This photo shows the two Boston bombing suspects together walking through the crowd in Boston on Monday, before the explosions at the Boston Marathon. FBI/AP
What Caused The Boston Marathon Bombings? It's Complicated …
By Oliver Burkeman
23 April 2013
So it's settled, then: the suspects in last week's Boston bombings were "motivated by their religious views". That's the essence of an Associated Press story, quoting two anonymous "US officials" involved in the investigation. The report carries a strong sense of finality, emphasised by Andrew Sullivan, who concludes that faith "by itself is a sufficient explanation. Many don't understand this. But, as anyone with familiarity with strong religious faith will tell you, there are few things more powerful."
This will doubtless feel like vindication to conservative commentators such as the National Review's Charles Cooke, who on Monday published this diatribe against liberals, especially the Atlantic's Megan Garber, for suggesting that the causes behind an attack like last week's are complex. Cooke writes:
Most people, very much including those smugly who call for national introspection, are simply not capable of blowing up children – whatever the provocation. "Alienation," "loneliness," the sequester, a culture of violence, video games, political anger, poverty – none of the reasons that are designed to prevent their authors from having to draw unpleasant conclusions is sufficient to provoke the vast majority of people into committing acts of terror.
What liberal analysts narcissistically long for, he argues, is some combination of factors that might have led them to bomb the Boston Marathon, which is futile, because they never would. What does explain the bombings, he concludes, is "an unholy combination of the dreaded 'I' word and very little else".
Despite being the worst kind of handwringing liberal myself, I think Cooke has a point about narcissism. It's a seductive error to conclude that because an event strikes me as hard to imagine, therefore the true explanation must lie in something that's easier for me to imagine. Perhaps the real problem is the insufficiency of my imagination.
But what's really striking is the way that Cooke – all too typically of those who favour the "blame Islam" argument – feels not the slightest obligation to elaborate on his proposed alternative. Just saying Islam (or "the 'I' word") seems to suffice.
So … How's That Supposed To Work, Exactly?
Debates in this area tend to get bogged down in questions of Islamophobia, which is understandable, since there's a lot of it about. But that risks obscuring an equally big problem with the idea that "blame religion" is an argument-ender. Imagine, for a moment, a hypothetical ideology, X, that really was as appallingly murderous as the most hysterical anti-Muslim commentators take Islam to be. Does the mere existence of X somehow cause people who encounter it to commit acts of terror, in the same way that merely hearing Monty Python's Funniest Joke In The World kills the listener?
Another example: Lawrence Wright's recent book on Scientology includes the revelation that L Ron Hubbard thought one of his early books, Excalibur, would cause anyone who read it to go mad or commit suicide. But L Ron Hubbard thought a lot of things.
You don't get around the problem by blaming the beliefs of a would-be terrorist's parents, friends or society, either – because you still have to explain how they came to believe X in the first place. What you need, it seems, is an account of what factors explain why a given person was predisposed to believe in X, or to use it to justify violence.
In Other Words, It's Complex.
I wish what this showed was that liberals are right and conservatives wrong, but what it actually shows, I fear, is that the whole concept of what constitutes an "explanation" is irredeemably murky. (Look here for a hint of how deep the philosophical rabbit hole goes.) Liberals pursuing "complexity" tend to run into the sand: Garber seems to imply that once you've attributed an event to a sufficient number of different causes, you're entitled to stop, but even if (say) alienation is part of the explanation, don't you have to explain that, in turn, and so on forever? By the way, brain scans won't get you off the hook, unless you can explain why a brain-based explanation should be taken as more ultimate or fundamental than any other.
Where liberals run into the sand, conservatives run into a wall: evil. John Hinderaker at Powerline puts the argument in almost self-parodic form: the bombings are only hard to imagine, he insists, "if you aren't evil". You want an explanation? Blame evil. Job done.
There is, of course, a very long history of debates about whether the concept of evil is a coherent one, or on what other beliefs it might depend. But you won't find a hint of that in conservative responses to Boston, in which "evil" simply serves as a placeholder – a way of rephrasing the puzzle, not explaining it.
