Thoughts on the Boston bombing developments

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi
SWAT teams enter a Watertown neighborhood to search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday morning.

Thoughts on Boston/Cambridge/Watertown (based on nothing more than the amazing live TV coverage, mostly by CNN, which seems to have sent their whole organization to Boston):

We need to be extremely humble about our ability to understand this, at least for now.

For the moment, there seems no reason to assume that the two brothers were part of any larger plot or network. (Is that reassuring or the opposite of reassuring?) The two bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon were so low-tech that it’s easy to believe that they could have been made by the brothers without assistance. Perhaps we will eventually learn that they had help.

In the aftermath of 9/11 we are naturally inclined to look for larger, more organized forces, bent on attacking America. For moment, this appears to be an act of two brothers who decided to do it for reasons about which we can, at the moment, only speculate from ignorance. They never made a claim of responsibility for the bombing.

They seem to have had no plan for the aftermath, including no getaway plan. (IF they had had one, they might have been long gone by now). They apparently had no money for a getaway. After their pictures were broadcast Thursday, they allegedly committed a triple crime, robbing a convenience store on the MIT campus, carjacking a vehicle (during which, for no apparent reason, they decided to announce to the car’s owner that they were the marathon bombers), then killing a university policeman during the getaway.

The police found them two hours later in Watertown. A gunfight ensued in which explosives were thrown by the brothers. Somehow (I haven’t seen details) the younger brother ran over the older brother in the car, killing him, with the younger brother getting away. At the moment, police are searching for the younger brother.

If they capture him without killing him, perhaps he will explain the deeper mysteries. Based on interviews with those who knew them at school and at work, the brothers (especially the younger brother) were on their way to a classic immigrant success story. They had escaped from danger and oppression (in some combination of Chechnya and perhaps Kirghizstan), had settled in the “Cradle of Liberty” and were getting an education and a start toward a life of affluence, compared to those in their homeland. Most Chechens are Muslims, but I haven’t heard any reporting these brothers were devout nor radical.

At this instant, police have cleared out a block in Watertown and are running around with guns drawn. It is likely, but not confirmed, that they believe they have the surviving brother surrounded…

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Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by David Frenkel on 04/19/2013 - 11:18 am.

    Father’s comments

    The father of the accused bombers was interviewed this morning and he appeared defiant against the US for killing one of his sons. Making the types of bombs used at the marathon and that were probably used last night are not difficult to make but making amateur bombs is a dangerous business and I find it hard to believe they did not get outside experienced help. At least the younger brother appears to have been leading the all american life doing well in high school and attending college. It would appear he was recruited by his older brother or another group. Plenty of coincidences but no facts and plenty of questions.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/19/2013 - 11:47 am.

    If you’re looking for an explanation

    you won’t find one.
    At best, these were two individuals raised in a thoroughly chaotic environment, who behavior was beyond our (and apparently their) ability to predict.
    We need to learn a LOT more about human behavior to account for the aberrant behavior of individuals.
    And I say this as an emeritus professor of Psychology; I know what we don’t know.

    That aside, this is a case of an event getting a lot of publicity, while another event (the Texas explosion) killed at least five times as many people, and was quite likely due at least in part to malfeasance (the fertilizer manufacturer had previous problems with Texas’ safety regulations, and the smell of ammonia had been reported the previous day).
    In short, the small dramatic incidents get a lot of publicity; much bigger causes of avoidable death, such as smoking, medical errors, automobile accidents get much less publicity.

    • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/19/2013 - 03:16 pm.

      Motivation

      Paul, what is most amazing is that you seem to be unable to distinguish between terrorism and/or murder and car accidents.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/19/2013 - 10:00 pm.

        What I said

        if you read the last line, is that I am concerned by unnecessary deaths.
        It doesn’t matter what kills you; you’re still dead.
        I’m more interested in saving lives than making moral judgements.
        Remember, our country was founded by terrorists.

        • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/20/2013 - 09:04 am.

          “after all, what difference does it make” H.Clinton

          I am glad you are concerned about accidental and uncecessary deaths. We all are. Murder and terrorism rise to a new level.
          However – according to you- “after all, what difference does it make.”

          • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 04/20/2013 - 07:04 pm.

            “another example of their extreme agenda” R Gotzman

            When Keith Ellison and Betty Mccollum expressed concern for “tremendous human suffering there.”, Ron Gotzman called it an “extreme agenda”. Just sayin.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/22/2013 - 01:32 pm.

        Not exactly

        The accident in Texas was an act of negligence that was clearly a risk to human lives, and sure enough, lives were lost. While it is undoubtedly criminal to plant a bomb amongst a crowd, how much less criminal is it to plant a bigger bomb and put the crowd inside as workers? The first was to commit terror without regard to human life. The second was to make money without regard to human life.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/19/2013 - 11:54 am.

