© Josh Sager – April 15th, 2013
On April 15, 2013, the citizens of Massachusetts and those visiting the state for the Boston Marathon were the target of a terrorist attack. At approximately 2:50 PM, two explosive devices were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
In the Boston Marathon bomb blasts, three people were killed (this number may increase, as some people are yet to be stabilized) and over a hundred were wounded. Dozens of the wounded were harmed badly enough to require hospitalization, and many suffered from explosive amputation of limbs.
According to authorities, the two bombs on the marathon route were not alone, but they were the only bombs which detonated—five other bombs were found across the state and there is the possibility that there will be more. What the public knows about these devices is limited at this point, but they were powerful enough to cause significant harm to many individuals.
As the bombing happened mere hours ago, there is little officially confirmed information as to the identity of the bomber or bombers; this information will come out over the following days and it really is too early to speculate with any accuracy.
In the face of so many unknowns, we must simply look at the situation and think about what our responses to terrorism have been, and should be; this is also a good opportunity to avoid repeating some of the more terrible mistakes of our past knee-jerk reactions to terrorism.
What We Must Do
First, we must get to the truth about who committed this terrible crime and find every person who is responsible for participating in its execution. All who were responsible for this attack must be brought to justice quickly and punished to the absolute fullest extent of the law. Any terrorist attack cannot be tolerated and justice should be mete out swiftly.
When I refer to “justice” in regard to punishing these terrorists, I am specifically referring to justice through the legal system. In all too many cases, our politicians have let their fear of terrorism blind them to the fact that justice must be through our laws, not violations of the law for political expediency.
Once our law enforcement officers complete their investigation, those accused of these terrible crimes should be arrested, and charged with terrorism under federal law—they should not be sent to Gitmo, tortured, or have their rights violated in a way that would preclude their being convicted. If convicted, these terrorists should spend the rest of their lives in a federal super-max penitentiary, right next to other domestic mass-murderers.
Violating the rights of even the most heinous murderers—and those who tried to blow up hundreds of Bostonians certainly fit this description—is not justice and is a perversion of our values. We cannot let the actions of these terrorists change who we are or terrify us into forsaking our values.
In addition to seeking justice within the law, we must ensure that we don’t treat these terrorists differently depending upon their ideology. Unfortunately, due to biases within our political discourse, different types of terrorists are treated differently depending upon their ideology. If the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing are Muslims, we will hear a great deal about how Islam is to blame for their acts, yet it is likely that, if the perpetrators are right wing extremists, they will be dismissed as lone wolves. This way of looking at terrorism is both factually incorrect and simply an extension of bigotry.
There is simply a very real possibility that the perpetrators of this terrorist attack are domestic right wing extremists. While it is entirely speculative at this point, several things that we know about this attack suggest that this is the case:
- Patriot’s Day is a significant date to many right wing extremists and has commonly been a time where anti-taxation protests have occurred.
- Recent Terrorism watch reports by the DOJ indicated that right wing extremism is on the rise and that there is a significant risk of attack—unfortunately, this report was ignored by the DOJ, as the GOP objected to it and Eric Holder capitulated.
- The recent fight over gun control has the potential to activate extremism
The bombings of the Boston Marathon were terrorism, pure and simple. If this does turn out to be right wing terrorism instead of Muslim terrorism (as I am almost certain will turn out to be the case), we must not make the mistake of calling it the acts of an isolated lunatic. Such a decision would repeat the mistake that the DOJ made when it ignored the threat of domestic extremism warned of in their report. It shouldn’t matter what the ideology of the perpetrator is, as the act remains the same. We must not ignore a type of terrorism because it’s motivations (ex. anti-government extremism) are more familiar to us than other more foreign motives (ex. Sharia Law) for the same acts.
As a Boston resident myself, I simply would like to conclude by saying that my heart goes out to those killed by this terrorist attack. Hopefully, they will be able to get over whatever injuries they suffered during this terrible event quickly and will find some peace when those guilty are brought to justice.