I trust you'll be relieved to know that I don't propose to try to solve the problem of what counts as an explanation, or whether evil exists, in a blogpost. In practical terms, anyway, I suspect "what's the real explanation?" is the wrong question. Probably the best we can do instead is to try to agree on policies that seem likely, based on past evidence, to reduce the probability of future attacks. We'll be making some implicit assumptions about the nature of explanations when we do so. But at least we won't be getting distracted by "evil", or the notion of an ultimate set of root causes.
Also, sorry to bring this up, but free will might not exist. I mean, just in case anyone still thought any of this was simple.
Plenty of Clues In Boston Marathon Bombings Point To Islamist Jihad
By Don Mckee
April 21, 20
Why would the two suspects in the Boston bombings do such a thing? That’s the recurring question in the media and there’s no clear answer, but there are plenty of clues.
How about so-called radical Islam, meaning jihad, or war on “infidels?”
The Associated Press found from interviews with officials and people who knew 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev — the suspect killed in a shootout with police — that he was embittered toward this country, “increasingly vehement in his Muslim faith” and exerted strong influence over younger brother Dzhokhar, 19, who was wounded before his capture.
In 2011, the Russian intelligence service asked the FBI to check on Tamerlan Tsarnaev as a radical Islamist, two law enforcement officials told the AP.
The FBI confirmed in a Friday statement: “The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”
The FBI’s response was to interview Tamerlan and relatives but said it found no domestic or foreign terrorism activity — and that apparently was the end of the story for the FBI. The agency said nothing about following up after Tamerlan came back to the United States after six months in Russia or thereabouts.
But if the FBI didn’t see any red flags, one Tsarnaev relative did. Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., said his nephew’s increased commitment to Islam resulted in their falling out. Tsarni said he talked to a family friend who gave another clue, saying Tamerlan had been influenced by a recent convert to Islam.
Another red flag, according to news reports, was Tamerlan Tsarnaev logging onto the website of an Australian Muslim jihadist calling himself Sheik Feiz Mohammad. He has urged that children become “soldiers defending Islam” and that they should be taught “to die as a Mujahid.”
A 2007 British documentary showed the sheik saying of children, “Put in their soft, tender hearts the zeal of jihad and a love of martyrdom.” That’s the kind of stuff that was getting into Tamerlan’s head.
It flies in the face of what America ought to mean to the Tsarnaev brothers. Their family came to this country in 2002 as political refugees from their war-torn Chechnya, welcomed with open arms as the inscription on the Statue of Liberty invites: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
So the Tsarnaev family came, breathing the free air of America and taking advantage of the opportunities our country offers to refugees and other immigrants. The Tsarnaev brothers, according to police, repaid America by bombing the Boston Marathon.
Why? Again, it has all the earmarks of Islamist jihad. But a more important question: How does America prevent future attacks of this kind? A top-to-bottom review of immigration policies, counter-terrorism intelligence and security measures would be a good start.
Is the Boston Attack a Ripple Effect of the Conflict in the North Caucasus?
By Valery Dzutsev
Apr 24, 2013
The focus of the media on the suspected Boston bombers, the Tsarnaev brothers is fully justified, but understanding the wider context of the crime may be just as helpful (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/223152/). Whatever the brothers’ personal experience was, if it is confirmed in the end that they were indeed the perpetrators of the attack, their experience is unlikely to answer the key question of why they engaged in an act of terrorism on American soil.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s lengthy stay in Russia in 2012 has already caught the media’s attention as one of the most important and puzzling contextual questions in this story. The older Tsarnaev brother spent six months in Russia—from January to July 2012. Less than a year after his return to the United States, he may have staged the act of terrorism in Boston with the assistance of his younger brother, Jhokhar. The question of whether there was any connection between the older Tsarnaev brothers’s prolonged stay in Russia and the bombing in Boston is completely legitimate. This long trip to Russia becomes an even greater puzzle when it is connected to several other related pieces of information. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev at the Russian government’s request in 2011. The Russian government communicated their concern that Tsarnaev may have been on a path to radicalization and possibly engaging in terrorist activities in Russia (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/21/boston-marathon-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-injuries).
