Welcome to SPN

Register and Join the most happening forum of Sikh community & intellectuals from around the world.

Sign Up Now!

Opinion What is Terrorism? Was the Boston Marathon Bombing Terrorism?

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Admin Singh, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
    Expand Collapse
    Admin SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    5,977
    Likes Received:
    5,043
    Why is Boston 'terrorism' but not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine?

    Here is a thread that challenges some of the assumptions and stereotypes that have been plaguing the media recently. The image and the second post up are from the blog American Turban. The Original Post is from The Guardian. Good reads.


    Can an act of violence be called 'terrorism' if the motive is unknown?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/22/boston-marathon-terrorism-aurora-sandy-hook

    Glenn Greenwald

    Police officers aim their weapons amid a hunt for two suspects caused officers to converge on a neighborhood outside Boston.
    Police officers aim their weapons amid a hunt for two suspects caused officers to converge on a neighborhood outside Boston. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

    (updated below - Update II)

    Two very disparate commentators, Ali Abunimah and Alan Dershowitz, both raised serious questions over the weekend about a claim that has been made over and over about the bombing of the Boston Marathon: namely, that this was an act of terrorism. Dershowitz was on BBC Radio on Saturday and, citing the lack of knowledge about motive, said (at the 3:15 mark): "It's not even clear under the federal terrorist statutes that it qualifies as an act of terrorism." Abunimah wrote a superb analysis of whether the bombing fits the US government's definition of "terrorism", noting that "absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted 'in furtherance of political or social objectives'" or that their alleged act was 'intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.'" Even a former CIA Deputy Director, Phillip Mudd, said on Fox News on Sunday that at this point the bombing seems more like a common crime than an act of terrorism.

    Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word "terrorism" was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that "terrorism" either.

    In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects was revealed, the word "terrorism" is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened. After initially (and commendably) refraining from using the word, President Obama has since said that "we will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had" and then said that "on Monday an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon". But as Abunimah notes, there is zero evidence that either of the two suspects had any connection to or involvement with any designated terrorist organization.

    More significantly, there is no known evidence, at least not publicly available, about their alleged motives. Indeed, Obama himself - in the statement he made to the nation after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on Friday night - said that "tonight there are still many unanswered questions" and included this "among" those "unanswered questions":

    "Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?"

    The overarching principle here should be that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is entitled to a presumption of innocence until he is actually proven guilty. As so many cases have proven - from accused (but exonerated) anthrax attacker Stephen Hatfill to accused (but exonerated) Atlanta Olympic bomber Richard Jewell to dozens if not hundreds of Guantanamo detainees accused of being the "worst of the worst" but who were guilty of nothing - people who appear to be guilty based on government accusations and trials-by-media are often completely innocent. Media-presented evidence is no substitute for due process and an adversarial trial.

    But beyond that issue, even those assuming the guilt of the Tsarnaev brothers seem to have no basis at all for claiming that this was an act of "terrorism" in a way that would meaningfully distinguish it from Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine. All we really know about them in this regard is that they identified as Muslim, and that the older brother allegedly watched extremist YouTube videos and was suspected by the Russian government of religious extremism (by contrast, virtually every person who knew the younger brother has emphatically said that he never evinced political or religious extremism). But as Obama himself acknowledged, we simply do not know what motivated them (Obama: "Tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?").

    It's certainly possible that it will turn out that, if they are guilty, their prime motive was political or religious. But it's also certainly possible that it wasn't: that it was some combination of mental illness, societal alienation, or other form of internal instability and rage that is apolitical in nature. Until their motive is known, how can this possibly be called "terrorism"? Can acts of violence be deemed "terrorism" without knowing the motive?

    This is far more than a semantic question. Whether something is or is not "terrorism" has very substantial political implications, and very significant legal consequences as well. The word "terrorism" is, at this point, one of the most potent in our political lexicon: it single-handedly ends debates, ratchets up fear levels, and justifies almost anything the government wants to do in its name. It's hard not to suspect that the only thing distinguishing the Boston attack from Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook and Columbine (to say nothing of the US "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad and the mass killings in Fallujah) is that the accused Boston attackers are Muslim and the other perpetrators are not. As usual, what terrorism really means in American discourse - its operational meaning - is: violence by Muslims against Americans and their allies. For the manipulative use of the word "terrorism", see the scholarship of NYU's Remi Brulin and the second-to-last section here.

    I was on Democracy Now this morning discussing many of these issues, as well as the legal and civil libertarian concerns raised by this case, and that segment can be viewed here (a transcript will be posted here later today):
    UPDATE

    Andrew Sullivan, back in his fight-the-jihadis mode, proclaims that - unlike President Obama - he knows exactly why the Tsarnaev brothers attacked Boston. "Of Course it Was Jihad", he declares in his headline, and adds that it was "an almost text-book case of Jihadist radicalization, most likely in the US." He then accuses me "veer[ing] into left-liberal self-parody" for suggesting today that the evidence is lacking to make this claim.

