The Boston Marathon bombing has raised a number of important questions for counter-terrorism experts, as well as one that is an insult to the intelligence.
It is certainly valid to probe whether the perpetrators of the attack, the brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were members of a terror organization. And it’s important to know whether the FBI, which was tipped off by the Russian government in 2011 that Tamerlan had become a follower of radical Islam, mishandled the information.
But to wonder about motive is to reveal a naïveté that borders on the criminal. It isn’t that the question isn’t valid — why, indeed, would two young men who claim to be “religious” strike out so ruthlessly against the country that not only gave them safe refuge, but scholarships and a chance to get ahead? — but that the answer is so obvious.
The United States and the entire free world are under attack by radical Islamists who practice a hate-filled doctrine in the name of religion. Once we know that the Tsarnaev brothers were followers of radical Islam, all the questions fall away.
Pretending to look for a motive, when it’s staring everyone in the face, is dangerous because it attempts, on one level, to justify the heinous deed — a motive implies there’s a reason for it — and because it reflects a head-in-the-sand attitude toward the threat of radical Islam, which is alive and well 12 years after 9/11 and after the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
Last year, 14 Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terror plots; in 2011, the number was 21 and in 2009 it was 50, according to a recent study by University of North Carolina Professor Charles Kurzman.
Each of these indictments represents what could have been, chalilah, another Boston Marathon outrage. While security forces deserve our gratitude for their efforts in apprehending the potential perpetrators, Matt Olsen, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, admits that “they’re really difficult for us to detect and, therefore, to disrupt.”
(It is important to remember that these radical elements comprise only a small fraction of the approximately billion Muslims worldwide. The vast majority of Muslim-Americans — including many who are deeply religious — are loyal, peaceful, citizens who shouldn’t be held accountable for the reprehensible actions of some of their brethren.)
But, at the same time, it is deeply disturbing to note that in mosques located on America soil, fiery sermons are given depicting the United States as the Great Satan, an immoral entity that is a legitimate target for attack. ABC News reported on Tuesday that the Tsarnaev brothers may have been inspired to violence by the internet preachings of al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic American-born radical jihadist who was executed by an American air strike more than a year ago.
The brothers may have used instructions from an al-Qaida online magazine to make their pressure-cooker bombs.
“This is kind of the al-Qaida modus operandi now, not relying only on operatives, but trying to get people do it yourself radicalization to build their own bombs without coming to a training camp in Pakistan or Yemen or other locations,” explains Seth Jones, a counterterror expert at the RAND Corporation.
If Jones is correct in his assessment, and radical Islam is able to activate terrorists without the need for organized cells and networks to distribute weapons and funds, that requires a new approach to the war on terror.
It means cracking down on murderous incitement, in mosques and on the internet, monitoring more closely the activities of the imams and their followers and being quicker to deport those who act against American interests. (Besides, those who maintain that the United States is the Great Satan should be only too happy to find new homes in Afghanistan.)
The first step, before seeking to implement new measures, is to have the moral clarity to understand the nature of the problem and the courage to openly identify the enemy. The administration hasn’t shown either.
In his remarks on the tragedy, President Barack Obama has lacked the courage to draw the obvious connection between the terror and radical Islam. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in comparing the victims of the Boston attack with the Turkish terrorists who were killed by Israel on the Mavi Marmara ship in 2010, lacks the moral clarity to distinguish between terrorists and victims.
The Boston Marathon attack must be viewed as a wake-up call for America. It reminded us that the terrorists aren’t just Arabs from the Middle East, but Islamists from Russian Chechnya and elsewhere. It clarified the depth of the hatred that radical Islam has for the United States, striking a historic city like Boston — which reverberates with American history, from Paul Revere to the Tea Party. And it drove home the cruelty of an enemy that thinks nothing of killing and maiming innocent men, women and children with exploding pressure cookers packed with nails and shrapnel.
We owe it to the three who were killed and to the more than 200 others who were wounded, including 13 people who lost limbs, to shake off the shackles of political correctness and draw the necessary conclusions about the threat that Islamic terror poses to our country and the need to fight that threat with all the weapons at our disposal.