TWO WORRISOME SCENARIOS
ON THE BOSTON BOMBERS
By Tyrus W. Cobb
There are two divergent portraits of the Tsarnaev brothers that have emerged in the wake of the horrific Boston Marathon bombings the two perpetrated. Both worry me—a lot.
The first depiction described the brothers as extremely disgruntled young men who had deep ties to their ethnic birthplace and religion, the Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union and to the Islamic faith. We initially assumed that the young men had come under the sway of radical teachings at the Mosques in either their native Chechnya or nearby Dagestan. Having conducted such a sophisticated operation it appeared initially that the two likely had extensive preparation at a terrorist training camp in the Caucuses Mountains.
That scenario was worrisome. However, it does not seem to accurately describe the evolution they went through, especially the elder brother. The two had essentially grown up in America, participated in sports, gone to college, had many friends, and loved to party—and smoke marijuana. They had spent little time in Chechnya or Dagestan and do not appear to have had weapons training. While they had darker moments, none of their friends saw them as significantly different–their mood swings seemed typical of youth that age.
In the last year the older brother Tamerlane had become increasingly disaffected with life in America. Their mother and he also had some “religious epiphany”, and were immersing themselves more in prayer and reading the Koran. Younger brother Dzhokhar’s interest and performance in school waned and he drifted more into his brother’s increasingly dark world.
Dropping out, dropping acid, and dropping school are typical of many youth, as is a tendency to find new and deeper meaning in life. Youth will often find solace in various religious streams, as many “Dharma Bums” did with Buddhism in the 1950’s. By and large it was a harmless diversion and most eventually reentered the mainstream of society.
What is different here are two things: First, the attraction of the apocalyptic and uncompromising aspects of Islam and, two, the surprisingly easy access to terror methodology they obtained through the Internet. The Brothers Tsarnaev spent little time hearing the preaching of radical Imams in the Mosques, but even their minor contacts with Islamic fundamentalism seems to have led them, especially Tamerlane, to be swept under the influence of the Jihadist compulsion to violent solutions.
When they searched for ways to conduct their terrorist acts, it was easy to find instructions for bomb-making devices and tactics on the Internet. The brothers apparently read the Islamic internet journal, “Inspire”, regularly, where their new devotion to the global Jihad found expression and encouragement. Further, through Inspire and other sources, they were able, with surprising ease, to create effective weapons of mass destruction.
This is the new world we live in, where disgruntled youth find comfort not in meditation or prayer, but in a Jihad against Western civilization. And with relative ease, they can obtain through open sources on the Internet the knowledge and skills needed to conduct terrorist operations.
We should be worried. Very worried!
Three additional viewpoints worth perusing on this topic:
First, this excerpt from a May 5 New York Times article (you can link to the NYT to get the whole piece):
May 5, 2013
A Homemade Style of Terror: Jihadists Push New Tactics
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — Aware that intensified American counterterrorism efforts have made an ambitious Sept. 11-style plot a long shot, Al Qaeda propagandists for several years have called on their devotees in the United States to carry out smaller-scale solo attacks and provided the online education to teach them how.
The Boston Marathon bombing — which the authorities believe was carried out according to instructions that were posted online — offers an unsettling example of just how devastating such an attack can be, even when the death toll is low. It shows how plotters can construct powerful bombs without attracting official attention. It offers a case study in the complex mix of personality and ideology at work in extremist violence. And it raises a pressing question: Is there any way to detect such plotters before they can act?
So far, the Tsarnaev brothers appear to have been radicalized and instructed in explosives not at a training camp but at home on the Internet. Their bombs were concocted from inexpensive everyday items whose purchase set off no alarms: pressure cookers, nails and ball bearings, gunpowder from fireworks and remote controls for toys. Their choice of an open-air event meant no gate, metal detector or security inspection to pass through with their bombs.
In other words, as Dzhokhar told investigators, they followed the script from Inspire magazine
“The pressurized cooker should be placed in crowded areas and left to blow up,” the manual says. “More than one of these could be planted to explode at the same time.”
One American expert said the brothers might have as much in common with self-radicalized terrorists of completely different ideologies — say, white supremacism or antigovernment extremism — as with the committed Qaeda operatives who organized the Sept. 11 attacks. In the reports on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dr. Ronald Schouten, a Harvard psychiatrist who studies terrorism, sees what might be a classic portrait of a man vulnerable to extremist recruitment. He had failed at his dream of becoming an Olympic boxer and dropped out of college, disappointing his family and himself.