    But in trying to negate my point, Andrew instead demonstrates its truth. The only evidence he can point to shows that the older brother, Tamerlan, embraced a radical version of Islam, something I already noted. But - rather obviously - to prove that someone who commits violence is Muslim is not the same as proving that Islam was the prime motive for the violence (just as the aggressive attack by devout evangelical George Bush on Iraq was not proof of a rejuvenation of the Christian crusades, the attack by Timothy McVeigh was not proof of IRA violence, Israeli aggression is not proof that Judaism is the prime motivator of those wars, and the mass murder spree by homosexual Andrew Cunanan was not evidence that homosexuality motivated the violence). Islam or some related political ideology may have been the motive driving Tamerlan, as I acknowledge, but it also may not have been. You have to produce evidence showing motive. You can't just assert it and demand that everyone accept it on faith. Specifically, to claim this is terrorism (in a way that those other incidents of mass murder at Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine were not), you have to identify the "political or social objective" the violence was intended to promote: what was that political or social objective here? Andrew doesn't have the slightest idea.

    But this proves the point: "terrorism" does not have any real meaning other than "a Muslim who commits violence against America and its allies", so as soon as a Muslim commits violence, there is an automatic decree that it is "terrorism" even though no such assumption arises from similar acts committed by non-Muslims. That is precisely my point. (About the younger brother, Andrew asserts that "the stoner kid [] got caught up in his brother's religious fanaticism" but he has no evidence at all that this is true, and indeed, his friends say almost uniformly that he never evinced any religious fanaticism).

    The most bizarre statement from Andrew is also quite revealing: "but does Glenn wonder why Tamerlan thought it was ok to beat his wife, whom he demanded convert to Islam?" In case Andrew doesn't know, domestic violence in the US is at epidemic levels, and the overwhelming majority of men who abuse women have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. Yet with this claim, Andrew simply assumes that any bad act done by a Muslim - even a bad act committed mostly by non-Muslims - must be caused by Islam, even though he has no evidence to prove this. This irrational, evidence-free assumption of causation that Andrew so perfectly illustrates here (any bad act committed by a Muslim is, ipso facto, motivated by religious or political Islam) is precisely what I was describing and denouncing. And it only rears its ugly head when the perpetrator is Muslim.
    UPDATE II

    The New York Times today reports that "United States officials said they were increasingly certain that the two suspects had acted on their own, but were looking for any hints that someone had trained or inspired them." It also reports that "The FBI is broadening its global investigation in search of a motive." There's no reason for the FBI to search for a motive. They should just go talk to Andrew Sullivan. He already found it.

    In sum, neither the President nor the FBI - by their own admission - know the motive here nor have evidence showing it, but Andrew Sullivan, along with hordes of others yelling "terrorism" and "jihad", insist that they do. That's the special species of rank irrationality that uniquely shapes public US discourse when the issue is Muslims.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    #1 Admin Singh, Apr 24, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2013
  2. Loading...

    Similar Threads Forum Date
    Most Area Terrorism Funding Not Spent (washingtonpost.com) Interfaith Dialogues Apr 11, 2005
    Sikh News Sikh Temple Blown Up By Islamic State Supporters 'Not Terrorism' - Breitbart News Breaking News Jul 21, 2016
    Interfaith Regarding Terrorism: From A Muslim, Jew, Christian And Sikh Interfaith Dialogues Mar 30, 2016
    USA An act of home-grown terrorism Breaking News Aug 7, 2013
    World Knife Attack on Soldier in Paris Treated as Terrorism Breaking News May 26, 2013

  3. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
    Expand Collapse
    Admin SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    5,977
    Likes Received:
    5,043
    Re: What is Terrorism? Was the Boston Marathon Bombing Terrorism


    What, or who, is “terrorism” in America?


    (source: Denver Post)

    http://americanturban.com/2013/04/22/what-or-who-is-terrorism-in-america/

    In The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald compares the application of the word “terrorism” in the case of last week’s Boston Marathon bombing against recent previous acts of mass violence in the United States:

    It’s hard not to suspect that the only thing distinguishing the Boston attack from Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook and Columbine (to say nothing of the US “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad and the mass killings in Fallujah) is that the accused Boston attackers are Muslim and the other perpetrators are not. As usual, what terrorism really means in American discourse – its operational meaning – is: violence by Muslims against Americans and their allies.​

    Notwithstanding the absence in Glenn Greenwald’s piece of any reference to last August’s mass murder of six Sikhs by a white supremacist in Oak Creek, Wisconsin (which is significant in its absence), this is a poignant discussion to be had about the prejudices that are being applied to by-far peaceful American communities.

    Of course, this is nothing new, nor is it so that Sikhs — the predominant turban-wearing population in the United States — are also painted with this unfair brush.

