Monday, April 22, 2013

WHY!? (Boston Bombings)

The word I'm hearing is that the captured suspect 'White Hat' Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is awake and in the hospital--talking. The first question, of course, will be "Who else (if anyone) were you working with." The second question will probably be "Why?" Even now--and moreso in the days that follow--you will hear various pundits try to answer that second question. You will see nonsense like this:
Likewise, one must pay no attention to the fact that terror attacks have increased sevenfold following the invasion of Iraq, which a study cited favorably by the Brookings Institution (hardly a leftist outfit) found. Whether or not the bombing in Boston was carried out by a group originating in the Middle-East, if we are serious about ending attacks like these we must consider their causes, of which U.S. imperialism is certainly one.
And plenty of (more sensible) speculation about how the older brother might have been radicalized. Here are a few things that, if they turn out to be true, might sound pertinent:

  • Of the (small) number of non-Afghanistan Islamic radicals fighting in Afghanistan, most are Pakistani--but after that? Chechen! 
  • The FBI interviewed  the older brother in 2011. He had returned from his trip to Russia (visiting "the homeland" is common for many Russian immigrants)--but they got a tip, from maybe the Russians, that he had been "radicalized." They didn't find too much.
  • He apparently had some linked YouTube videos (some of which were deleted) from radical Imams. 
  • Many terrorists are, in fact, brothers (the 9/11 groups were largely brothers) and killer diads are not uncommon either. The dynamic (one leader--more psychopathic, one follower is well understood).
But this doesn't answer the question "Why?"
  1. Why Boston? Why the Boston Marathon?
  2. Why the USA? The break-away republics generally hate Russia--not America--even the Islamic factions.
  3. What were they expecting to happen?
The Omnivore Will Tell You
Actually, the Omnivore will speculate--something could come out in the next few days that could change a lot of this thinking--but for now, I believe it's very straightforward: they did it for the same reason all low-level recruits enter into terrorism: relief from alienation. If you look at the literature you will find several theories which have a lot of information on both how and why.

But the stuff that I believe boils down to this: the narratives about terrorism--grievances against the west, the various evils of the "puppet regimes" if the Arab world--and nonsense about Drone Murder--are all the 'reasons' that terrorist give when they decide to take up the war. They, themselves, are not what makes one person do that vs. another.

What drives people to do "this"--and it's the same "this" that drove the Columbine killers which, I think, this is a lot like--is an emptiness inside them (the alienation) intersects with a 'script'--which is a fancy word for "an idea that's out there that kinda presents itself as a solution to your problem."

In the case of immigrants the alienation often comes from not feeling you fit in with 'America' but you also aren't 'in your homeland.' The 'script' of radical religious terrorism promises that you will become something: fierce, terrible, and known by everyone. The terrorist doesn't think of it that way--they tell themselves a story. Their narcissistic grandiosity speaks to them in the language of the oppressed giving the oppressor their righteous comeuppance. 

It stokes their rage--and off they go. All that nonsense about US Imperialism? It's an excuse. The suggestion that there was some "trigger" event? Bullshit. This guy went looking--either in Russia or on the Internet or both--and he found what he was looking for. The bomb instructions were like a 'key' that fit into the 'lock' of the uncomfortable emptiness in his mind. When it connected, it turned and suddenly he knew what to do: kill a bunch of people.

For no reason.

This answers all their questions. Why Boston? That's where they lived. The Marathon? It's big and public and easy. It was close by. Why the USA and not Russia? No reason--they lived in the USA. If they'd lived in Russia they'd have attacked something over there. What were they expecting to happen? They were expecting to feel fierce and powerful and terrible--to feel important--to face adventure and danger. They may have held ideas about dying in a way that vindicated everything they did. They may have fantasized about some kind of escape to a place where they would be heroes. Ultimately, though, the answer is the same as always in radical [anything ]: There is no logical end-game. That's why it's radical.

What Can We Do To Stop It?
Nothing. There is no policy change that will make this stop any more than closing a Saudi army base would have stopped the Columbine killers. There will always be scripts. There will always be empty people to be filled with rage. Gun control won't work. Even if guns were entirely illegal. Mental health initiatives won't prevent it--neither of these guys were insane in the way the Aurora shooter was. Neither killer in this case was disordered.

All those things might prevent some attack--sure. Especially the mental health one--but it won't work on this incidence. Nothing beyond getting lucky would.

The answer to the question WHY? is a cold, chilling: WHY NOT.

But that's the wrong question. Knowing "why" is the booby-prize. The right question is "How can we be happy--have hope and faith and joy in a world where this sometimes happens?" The answer is going to be different for everyone--but that's why we have to keep asking it.

1 comment:

  1. It'll never happen, but I wish the Sports Legacy Institute could get its hands on Tamerlan's brain. He probably had extensive concussion trauma from his boxing days.