Archive for April 2013
The bomb blasts that shocked Boston on Monday were horrific and undoubtedly cruel. The stories of compassion and empathy that have surfaced as the city copes with the catastrophe are especially touching. May the victims and their families continue to receive the support they will need to help them through the aftermath of violence.
Yet it’s still to soon to draw conclusions about what exactly occurred in Boston due to lack of evidence. Nevertheless, the usual reactions to all kinds of violence except for school shootings, cinema massacres, gang warfare, police slayings of minorities, neighborhood vigilante murders of black kids, and all other “non-terrorist” related acts of violence could be observed in the moments immediately following Monday’s explosions.
First, the blame-the-Muslim scenario unfolded in textbook fashion. Within two hours of the bombs’ detonation the media was all over the Muslim terrorist plot. As the New York Post reported on Monday:
Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national — in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The Post has learned.
Law enforcement sources said the 20-year-old suspect was under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.
It was not immediately clear why the man was hospitalized and whether he was injured in the attack or in his apprehension.
The man was caught less than two hours after the 2:50 p.m. bombing on the finish line of the race, in the heart of Boston.
So anytime a bomb goes off, investigative procedures apparently require the rounding up of any Arabs/Muslims/Both in the area for interrogation or worse. Failure to immediately apprehend Arabs in the near vicinity would predictably lead to a media firestorm with anti-Muslim pundits repeating the mantra “this is how you keep America safe?…by not questioning potential perpetrators in the name of respecting civil liberties?” To avert a public relations catastrophe the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force acted routinely and arrested a man with no other name than “a Saudi Arabian national”. Obviously, the attack could very well have been carried out by a Muslim terrorist organization, but you didn’t see the immediate rounding up of white people and the reflexive insinuation by the media of a radical right-wing white Christian group planting bombs and maiming people. It wasn’t too long ago that the media instantly blamed Muslim conspirators in a bombing later discovered to have been carried out by Timothy McVeigh.
Second, the usual pattern (terrorist attack, rapid response, followed by new rights diminishing “anti-terrorism measures”) is bound to continue if recent history is any guide to future events. You may have noticed that Obama’s first public statement did not mention the words “terrorism” or “acts of terror”. Those words came later, that is after Fox News blared headlines about Obama not calling the explosions acts of terror. In an autonomic response to the media’s suggestion that the bombings were “clear acts of terror”, despite the fact that evidence had hardly begun to be collected let alone analyzed, the White House dashed to the cameras to condemn the bombing as a “heinous and cowardly act of terror”. In short, the Obama administration has moved quickly to capitalize on the horrific event creating the fear and hysteria that will be needed to sustain the administration’s justification for increased surveillance, continual curtailment of civil liberties and permanent war with the Muslim world. If there is anything we have learned since the 9/11 attacks it is the government’s inveterate exploitation of these events to increase authority, expand powers and limit individual rights, in particular those related to privacy.
Third, widespread disgust about the kind of bombing that occurred was expressed across the media. Al-Jazeera interviewed an orthopedic surgeon who ran to assist blast victims after the explosions. He described what he saw as the kind of explosion “you see killing troops in Afghanistan. It was like an IED explosion”. Others were disgusted with the second blast that was, commentators expressed, intended to kill first responders. Is that any different from the drone attacks America carries out in the Arab world daily? Does a secondary blast “intended for first responders” really differ from the indiscriminate slaying of 12 people in New Baghdad – including the two Reuters reporters covering the US-Iraq war- by an American Apache helicopter? The first group of victims was mowed down by machine gun fire and when a father and his two sons came in a van to recover the bodies moments later they were “engaged” and riddled with bullets as the infamous “Collateral Murder Video” Bradley Manning released to wikileaks in 2010 shows.
Finally, I touched upon this at the beginning of this article, the outpouring of compassion for the victims of the attacks is as inspirational as it is needed for grieving loved ones. Glenn Greenwald put it best in his piece written yesterday:
it was really hard not to find oneself wishing that just a fraction of that compassion and anger be devoted to attacks that the US perpetrates rather than suffers. These are exactly the kinds of horrific, civilian-slaughtering attacks that the US has been bringing to countries in the Muslim world over and over and over again for the last decade, with very little attention paid.
Coming away from the horrors that shook Boston this past Monday we would be wise to not give into overblown fears about “jihad in America” or the illusion that is already being re-conjured of an America under constant threat by “terrorists who hate freedom”. As horrible the carnage of the Boston Marathon bombings it is far more likely that the government will use this opportunity to expand it’s powers than another public bombing of this sort will occur in a city near you. Furthermore, if we could expend just an ounce of the compassion and empathy we have seen so genuinely expressed to the victims here at home to the increasing numbers of victims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and everywhere else the United States carries out its own bombings in the name of freedom rather than terror, we might gain a greater insight into the wickedness of bombings period.