    In the “black helicopter” world, this is either a “false flag” operation by the nefarious feds with a “staged” robbery, murder and battle last night, all in the service of tyranny, or a Russian attempt to force US solidarity with Russia vs Chechen.

    Or maybe both.

    Socialism.

    New world order.

    Need we say more?

    The tin-foil shortage continues.

    .

  4. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/19/2013 - 02:26 pm.

    And we have come to this fear, confusion; yet more hate risinG?

    Whether these two brothers are ‘suspects’; dead or alive…there is something happening here that is not pretty to watch or listen. We are locked in by tweets and woofing, speculating responders and a compulsive media telling the listener to fear or not to fear what is out there and what they can or can’t affirm but titillating, diverse spoken truths and half-truths? The time is here when friends may become fewer…. when we will no longer trust our neighbor; no longer trust ourselves?

    I shovel the snow path over the deck and to the dune beyond and rest in a cold plastic chair and look at the angry waves lashing the ice field trying to wash it away and open this lake to Spring soon.

    Maybe this global resting place, this common ‘plastic chair’ is a universal peace symbol… or could be, as plastic chair is often found in a private/public place where old men sit outside their unfortified or fortified main streets, villages.

    Visualize a common cafe somewhere in a village so remote we could never have been there? What are they talking about ? The grandchildren killed by drones or olive trees devastated by somebody elses bulldozers? We all have something to fear or merely disagree with…our faces are diverse, dis-similar?. Our fears and hate are similar I suppose?

    Or can one dare to wonder here, if some possibility exists maybe, that if it is true but still… how a nineteen old teen came here at the age and three and as now, seen as a “foreign terrorist”? An ‘insurgent’ at three? What could happen here that allegedly turns any and some small American kids born here or otherwise, to kill or be -false or true -suspected of same? Crimes against “other Americans” if that is even the issue here? Are they “losers as one of their ‘neighbors’ said…and we are winners? Who wins, who loses,;why?

    Why How? Who , what makes us so? I surely don’t know.? Simplistic thinking is comfort food for our assertive souls, our global acts of that do not make all men proud; no indeed? But does all that lead to what non- acceptable conclusions, about them, ourselves?

    What has one’s religion have to do about it… Christian/ Muslim , Catholic/protestant/atheist fundamentalism…what makes us tick and when is that ticking a bad omen?

    No answers here so I’ll drink a strong cup of tea and find a cold spot after the storm and look at the moon…suck in its beauty so gently bathing the world as one large universe; this mutual globe and still wonder …will we ever be open to a greening world, to Spring again…sip slowly …who has any great answers?

    Sometimes one should keep one’s mouth shut, yes…let the gods shovel their own snow…they made it one could assume….

  5. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/19/2013 - 03:45 pm.

    Hope We Find Out

    I’m hopeful that the other suspect isn’t killed so that we can hear his story. I don’t expect to be sympathetic but it would be nice to have something like an answer. Apparently they’d been in the country for some time and had plenty of chance to assimilate. Why didn’t it take?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/20/2013 - 10:04 am.

      Timothy McVeigh

      A good old native born Amurican.
      Why didn’t it take on him?
      The fallacy that only furriners can commit evil.

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/21/2013 - 04:10 pm.

        Sure, that’s what I was saying. If someone is born in a different country, then evil must live in their hearts. Good grief. Why don’t you give the tiresome, knee-jerk, ‘righties are racist’ thing a rest and try to have an actual conversation?
        The early reports that I read seemed to suggest that the two brothers lived fairly common lives. They attended nice schools, went to parties with friends, so on and so on. Obviously something happened and I think it’s natural to wonder what that was. The same questions apply to McVeigh, too.
        And while we’re at it, why do lefties, who ordinarily understand the problems with stereo-typing, believe that they can paint their political opponents as a huge group of racists? Don’t they understand the huge contradiction? Or is the blind spot just too convenient for them to examine?

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/22/2013 - 09:04 am.

          Peder

          As usual, you’re replying to something that I didn’t say.
          I made no racial comments; I was pointing out that these individuals had grown up in the United States, were by all accounts well assimilated (at least until the last year).
          So if we are looking for an explanation, it is not likely to be found in the fact that they were foreign born.
          Once you get past my sarcasm (which I though was rather heavy handed) we are in agreement.
          My real argument is with the righties on capital hill (an extreme group not necessarily representative of all those who political position is on the right end of the spectrum) who are making noises about immigration policy being the problem.

  6. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/21/2013 - 10:32 am.

    Limited edition or a series?

    …And already the FBI poster is selling for fifteen bucks
    on e-Bay;and rising… while pain and sorrow bleeds from both sides now?.

    Fathers, mothers mourn their losses and uncles, neighbors try to absorb the horror; fear; unacceptable loses from both sides now…yes, from both sides now?

