Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A New Radical Left?

One could argue that the Tsarnaev brothers' act of terror was a form of "blowback," although it is too early to tell. Authorities seem to think this is a singular act of terror, much like the school and mall shootings  we have seen in recent years.  But, apparently neither was a social misfit, and both seemed quite active in their community, leaving those who knew them stunned.

This leads me to wonder if young Dzhokhar may have become radicalized in college, reading about the unremitting War on Terror and the devastating impact it has had on those in Central Asia, where American drone strikes take place with impunity.  His brother, Tamerlan, no doubt came back with some first hand accounts, after his trip to Dagestan in 2011, that probably made his blood boil, as they most likely had family and friends affected by these military sorties.

Of course, nothing excuses the actions taken by the Tsarnaev brothers, but do they represent a new form of radicalism emerging in America?   I can't help but see parallels to the 60s and early 70s that saw a number of young middle and upper class Americans join radical groups rooted in third world causes like the Symbionese Liberation Army, made notorious by Patty Hearst's involvement.

The television series, Homeland, took a stab at this in its first season as one of the characters was a young American woman who had become radicalized while her father worked on an oil development project in Saudi Arabia.  The new aim of some of the militant Islamic movements seems to be to recruit vulnerable Americans who are more difficult to profile, thereby allowing them to infiltrate the United States.

Homeland plays a bit too heavily on this theme, as I imagine there are plenty of college students and young adults who have grown sick and tired of  what essentially has been three decades of intellectual and social torpor that has seen this country make little gains in terms of social equality, much less better economic conditions.  We failed to learn our lessons about "supply-side economics."  We remain engaged in a long-running "War on Terror" that has morphed into a massive Drone War that leaves many innocent civilians dead throughout Central Asia in our perpetual hunt for terrorist ring leaders.  These kids seem ready to lash out at a society they apparently see as culturally indifferent.

But, we rarely examine ourselves during times like these.  The media has gone out of its way to search for heros in the wake of the tragedy, while the Republicans on Capitol Hill want to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an "enemy combatant" in a military tribunal.  The Obama administration has more wisely chosen to treat the case  as a criminal one, although one would be pretty hard pressed to make a case for a home-made pressure cooker bomb as a "weapon of mass destruction," but it carries with it the death penalty.  Sadly, it seems, this has become America's favorite form of justice.


  1. And yet had they attacked that crowd with assault weapons they would have killed far more people -- and we would have taken that as the "cost of freedom." What a country.

  2. Perhaps I am misreading your comment as I do not understand how/why this can be construed as "left". The older brother was said to be a fan of right wing extremist Alex Jones. And it is the right wing that has imposed terrorist attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, and wants to promote the same against Iran. In fact some of the radical right wingers say there has not been enough terrorism imposed on those foreign peoples. Of course they don't use the word "terrorism". Instead, it's more like ''Christian righteousness'' being imposed.

    Strangely, the right wingers have been saying that this heinous act shows to what extent Muslims are willing to terrorize the West. But when you look closely you will see that the unhappy events in Connecticut and Colorado resulted in FAR more deaths. Yet nobody called this white Christian terrorism.

    BTW, yesterday over 100 Iraqis were killed in the continued civil war that was imposed by the USA. It did not garner a single headline here.

  3. Yes, av, the irony of the situation, but then it seems the two thought they could get away with it as Dzhokhar returned to college the next day, acting like nothing had happened.

  4. Actually, Trip, Dzhokhar stated in a letter that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are what inspired them to lash out this way.

    I don't think this particular case necessarily construes a "leftist" attack, but I see the potential for radicalism in the left, which I noted in the Homeland television series. Hard to figure Dzhokhar at this point, but it seems he grew up with all the privileges of an affluent American kid.