Reflections on Ohio State

As much as the rampage at Ohio State University on Monday shocked and sickened the nation, there is a sense that Americans, like people in many other countries, may be getting used to it.

As one student on the campus of nearly 60,000, put it, “On such a big campus, it’s a target, you know, and you have to expect that something like this will happen eventually.”

The attitude of resignation is understandable. The weapons of terrorism are ever near at hand. A terrorist doesn’t need a dirty bomb, an elaborate infrastructure or even a command from anyone — just an evil mind full of hatred and a car or knife will suffice.

It’s not the first time that a refugee from a Muslim country or a homegrown terrorist decides he “can’t take it anymore,” as the killer, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, posted on his social media account just before the attack.

But this is not to say that Artan acted in a vacuum, that the decision to run down and then use a butcher knife to slash at 11 innocent people on a college campus was entirely his own inspiration.

His rampage came just two days after the Islamic State terrorist group put out a call for would-be jihadis like Artan in the West to carry out attacks with simple, easily concealed weapons, such as knives or homemade explosives. It was not known as of this writing whether that specifically is what triggered him, but such incitement is rife in social media and by no means confined to Islamic State.

In recent months, law enforcement agencies have raised concerns about the online incitement. In response to governmental and public pressure — particularly in Israel where this year’s terror wave was largely fomented on social media — online servers like Google have begun to acknowledge their responsibility to keep such materials off their sites. Governments are reluctant to shut down the servers, though, and the scourge persists.

However, when it comes to Islamic State and its ilk, we have to wonder why more direct action cannot be taken. We need not worry about the right of avowed terrorists to freedom of speech.

And if conventional means are for whatever reason unavailable to shut down these miscreants of global communications, then other means should be employed.

If the Russians can hack into Democratic party files and the Chinese into classified Pentagon computers, why can’t the U.S. penetrate and destroy the cyber systems of Islamic State?

Not that they aren’t trying. According to recent reports, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Cyber Command has started to hack into Islamic State networks.

“We are dropping cyberbombs,” Robert Work, Deputy Secretary of Defense, was quoted as saying. “We have never done that before.”

This sounds impressive. Maybe the cyberbombs have in fact wiped out some of the organization’s operations, but evidently not enough to stop them. As sophisticated as they are said to be, it is hard to understand how, if the vast resources of the United States are brought to bear with determination, an end cannot be put to them and in short order.

The Ohio State attack had its perpetrator and its victims; it also had its hero. The man who put an end to the rampage in less than two minutes before any more harm could be done was Alan Horujko, 28, a campus security officer.

As an eyewitness described it: “He [Horujko] waited ‘til everyone was clear, and the stabber clearly wasn’t stopping…The cop that subdued the guy with the knife saved so many lives today.”

Horujko deserves the highest praise for acting effectively but with due restraint under extreme duress.

However, it should be clear to us that all the cyber warfare and the courageous acts of police like Horujko, as much as they are right and necessary, cannot prevent further terrorism. But that does not mean we should resign ourselves. We must continue to do what we can.

Ultimately, though, we must put our trust in Hashem, for only He can truly protect us. May we merit His protection.