Yet, following the bombing in Boston, the Russian authorities allegedly denied they had any “significant” information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s activities while he was in Russia in 2012 (http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2013/04/19/5262545.shtml). If the Russian authorities had a special interest in Tsarnaev in 2011, it is highly improbable there was no interaction between him and the Russian security services when he was in Russia in 2012. Given the fact that the older brother was not even a US citizen, but only a permanent resident, he was even more vulnerable to any sanctions the Russian authorities may have deemed applicable. Another strange piece of information is the news that the Dagestani police have no interest in Tsarnaev’s contacts in the republic even now, in the wake of the Boston attack (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/223152/).
Given the realities in Dagestan, where friends, close and sometimes even distant relatives of insurgents are routinely questioned and harassed by the police, this reaction is very unusual. Again, it is useful to recall the sequence of events. In 2011, the Russian authorities questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev through the FBI with regard to his possible involvement in terrorist activities in Russia; in 2012, Tsarnaev visits Russia; in 2013, Tsarnaev appears to have committed an act of terrorism in the United States, yet the Russian authorities say they are not interested in Tsarnaev’s contacts in Russia. Furthermore, it emerges that the Tsarnaev brothers’ uncle, Anzor Tsarnaev, was a law enforcement officer (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/223152/).
Could the Russian security services somehow be involved in any way in the Boston attack? Here we need to step back and remember the long-standing Russian propaganda campaign about Western security services fuelling discontent and uprisings in the North Caucasus, including ethnic rivalry, the spread of radical Islamism, as well as financing and training of terrorist activities (http://www.rg.ru/2010/10/28/region.html). If this is purely Russian propaganda for internal consumption, then it should be taken for what it is. However, if the Russian leadership or a segment of the Russian authorities genuinely believes that the West, including the US, make use of Islamic radicals in the North Caucasus to “bring Russia to its knees,” then it is plausible that some influential people in the security services in Moscow may consider similar acts against the US as justifiable, or at the very least as conforming with the “rules of the game.”
There may also be a “cumulative effect.” While it is widely believed that the Russian government was involved in murdering Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and murdering a critic of Ramzan Kadyrov in Vienna in 2009, this did not create much of a backlash in the West against the Russian authorities. At the same time one should not rule out that the Russian forces behind those attacks could have decided to continue such practices, particularly in light of the fact that the Kremlin saw a heavy US hand in backing the Russian-led opposition during the recent Moscow demonstrations last year.
Alternatively, of course, it may be that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had contacts with Doku Umarov’s Caucasus Emirate and staged the attack on the orders of the North Caucasian insurgency. The problem with this hypothesis is that Umarov announced a halt to targeting civilians in February 2012 and, since then, the insurgents have not been involved in indiscriminate violence against civilians, although there have been some attacks against civilian individuals. On April 21, the Dagestani Jamaat denied any involvement in the attack in Boston (http://vdagestan.com/zayavlenie-v-svyazi-s-sobytiyami-v-bostone-ssha.djihad). Having learned of Chechens becoming involved in the civil conflict in Syria, Umarov further urged them to refrain from participating in this distant conflict, while the war in the North Caucasus is ongoing (see EDM, March 29). In these conditions it is quite unlikely that Umarov could have ordered an attack on the US.
Whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev had some dealings with the Russian security services or with the North Caucasian insurgency—or with both—during his visit in 2012, the fact remains that less than a year after his lengthy trip he appears to have committed a terrorist attack on US soil. This invites a double-pronged response to the external side of the terrorist threat, contingent upon final results of the investigation.
First, the United States may have to start paying greater attention to resolving the conflict in the North Caucasus. The Russian authorities have emphasized that the situation in the region is an internal Russian affair, but in light of the latest events, the situation in the North Caucasus in all likelihood has started to have an adverse effect on other countries and ceased being simply Russia’s domestic matter. Second, the US should decide whether Russia has joined the cohort of states, such as Pakistan, where radicals are trained or inspired to carry out attacks against Western countries. If so, travel and extensive contacts with Russia by certain individuals will likely become more intensely monitored.