    Incidentally, it is also interesting to note that among the cities that are listed in Glenn Greenwald’s article, of those in which attacks occurred during President Obama’s administration, the city he did not mention — Oak Creek, Wisconsin — was also the only one not to have been visited personally by the President.​

    Wajahat Ali also examines the “terrorist” label in his article in Salon, and asks the question head on:

    What’s the difference between the “terrorism” of the Tsarnaev brothers and the “lone radical” violence of white supremacist Wade Page, who shot and killed six Sikh Americans at their temple? What are the definitions and standards for “terrorism”? Who decides?​

    A week earlier, Tim Wise predictably answered that question in an article about white privilege:

    White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize — and specifically to kill — but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

    Indeed, while the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing are ethnically Caucasian, their Islamic background has become the focus despite that it is not clear either brother was a particularly devout Muslim for a lengthy period of time. On the other hand, Muslim American groups denounced the Boston attacks almost immediately. We saw no such denouncement by white supremacist groups in the United States when Wade Michael Page murdered six innocent and unsuspecting people eight months ago.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  4. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
    Expand Collapse
    1947-2014 (Archived)
    SPNer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Messages:
    14,551
    Likes Received:
    19,200
    Re: What is Terrorism? Was the Boston Marathon Bombing Terrorism

    "Why is Boston 'terrorism' but not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine?"

    Did Glen Greenwald get the question backward? Could it not also be Why were Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine acts of mass murder, and not the Boston Marathon Bombing?

    Glen Greenwald may be carried away by his ideology. By his own account, experts in an out of government are questioning whether the Tzaranev brothers were terrorists at all. After reading the biographical articles about the brothers an entirely different picture emerges, and not all articles make the "terrorist" claim. Writing a blog entry to make it seem so, does not make it so.

    Is this another moment in Internet history where it is convenient to paint the US with the broad brush? How does it compute that civilian deaths committed during war are acts of terrorism, but politically motivated bombings and shootings are not terrorism, as long as the bombers are disaffected members of a minority group? Is it too easy to argue that bombings and shootings in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, committed by Al Qaida, are not terrorism but understandable responses to the broader acts of terror by the US?

    Unless one is openly committed to a philosophy of total pacifism and nonviolence, such equations are shaky at best and irresponsible at worst. On the other hand, the media, politicians and the body politic should not be taken off the hook that easily either. Slogan-ism is also irresponsible and dangerous. It breeds hatred, contributes to continued mayhem, and numbs any ability to feel real moral accountability. Slogan-ism buys readers and votes. That is why it never stops. We should demand more than the kinds of simplistic and simple-minded explanations that attach the T-word to anything associated with Islam. And that is where the discourse should be headed, in the US and around the world. I doubt it will.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    #3 spnadmin, Apr 24, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013
  5. Brother Onam

    Brother Onam United States
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2012
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    636
    Gurufateh!

    Too often terrorists hide under the banner of concern for their tribe or nation, victims of injustice or oppression.
    If we need an example of true caring, the winner of the marathon, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, coming from plenty hardship himself, chose to donate his 1st-place medal to the people of Boston, because he was moved by how much grief this bombing caused.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  6. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
    Expand Collapse
    1947-2014 (Archived)
    SPNer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Messages:
    14,551
    Likes Received:
    19,200
    Onam ji

    Thanks for resurrecting this thread at this time. One advantage of the starter article is the challenge to stop looking for silver bullets that explain terrorism in a nutshell, and put forward sliver bullet solutions also in a nutshell.
     
    #5 spnadmin, May 27, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2013
  7. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
    Expand Collapse
    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Messages:
    4,560
    Likes Received:
    6,989
    Spnadmin ji,

    Great observation!

    I used to like to read Glen Greenwald during Iraq war. He was quite thoughtful and upfront then. I guess this is the price of fame which made him move to The Guardian with fat money. He has retracted himself a bit in his latest blog after being confronted by Andrew Sullivan of The Dish.

    Sadly, the word Terrorist has become kind of synonym to one kind of people which is a roadblock to confront it from all sides whoever he/she/it may be.

    On a lighter note, it is interesting to see the cat fights between two great bloggers who happen to be openly gay about this term. Glen lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil with his boyfriend because he can not bring him to the US legally, and on the other side, Andrew, a Brit got his green card despite being gay which was a no, no in not too distant past.

    Regards

    Tejwant Singh
     
    • Like Like x 2
  8. findingmyway

    findingmyway
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer Contributor Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2010
    Messages:
    1,667
    Likes Received:
    3,767
    I am very sceptical of the word terrorist. It is used frequently due to the emotional connotations, so always comes with an agenda. Throughout history terrorist has been used in this way. A terrorist is always someone who opposes the current government or those in power regardless of whether right or wrong. Our Guru's were probably considered terrorists by the Moghal emperors, Sikhs have been called terrorists by the Indian government, during WW2 the resistance movement against the Nazis were considered terrorists by the Nazis, during the cold war Americans were terrorists in Russia and Russians were terrorists in America!! It never ends. I now see the word and block it out so I can focus on the facts and background :icecreammunda:
     
    • Like Like x 2

Share This Page