In recent years, Qaeda propagandists have “made a particular effort to recruit lonely people who are looking for a cause,” said Jerrold Post, a former C.I.A. psychiatrist now at George Washington University and the author of “The Mind of the Terrorist.”
And this observation from Robert Reilly, one of America’s top experts on Islam:
My only comment is that people need meaning in their lives — at the theological level, at the level of God.
The mantra of freedom untethered to any higher purpose translates as a form of materialism to most Muslims—and to many others as well. Therefore, Tamerlane, when he could no longer bear the meaninglessness of his life, decided upon submission to a higher purpose as it was an offer to him from the Islamists. Were there any competing offers at this level? Apparently not.
While there are some people, like Solzhenitsyn or Aung San Suu Kyi, who can survive without freedom because they have meaning in their lives, others cannot survive freedom because they have no meaning in their lives. Tamarlane had freedom in the U.S. but no meaning, so he chose meaning over freedom. His story had been replicated many times by Muslims in Europe and elsewhere.
I know you don’t discount this side of it.
Finally, you may want to click on to this link to a New York Post piece by Ralph Peters, the retired Colonel noted for his very strong opinions. I disagree with Peters as often as I agree with him, but he is a skilled writer whose views are worth considering.
Click here: Lessons of Boston – NYPOST.com
Lessons of Boston
By RALPH PETERS Posted: 10:37 PM, April 22, 2013
The superb work of our law-enforcement officials in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing ignited a blaze of self-congratulation that obscured the event’s implications.
Yeah, we killed one fanatic and nabbed the other. But our dysfunctional system couldn’t prevent this latest Boston Massacre.
That carnage was a dirt-cheap terrorist triumph. Fanatics will take its lessons to their shriveled jihadi hearts:
Lesson No. 1: Two amateur terrorists can paralyze a major American city for days. The Tsarnaev punks generated global headlines, ran up millions in government expenses, punished a major metro-area economy and disrupted society. And now we’ve got a costly civilian trial to come for the surviving brother — with more headlines to inspire copycats.
We’re relieved that the two young terrorists were “brought to justice” and delude ourselves that we “won.” Uh-uh. At the cost of two expendable young thugs, a few guns and a couple of homemade bombs, radical Islam generated a bloodbath that created genuine terror on our soil.
Al Qaeda and its ilk have long used suicide bombers and doomed assassins to rupture societies in the Middle East, killing tens of thousands of Muslims (a fact we fail to exploit in our lame “information campaigns”). Now the Islamists are in the export business. Expect more of these low-cost, high-return missions within our borders.
Lesson No. 2: The best weapons against targets in the US are disaffected legal immigrants or radicalized native-born converts to jihad. Political correctness — a pathetic fanaticism of our own — and legal paralysis make it virtually impossible to stop legal residents such as the Tsarnaev brothers before they commit a crime.
Lesson No. 3: Our immigration system is one of terrorism’s best allies. Related to the last point, this is a case of just how idiotic a politically correct bureaucracy can be. The father of the Tsarnaev punks only had to declare himself an asylum-seeker afraid for his life in the Russian Federation and our consular officials fell all over themselves to get him to America.
If you’re a highly educated, ambitious West European who wants to become an American, your chances are near zero. If you’re a radical America-hater from a hostile region, all you have to do is shout that you’re a political refugee and we’ll give you residency and benefits.
There’s no reason that anyone from Chechnya should be granted a US visa. It’s a gangster mini-state (within the Russian Federation) at war with home-grown Islamists.
Lesson No. 4: The more open a society, the more targets it presents. We all failed to see the obvious. We’ve done a good job of protecting hard targets, from stadiums to government offices. But that only deflected the fanatics toward softer targets whose very randomness creates authentic terror. And don’t underestimate the appeal of butchering female athletes, who are almost as terrifying to Islamists as girls in bikinis.
Last month, Islamist fanaticism scored a resounding victory on the cheap. The effectiveness of our manhunt didn’t change that.
Ralph Peters is the author of the forthcoming Civil-War novel “Hell or Richmond.