The latest in a long line of bloody shooting massacres in the United States raises more issues than just that of the demented gun culture.

It is the culture of America itself. What sort of message does the US send to its people at home when abroad it trumpets the message that might is right? Uncle Sam has a nuclear arsenal therefore Uncle Sam can do as he bloody well likes. And because it’s Uncle Sam doing it, it must be right

He has regularly and routinely marched into the Latin American neighbourhood and shot it up, now he is in Iraq wreaking untold havoc and threatening to drop in uninvited on Iran because Iran just might be developing a rudimentary defence of sorts.

What this seems to be saying with unmistakable clarity is that when you are armed, you can do as you please.

Of course, the sycophantic claque of US apologists – the conga line of suckholes in Mark Latham’s memorable phrase – don’t see it this way at all, preferring to dandle some ludicrous construct of the moral superiority of the US.

Now, where is that evident in Iraq? Sure, they got rid of Saddam Hussein. But you don’t have to look far to see something less than high-mindedness at work: it was the urge, post September 11, to spill Muslim, preferably Arab, blood.

So-called terrorism needed concrete form, so why not construct an enemy, preferably a weak one, and be seen to be hitting back, no matter that the target was a random one. To justify it, you invent a pretext, then you become deluded by the pretext.

Isn’t that precisely what, from the available evidence, Cho Seung-Hui did in Virginia?

US foreign policy is unlikely to change in the near future, and will increasingly be directed against its only looming rival, China.

Nor is there much hope of things changing at home with President Bush at pains to placate the gun lobby that he’s not planning to take their weapons away.

At least John Howard had the guts to act decisively on guns after Port Arthur, but the US obsession, admittedly, is something else.

The so-called right to bear arms was, as I understand it, originally intended as a sop to the colonies to be able to maintain their militias as a bulwark against the federal monster they were in the process of creating (much like Australia got a Senate, a far less dangerous option). But as recently as 2001 the US Court of Appeals ruled that the right to self-defence applied to civilians also, and not just in a military context.

The pattern of destructive behaviour, and its cultural, political and judicial reinforcement, is seemingly entrenched.

Peter Fray

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