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April 20, 2013

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The news reports I have watched and read this week have been saying that the younger brother (Dzhokhar) was a naturalized American citizen while his brother held a green card. As a citizen he will be given a trial.

Police are required to read Miranda rights to people who are arrested as a result of the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, decided in 1966.

That is not true.

Police have to mirandize people being arrested IF they want to introduce the statements those people make into court. However, police have the option of not mirandizing a suspect, interrogating them, using what they learn to recover physical evidence, and introducing that evidence in court. This is all totally legal as long as they don't introduce the statements made in interrogation into court.

As Berial pointed out, Tsarnaev was a US citizen.

I'm not so sure about that. The Patriot Act has specific sections about the treatment of people involved in domestic terrorism, as described in the link from the ACLU.

The Patriot Act domestic terrorism bit seems completely inapplicable to Tsarnaev. It requires that criminal acts appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

But none of these conditions apply. What was Tsarnaev trying to coerce the civilian population to do? Not run marathons? Eat more ice cream? What government policy was he trying to influence? Making April 15 a public holiday? How many government officials did he assassinate or kidnap? What government conduct was he trying to affect? None of these apply because no one has any clue what political goals the bombers had.

Not every act of senseless violence is terrorism.

Turb makes the overwhelming case that this was not an act of terrorism, domestic or otherwise.

But that is not at all to guarantee that there won't be an attempt to try him under those provisions. And I think we can take it as a given that, should the government not attempt to make a case under the Patriot Act, there will be fervent denunciations of "soft on terrorism" and "hates America" from people who have not the slightest interest in what the law actually says.

It also occurs to me to wonder if there is a lawyer, as prominent and as fervent as Adams, who would nonetheless be willing to take on the defense of Mr Tsarnaev. I am aware that there are lots of lawyers who would take on his defense, for a variety of reasons. But what I am wondering is whether anyone, more familiar with the legal profession that I, who can think of a similarly outspoken lawyer on the far right who would do as Adams did.

Calls for no trial in a civilian court were already made preemptively by at least two congresscritters (although one only for the case that the perpetrators were not US citizens).

In totally predictable news: certain GOPsters (including but not limited to the Gohmert) try to turn the Boston bombing and the following manhunt into a case against gun control (need to defend against the terrorists AND the jackbooted government thugs* that put Boston on lockdown).

*just to be clear: that is not a direct quote but clearly implied

Turbulence, how can you say that Tsarnaev wasn't trying to intimidate? As to their motivations, their crime certainly influenced and affected the conduct of government. Whether the government's reaction was "intended"? What did they expect would happen?

I disagree, in other words, that the action didn't fall under the definition you cited.

I also disagree that using the "public safety exception" means that Tsarnaev will be treated badly. The government is trying to figure out whether the act was connected to a larger movement or conspiracy.

As to whether he did anything wrong - sure, he's innocent until proven guilty - but it's pretty apparent that he was an accomplice. He was shooting at people, for example. I don't think it will be too hard to present a case against him. As to his defense attorney, he'll probably get a competent lawyer, who won't have many options.

What was Tsarnaev trying to coerce the civilian population to do?

perhaps he will tell us.

that we don't right now know his motives doesn't mean his motives didn't include coercion.

how can you say that Tsarnaev wasn't trying to intimidate?

This reading of the statute proves too much. If I have a dispute with a client and threaten them by saying "pay what you owe me or I'll sue you", am I engaged in domestic terrorism? Surely threatening someone is intimidation, right? Moreover, the civilian population is intimidated by all manner of horrific crimes and criminal organizations. Is the mafia engaged in domestic terrorism? What about a serial killer: they intimidate people, so they're engaged in domestic terrorism, right?

As to their motivations

Remind me again, what political goals were they trying to accomplish? Do you know?

their crime certainly influenced and affected the conduct of government.

Let's say I refuse to pay my taxes. Or maybe I ignore parking tickets. Eventually the government issues a warrent for my arrest and I resist. Is my resisting arrest "influencing the conduct of the government"? Does that make me a terrorist? Really? That part of the statute refers to kidnapping and assassinating government officials as part of a campaign to change government policy; it makes no sense to read violently resisting arrest as equivalent to assassinating a federal judge or DA.


sapient, do you think the Aurora killer was engaged in domestic terrorism under this definition? I mean, he was clearly trying to intimidate the civilian population, right? Do you really think Congress intended that all violent criminals who scare people should become domestic terrorists?

that we don't right now know his motives doesn't mean his motives didn't include coercion.

