From Boston to Beslan, the search for motive for the marathon blasts widens. Yet, there is no clear-cut answer as to why two young brothers of Chechen origin did what they are alleged to have done.
According to US prosecutors, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the April 15 Boston Marathon bomb attacks, has been charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. The charges carry the death penalty.
It is still not known whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and his elder brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, were acting alone or whether they were being handled by some intelligence agency.
If they were acting alone, what led them to terrorism? This question gives rise to three propositions.
1.They were angered by the horrors that were taking place in the name of the United States’ war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. So they decided to act.
2.They were misguided Islamic extremists.
3.The two brothers, who were migrants from Russia, were depressed after they saw the hollowness of the American dream.
A Washington Post report on Tuesday said Dzhokhar, who is being treated for serious injuries which he sustained in the shootout during the chase to arrest him, had told interrogators that Washington’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack. The Post’s sources were “officials familiar with the interviews.”
Well known political journalist Glenn Greenwald also believed that US violence in other countries is what actually fuels terrorist attacks. Greenwald frequently cites a Pentagon report finding that, “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies,” including “American direct intervention in the Muslim world.”
Greenwald also notes that this is one of the reasons mentioned by Osama Bin Laden as a justification for his support of violence against America. (Washington Post).
Greenwald’s arguments are valid. The ground reality is that the US is not on the side of justice as far as the Muslim world is concerned. For more than six decades, the United States has been financially, militarily and politically assisting Israel despite the Zionist state’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian land and its horrendous war crimes.
More than the United States’ involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the blind support for Israel that has aroused Muslim anger against the US.
The fact that the US is not on the side of justice has made many disgruntled US soldiers turn their guns on colleagues. When a soldier realises that his country is in the wrong, then his conscience is troubled. Thus it was no surprise that a Zogby poll in 2006 found that 72 per cent of US soldiers in Iraq supported a withdrawal within a year while 25per cent said it should happen immediately.
This troubled conscience was probably why Major Nidal Malik Hasan of the United States Army Medical Corp killed 13 soldiers and wounded 32 others in Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.
This troubled conscience was probably why US soldier Hasan K. Akbar on March 23, 2003 in Kuwait killed two US army officers and wounded 14 others during the start of the US invasion of Iraq.
In May last year, another Muslim US soldier was convicted of plotting to blow up a Texas restaurant packed with American troops to get “justice” for civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s not only the Muslim soldiers who have been turning their guns on fellow soldiers. On Monday, a US Army surgeon pleaded guilty to the charge of killing five fellow servicemen at a military counselling centre in Iraq in 2009.
The act of a soldier killing a fellow soldier is known as ‘fragging’ in US military jargon. The term is also used to describe the act of manipulating the chain of command to have an individual, or unit, deliberately killed by placing them in harm’s way, with the intended result being their deaths. There were several such cases during the Vietnam War – another conflict where the US was not on the side of justice.
The propensity for fragging is higher if the conscience of the soldier is disturbed. Incidents of fragging will be more in an unjust war than in a war where a soldier believes he is fighting a just war.
The fragging mentality could also develop in ordinary people with a sensitive conscience, especially when they share a cause or an ethnic or religious identity with the victims of what they perceive as the unjust war. This was why Timothy McVeigh in 1995 carried out the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 800. This was probably why convicted underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a US airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.
Whether the Tsarnaev brothers were disturbed by US violence overseas is a study worth many a research by terrorism experts and academics. The fact that the Boston bombing took place just days after 17 civilians, including 12 children, died in a US attack in Afghanistan is also significant. Such civilian deaths in US attacks have become a regular feature and on many occasions, the survivors and family members of the victims do not get even a token apology. In his post-Boston-blast comment, President Barack Obama said a bomb that killed civilians was an act of terror. If he uses the same yardstick, then he may have to say that the US attacks on civilian targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan are mega terrorist acts.