Can An Act Of Violence Be Called 'Terrorism' If The Motive Is Unknown?
By Glenn Greenwald
Two very disparate commentators, Ali Abunimah and Alan Dershowitz, both raised serious questions over the weekend about a claim that has been made over and over about the bombing of the Boston Marathon: namely, that this was an act of terrorism. Dershowitz wason BBC Radio on Saturday and, citing the lack of knowledge about motive, said (at the 3:15 mark): "It's not even clear under the federal terrorist statutes that it qualifies as an act of terrorism." Abunimah wrote a superb analysis of whether the bombing fits the US government's definition of "terrorism", noting that "absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted 'in furtherance of political or social objectives'" or that their alleged act was 'intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.'" Even a former CIA Deputy Director, Phillip Mudd, said on Fox News on Sunday that at this point the bombing seems more like a common crime than an act of terrorism.
Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theatre shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word "terrorism" was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that "terrorism" either.
In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects was revealed, the word "terrorism" is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened. After initially (and commendably) refraining from using the word, President Obama has since said that "we will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had" and then said that "on Monday an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon". But as Abunimah notes, there is zero evidence that either of the two suspects had any connection to or involvement with any designated terrorist organization.
More significantly, there is no known evidence, at least not publicly available, about their alleged motives. Indeed, Obama himself - in the statement he made to the nation after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on Friday night - said that "tonight there are still many unanswered questions" and included this "among" those "unanswered questions":
"Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?"
The overarching principle here should be that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is entitled to a presumption of innocence until he is actually proven guilty. As so many cases have proven - from accused (but exonerated) anthrax attacker Stephen Hatfill to accused (but exonerated) Atlanta Olympic bomber Richard Jewell to dozens if not hundreds of Guantanamo detainees accused of being the "worst of the worst" but who were guilty of nothing - people who appear to be guilty based on government accusations and trials-by-media are often completely innocent. Media-presented evidence is no substitute for due process and an adversarial trial.
But beyond that issue, even those assuming the guilt of the Tsarnaev brothers seem to have no basis at all for claiming that this was an act of "terrorism" in a way that would meaningfully distinguish it from Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine. All we really know about them in this regard is that they identified as Muslim, and that the older brother allegedly watched extremist YouTube videos and was suspected by the Russian government of religious extremism (by contrast, virtually every person who knew the younger brother has emphatically said that he never evinced political or religious extremism). But as Obama himself acknowledged, we simply do not know what motivated them (Obama: "Tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?").
It's certainly possible that it will turn out that, if they are guilty, their prime motive was political or religious. But it's also certainly possible that it wasn't: that it was some combination of mental illness, societal alienation, or other form of internal instability and rages that is apolitical in nature. Until their motive is known, how can this possibly be called "terrorism"? Can acts of violence be deemed "terrorism" without knowing the motive?
This is far more than a semantic question. Whether something is or is not "terrorism" has very substantial political implications and very significant legal consequences as well. The word "terrorism" is, at this point, one of the most potent in our political lexicon: it single-handedly ends debates, ratchets up fear levels, and justifies almost anything the government wants to do in its name. It's hard not to suspect that the only thing distinguishing the Boston attack from Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook and Columbine (to say nothing of the US "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad and the mass killings in Fallujah) is that the accused Boston attackers are Muslim and the other perpetrators are not. As usual, what terrorism really means in American discourse - its operational meaning - is: violence by Muslims against Americans and their allies. For the manipulative use of the word "terrorism", see the scholarship of NYU's Remi Brulin and the second-to-last section here.
Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. His other books include: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.
The Cluster Bombs of Boston and Drone Strikes of Yemen
By Matthew Behrens
April 23, 2013
One day last week, I was in a Shawarma shop as the wall-to-wall TV coverage of the Boston manhunt provided the sounds cape for lunch. The gentleman behind the counter and I exchanged words of sadness about the sickness infecting those who would commit the kind of violence we saw at the end of the world-famous marathon.