I agree that our only response to this situation should be an impartial search for truth with respect to the rule of law, and I hope this attack was only done by domestic terrorists and not foreign supported or inspired ones for two reasons, domestic extremists tend to be more isolated, and foreign organized terrorism will lead to a politicization and greater demand for new security measures and foreign policy adventures. That being said, I think its extremely presumptuous and I dare say almost partisan, not necessarily on your part individually, but in general to attribute this as a probable rather than merely possible homegrown right-wing attack. Firstly while I admit the timing seems significant with patriots day and tax day, ant-government extremists for the most part with the exception of Eric Robert Rudolph who was more socially than politically conservative rarely target civilians and usually go after federal targets, such as FBI or IRS buildings. There is nothing in the ideological framework of most right-wing extremists, not counting neo-Nazis, that would make them target American civilians, and judging by the placement and content of the bombs (ball bearings, nails etc) this attack was designed not to target government workers (with the possible exception of police and Guardsman, who are more local then federal, even wit the Guard technically being a branch of the federal government) but inflict mass casualties on as many civilians as possible. Al-Queda on the other hand has called for killing Americans wherever they can be found because they rationalize that American civilians are legitimate targets since they supposedly freely elect their leaders. Terrorism is terrorism, whoever the target, but the anti-cvillian nature of this attack suggests a different motive than anti-government extremism, exactly what type of motive that may be I am not sure, it may or may not be militant Islamist and could be some form of domestic extremist ideology, but it seems inconsistent with right-wing anti-government beliefs.. While I am aware of the DHS extremely controversial report that lumped in a very broad of people with terrorists, I know that you are a staunch critic of the national security state, and don’t know why a critic of it would start suddenly citing its talking points as fact. That being said, I too live in the Boston area, knew someone who was running and am absolutely appalled and horrified by this tragedy so I hope you don’t take these criticisms personally, I just we think we should be very impartial and admit there is no probability of either type of extremists, foreign or domestic, merely possibilities on both sides, and not jump to any conclusions (and I give you credit for admitting that your point was mere speculation)
I will fully admit that there is simply too little information to link this attack to a specific ideology or group, but there is clearly enough to assume that a right wing angle is possible.
If this attack happened at a famous polluter’s office (ex. EXXON), I would also say that the evidence points towards environmentalists, and if the attack occurred at a synagogue, I would say that it was more likely to have been committed by neo-nazis or radical Muslims. The first piece of evidence in this type of crime as to who did the bombing is where and when a bombing took place–as this bombing took place on Tax Day and in a city known for being the start of the first American revolution, it objectively points towards a domestic “patriot” culprit.
That said, some experts do agree with this, and not in a partisan way:
“On the basis of what’s been made available publicly, I think everything at this point is speculation,” he cautioned. “To me, again, in total speculation, this feels a little bit more like the Atlanta Olympics or Oklahoma City than Times Square.
Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 report
Again, this is too early to make ANY conclusions, but I would hope that we have more information soon.
Anything is possible, but there are federal buildings in Boston, if a right-wing terrorist views themself as a modern day “patriot” (in the historical sense of the word, ie anti-loyalist) and American revolutionary as they supposedly do there were numerous other targets they could have chosen, and there seems to be no motive or target for going after civilians unless their goal was to target police and National Guardsmen. Even Rudolph, the sole right-wing extremist I am aware of who targeted a civilian location claimed his bombing was meant to target government-linked workers though I admit there is no way to know for sure whether he was telling the truth when he said this. I’m not ruling out that this could be non-Islamist domestic related, I just don’t see how it fits in with the anti-government agenda of right-wing extremists.
In conclusion, my point is that I’m wondering why anyone would assume that the “patriot” extremists would go after civilians, when their whole ideology is an us vs them, civilian vs government worldview.
A concerned Guy:
It is true that federal buildings are commonly targets of “patriot movement” terrorism, but the Boston Marathon is also a potential target: The marathon draws a significant foreign presence and could be derided as promoting the multiculturalism or globalization that many right wing extremists despise. In addition to this, the bombs were set along the flag line, which gives representation of all nationalities.
It isn’t the anti-government side of the extreme right that I am saying could be the motivation, but the xenophobic side (you know, the people who believe in the Agenda 21 conspiracy and think that the UN is “trying to take our sovereignty”).
The truth is that right-wing extremists are more likely to be lone wolves and saying that isn’t just racism. There have been few if any highly-organized attacks on the US by right-wing extremists and little ideological relation between them, the Unabomber, if you could even call him right wing, was anarcho-primitivist, Eric Robert Rudolph was anti-abortion, the Austin plane crash was motivated by personal disgruntlement over the tax system, Timothy Mcveigh was anti-federalist, James Von Brunn was a neo-Nazi. That is not to say that Islam is to blame for terrorism, as the political ideology of Islamism which is distinct from the mere religion of Islam and often fueled by anger over secular political grievances is the ideology of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, but I remain unconvinced of an organized trend of right-wing extremists comparable to the (albeit loosely) organized Jihadist movement. Even many of the homegrown Islamist terrorists in the US had links to larger organizations. That being said, either way, the motivations are irreverent to the fact that the perpetrator or perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and given the maximum penalty regardless of their ideological motivation, which at this point remains an open question.
Right wing extremists are commonly lone wolves, but there are cases of them working in concert to achieve a goal (ex. the Hutaree).
That said, right wing terrorism may not be centrally organized, but it is a pattern in the United States. There may not be any command structure (such as many Muslim terrorist groups have), but many of them believe in a similar ideology and commit similar crimes.
I agree completely that those responsible should be arrested, charged, and sent to jail forever. However, I also think that we shouldn’t treat different terrorists differently: Islamic terrorism is not a plot by all Muslims, and right wing terrorism shouldn’t simply be labelled a lone wolf’s crimes.