However, the focus of investigators in the Boston blast case is on whether the Tsarnaev brothers were Islamic extremists and whether they had any links with Anwer al-Awlaki, a US Muslim cleric killed in a US drone attack in Yemen. Obviously, investigations in this direction keep US violence committed elsewhere out of public debate and focus.
The US media also do not show a desire to probe the link between US violence outside and the homegrown terrorism. Media reports paint the suspects as terrorists and insinuate that the Tsarnaev brothers learned their pressure cooker bomb-making method by reading Al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine which recently carried an article on “how to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom”.
The Tsarnaev brothers may be extremists and dangerous, but the blame should also be pinned on the US foreign policy that breeds such extremism. Its foreign policy has little place for justice for the Palestinian people while it promotes interference in the internal affairs of other countries and shows scant respect for international law.
If the Tsarnaev brothers were extremists, they were either acting alone or being manipulated by a terrorist group or an intelligence agency. The suggestion that in the post-9/11 world, al-Qaeda or a similar group can operate without being detected in the US is an insult to the US intelligence community. Many believed even 9/11 took place not due to intelligence failure but due to a political decision to ignore warnings of the attack. Thus there is a strong possibility that the Tsarnaev brothers were manipulated by either the CIA or Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, or by both.
According to reports, Tamerlan, the elder Tsarnaev, who died during the police chase last week, was regularly interviewed by FBI agents following a tipoff from Russia that he had links with terrorist groups. The first such contact was made in 2008 and the last in 2011. The FBI did not find any incriminating evidence then but kept an eye on him. Reports now say the FBI knew of the videos Tamerlan had watched, his YouTube activities and his regular visits to the site www.islam.ru. The FBI had even accessed Tamerlan’s text messages. In one such text message to his mother, Tamerlan had said he was ready to die for Islam.
Last year, Tamerlan visited Russia and moved about freely in Dagestan. There was no attempt by the Russians who had only a year ago tipped off the FBI about Tamerlan, to arrest him. Whether he was interrogated by the FBI upon his return to the US is not known. Russian officials now claim that Tamerlan met Dagestan separatist militant leaders during his visit to the Caucasus.
There is a strong possibility that the Dagestan militant leaders whom Tamerlan was supposed to have met were Russian agents who prodded him to go ahead with the plan to bomb the marathon. What is adding to the intrigue is the claim by the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers that their sons were set up by US intelligence agents. Thus confusion is compounded. Are the Russians posing off as US officers?
If one were to apply the theory of ‘who-benefits-from-it’, Russia tops the list of candidates. It has a serious problem in the Caucasus where Jihadists from Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia are challenging Russia’s sovereignty over these oil-and-mineral-rich provinces, through which Russia’s -- and land-locked Central Asia’s -- oil and gas go to Europe.
Russia’s wars in the Islamic Caucasus have come under severe criticism from the US. Russia won the war in Chechnya by simply using heavy weapons and its massive fire power. Yet the rebels have regrouped. They operate from the mountainous region and carry out regular attacks in Chechnya where a pro-Russian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, a rebel-turned-Putin loyalist, is in charge.
President Vladimir Putin is determined to wipe out the menace probably by launching yet another major military operation in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia – countries described by wikitravel as extremely dangerous tourist destinations. But Putin wants the US and the West on his side. The US and the West opposed Russia’s military action in the two Chechen wars – 1994-96 and 1999-2000 -- due to the horrendous scale of human rights violations.
Much to the chagrin of Russia, the rebellion in Russia’s Caucasus is supported by US neoconservatives, in spite of the State Department declaring three Chechen groups as terrorists. The mollycoddling of Chechen rebels continued even after the 2004 Beslan school horror in North Ossetia – a hostage drama that ended in the death of 380 people, most of whom were children. Many neocons are patrons of the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus, a group that highlights Russia’s human rights violations in the region.
It is also interesting to note that some Chechen jihadists are fighting alongside Syrian Islamic rebels to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime. The Marathon bomb has helped Putin, a former KGB spymaster, to make the US public see the war in the Caucasus as a terrorist problem linked to the global Islamic terror threat. Putin appears to be the winner of the bloodied Boston marathon.
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