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CONSPIRACY AND BLOWBACK April 27, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Terrorism Issues.
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The Boston Marathon bombing has given rise to inevitable conspiracy theories. Inevitable, because the internet provides greater opportunity to call into question the official story as it unfolds, and because there is an entrenched suspicion of government in general in the US, and in particular of the “leviathan security state”. However, the pressing issue is of motivation, and what it is that gives rise to barbaric and cruel behavior.

Reflecting my predisposition and prejudice, I thought Tom Brokaw’s contribution on this Meet The Press program identified the key issue of blowback and motivation, although there is much more to be said on the topic area.

David Sirota, at Truthdig, “A Cronkite Moment for the Blowback Era”, firstly recalls the maligned (and prophetic?) Reverend Jeremiah Wright saying:

The stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

Sometimes it would be wiser to take notice of what is said, rather than “shooting the messenger”. But that is the normative behavior of mass media to frame perceptions of good guys and bad guys. Nonetheless, David Sirota goes on to observe:

In 2008, the hysterical backlash to the above comment by Barack Obama’s minister became a high-profile example of one of the most insidious rules in American politics: You are not allowed to honestly discuss the Central Intelligence Agency’s concept of “blowback” without putting yourself at risk of being deemed a traitor to country.

Now, five years later, with America having killed thousands of Muslim civilians in its drone strikes and wars, that rule is thankfully being challenged—and not by someone who is so easily smeared. Instead, the apostate is one of this epoch’s most revered journalists—and because of that, we will see whether this country is mature enough to face one of its biggest national security quandaries.

This is the news from Tom Brokaw’s appearance on “Meet the Press” last Sunday. Discussing revelations that the bombing suspects may be connected to Muslim fundamentalism, he said:

“We have got to look at the roots of all of this because it exists across the whole (Asian) subcontinent and the Islamic world around the world. I think we also have to examine (America’s) use of drones (because) there are a lot of civilians who are innocently killed in a drone attack in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And I can tell you having spent a lot of time over there, young people will come up to me on the streets and say, ‘We love America, but if you harm one hair on the head of my sister, I will fight you forever.’ And there is this enormous rage against what they see in that part of the world as a presumptuousness of the United States.”

As one of the establishment’s most venerated voices, Brokaw is not prone to radical statements. But in a nation that often avoids acknowledging its own role in intensifying cycles of violence, it is unfortunately considered radical to do what the NBC News veteran did and mention that our violent attacks abroad increase the chance of retributive attacks at home.
Of course, Brokaw was merely stating the obvious: With America having killed thousands of civilians in its wars, we should be appalled by acts of terrorism — but we shouldn’t be surprised by them. We should know that violence will inevitably come from those like the Boston bombing suspect who, according to the Washington Post, “told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack.”

Such an admission may be difficult for the mainstream, monopoly media, but elsewhere the official story is not venerated and the shortcomings real and imagined are critically taken to task, usually to confirm existing prejudices. Glenn Greenwald writing in The Guardian provides the consistent testimony of previous lone wolves acting out of a sense of injustice and perhaps social alienation, which perhaps can be too easily attributed to individual shortcoming. There are other possibilities, including the psychological dynamic of scapegoating, almost unconscious behavior on the part of its agents, while deeply hurtful to the subjects. In other words, the motivation and anger might be more multi-layered in motivation than is often credited. And so the role of the media and public attitudes that are perhaps fostered may warrant critical attention.

Speculation and conspiracy theory feeds on the holes and contradictions in the unfolding official story. To some extent this is often 20/20 vision in retrospect, but equally there can be grounds for questioning some of the actions of the police. For example, why was it necessary to shoot up the boat that the younger brother was hiding in following the shoot-out that resulted in the death of the older Tsarnaev? To suggest that this was due to “the fog of war”, is self  parody at the least.

Sometimes the message cannot be separated from the credibility and record of the messengers. Adam Gabbatt and Dan Roberts, in The Guardian report:

The Boston marathon bombing suspects planned to drive to New York with their remaining arsenal of explosives and launch an attack on Times Square, the city’s mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Thursday.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old surviving suspect, is said to have told investigators about his plan during interrogations earlier this week in the Boston hospital where he is being treated for gunshot wounds to the neck, hands and legs.

The plan was only said to have been thwarted when the brothers were intercepted by police in a Boston suburb. An ensuing gun battle left the older brother dead and prompted a day-long manhunt for the survivor.

Bloomberg’s revelation came as pressure increased on US authorities over their handling of the case. Senators emerged from new briefings by the FBI on Capitol Hill with concerns over how a number of US agencies handled warnings from Russia about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who died after a botched escape attempt last Thursday.

Police in Boston were also facing questions over how they handled the manhunt for the brothers as new details emerged that contradicted earlier accounts given by senior officers.

In New York, Bloomberg and the city’s police chief Raymond Kelly held a joint news conference at City Hall to announce the latest revelations from the interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “We were informed by the FBI that the surviving attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets,” Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference.

Bloomberg said that the Tsarnaevs had built additional bombs beyond those set off at the race last week. “He and his older brother intended to drive to New York and detonate those explosives in Times Square,” Bloomberg said.

Police commissioner Raymond Kelly said the two suspects had a pressure-cooker bomb and five pipe bombs they wanted to use in the city. Kelly said the brothers’ plot to target New York was “spontaneous” and had been hatched in the days following the Boston blasts, which killed three and injured more than 260.

That seems to be upping the ante on the fear stakes, giving pause as to the purpose and motivation. It suggests that it was chance and not competence of the police and other authorities that the loss of life, injury and fear was not greater. Then again, perhaps they are telling like it is – which would be a first for these two (reference: stop and frisk).

Violent individuals can be held to account and noticeably, which is the implication of the above story, in this case the younger brother is likely to charged with the death penalty (as I understand it) because of the apparent intention to bomb Times Square. At the same time, it would raise questions relating to due process. Thee are legal issues generally in reference to the so-called “War on Terror”, particularly in regard to violence by the State acting outside the norms of the laws of war, evidenced for example in the drone missile attacks, significantly the use of cluster bombs and the incarceration of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Why are States violent? To what legal institutions are they accountable? The unofficial answer appears to be that might is right, and the exercise of legal and democratic rights are secondary to executive prerogative which claims to be keeping the population safe.

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