"This reminds me of growing up in Lebanon," he told me. "Every day, during the war, bombs like this would go off all the time." Hundreds were indiscriminately killed, like those killed this past week in Iraq by car bombs and in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen by U.S. air strikes. As the lunch hour went on and the stenographers to power struggled to fill the airwaves with commentary, the inevitable questions arose. Was anywhere safe, given something bad could happen on a moment's notice? What drives a person to do this?
"Why did these young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence?" asked Barack Obama on Friday night. It is a testament to the self-censorship of global media that Obama can ask such a question without a hint of irony, nor without a single voice asking the same question of the Harvard-trained, constitutional lawyer Obama himself, who two days earlier signed off on the latest of his daily kill lists, resulting in the extrajudicial murder of two individuals in the town of Wessab, Yemen.
Writer Farea Al-Muslimi, in an Al Monitor editorial, "My Village Was Attacked By US Drones in Yemen," describes a sense of bewilderment that his village could be attacked, one that must have mirrored the sense of outrage felt by Bostonians when their trademark marathon was bombed. "If you live in Yemen, the golden rule is to expect anything any time," al-Muslimi wrote. "That, however, does not include expecting your hometown village -- one of the most peaceful and beautiful places in Yemen -- to be bombed. The peacefulness of such a place makes you believe that no one has ever heard of it, let alone that it is bombed by a US drone strike at night…. The ominous buzz of the drones terrorizes communities. Where will they strike? Will I be next? These are the questions youngsters now grow up asking...The 'collateral damage' of drones cannot just be measured in corpses. Drones are traumatizing a generation."
Based on the daily trauma of drone strikes, the editorial concludes, "It is tempting to conclude that the US has no interest in a measured response to terrorism. It is difficult not to think it doesn't matter to them whether they terrorize (and radicalize) entire populations as they check another name off their 'kill list.'"
That nagging question about who would do such things arose again during a White House press briefing, where the pack mentality was briefly broken by a very brave correspondent, Amina Ismael, who put it plainly: "I send my deepest condolence to the victims and families in Boston. But President Obama said that what happened in Boston was an act of terrorism. I would like to ask, Do you consider the U.S. bombing on civilians in Afghanistan earlier this month that left 11 children and a woman killed a form of terrorism? Why or why not?"
White House spokes flak Jay Carney's answer was typical bafflegab, and the rest of the reporters fell in with softball questions more befitting the narrative of the day. Meanwhile, editorial pages lit up with the not unexpected think pieces about "radicalization," with Canadian national security industry spokesman Wesley Wark struggling to understand how "seemingly well-integrated young men can come to take up the cause of mass casualty violence and terrorism." It is a testament either to his poor scholarship or his wilful blindness that Wark concludes that, despite a decade of counter-terrorism efforts, "we are no closer to possessing a definitive answer."
Wark wonders about the motives of individuals who would seek to "kill and maim," but rather misses a key point. The suspects were acting no differently than a general in the Pentagon when they detonated a crude version of weapons that are a regular part of many a military arsenal: cluster bombs, anti-personnel weapons that are no different in their intended use than the Boston bomb, designed to rip apart human flesh and inflict maximum suffering. These things have been dropped millions of times on civilian targets by air forces whose pilots have received medals of bravery.
Wark and others might also benefit from a brilliant piece of 1970s research by Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner called "Peacetime Casualties: The Effects of War on the Violent Behaviour of Non-combatants." This analysis, which documents substantive increases in domestic homicide rates following a war, begins by stating the problem that is largely dismissed as part of the "root causes" argument: "Violence by the State is strangely absent from discussions of violence. Books about aggression, for example, often treat topics ranging from hormones to homicidal criminals without mentioning capital punishment, the shooting of looters, the beating of protesters, or even that most impressive form of 'official' violence: war."
The legitimation of official violence, they argue, becomes so embedded in the culture that the core message -- "the unmistakable moral lesson that homicide is an acceptable, or even praiseworthy, means to certain ends" -- becomes mirrored in the population at large. A majority of nations involved in wars experienced homicide rates that increased significantly compared to nations not involved, revealing a "linkage between the violence of governments and the violence of individuals. This linkage is mediated, we believe, by a process of legitimation in which wartime homicide becomes a high-status, rewarded model for subsequent homicides by individuals….The wartime reversal of the customary peacetime prohibition against killing may somehow influence the threshold for using homicidal force as a means of settling conflict in everyday life." Put more succinctly, U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote in 1928: "Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law."
