Terrorism continues to manifest itself in the United States. Monday, April 15 2013 will be another day chronicled in American history. Black back packs concealing a deadly concoction targeted innocent and unsuspecting peoples who had gathered to either participate or celebrate the Boston Marathon, which is the world’s oldest annual marathon competitions. The marathon is held on held on Patriots Day, the third Monday of April. Patriots Day is a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. These were the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.
The deadly concoctions exploded almost simultaneously within concentric rings of security where the masses had gathered at the marathon finish line, claiming the lives of three people and wounding more than 170 others. Security experts would call the area a “Soft Target”. Those back packs were carried by immigrants of the Russian Caucasus ... an area not heard of by most Americans, who soon after the bombings recalled the terrorist attacks in September 11, 2001 which brought fear, panic and insecurity. Despite their use of rudimentary implements, the terror act in Boston is considered the first successful terrorist attack since 2001.
Sun Tzu said “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”. Does the United States really know the enemy within its borders and is it taking the proper steps to counter the threat? Not so much at the federal or state but maybe more focus should be at the local level. It’s clear in this situation, ordinary citizens played in integral role in identifying and capturing the perpetrators.
Unfortunately, many Americans stereotype terrorists as being Arab, non US citizens and those of Islamic religion. However in this particular incident, U.S. government agencies did not rush into making judgment or accusations against certain groups or individuals. Moreover, senior U.S. officials starting with President Barack Obama – warned against jumping to conclusions before receiving the results of the investigation. Nevertheless, initial hypotheses of the attack, were focused on several entities: al-Qaeda or radical right-wing groups opposed to US government policies. While pictures and videos taken near the site of the marathon blasts, revealed the identity of the suspects where one was eventually killed and the other captured, more questions have arisen than we have answers.
Questions without answers:
Millions of Americans and the U.S. media repeated President Barack Obama’s questions, “why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence? How did they plan and carry out these attacks? And did they receive help?” To try to find some answers to these questions, we must first recognize the suspects personality:
Since the announcement of the names of the two suspects Tamerlan Tsarnayev (26 years) and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnayev (19 years), the media has written numerous articles about the suspects and interviewed many people who have had a relationship with them, including members of their family.
The father of the suspects, Anzor Tsarnayev, insisted on their innocence and urged his son before the police arrested him to surrender, saying: “Give up. Give up. You have a bright future ahead of you. Come home to Russia.” Anzor accused US police of being behind what happened to his sons, reiterating that his sons were being framed by US "Special Services". Adding "I don't know who exactly framed them, but they did. They framed them. And they were so cowardly that they shot the boy dead.” The suspects’ mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, echoed the same sentiment, accusing the FBI of being of setting up her sons. Similarly, Maret Tsarnaeva, an aunt of the suspects claimed the lack of proofs for their involvement, demanding the FBI to provide evidence to this claim. She noted, “Tamerlan has a wife in Boston and is from a Christian family, so you can't tie it to religion."
In contrast to the reaction of the father and aunt of the suspects, Ruslan Tsarnayev, the uncle of the suspects, pointed out that he had not talked to them for three years ago due to family differences. Ruslan called his nephews "losers", saying "he was ashamed of the bombers on behalf of his family and of all Chechens.” However he reiterated his belief that “Somebody must have radicalized them, and he noted that in their behavior”.
According to a former school teacher of Tamerlan in an interview with Russian news channels, he and his family were refugees from Chechnya in Kyrgyzstan. She had taught him while in the fourth grade, and in her observation, the civil war seemed to have traumatized him. He struck her as calm and timid since he was new in school. According to neighbors/people who knew them, the suspects seemed like they were pretty normal and quiet kids. Moreover, neighbors indicated that the suspects’ parents sounded decent too, and gave everything to their children. They come from an educated family and their parents didn't have criminal links and didn't seem like they had strongly religious ties. The older kid was respected in school, was not aggressive or caused any fights. He was more timid than anything. They moved with the help of some relatives in the US, seems like they didn't fit in Kyrgyzstan.
According to reports aired by the American media, Tamerlan was descripted as a handsome young man, practicing boxing, and plays the piano, and driving a Mercedes car. In one of the interviews with photographer Johannes Hirn, he described Tamerlan as a devoted Muslim; quoting him as saying "I'm very religious." Hirn also noted that the suspect does not smoke or drink alchol. Though, the suspect expressed his concerns that "There are no values anymore,” worrying that "people can't control themselves." Tamerlan also appeared isolated and disconcerted from American life, despite living in the US for five years. He commented, "I don't have a single American friend…I don't understand them.”
On the negative side of his personality, reports revealed that Tamerlan’s criminal record included an arrest in 2009 for domestic assault and battery after assaulting his girlfriend, whom he later married. Media reports revealed that the FBI has questioned Tamerlan Tsarnayev in January 2011, "upon the request of the Russian government,", but they did not find "any suspicious information" related to terrorism during his interrogation. After his death, investigations indicated that Tamerlan had traveled on January 12, 2012 to Russia through the New York Airport, and returned to the US six months later on July 17, 2012. Strikingly, one month after his return, investigations showed that Tamerlan had created a special page on YouTube on August 17, 2012 where he expressed his admiration for a number of Jihadist videos.
Following the revelation of the suspect identities, media met with many friends, acquaintances and school teachers of the younger brother who all agreed that he was a nice guy, polite, and very pleasant. On the contrary to his elder brother, Dzhokhar was more integrated into American society though his comments on social media accounts like Twitter, have indicated his interests in some figures who support jihadist ideology, like Anwar Awlaki of Al Qaeda, in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and . Ironically, Dzhokhar twitted the day of the bombings, "Ain't no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people". After one day of the bombings, he wrote, "There are people that know the truth but stay silent & there are people that speak the truth but we don't hear them cuz they're the minority". It is worth mentioning that statements of Dzhokhar’s relatives have revealed the impact of his older brother on him. This was clear in the recordings from street cameras that showed Tamerlan taking the lead with is his brother following.
One fact is clear, the Boston bombings may seem as a kind of “lone wolf” tactics on a soft target, but the sequence of events draw conjecture, suggesting the presence or influence of others considering the planning, implementation, weapons and explosives used, plausible advanced training and resilient resistance of the two suspects to the end.
After the disclosure of some jihadist interests of the brothers, some American media is repeating the same dialogue that links Islam with terrorism. Most media and analysts sought to find an explanation for the suspects committing these terrorist acts against a state that has opened its arms, support, schools, etc. for them. They ignore the fact that terrorism emerges wherever humans exists, regardless of religion, nationality, race and color. Terrorism thrives when in environment is advantageous where the means will justifies their end. Without a doubt, this recent terrorist attack proves a simple fact that we tend to ignore, the United States is not immune from terrorist attacks, and it is not easy or simple identify every potential enemy in the quest to combat and counter terrorism. Evil as good will always be present and the conflict between self-evil and self-goodness is continuous, as long as we exist.