Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Boston bombs

I have been travelling for the past three days. This post was drafted last Thursday morning, before the shootout and the arrests.  As it turns out, my instincts were more right than wrong.  While evidence is emerging that the bombers were also inspired by jihadis overseas, they evidently were not part of an organized group.  Had they been, I think they would have fled the country at once.  The last paragraph also seems to have been unduly alarmist, since Pakistan is not involved and the Russian government was more concerned with the two suspects--or at least one of them--than our own was.  See the other new post from this weekend, below.

Three people are dead, and dozens are injured. One can only tentatively speculate before more hard information is available, but I"m afraid this is the beginning of a new and dangerous phase in our war with radical Islam. I do not intend what follows to be inflammatory, and it may be proven wrong at any moment. It is my best estimate of the situation and as such, I am willing to post it now.
It was almost three years ago that Faizal Shazad, a Pakistani-American, tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. He had previously traveled to Pakistan, where he had received bomb-making training that turned out, luckily, to be inadequate. His car bomb did not go off and he was quickly apprehended. He is now serving a life sentence. I was concerned at the time that other similar attempts would take place, and that sooner or later one of them would be successful. I am afraid that that has now happened in my adopted city.
No, I have no real knowledge of who did it, but I suspect a plot inspired, at least, by events in the Muslim world, even if the perpetrator(s) turn out to be US citizens. FBI agents are now analyzing the design and composition of the two bombs. The attempt was more sophisticated than the Times Square bombing in several respects. First, this time the bombers managed to detonate two bombs almost simultaneously. (They may have intended a larger delay--it has been a frequent tactic in Iraq to detonate two bombs in sequence, the second one designed to explode after responders have arrived.) And critically, this time they did not use a vehicle, which will make them much harder to identify. As I write, it is now more than 48 hours after the bombing and no one, reportedly, is in custody. By that time, Shazad, had he not been detected, would have been in Pakistan again.
I am quite disturbed by the target because I have been worrying about such a bomb for years. The crowds on the street after a major sporting event make for an ideal target, and in some circumstances a suicide truck bomber could easily kill hundreds of people as they left a stadium. In this case the bombs were apparently planted, and perhaps a surveillance camera photographed the key moment. That will not however guarantee identifying the attackers.
What if these attackers also turn out to have trained in Pakistan? What if a group declares that they have retaliated for drone strikes--what then? Are we, like the Israelis ten years ago, to enter an endless cycle of terror and retaliation? They have practiced targeted killing fof years, but without much result. The border fence seems to have protected them well, but we cannot rely upon anything similar. Fortunately very few American Muslims have turned to terror, although one who did, Nidal Hassan, killed many more people than the bombs in Copley Square.
The late Margaret Thatcher had to cope with IRA bombings. In that she kept her head. Let us hope that we can do the same.

1 comment:

tructor man said...

Having grown up in the Boston area, attended UMass-Amherst, and in the '90's, had faculty friends at UMass-Dartmouth, this has been a most horrifying week. Four young people murdered, 180 injured, this was a major terrorism event.
That the FBI was warned about the older brother, actually interviewed him a year or so ago, and yet did not follow him closely enough to apprehend the purchase of weapons and explosives, speaks volumes about the inadequacy of our laws. And it speaks of major failures of the FBI for which I predict Director Robert Muller will be/should be dismissed. The right is already gearing up to blame Obama for these oversights...
The baffling thing about the younger brother is how he was able to "live two lives" -- one as an apparently "normal, sociable student" and also as willing participant in mass murder. Did older brother receive training in Chechnya on how to indoctrinate as well as how to make bombs? He also came to the attention of police when he beat up his girlfriend. Shouldn't the FBI have known this and taken a closer look? Was the FBI's intelligence appparatus spread too thin? Are they too much concerned with broad-brush monitoring of all of us to see the obvious dangers?