I agree Islamic terrorism is definitely not a plot by all Muslims, but right-wing extremism is not a plot by all right-wingers (as I believe the government reports seem to imply) and all indications I have seen imply that it is a loosely connected phenomon of disparate and isolated lone perpetrators. The Hutaree case was thrown out I believe, and was based on the word of a law-abiding member of the milita movement, which is demonized and wrongly associated with them and Mcveigh even though Hutaree was a more religious than political group and Mcveigh had a few accomplices such as Terry Nichols, but no serious links to the milita movement. My point isn’t that there isn’t a trend in right-wing extremism per se, but that it is not the homogenous and uniform phoenomon it is being portrayed and polticized as in my opnion to tar and feather the growing movement this country which is non-partisan left-and-right trend towards increased suspicion of government and demand for greater accountability and transparency. What little right-wing extremism there is small lunatic fringe, but the media and government are trying to lump this fringe in with mainstream paleconservativism and libertarianism and draw a false equivalency between relatively organized jihadism and a handful of right-wing extremists. I don’t think your poltiicizjng this and I don’t want to either, but I feel like those who are saying that is “probably” linked to the “patriot” movement are either misinformed or have an ulterior agenda.
I agree that neither Muslim nor right wing terrorism are plots by the entire group and I see the situations in parallel–a very small percentage of both groups is radicalized and commits acts of violence.
Anybody who says that they have proof that this terrorist attack is right wing at this point, is simply trying to politicize this. That said, what little evidence we have does seem to indicate that that possibility is more likely than the possibility that the perpetrator is Muslim, anarchist, environmentalist, or any other group with a history of terrorism. As more evidence is revealed, this possibility will shift and there is certainly the possibility that this shift will move the likelihood away from the perpetrator being a right winger.
P.S. Extreme Islam isn’t even close to organized or united. When they aren’t fighting us, they are killing each other over the Sunni/Shiite divide. In addition to this, the different groups rarely work together.
I think your mistakenly lumping in anti-globalization with xenophobia. White nationalists and the ethnic component of paleocosnervativsim could be argued to be xenophobic, but the anti-globalization movement is by and large not. Go to Stormfront, Amren, or the tons of anti-immigrant websites and you will rarely if ever hear UN or agenda 21 bashing. The anti-UN anti-agenda 21 people tend to be opposed to what they see as an encroachment of national sovereignty, which has far more to do with politics then the increasing internationalism or demographic shifts of the US. Even the anti-UN people wouldn’t seem to target a flags, but a building representing international political or corporate interests rather than people.
Both the xenophobic and anti-globalization wings of the right wing extremists could see the marathon as a compelling target to attack their adversaries and there is simply no way to speculate which is more likely if this is the reason why the race was targeted: The anti-globalist sees a symbol of the increased connectivity between countries in the birthplace of their country, and the xenophobe sees a diverse group of people who they hate “invading their country” and congregating in a small area.
I agree that extremist Islam isn’t united, but there are several relatively unified camps, (the Wahabists and Salafists, which make up the majority of militant Islamists) and the less extreme and smaller Shia minority, such as Hezbollah or the Iranian regime. By uniformity I mean within the two camps, not between them, as both camps originated with organized movements one could view jihadism as a mass movement, as opposed to disparate and deeply factionalized right-wing extremist movement which has far greater major divisions and is a very loose confederation of groups and individuals. My objection isn’t the possibility of right-wing extremism, but the claim of a probability over radical Islam. On the one hand, the means was originally reported to be more characteristic of a homegrown plot, but the target suggests otherwise. My guess is that if it is Islamist-related, its most likely not Al-Queda directed, but inspired by a homegrown or lone perpetrator. Well its theoretically possible xenophobes targeted the marathon, I find it unlikely because the spectators appeared to be the main targets, and the marathon is a somewhat of a local and national symbol more than an international one even with the large international presence, and the competitors where tourists, not immigrants, I’ve yet to meet a xenophobe who is actually against tourism, most of them feel threatened by the demographic shift from large-scale immigration.I’m puzzled by the attack, the only reason I think it us unlikely to be anti-government is because of the target. In conclusion, I’d like to lay out all the evidence: the timing is definitely suggestive of a right-wing attack, no doubt about this, the means were originally reported to be less sophisticated than professional terrorists, though new reports suggest this may no longer be true, no foreign group has claimed responsibly as of yet, suggesting that the perpetrator if Islamist is a sympathizer rather than a member of a foreign terrorist group unless the info turns out to be wrong, and finally, the target is inconsistent with anti-government attack, and characteristic of anti-civilian attack characteristic of Al-Queda ideology (additionally, the fragmentation and shrapnel-packing of the bomb suggests it was a cluster bomb intended to harm bystanders rather than destroy any symbolic location). Since many of these pieces of evidence contradict eachother’s conclusions, I don’t think we can draw a probability one way or the other, merely potential possibilities.