    Too many victims here and too many questions that don’t paint a clear picture and ever-always, who profits in the aftermath?

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/22/2013 - 07:07 am.

    What I found most eerie

    during the episode in Boston were the images of parts of the city seemingly empty, with everyone inside and no one on sidewalks or city streets. I’ve never been to Boston, but it’s obviously a very busy urban hub, so to see stretches of obviously densely-populated neighborhood totally devoid of people, or nearly so, certainly got my attention.

    The use of technology to find and apprehend the surviving suspect also offers plenty of food for thought.

    Much of the debate over motivations in the comments seems to be people talking past one another. Lacking a lengthy speech or document from the surviving suspect that explains his rationale, and nothing like that has been reported to exist, any discussion of motivation is sheer speculation. Right now — and maybe forever — we just don’t know.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/22/2013 - 09:09 am.

      Technology

      Actually, the technology which located the surviving suspect was a guy looking under the tarp of his boat (he would have done so earlier if the city hadn’t been locked down except for Dunkin Donuts).
      The black helicopter and swat teams only showed up after he had been located.

      The whole operation on the part of the suspects seems so unplanned and chaotic (no real escape plans; no messages) that I doubt we’ll ever learn much from them, since they themselves really didn’t have a plan.

      We’re trying to rationalize the irrational.

      • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/22/2013 - 09:57 am.

        Agreed

        Just noting the use of technology — everything from ubiquitous video cameras to infrared cameras to night-vision goggles, etc., and of course the increasing militarization of the police, reliance on SWAT teams, with their own version of high-tech weaponry. Actually, it’s an interesting (and thought-provoking in its own right) juxtaposition with the very low-tech operation (“operation” being a grandiose term) of the brothers, who, as you said, don’t appear to have had a plan beyond “Let’s blow some things up.”

  8. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/22/2013 - 07:23 am.

    Who wins who loses in the greater view?

    In the aftermath and whatever happens…which will surely be the surviving brother be labeled as enemy combatant and come under military law which now recognizes torture without due process…then where next?

    This case sets a precedent…when Mirandizing of the still living brother is exempt from such protection however guilty he appears in the public eye?

    … then comes the greater crime; the greater crime against every immigrant, every citizen born or naturalized who can be declared enemy combatant on whatever grounds determined true or false ;or whims of local law enforcement or disgruntled individuals for whatever alleged or undocumented reasons?

    It could happen when due process is sacrificed for expediency…which essentially takes away any citizen’s rights however carelessly an ordinary, innocent law abiding citizen is viewed by authorities as the result of whose voice, what complaint?

    Constitutional protection, human rights, due process is to be sold out for the sake of fear and hate and to a greater degree, ignorance of what we may lose…is Germany of the thirties to be our future prototype?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/22/2013 - 09:11 am.

      In other words

      If you think that the brothers were trying to subvert our political and cultural system, then they’ve won and we’ve lost.

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/22/2013 - 10:12 am.

    Both seem correct

    Beryl’s point about sacrificing due process on the altar of expediency seems well-taken, especially given the hysterical call from the occasional legislator to treat the remaining suspect as an “enemy combatant,” “kill him now,” etc.

    That said, Paul Brandon’s point at 9:11 AM also seems on the mark to me — and could easily be expanded to a comment about our response to the malevolent irrationality of terrorism since 9/11 on the whole. Certainly the latest suspects don’t appear to have had any plan at all, even for themselves, much less a plan to genuinely attack the society and culture.

    A good case could be made, I think (and it’s certainly not original to me), that the terrorists HAVE won, at least in some senses. We now take for granted violations of civil liberties, not to mention violations of our personal space, that simply would not have been tolerated before the attack on the World Trade towers, and the argument that we’ve traded some freedom for some security, and in the end, gotten neither one, has some traction at my house. Even if the FBI “dropped the ball” regarding the older brother suspect, as the venal Lindsey Graham insists, all the airport security systems in the world would have made no difference to local residents deciding to commit an act of local terrorism. Billions — many billions — of dollars have been wasted on the TSA that might better have been spent on the ATF or FBI, agencies that have knowledge and procedures and training in place to actively pursue leads involving terrorism, bomb-related chemical purchases, and so on.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/22/2013 - 01:07 pm.

      The TSA

      is ‘Security Theater’.
      What they do is very obvious — the best way to make sure that people notice what you’re doing is to inconvenience them, which the TSA does well.
      The FBI and the ATF gather information quietly (that’s the idea, after all), so they don’t get publicity unless they either solve a high profile case (which they may want to keep quiet so that they don’t jeopardize ongoing investigations) or screw up.

      And of course the Lindsey Graham’s want to cut the State Department’s budget, making it that much harder to track all of the American citizens who visit family overseas.

      And as usual the final word is from Pogo Possum: “We have met the enemy and they is us.”

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