The Patriot Act definition requires that we be able to figure it out. This is why terrorists usually take credit or publish a manifesto or issue demands.

How would that work anyway? "Do it or I'll kill you! What should I do? I won't tell you!"

Terrorism definitions always incorporate a political goal. If no one knows your political goals, then what you're doing isn't terrorism. The whole point of terrorism is to terrify people into achieving your political ends: if they can't give you what you want (because you won't tell them), that's not terrorism, that's just violence for the sake of violence. And that's a serious crime, but not one that falls under the domestic terrorism statute.

If I have a dispute with a client and threaten them by saying "pay what you owe me or I'll sue you", am I engaged in domestic terrorism?

Do you really think this is comparable to helping (at least, and maybe participating) in planting a bomb among a large civilian crowd? I think it's really important to note that courts don't mince words as you are doing.

I agree with cleek that their motivations haven't yet been disclosed. (Yikes, nobody has tweeted them?) There will be some police work, and a trial, and so forth. I'm quite happy that good police work, trials, and convictions occur when appropriate. If I were given the task of trying to defend this man, I'd do my damnest to do it. From what we know so far (from press accounts, which aren't the same as courtroom evidence), it won't be hard to press a case against him for terrorism, murder 1, etc. Even if he wasn't the bomb-dropper, he seems a certain accomplice.

I hugely support criminal procedure that is in accord with the Constitution. I'm all about narrow interpretation of criminal statutes. This guy is in serious trouble from everything we know, even if he has the best lawyers, and even if the case is viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant.

So rant if you will - no lawyer (except for the guy who's actually representing him, who's ethically barred from talking bad about him) will say that he has a fighting chance - and that's not based on the horrible overreaching of government. That is, unless what we know from the press is totally wrong.

However, Glenn Greenwald is reliable in that 1) he is a horrible lawyer and won't be appointed to defend the man (and would lose if he did), and 2) he will be ranting about his mistreatment.

Sapient, again, was the Aurora killer a domestic terrorist according to the bit of Patriot Act that I cited earlier? Surely, he intimidated the public, yes?

So rant if you will - no lawyer (except for the guy who's actually representing him, who's ethically barred from talking bad about him) will say that he has a fighting chance

What are you talking about? Who are you talking about? No one is saying that he's got a chance in court. I think he'll get life imprisonment for murder and bombing and. I just don't think he'll be charged under the Patriot Act bit that fiddler cited because (1) the statute doesn't apply and (2) the prosecutors don't need to; they have lots of crimes they can easily convict him on.

However, Glenn Greenwald is reliable

Who is talking about Glenn Greenwald? What are you talking about?

Since sapient brought him up, Glenn's comments on this are here

Sapient, again, was the Aurora killer a domestic terrorist according to the bit of Patriot Act that I cited earlier? Surely, he intimidated the public, yes?

Moot point, no?

Fiddler, thanks for this and it is good to see you. Just to note, anyone on the alumni list has posting privileges, and is welcome to post and if anyone wants to get back into the on field lineup, please email me and I'll move your name back up.

The discussion about Miranda is interesting, the way I see it is the Obama administration trying to immunize itself from stuff like what Lindsay Graham tweeted:

The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to ‘remain silent

A number of folks in the interwebs think (also here and here), like Fiddler, that this is a really bad idea, with the argument that being ignoring it in this case contributes to the 'war on terror' atmosphere that is so damaging to our national psyche. On the other hand, giving the right a mallet to beat the admin with on what seems like an essentially theatre also has me wondering if it would simply be a meaningless gesture, made meaningful only in a negative sense, in that it would allow people like Lindsay Graham to burnish their credentials and get re-elected.

So it's true then? Glenn Reynolds is taking the case?

It's simple: if the bad guy is a Muslim, then he's a terrorist; but if the bad guy is a rightwing extremist, then he's not a terrorist, just mentally ill. If the motives are leftwing, then we are back to terrorists.

Certainly none of us know either brother's specific motivations at this point. We may never know them.

