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Terrible Tragedy in Philadelphia

May 26, 1985

When the Philadelphia Police Department destroyed a neighborhood in an effort to save it, Mayor W. Wilson Goode pleaded that he had been "misinformed" about the nature of the bomb that was used. If ignorance of the law is no excuse, then the ignorance of law-enforcement officials is surely a miserable cop-out.

Had the good mayor asked some of us who have worked with explosives, we could have told him that "Tovex" is a commercial brand name for a high explosive gelatin that is sensitized with TNT and specifically designed to generate great amounts of heat, gas and shock waves.

This tragic event is perhaps another example of the so-called "Law of Unintended Consequences" that was also at work in Lebanon, where a "counter-terrorist" operation recently became counterproductive when it apparently got out of control and resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians.

Going back a few years, one can see the same criminal folly operating on a catastrophic scale in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge guerrillas squatted safely in the jungle while the United States mindlessly carpet-bombed the villages, incinerating thousands of innocent people and pulverizing the social and economic fabric of the country. The ultimate effect was to set that unfortunate nation up for the very thing that was supposed to be averted, a Khmer Rouge takeover.

The first thing every professional blaster learns is that once you twist that handle or mash that button, chemistry takes over and you are no longer in control, so you had jolly well better know what you're doing from the start.

There is, of course, an alternative point of view. In his novel "For Whom The Bell Tolls" one of Ernest Hemingway's memorable characters was an anarchist who felt that every problem could be solved by throwing a bomb at it first and worrying about it later.

Has the spirit of anarchy now taken complete control fo the minds of our leaders?



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