A few days ago, I wrote a post about the bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon. It also had a photograph from a Pulitzer prize-winning series. “On an unrelated note, the Pulitzer Prize for photography was announced on April 15. The AP team won a prize for their coverage of the civil war in Syria,” I wrote. Then last weekend, I read this article by Charles King. It’s one of the more balanced and reasonable pieces on this episode that I’ve read, but that’s not why I had a little… moment while reading it. Emphases mine, by the way.
In the long term, the Chechnya link will probably end up being less important than, oddly, the Syrian one. In blocking further international involvement in the Syrian crisis, Russian officials have long maintained that Syrian rebel groups are dominated by al Qaeda affiliates, whose victory in the Syrian civil war will have dire consequences for the region and beyond. Now, Russians have already begun to portray the Tsarnaevs as an unlikely link between Boston and Damascus. There are somewhere “between 600 and 6,000” Chechens from the North Caucasus fighting in Syria, said Kotliar in a recent interview with Russian media, “and from what happened in Boston, perhaps Americans will finally draw the lesson that there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists, no ‘ours’ and ‘yours.’” Keep arming the Syrian rebels, the argument goes, and sooner or later you will have to face the consequences of a Syria overtaken by Islamist radicals.
It’s a bit of a stretch and it’s also the Russian government’s logic, but whaddyaknow, perhaps there was a connection after all. Not a comforting feeling, though, to know that subconsciously I may think like a Russian government spokesperson.
The other article about the mysterious case of the Tsarnaev brothers that’s well-observed, is this one by Rania Khalek who asked a very pertinent question about what constitutes a terror attack as far as the American government is concerned:
…if a mass casualty attack in and of itself equals terrorism, why was the brutal massacre of 20 first graders and six teachers by Adam Lanza never labeled as such? Why isn’t James Holmes–who killed 12 and injured 58 at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre last summer–being prosecuted as a “terrorist”?
The prayers of half a continent were answered when the Boston police announced that the suspects in the bomb blasts were Caucasian and male, despite the pressure cookers, back packs and odd wardrobe choices (I think it was on The Daily Beast that readers dissected the Tsarnaevs’ footwear. Because that revealed to readers how foreign and fucked up the bombers were). But despite the announcements that the suspects are white and male, the message didn’t really reach everyone. Not even everyone in the police. At one point, hours before they finally found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a boat, one cop reported that he had Suspect No. 2. Yes, he could confirm this. The suspect was with a companion and he had been apprehended in a cab. He’s wearing a grey hoodie and he’s Middle Eastern, said the cop who was sure he’d struck gold. Confirmed, he said. Twice. It took a while for someone to crackle in and point out that Suspect No. 2 is white, not Middle Eastern.
Very little — beyond the fact that a large section of America really needs to brush up on its geography — is clear about why the Tsarnaev brothers did what they did and what happened Watertown. Unsurprisingly, conspiracy theories have already started bubbling up. (The people behind at least a few of these must be those who are smarting at Reddit’s apology, which was much more gracious than the behaviour of many propah news agencies when they screw up.) There’s another one (didn’t save that link) that claimed that Tamerlane Tsarnaev had been “radicalised” by the CIA. Since Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alive after having given a small army the runaround for hours and botched up a suicide attempt, there’s a chance we may yet hear the Tsarnaevs’ side of the story. No jihadist network has claimed them as their own. At the moment, the only ally Tamerlane the Insane (no, seriously. The guy sounds very, very disturbed) seems to have had was his little brother Dzhokhar. Dzhokhar’s friends, incidentally, say he was a regular, all-American guy. This is why people like Khalek are questioning the American government’s decision to categorise him a terrorist in possession of a weapon of mass destruction while Adam Lanza, who killed more people, is a tragic, twisted figure. What makes one a terror plot and another a domestic tragedy? Is a gun less violent or terror-inducing than a crude bomb?
Personally, though, what I find truly depressing is that despite the craziness and the questions, it’s still possible to come up with at least hypothetical explanations for the Tsarnaevs’ words and actions. The same cannot be said for a rather large percentage of North Indian men, many of whom are considered leaders. Take the latest example of Indian masculine brilliance, politician Satyadev Katare who informed his audience, “No man will harass a woman till she looks at him in a suggestive manner.” By which we are to deduce that it’s because of the come-hither-and-rape-me gaze that a 5-year-old gave Manoj Kumar Sah and his partner in crime, Pankaj, that the duo abducted the child, raped her repeatedly, inserted objects into her little body and strangled her. In Katare’s own state, a 4-year-old was horribly gang-raped and last I heard, the hospital had announced in a press conference that her condition was not good. All because of the way she looked at her rapists. Of course.
The world is just entirely too depressing. I think I’m going to ban current affairs from this blog and devote myself to escapism and warm fluffiness. Starting now.