Boston bombings; why are we so quick to point the finger?

Boston marathon

Boston marathon


Since the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon on the 15th April, there have been vast amounts of speculation on all fronts regarding the attack. Fingers have been pointed in all directions, from the reasonably logical accusations of the FBI’s failings in the situation the disturbingly ignorant belief of many that the Chechen culprits were Czechoslovakian, a belief that has led to the Czech Republic’s ambassador to the US making a public statement aiming to clear up the confusion. Ambrose Bierce’s statement that “war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography” seems appropriate here, many people seemingly still in need of instruction to tell the difference between the Central European Czech Republic and the Russian Federation Chechnya. However, despite the absurdity of these accusations, the most ridiculous of which can be found on various lists online, there have been some serious concerns raised over the bombings and what could have been done to prevent them.

The bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are ethnic Chechens whose attack was supposedly motivated by “their faith, apparently an anti-America, radical version of Islam”. Contradictory claims have been made as to where this extremist faith originated from but what is clear is that, in 2011, the Russian Federal Security Service informed the FBI that Tamerlan was a follower of radical Islam. Accordingly, the FBI interviewed Tamerlan and his family along with searching databases for any evidence of a threat, resulting in their conclusion that there was no evidence of “terrorism activity, domestic or foreign”. Despite this, and the Bureau’s claim that there was no evidence such a bombing would take place, the brothers’ father claimed that the FBI had been watching his family and had repeatedly questioned the brothers in relation to possible explosions on the streets of Boston. The statements made are contradictory but regardless of whether or not surveillance was continued on the family, it is obvious that the brothers were considered a threat at one point. The fact that the FBI failed to find any evidence as to this threat is not so much proof that there was nothing to find so much as that the FBI’s investigation wasn’t thorough enough. The brothers were clearly of some suspicion if the RFSS thought it necessary not only to take note of them but to warn the Americans, and it is a great shame to think that the bombings may have been preventable, if only a more thorough investigation had been conducted.

However, as stated in the New York Times, the brothers were motivated by their “extremist Islamic beliefs but”, importantly, “they were not connected to any known terrorist groups”. Tamerlan had a history of violence, having been arrested in July 2009 for assaulting his then-girlfriend, but can be seen to be otherwise clear of criminal associations. Dzhokhar was similarly free of obvious suspicion but it has been said that “the younger brother was like a puppy dog following his older brother”. There is the suggestion here then that, in some way, the bombing really could not have been foreseen by the FBI or any other government officials involved in the bombings and the investigation of the brothers. Furthermore, while many have criticise the manner in which the pursuit and capture of the Tsamaev brothers was handled following the bombings, stating law enforcement’s reliance on the assistance of citizens to capture the brothers. This has seemingly become the knee-jerk reaction to terror attacks these days, with people being quicker to lay blame than and display negativity than show any positive emotion.

In some ways this can be blamed on the tendency of the modern media towards scaremongering but it also speaks towards a more prevalent, underlying fear in our culture nowadays, no doubt a result of the ongoing “war on terror” which has, ironically, engendered more terror. In a panicked reaction, people seem to find it easier to waylay this fear by blaming others and trying to emphasise failings than by emphasising the positive. It may be easy to say that law enforcement should not have had to rely on the aid of regular citizens but surely it is better to see the hope in the fact that ordinary people stood up and came together to help in the capture of a dangerous terrorist. It may not be clear for a while longer the motivation behind the attacks but the motivation of those pointing their fingers all over the place are even less clear as, in displays of hope such as the strong spirit present at the London Marathon, it is obvious that we, as people, can come together in a strong, positive way. In the words of Amnesty International founder Peter Benenson, “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness”.


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