Another answer can be found in our recent history. A media obsessed with anniversaries (the one-week anniversary of Boston, the 100th commemoration of the First World War, the latest day count of Lindsay Lohan's sobriety) failed to miss the 45th anniversary of a story that was originally reported as an American military victory.
On March 15, 1968, young American soldiers went into a Vietnamese village and when asked by a soldier, "Are we supposed to kill women and children?" were told by their commanding officer, "Kill anything that moves." As Nick Turse further recounts in his excellent history of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam, Kill Anything That Moves, "Over four hours, members of Charlie Company methodically slaughtered more than five hundred unarmed victims…They even took a quiet break to eat lunch in the midst of the carnage. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systemically burned homes, and fouled the area's drinking water." Such atrocities were the norm, not the exception, and Turse notes that massacres were so common that the Pentagon formed a secret Vietnam War Crimes Working Group.
While ordinary soldiers committed these heinous acts, they were, like the tortures, renditions, and mass slaughters from the skies of today, part of the official command structure. War criminal Henry Kissinger relayed the murderous orders of President Nixon on the bombing of Cambodia, instructing the Air Force: "Anything that flies on anything that moves."
That genocidal mentality (rooted very much in the slaughter of indigenous populations and the ethnic cleansing symbolized by "residential" schools) was also reflected in the deliberate targeting of Iraq's electricity grid and water treatment systems during the 1991 Gulf War, with the U.S. Air Force noting in a 1998 report that "The loss of electricity shut down the capital's water treatment plants and led to a public health crisis from raw sewage dumped in the Tigris River." A US Defense Intelligence Agency analysis entitled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," noted that sanctions (which killed 1.5 million people, and were "worth it," according to former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) would prevent the importation of the necessary equipment to purify water, leading to "a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population" and "increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."
Perhaps the real question is: What radicalized U.S. officials do so hate civilian populations around the globe that such atrocities could be planned and carried out? Another opportunity to understand the "radicalization" of American officials (and their Canadian counterparts) was lost with the media's failure to provide an equal amount of coverage to two well-documented reports on complicity in torture. One report (Globalizing Torture) found 54 nations (including Canada) provided assistance to the U.S. program of rendition to torture, while another (The Report of the Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment), a bipartisan effort undertaken by some very conservative elements, including members of the military, found it "indisputable" that the U.S. has been complicit in torture, and expressed its concern at "the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody. Despite this extraordinary aspect, the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was 'unproductive' to 'look backwards' rather than forward."
As people around the globe, from Boston Massachusetts to Wessab, Yemen and the Kunar province of Afghanistan remember the dead and care for the wounded in their communities, all victimized by acts of terrorism, it remains our collective to task to not only seek accountability, but also a consistent recognition of -- and action responding to the fact -- that terrorism is committed with our tax dollars, by our governments, in our name.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years.
277 Million Boston Bombings
By Robert Scheer
Apr 23, 2013
The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil. “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim” is the way The New York Times defined the hideousness of the weapons used, and President Obama made clear that “anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.” But are we as a society prepared to be judged by that standard?
The president’s deployment of drones that all too often treat innocent civilians as collateral damage comes quickly to mind. It should also be pointed out that the U.S. still maintains a nuclear arsenal and, as our killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese demonstrated, those weapons are inherently, by the president’s definition, weapons of terror. But it is America’s role in the deployment of antipersonnel land mines, and our country’s refusal to sign off on a ban on cluster munitions agreed to by most of the world’s nations, that offers the most glaring analogy with the carnage of Boston.
To this day, antipersonnel weapons—the technologically refined version of the primitive pressure cooker fragmentation bombs exploded in Boston—maim and kill farmers and their children in the Southeast Asian killing fields left over from our country’s past experiment in genocide. An experiment that as a sideshow to our obsession with replacing French colonialism in Vietnam involved dropping 277 million cluster bomblets on Laos between 1964 and 1973.
