Wednesday, April 18, 2007


By Ivan G. Goldman
Officials and campus police at Virginia Tech showed the judgment of parakeets yesterday morning. They had two bodies at a dormitory, both of them shooting victims, they’d recovered no weapons at the scene, so clearly an armed gunman or gunmen was at large, yet they waited two hours to issue an alert.

Instead they followed a blind lead, heading out to question the boyfriend of one of the victims. When asked why no alert was sounded, university president Charles Steger explained authorities were still gathering information.

According to his reckoning, one doesn’t notify the public about a crime until it’s solved. Evidently authorities made a mistake when they precipitously informed the community about the Manson murders, the Lindbergh kidnapping, and that New England Brink’s heist. Too bad they didn’t have Steger to advise them.

The first two murders were kept in-house with campus security. No other police organizations were called in to close off the campus and hunt down the killer. The campus community wasn't instructed to lock up and hunker down. Small minds under such circumstances are prone to cover up because it all looks so bad, thereby making things worse.

This morning reporters at the campus press conference focused on the psychological profile of the shooter, a known stalker, but the organizational atrocity here was in the panicked response to the first two murders, which made the other 30 possible in the classrooms across campus.

It’s terrible when we discover that people paid to protect us can be more prone to panic than your average customer sitting on a Denny’s stool. When Columbine High School was shot up eight years ago by two demented teens, the Sheriff’s Department waited two hours to enter the building because, they explained later, they feared there were booby traps inside. At least one person bled to death while they stood around with their thumbs up their ass. They also prevented anyone else from going in. Frantic parents had to stand there with them. The photo above is from the Columbine massacre. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In battle, infantrymen go forward all the time knowing the enemy's somewhere up ahead with explosives, automatic weapons, and who knows what else. They do it because it’s what they signed to do, just as the firemen and cops who poured into the World Trade Center died trying to fulfill their pledge to keep people safe.

Then of course we have a commander-in-chief who read The Pet Goat for seven minutes after being informed the nation was under attack. Eventually he rose, raced to Air Force One, and flew around in a wide circle, from Florida to Nebraska, and finally Washington. He spent the entire day running away. As an ex-soldier, I can tell you an infantry squad leader who ran off and left his attacked squad to fend for itself would be court-martialed, stripped of rank, dishonorably discharged, and imprisoned. A president leaves an entire country defenseless and no one even asks him about it.

Nothing happened to those panicked Colorado authorities, but something did happen to Bush. He got re-elected. It’s too soon to tell what will happen to Steger and his Keystone Cops.

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