What's fairly obvious to me is that there is no credible connection between killing people at the Boston Marathon, and liberating Chechenya, however anybody wants to construe "liberating Chechenya".

It's also fairly obvious, to me anyway, that there is no reasonable path from killing people at the Boston Marathon to advancing the cause of Islam in the world.

Whatever their ostensible motives, in my extremely humble opinion what we have in the case of the Tsarnaevs are two disaffected, pissed off, angry young guys who felt like killing some people.

It's not that unusual, the only thing unusual about them is that they actually did it.

I'm sure we'll find that Tamerlan had some connection with some radical Islamic horsesh*t, possibly including training while in Russia.

But IMVVHO this incident is not part of any kind of well-organized plan, with any kind of intelligent end game in mind. It's a couple of bitter dudes who wanted to kill people. If anything, the Islamic thing is a handy self-justifying cap for them to wear.

SInce we're all opining about motives in absence of actual information, that's my opinion.

In general, I'm in agreement with Turb. Terrorism isn't just an act of blind violence, it's directed toward some end. And no, just freaking people the hell out is not the end, it's the means - terrorism as defined in the law requires some intended social or political outcome. For these guys, I don't see the violence as anything other than an end in itself.

I don't think anybody should be surprised by the invocation of the Miranda exception here. If you put a tool in somebody's hands they will use it, whether for the purpose intended or not.

I think the feds et al should do all due diligence to make sure the Tsarnaevs were not acting as part of some larger plot. They ought to grill Dzhokhar like a hot dog on the 4th of July, and I'm sure they will. I seriously doubt he's ignorant of his rights under Miranda, and I seriously doubt warning him or not will make any difference to outcomes. If he wants to talk, he will, if he doesn't, he won't.

It's not like there isn't enough evidence to stick a needle in his arm or send him to a supermax for life, whether he ever speaks another word or not, ever. Whether anything he says is admissible or not is sort of an aside, at this point. Right now, what we want and need to know is whether (a) there any more explosives floating around waiting to go off and (b) there's more going on in addition to the Tsarnaevs, or not. In either case, if there is he isn't gonna up and spill everything he knows just because the cops decided not to tell him he didn't have to.

IMO the main reason the feds are jumping on the Miranda exception here is (a) because they can, and (b) to make a point of the fact that they can. Expedience has an appeal, and TERROR TERROR TERROR is a great justification.

IMO the main reason the feds are jumping on the Miranda exception here is (a) because they can, and (b) to make a point of the fact that they can.

I disagree. The main reason why the feds are making a point of the Miranda exception is so that they might slightly put a sock in the mouth of John McCain and Lindsay Graham.

From the NYT:

"At the same time, some Republican senators, including John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, argued that using the criminal-justice system was a mistake and that Mr. Tsarnaev should instead be held indefinitely by the military as an “enemy combatant,” under the laws of war, and questioned without any Miranda warning or legal representation, in order to gain intelligence."

and

"The question applying those rules in terrorism cases arose after a Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009. After landing in Michigan, he was given painkillers for burns and confessed to a nurse. He also spoke freely to F.B.I. agents for 50 minutes before going into surgery.

After he awoke, the F.B.I. read Mr. Abdulmutallab the Miranda warning, and he stopped cooperating for several weeks.

Republicans portrayed the Obama administration’s handling of the case in the criminal justice system as endangering national security, setting the template for a recurring debate."

And Benghazi.

There is absolutely no real issue here, other than what you said, russell, to figure out whether there might be other explosives somewhere, etc. Other than that, it's all about trying very hard to get Republicans people to stfu, although we know they never will.

As to whether it's terrorism or not, based on "motive", I don't agree with russell or Turbulence. If it seems that these kids were recruited by, or in communication with and inspired by some kind of political or ideological group, I think that's enough. Who the hell can figure out what people who kill civilians are actually trying to accomplish? That's what al Qaeda, Timothy McVeigh, etc. do - they have a gripe and they kill people in the name of Allah, in the name of revenge for Waco. Some of them manage gain political power in places where there's a power vacuum, or where there are enough fellow haters. It's just ugliness magnified.

Who the hell can figure out what people who kill civilians are actually trying to accomplish?

Indeed, who could fathom the political goals of the IRA? What possible political goals could the Zionists who blew up the King David hotel have held? It is a complete mystery!

