Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Math of Mass Murder

They are at the counting stage in Mumbai. As of now, the toll is that ten men killed almost 200 innocent people, but the numbers are only tentative until the fate of hundreds of wounded is clear.

These murderers were not as cost-efficient as the nineteen who caused almost 3000 deaths on 9/11. They didn't have airliners as weapons, although they did use such high-tech help as mobile phones, GPS and satellite phones in what an Indian official says was their objective of killing 5000 at random.

But the evidence is that they were less skilled than the 9/11 killers, some of whom took flying lessons while preparing to do their work. The one surviving Mumbai attacker is a 21-year-old Pakistani laborer with a fourth-grade education.

The human balance sheet is lopsided as it always is--among the victims, an American art professor and his 13-year-old daughter, a local bank chairman, the sister of a Bollywood actor, a young Brooklyn rabbi and his wife, and the head of an Indian antiterrorism squad.

Bullets and bombs outweigh all civilized accomplishments in such situations, and that is exactly the point the attackers want to make. In past times, a lone loser like Lee Harvey Oswald could deprive the world of a John F. Kennedy, but now the triumph of darkness comes in numbers.

The shock and horror are already starting to fade from TV screens and internet sites but, in days to come, it will become clearer to what extent Mumbai was intended to derail any political detente between India and Pakistan, just as terror attacks have so often sabotaged impending progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians and have stalled sectarian reconciliation in Iraq..

In the Middle East, mass murder is political, the larger the numbers the better.

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