Note: This is my weekly op-ed column.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead and his brother Dzhokhar is in custody, which is the way it ought to be by rights. Yet there are people unhappy about it.
The two brothers were from Chechnya, a majority Muslim territory in the Caucasus, occupied but never completely subdued by Russia since 1834. After the breakup of the Soviet Union the Chechens attempted to win back their independence, a rebellion that was broken with Soviet-style brutality.
Chechnya has been on my radar for a while, since I was living in the former Soviet Bloc countries during the First and Second Chechen Wars. Polish friends of mine were involved in projects to take humanitarian supplies overland to the Chechen resistance leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, before he was killed by the Russians.
The brothers were taken in by the United States as refugees, nurtured, accepted, and educated by this marvelously diverse, tolerant, and welcoming country.
They repaid us by murdering a little boy and two young women, one a guest in our country who was deserving of its protection. They maimed dozens more, then killed a cop and wounded another as they sought to flee.
From the beginning a number of us thought this was most likely the work of Muslim jihadists, though the more responsible waited for more definite indications.
Usually when the terrorism comes from any of the jihadist organizations gathered under the loose coordinating group called Al-Queda there is a claim of responsibility after a short period.
That there wasn’t an announcement wasn’t surprising though. More murders and attempted murders than we are comfortable acknowledging are perpetrated by
Muslims who’ve been living in this country for some time before they explode in what scholar Daniel Pipes labeled “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.”
In these cases we usually find a pattern of radicalization of alienated immigrants fostered by Islamic centers run by jihadist sympathizers, sometimes online as in the case of Major Nidal Hassan, the Ft. Hood murderer.
This presents problems to deal with in terms of immigration policy, police surveillance, etc.
But we can handle it. The response of the people of Boston, the people of America, and friends abroad has been magnificent.
There are reports of runners knocked down by the blast who picked themselves up and staggered over the finish line. Bystanders obeyed their first impulse after the blasts and ran, not away but towards those they saw needed help.
The Boston Red Socks traditionally play “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning. Neil Diamond showed up at Fenway Park and asked to sing it in person.
Runners in the London marathon observed a moment of silence before the beginning of the race, many wore black ribbons.
“We will join together in silence to remember our friends and colleagues for whom a day of joy turned into a day of sadness,” said the announcer. “Let us now show our respect and support for the victims of the tragedy in Boston.”
And something I find both ironic and inspiring, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was treated in Beth Israel Hospital by medical personnel he would have cheerfully murdered.
And then there’s these statements by various prominent journalists in the aftermath of the bombing.
“…if you care about everything from stopping war to reducing the defense budget to protecting civil liberties to passing immigration reform, you should hope the bomber was a white domestic terrorist.” David Sirota, in Salon online magazine
“Normally, domestic terrorist people tend to be on the far right, although that’s not a good category. Extremists, let’s call them that.” Chris Matthews, MSNBC.
“Obviously, nobody knows anything yet, but I would caution folks jumping to conclusions about foreign terrorism to remember that this is the official Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts, celebrating the Battles at Lexington and Concord…” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire.
“The thinking, as we have been reporting, is that this is a domestic extremist attack. Officials are leaning that way largely because of the timing of the attack. April is a big month for anti-government and right-wing individuals. There’s the Columbine anniversary, there’s Hitler’s birthday, there’s the Oklahoma City bombing, the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.” Dina Temple-Raston, National Public Radio “counterterrorism correspondent.”
You can find this kind of stuff all over, though many posts are being deleted as fast as possible, along with vicious personal attacks on anyone who first suggested this might be the work of Islamic jihadists.
What kind of people openly prefer to believe that a murderous attack on our country was perpetuated by their own countrymen, make that their first assumption, cling to it as long as possible, and refuse to apologize when proven wrong?