Too bad that the leaders of Al Queda kept completely silent about their political goals; they never wrote anything and they certainly never published long videos discussing them. Just like the IRA had no political goals and was motivated solely by the drive to kill in the name of Catholocism, Al Queda had no political goals either.

Dr. Strangelove: Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn't you tell the world, EH?

Ambassador de Sadesky: It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

Could be, they just did not get to the part where they publish their manifesto because they wanted to get to safety first.
But that's pure speculation on my part. I assume it is part of the investigation to find out.

Hartmut, that's my guess as well - that they were doing the killing in the furtherance of some twisted ideology, but they hadn't articulated it. From what we know about the younger guy's life, he certainly doesn't sound like someone who just suddenly wanted to kill some people. If so, that mental illness was sudden, whereas with Holmes (the Aurora shooter), it seemed that he had a history of it.

People sometimes state goals when they kill a large number of civilians. My point wasn't that there aren't manifestos backing up al Qaeda (although they don't seem particularly consistent), or right-wing terrorists, or the Unibomber, or others. My point was that most acts of terrorism in the United States have seemed unlikely to accomplish any goal whatsoever, except the furtherance of grief and hatred. And, sure, Turbulence, I know there are exceptions. In my own mind, the distinction between the Aurora shooter and al Qaeda suicide bomber is that the first guy seems to be a madman, and the second is a madman who's been coopted by a movement. I don't know that the second class of madman would have done the crimes without the organized "inspiration."

"It's simple: if the bad guy is a Muslim, then he's a terrorist; but if the bad guy is a rightwing extremist, then he's not a terrorist, just mentally ill. If the motives are leftwing, then we are back to terrorists."

To be fair, a lot of media outlets seem to have been operating on the opposite principle. Government, too, which is why the Fort Hood killer is listed as "workplace violence", despite yelling "Allahu Akhbar!" as he gunned people down.

The disappointment that it wasn't a couple of bubbas, ideally NRA members, was palpable. That they turn out to be part of an Islamic terrorist cell seems to be inspiring absolute horror.

"My point was that most acts of terrorism in the United States have seemed unlikely to accomplish any goal whatsoever, except the furtherance of grief and hatred."

I think the simplest explanation is that some people just find the idea of going on a killing spree exciting, and look around until they find an excuse to do so. That the excuse is utter BS makes no difference, because the excuse came AFTER the intention of causing mayhem. They're in it for the killing, not killing for the cause.

They're encouraged to do so by people whose motives are more refined: They get off sending other people off to kill.

If terrorism actually worked, that would be a downside: They'd lose their excuse to go around killing innocent people, if the cause ever triumphed.

Targeting civilians isn't something that's confined to "bubbas", Muslims, crazy people and other Others of varying sorts--it's been a common practice of governments basically since, well, forever. In recent decades democratic governments try to seem less brutal, so they farm out their killing to allied governments that have death squads, or to "freedom fighters" or they target with things like sanctions which can cause increased death rates, or they claim that every single civilian killed was a terrorist or they overuse the "collateral damage" rationale. It's the same thing that has led to what Darius Rejali calls "clean torture"

Scott Horton interview with Darius Rejali

"The disappointment that it wasn't a couple of bubbas, ideally NRA members, was palpable. "

I've mostly ignored the MSM, so can't say if this was true. But among some people there's the justified fear that whenever a Muslim murders people it will be taken as an excuse by some to crack down on civil liberties or launch unjust wars or increase the number of attacks on innocent Muslims. And you know perfectly well that pro-gun types would worry about some of the same things if it had been another Timothy McVeigh.

To forestall sapient, no, I don't think the drone program is deliberately targeting civilians. It's just somewhat cavalier about who gets killed. The other things I listed though, are ways that the US has targeted civilians in the past several decades.

Indeed, who could fathom the political goals of the IRA? What possible political goals could the Zionists who blew up the King David hotel have held?

Indeed. It might also be noted that, along with Gavrilo Princip, they more or less succeeded in attaining their political goals. Similarly, our own home grown terrorist movement to snuff out abortion providers is given political cover by one of our larger political movements, and also seems to be succeeding across wide swaths of the nation.

To dismiss terrorism as acts of "madmen" thus strikes me as facile. And to overlook and dismiss the mayhem we commit in the name of "stopping it" is equally so.