The whole point of a cluster weapon is to target an area the size of several football fields with the same bits of maiming steel that did so much damage in Boston. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been active in attempting to clear land of remaining bomblets, estimates 10,000 Lao civilian casualties to date from such weapons. As many as twenty-seven million unexploded bomblets remain in the country, according to the committee.
Back in 1964 at the start of that bombing campaign, I reported from Laos, an economically primitive land where a pencil was a prize gift to students. It is staggering to me that the death we visited upon a people, then largely ignorant of life in America, still should be ongoing.
The technology to manufacture the cluster bombs and the deadly bomb lets they contain has since expanded to most of the world, and they have been used by at least 15 nations. As a recent Congressional Research Service report noted:
“Cluster munitions were used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, by the British in the Falklands, by the Coalition in the Gulf War, and by the warring factions in Yugoslavia. In Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO forces dropped 1,765 cluster bombs containing approximately 295,000 sub munitions. From 2001 through 2002, the United States dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 sub munitions in Afghanistan, and U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million sub munitions during the first three weeks of combat in Iraq in 2003.”
Israel is said to have dropped almost 1 million unexploded bomb lets in Lebanon in the 2006 war against Hezbollah, which fired 113 cluster bombs filled with thousands of bomb lets at targets in northern Israel.
I list all those dreary statistics to drive home the point that the horror of two pressure cooker bombs in Boston that has so traumatized us should help us grasp the significance of the 1.8 million bomb lets dropped in Iraq over a three-week period.
Obama was right to blast the use of weapons that targeted civilians in Boston as inherent acts of terrorism, but by what standard do such weapons change their nature when they are deployed by governments against civilians?
On Aug. 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning such weapons, became a matter of international law for the 111 nations, including 18 NATO members that signed the agreement. The U.S. was not one of them. Current American policy, according to the Congressional Research Service report, is that “cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory; they are integral to every Army or Marine manoeuvre element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”
However, there is new legislation pending in Congress that would require the president to certify that cluster munitions would “only be used against clearly defined military targets” and not deployed “where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.” Lots of luck with that.
Calling Islam “Islam”
By Bosch Fawstin
April 23, 2013
I wrote this a few years ago, and I think it’s worth posting again, particularly after the latest jihadist attack in Boston. I noticed, after the attack this week, that a number of people are using more proper terminology to identify this enemy, which is very important in taking on the enemy. I recall watching panel discussions after 9/11, with each panellist using a different term to describe the enemy we face. That annoyed the hell out of me as I think it’s incredibly important to identify the proper terms when speaking about our enemy, and to NEVER create terms, for whatever reason. To me, the only difference between “Islamism” and Islam is three letters. Below I try my best to make the case why we should always call Islam “Islam.”
Western intellectuals and commentators refer to the enemy’s ideology as:
“Islamic Fundamentalism,” “Islamic Extremism,” “Totalitarian Islam,” “Islamofascism,” “Political Islam,” “Militant Islam,” “Bin Ladenism,” “Islamonasism,” “Radical Islam,” “Islamism,” etc….
The enemy calls it “Islam.”
Imagine, if during past wars, we used terms such as “Radical Nazism,” “Extremist Shinto” and “Militant Communism.” The implication would be that there are good versions of those ideologies, which would then lead some to seek out “moderate” Nazis. Those who use terms other than “Islam” create the impression that it’s some variant of Islam that’s behind the enemy that we’re facing. A term such as “Militant Islam” is redundant, but our politicians continue praising Islam as if it were their own religion. Bush told us “Islam is peace” — after 2,996 Americans were murdered in its name. He maintained that illusion throughout his two terms, and never allowed our soldiers to defeat the enemy. And now we have Obama, who tells us, from Egypt:
“I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
If only he felt that way about America. Washington’s defence of Islam has trumped the defence of America and this dereliction of duty could well be called Islam gate.
