bullet, gone.' " From the Balkans to Littleton, Colorado, weapons play a deadly game.

 On 60 Minutes, a military science and psychology instructor from West Point blamed the gratuitous "virtual" killings of video games and their effect on young people for motivating the school killings. The instructor did a voice-over of videotape depicting young military trainees doing "war games" with their mouses directing the "strikes" just like at a video mall. Frances X. Clines reported last week in the NY Times, under a front-page head, "Summit Officers Find Solace In The Computer War Game" that while NATO diplomats conferred and commemorated on the alliance's 50th anniversary, the "cream of NATO's officer corps" worked at "dozens of computer command screens" waging war in the "virtual" nation of "Azure" next door at the Pentagon. Such high tech games sanitize and trivialize what weapons are--killing tools.

President Clinton recently asked Congress for 6 billion dollars more for weapons to "win" the war with Yugoslavia and some Republicans want to double that amount for the Pentagon. In his crime bill, Clinton called for stricter control of weapons in the United States so that school kids can't get them and massacre one another in our schools. This was about one week following the inadvertent, mistake-of-war massacre of scores of Albanian refugees by US warplanes in Kosovo. The ethnic Albanians we killed are the same folks we are spending 50 million dollars a day in military strikes to stop the Serbs from killing. Ironically, our youth have role models in high places who engage in miscalculated, costly and out-of-control use of weapons.

The media fuels the fires of violence because readers, viewers and listeners are fearful of, but fascinated by and drawn to killing like moths to a flame. William Randolph Hearst drummed up the Spanish-American War to sell papers, and Edward R Murrow , Eric Sevareid, and their colleagues achieved journalistic greatness by chronicling World War II. Now, Rather, Brokaw and Jennings and the talk show brigade of Larry King, Geraldo Rivera , Don Imus and the like jump back and forth from hyping the killings in the Balkans to hyping the killings in Littleton. The bottom line is that violence attracts interest and advertising revenue.

I remember when Ted Turner denounced the acquisition of NBC by General Electric because GE was a big defense contractor and would cause NBC to hype war to sell GE's weapons. Ted's been quiet lately with his CNN cashing in on the Persian Gulf Wars and now the Balkans. General Electric is now hyping war and violence on NBC, CNBC and MSNBC. GE and other defense contractors also put up big bucks to sponsor the big NATO 50th anniversary meeting.

Since 1949, there have been 19 ethnic and civil wars that killed more than 6 million people, according to the National Journal, but to justify it's existence NATO must intervene in Yugoslavia. NATO expansion was a mistake. The former Soviet bloc nations didn't want to rearm as much as build their economies peacefully by joining the European Economic Union. An expanded NATO is threatening to Russia whose Parliament recently voted to join with Yugoslavia as a nation by a 6 to 1 margin. Russia still has all those hydrogen warheads on ICBM's.

The demand for weapons is caused by hate and fear and the greatest blame lies with those who gain money or power by keeping us divided over race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, and sexual orientation. President Eisenhower would describe it now as the "Military, Industrial, Media, Entertainment and Political Complex" who cash in on our culture of violence. We must understand the strength of our diversity and the worth and dignity of people everywhere, and work harder for peace and justice in the democratic process.

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is

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