I note in closing that our government did not bring up the Miranda exclusion when Scott Roeder was apprehended.

The Patriot Act definition requires that we be able to figure it out.

but "we" doesn't mean random internet prosecutors, it means the LEOs and prosecutors assigned to the case.

the fact that you or i don't, right now, know his motives means nothing.

The disappointment that it wasn't a couple of bubbas, ideally NRA members, was palpable. That they turn out to be part of an Islamic terrorist cell seems to be inspiring absolute horror.

i love love love that you go from chiding imaginary people for jumping to conclusions about the background of the killers straight to your own conclusion jumping. with only a single period between!

Basis of my conclusion jumping.

i wonder if that "source close to the investigation" is the same one who said arrests had been made...

The main reason why the feds are making a point of the Miranda exception is so that they might slightly put a sock in the mouth of John McCain and Lindsay Graham.

Yes, that too. Quite likely, mostly that, actually.

The downside of building a political identity based on crapping in your pants at every sign of danger is that you have to keep crapping in your pants at every sign of danger.

See also: Rudy Giuliani. Or any of a very long list of professional pants-crappers.

I think the simplest explanation is that some people just find the idea of going on a killing spree exciting, and look around until they find an excuse to do so.

Agreed.

The disappointment that it wasn't a couple of bubbas, ideally NRA members, was palpable.

If you had asked me, say, Tuesday, who I thought might be behind this, I would have given you something like two-to-one odds that it was a "couple of bubbas".

Patriots' Day, tax day, black powder bomb instead of something more sophisticated pointing to some kind of home-grown, shade-tree project.

The fact that such a thought might occur to me, or anyone, shouldn't surprise anyone.

If you make a big point of running around telling everyone you're going to shoot people and blow shit up, you should not be surprised if folks think of you when somebody shoots people or blows shit up.

I can't speak to "palpable disappointment", but the idea that thinking some right-wing knucklehead tree-of-liberty husbandry was involved was unreasonable or un-called-for is crap.

If folks don't want other folks to think they might be involved in violence, then they shouldn't go on at length about their desire, intent, and capability to act violently.

As you sow, so shall you reap. Don't like the heat, don't hang out in the kitchen.

Patriots' Day, tax day, black powder bomb

it's also OKC/Waco season.

there can hardly be a more symbolic time of the year for home-grown anti-government wingnuttery.

The Mirror UK!! The NY Post of old blighty!!

From Brett's Mirror UK link:

We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.

How to make a black powder bomb

incendiaries of all kinds, including black powder and pipe bombs

Fun with pipe bombs

I'm sure that the Tsarnaev's bomb was leaps-and-bounds more sophisticated than anything in these links, seeing as they used a pressure cooker and a timer, so no doubt the Mirror UK information is solid, through and through.

Nothing easier in today's world then learning how to make a bomb.

To follow up on the Mirror UK link further:

The three people arrested "60 miles from Boston, including one woman" were roommates of Tsarnaev's at U Mass Dartmouth. They've since been released.

Two other men are in custody for questioning, also having some connection to Tsarnaev's roommates.

Not saying there isn't a larger conspiracy in play here, nor am I saying there's no connection to any international or more organized terrorist activity.

I'm not saying those things because we don't know, and making any claims of that sort is, in fact, jumping to conclusions.

Because no-one reading this blog has anything remotely like the information they would need to have to make any such claim.

Just saying the Mirror UK stuff is demonstrably overblown. Which, considering the source, is no surprise.

I just came back to say that I don't mean to threadjack this into a discussion of drones--I brought that up this morning and it was a mistake. Pretend it's not there. (Not that anyone has paid attention to it anyway, but sapient and I have a history on that subject and there's no need to rehash it again.)

I do think the idea that attacking civilians is some bizarre unfathomable activity where we can't discuss motive is completely wrong, though I don't know what the motives of the Boston bombers were. It'd be more "rational" for a Chechen to murder innocent Russian civilians, rather than ours, given what the Russians did to Chechnya--AFAIK the US wasn't involved at all in that conflict on either side, but maybe there's something I haven't heard about.

