Little Boys Playing With Guns
Jude Wanniski
April 22, 1999


Memo To: Sen. Bob Torricelli [D-NJ]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Kosovo and Colorado

You understand, I hope, the links between the high school killings in Littleton, Colorado, and the bombing in Yugoslavia... and the incineration of the Branch Davidians at Waco... and the domestic terrorism at the Federal Building in Oklahoma... and the bombing of the World Trade Center. There is a social pathology in our culture, a lethal virus that has afflicted the organic body of our national population. The NYTimes predictably and inanely argues for gun control as a way of fighting this virus. The WSJournal will probably argue that the teacher's union and the public schools are at fault, and that a voucher system would force competition and reduce the need for metal detectors and bomb units in the schools.

The suicidal youths who maimed and killed at the Columbine school, though, are a reflection of an American culture that has been infected by our Political Establishment's disconnect from traditional standards of behavior. How chilling it was last night to watch MSNBC switching back and forth between the bombing of Belgrade and the bombing in Littleton -- and realize that in both cases we have Little Boys Playing With Guns. We are bombing the sovereign nation of Yugoslavia with our NATO allies only because we can do whatever we feel like doing and not worry about the consequences. We have the power and they do not. Might makes right, doesn't it? There is a United Nations charter and there are accepted standards of international behavior, but if we want to ignore them we can, because we are the Boss. Uncle Bully. We can impose our will by dictate on a Yugoslav central government that is engaged in civil war, under attack by an organization we classify as terrorist, but support anyway. What the hell. If we can do this because we feel like it, why should we be surprised if the national culture is also producing youngsters who only can tell us to stop what we are doing by making a statement with guns and bombs in the national heartland? When at Waco we incinerated the women and children of the Branch Davidians in order to prevent their husbands and fathers from molesting them, why should we have been surprised that a strand of the virus would play itself out in Oklahoma City?

In a family where children are punished or rewarded at random, depending on how Dad feels at the moment, we get dysfunctional children. Do as I say, not as I do. It doesn't matter if the kids come from an impoverished home or a wealthy one. It really doesn't matter if their own parents are perfect in their parenting or not. Because they live in the environment which we know as the national culture -- the organic body which is composed of all of us bound together -- the virus can strike them anywhere. In 1996, I said I would have introduced articles of impeachment against the President for violating the War Powers Act, when he bombed Iraq because it would help him get a leg up in his re-election campaign. He had broken the rules, without good reason, but the rest of the Political Establishment -- left, right and center -- cheered him on. We can have a rapist and perjurer as our national leader, but if he can get the votes to beat the rap, well, what the hell. My old friends on the WSJournal editorial page like to hear that argument, but they are unhappy when I needle them for their maniacal demands for bigger bombs in Belgrade. If we only kill enough civilians, they will give up, and we will have our way. I'm afraid they will take a lot of us with them, though, these Little Boys Playing With Guns. We can chalk up as collateral damage the civilian dead on the Kosovo convoys, killed accidentally by NATO aircraft. Aw shucks, we didn't mean it. We can add the names of the children of Columbine as collateral damage. Whether you are on the political left or the political right, anything goes, doesn't it?

As the President's chief supporter in his Senate impeachment trial, Bob, I hope you can make some of that connection yourself. Seriously, I mean you have been in a position to ponder the disconnect, where so many of your Senate colleagues cannot. They will support the President no matter what he does, while you can see the parallels in the bloodshed of Kosovo and Colorado. Your opposition to the bombing campaign has been clear and courageous, reminding me why I did support you in your New Jersey Senate race.