Islam is a political religion; the idea of a separation of Mosque and State is unheard of in the Muslim world. Islam has a doctrine of warfare, Jihad, which is fought in order to establish Islamic (“Sharia”) Law, which is, by nature, totalitarian. Sharia Law calls for, among other things: the dehumanization of women; the flogging/stoning/killing of adulterers; and the killing of homosexuals, apostates and critics of Islam. All of this is part of orthodox Islam, not some “extremist” form of it. If jihadists were actually “perverting a great religion,” Muslims would have been able to discredit them on Islamic grounds and they would have done so by now. The reason they can’t is because jihadists are acting according to the words of Allah, the Muslim God. From the Koran:
“Slay the idolaters wherever you find them…” Chapter 9, verse 5
“When you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads until you has made a great slaughter among them….” Ch. 47:4
Beyond the doctrine, there is the historical figure of Mohammad, who, more than anyone, defines Islam. How would you judge a man who lies, cheats, steals, rapes and murders as a way of life? This evil man is Islam’s ideal man, Mohammad. Whatever he said and did is deemed moral by virtue of the fact that he said it and did it. It’s no accident that the only morality that could sanction his behaviour was his own. Nor is it an accident that Muslims who model themselves after him are the most violent.
For the 13 years that Mohammad failed to spread Islam by non-violent means, he was not so much peaceful as he was powerless. It was only through criminal activity and with the help of a large gang of followers that he managed to gain power. But he wanted his moral preteens too, so he changed Islam to reflect the fact that the only way it could survive was through force. And so, acting on Allah’s conveniently timed “revelation” that Islam can and should be spread by the sword, Mohammad led an army of Muslims across Arabia in the first jihad. From then on, violence became Islam’s way in the world. And today, acting on Mohammad’s words, “War is deceit” — in the sense that Muslims use earlier “peaceful” verses from the Koran as a weapon against the ignorance and good will of their victims. Those “peaceful” passages in the Koran were abrogated by later passages calling for eternal war against those who do not submit to Islam. How Mohammad spread Islam influenced the content of its doctrine and therefore tells us exactly what Islam means.
Note also that the only reason we’re talking about Islam is because we’ve been forced to by its jihad. And where are Islam’s “conscientious objectors”? Nowhere to be found, for even lax Muslims have been silent against jihad. But that doesn’t stop desperate Westerners from pointing to them as representatives of “Moderate Islam.”
Far from being a personal faith, Islam is a collectivist ideology that rejects a live-and-let-live attitude towards non-Muslims. And while the jihadists may not represent all Muslims, they do represent Islam. In the end, most Muslims have proven themselves to be mere sheep to their jihadist wolves, irrelevant as allies in this war. Recovering Muslims call the enemy’s ideology “Islam,” and they dismiss the idea of “Moderate Islam” as they would the idea of “Moderate Evil.” When, based on his actions, Mohammad would be described today as a “Muslim Extremist,” then non-violent Muslims should condemn their prophet and their religion, not those who point it out.
Islam is the enemy’s ideology and evading that fact only helps its agents get away with more murder than they would otherwise. Western politicians have sold us out, so it’s up to the rest of us to defend our way of life by understanding Islam and telling the truth about it in whatever way we can. If we can’t even call Islam by its name, how the hell are we going to defend ourselves against its true believers? One could argue that we’d be better off if the West would just choose one of the many terms currently used for the enemy’s ideology. For my part, I call the enemy what they are, “Jihadists,” and our response, “The War on Jihad.” But behind it all, it’s Islam that makes the enemy tick.
Despite my frustrations with the refusal of many to call Islam “Islam,” I know that those who speak out against Jihad put themselves in danger, and I respect their courage. But it’s important that we acknowledge Islam’s place in the threat we face and say so without equivocation. Not saying “Islam” helps Islam and hurts us. So let’s begin calling the enemy’s ideology by its name. Let’s start calling Islam “Islam.”
Bosch Fawstin is an Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist currently working on a graphic novel, The Infidel, featuring the anti-jihad superhero, Pigman. The first two chapters are now available in digital comic book form. Bosch’s first graphic novel is Table for One. He is also the author of Propaganda: Drawing the Line Against Jihad, a print companion to The Infidel.