I fully admit that I would have vastly preferred some white supremacists as the perpetrators and for the reasons that Donald Johnson listed above. Even the remotest connection to foreigners and/or Islam guarantees a rabid reaction from the Right and usually a subsequent folding of the 'left' (i.e. the administration and the Dem side of Congress) under pressure to those rabid demands.
As far as the likelihood went, domestic RW terrorists ranked quite high in my opinion. The marathon, I would guess, would be a favourite target for white supremacists given that this is a truly multicultural event (wiss dem n-woads alwahs winnin).
The fertilizer factory in Waco blowing up also triggered an instant mental reaction Waco + fertilizer + devastating explosion = McVeigh & Co. That the factory had a terrible record as far as safety was concerned and had its last thorough check several decades ago was not part of the early reports. To remember that NH4NO3 has been the cause of many accidental explosions was ony the second thought. The third was: Who the hell allowed the factory within miles of a civilian population? We still don't know, whether it was a tragic accident, the result of criminal negligence or a terrorist attack but my current bet is on one of the first two and it being Waco just a coincidence.

Waco-ish. West, Texas, actually. But it's only a few miles down the road.

Just re-read this:

After landing in Michigan, he was given painkillers for burns and confessed to a nurse. He also spoke freely to F.B.I. agents for 50 minutes before going into surgery.

After he awoke, the F.B.I. read Mr. Abdulmutallab the Miranda warning, and he stopped cooperating for several weeks.

Miranda warning aside, Mr. Abdulmutallab is likely not the first, or last, person to speak freely while under the influence of painkillers, only to shut up once they wear off.

Not saying the Miranda exception is, or is not, a good idea, just wondering if perhaps the account cited here somehow missed the obvious.

just FYI, the mayor of Boston says they acted alone.

sucks for all those hoping it was a broader conspiracy.

I don't know if the killers had an ideology or not. I doubt that they were connected to an organization or acting in accordance witht the plans of an orgaization because no organization has taken credit.

Maybe the older brother planned this because he wanted to get some cred with an orgganization, wanted to establish himself as a good recruit. Or maybe the motivation was to live up to a fantasy of heroism, connected somehow to an ideolgy or to religion.

Who knows? I just doubt that they had formal approval or support from any organization.

bobbyp, I wouldn't say that Gavrilo Princip was a terrorist. Assassinating political leaders isn't the same as randomly killing civilians. Not sure what you mean that the IRA accomplished its goals. Maybe you should state the goals that it accomplished?

As to whether anti-abortionist terrorists are madmen, I would say yes. I would also say Islamic extremism is crazy. Same with any religious extremism. Just my humble and bigoted opinion. Killing civilians on purpose in the name of God (or tribalism, or racial purity) is, IMO, nuts. The North Korean phenomenon is nutty. The Nazis were crazy, etc. Facile? Maybe, but also true. Crazy methods; crazy goals.


"Killing civilians on purpose in the name of God (or tribalism, or racial purity) is, IMO, nuts."

Add national security to that list. That's the crackpot ideology that drives Western governments to do it sometimes.

One of the things driven completely off the front pages by the Boston murders was that commission that found the US had been committing acts of torture during the Bush years. About time someone semi-official said it. Next step--going after the crazed irrational lunatics that were responsible.

It has always been my impression that the Miranda notification is a legal formality and a suspect person's refusal to answer incriminating questions is their right with or without that notification. If my idea is correct all the wailing and gnashing is so much BS. The guy still can refuse to answer any questions until he has counsel. He may be sophisticated enough to do just that.

Yeah, looks like I got conned with that story of a terrorist cell.

Hartmut, I rather doubted the RW theory, because of the MO. McVeigh didn't, you'll notice, blow up a shopping mall. He blew up a government office building. Hell, per his statements after, he would have picked a different government office building, if he'd known there was a daycare in it. (Which is not to say he doesn't deserve to burn in to deepest pit of Hell, just that he displayed a distinctively selective brand of evil.)

RW terrorists have a particular sort of MO, and it's not attacking the general public, it's attacking quite specific targets, generally related to the government or abortion.

For that matter, LW terrorists, like the President's buddy, unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, also have a distinctive targeting pattern, generally directed at police and military. They, too, would not be expected to bomb something like the Boston Marathon.

Who, by preference, targets civilian public gatherings and sporting events? Well, Islamic terrorists do. That's their MO, they're going after the general public. So I figured all along that, while it might be domestic, it was most likely Islamic.

