The Oklahoma City bombing forces Americans to deal with terrorism, an issue historically reserved for people in cities such as Beirut, Lebanon, and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
and Sherry Pigg
Murder government workers? Sure.
Kill retirees? The more the better.
Massacre children? Absolutely.
"We expect terrorism to be fought with rules of the Geneva Convention," said professor Felix Moos, who has taught for years a Kansas University course titled "Violence, Aggression and Terrorism in the Modern World."
There are no rules of conduct when it comes to terrorists, he said.
"Terrorists don't have uniforms," Moos said. "They don't have signs around their neck that say, 'I'm a terrorist.' These people are not too concerned with children."
On Wednesday, a blast caused by thousands of pounds of homemade explosives ripped apart the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The death toll has reached 78, with at least 100 people unaccounted for. More than 400 were injured.
Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin said the bombing had all the markings of a classic terrorist assault.
"The key is whether or not you are attempting to influence an audience beyond the intended victims," he said.
Moos said terrorists gauge success by the degree of fear they strike in a society and by the quantity of television and newspaper coverage they generate.
Using those measures, the Oklahoma City bombing was a triumph.
"Essentially what the terrorist wants everyone to know is that there is no place to hide," Moos said. "If it happens in Oklahoma City, it really does mean there is no place 100 percent safe."
Olin said the case made clear that America's democratic society, with its abundance of civil liberties, left citizens vulnerable to terrorists.
"In our open society, there are many things we take for granted that are not present in other countries," he said.
Olin, who has studied terrorism since 1976 and lectured on the subject at KU, recalled a series of bomb blasts that rocked Paris several years ago. After those attacks, he said, all bags and packages carried into department stores by shoppers were checked for bombs.
"I'm not sure Americans would tolerate that, but the Parisians were glad to," he said.
Olin said the government should beef up counterterrorism operations. The public should be aware -- not paranoid -- about the fact that terroristic acts could occur anywhere, he said.
Adoption of measures now used in Western Europe -- closed circular driveways, restricted parking, security checkpoints -- would make government buildings safer for workers and visitors, he said.
In interview after interview since the bombing, Moos has been asked why the target was Oklahoma City.
"That's the wrong question," he said. "You should say, 'Why not Oklahoma City?' Certainly, the notion that we in the Midwest are gentler and kinder is not true. It never was. We are reminded that we are like everybody else.
"From now on, we can expect more, not less, terrorism."