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A City Paralyzed by One Man

April 19th, 2013 · No Comments · The National, UAE

The final stages of the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers began during working hours in the UAE.

I can vouch for this because one of the overhead televisions at The National was audible from where I was sitting, and I got the endless loops of the limited available intelligence from one of the news stations. (BBC, in this case.)

During the 10 hours I was in the office, one terrorist had been killed and the other was on the run … and one of the messages I heard played, over and over, was the police asking that everyone in greater Boston stay inside their houses and not open the door unless it was the police.

The Boston metropolitan area, some 5 million people, apparently spent the whole of thee day closeted in their homes.

This was not a good thing.

To reduce this to its essence, the U.S. just announced that detonating a bomb, and the notion that you might have rigged others, can bring an American metropolis to a standstill.

Better safe than sorry? Well, sure, in a micro sense. (No single person was harmed.) But not in a macro sense. (A city paralyzed.)

The notion of a whole city cowering behind the curtains of their homes — as the police asked them to — might sound very interesting to the other disturbed people in the country who might attempt acts of terror.

In Iraq, bombs go off almost every day. The day of the Boston Marathon bombing, more than 50 people in Iraq were killed by bombs, and the blast sites were scattered around the country. Yet most Iraqis appear to get up and go to work, to school, to the market. The events in Boston suggest that Americans will not do likewise — especially if the police ask them not to.

Closing off a few blocks, maybe even a chunk of a neighborhood, while a search is conducted? Sure. Happens all the time. Closing down a metropolis, including areas far from the activities of the terrorists? No. A bad idea.

The second terror suspect was found when someone didn’t do what the cops had asked, and stepped into his backyard to smoke a cigarette. That’s when the bloody teenager was found hiding in a boat parked in the yard.

Meantime, no business was conducted in Boston, on a Friday. Schools were shut. A baseball game was postponed. As was a hockey game and a concert. A photo of Boston Common at midday showed it empty. The impression we got from the other side of the world was that, yes, the hunt for one man left Boston frozen in place.

Shutting down a city while looking for one 19-year-old man is a bad idea and a worse precedent. Close off a few blocks, but don’t ask millions of people to hide. It sends awful signals … of a population easily terrorized.


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