Not because all terrorism in America is Islamic in origin, but because it fit their MO.

It's actually too early in the game to say whether other people were involved, or not, and whether those other people constitute anything like a terrorist "cell". My only point was that the Mirror UK story, specifically, was hogwash.

The other two guys arrested were, as it turns out, the two male roommates who had been taken in for questioning as part of the "60 miles from Boston" threesome. They're Kazakh nationals, and the second arrest was by ICE.

As a heads up for folks who want to live in this country illegally: don't room with mass-murdering bombers, and don't have vanity plates on your BMW SUV that read "Terrorista #1".

I have no problem with the feds or anyone else following up on this stuff as thoroughly and aggressively as possible. I just don't think there's much substance to the application of the Miranda exception here - IMO it's theater. Like sapient says, it's the price we have to pay to get the Lindsey Graham's of the world to STFU.

Who, by preference, targets civilian public gatherings and sporting events? Well, Islamic terrorists do.

The last major public sporting event bombing in the US was committed by Eric Rudolph, a right wing bomber who evaded capture for many years with the help of his many right wing associates.

Who, by preference, targets ... sporting events?

There's a joke about hockey games in here somewhere.

As is so often the case, Charlie Pierce speaks for me on the topic of the original post.

Turb and Brett, perhaps the distinction we are looking for is this.
- Bombers motivated by politics (whether left or right) tend to bomb government installations.
- Bombers motivated by religion (whether Christian, Muslim, or other) tend to set explosions in public areas, aiming for maximum attention/damage/casualties.

Which to my mind means that, while both rank among the scum of the earth, the latter are indiscriminate scum, and therefore worse.

Bombers motivated by politics (whether left or right) tend to bomb government installations.

This doesn't seem to be a meaningful distinction. If I tell you my religion requires me to do whatever I can to stop the Vietnam war or the Iraq war, and I think that involves bombing, am I doing so for religious or political reasons? What if the subject is abortion rather than a war?


Which to my mind means that, while both rank among the scum of the earth, the latter are indiscriminate scum, and therefore worse.

I don't really get this. I think if you do things that kill people, you're a bad person. Whether the people you kill are IRS employees at work or marathon runners at play doesn't seem to enter into it for me.


In any event, I think we can all agree now that the original speculation about whether or not he'd get a trial has been misplaced. He's been charged and will face a standard prosecution in a civilian courtroom.

I can think of no valid reason AT ALL that he shouldn't have gotten a civilian trial, and have nothing but contempt for the politicians who suggested otherwise.

Well, it would be nice if we could also acknowledge that the US government/military/security is indiscriminate scum:

http://www.policymic.com/articles/16949/predator-drone-strikes-50-civilians-are-killed-for-every-1-terrorist-and-the-cia-only-wants-to-up-drone-warfare

Only if we own up to the fact that the same bloody thing is done in our name will there maybe some hope someday for something like peace.

I would say that, while religion can move you to act on a political issue, the cases where bombings are done for maximum carnage seem to be focused more on theological issues. At least in the minds of the bombers. Perhaps it is simply a matter of, if you have a political point, you can pick a related government target. But if you have a theological point and a secular government, there mostly isn't a government target to focus on.

such a reliable source, novakant.

wj, as far as I can tell, a million people died in the Iraq war. I don't think the US had a significant religious motivation for pursuing it though. If we include that data point, doesn't it pretty much swamp out the sort of effect you're talking about? Or do you think violence unleashed by states is somehow morally perferable to violence unleashed by non-state actors?

Beyond that, there's been a lot of research that at least for Islamic terrorists, there is incredible ignorance of actual religion. Given that, I don't see how one can talk about bombing based on theological issues. The empirical research jives well with russell's point about angry alienated young men who just want to blow stuff up and are looking for any justification that will let them do so.

Bombers motivated by politics (whether left or right) tend to bomb government installations.

So the IRA bombs Harrods and Chechins take over a Moscow theater? Those religionistas?

Actually I think Novakant has a point. I don't see an individual killing people for political or religious reasons as being completely different from a whole bunch of individuals wearing uniforms representing a government doing it. I see it as a continuum. I think that to some extent the reason governments get so upset about terrorism is that it is action unsanctioned by a government--a usurption, uppityness. "YOu peons aren't supposed to do that! Only we government people get to do that!"

Terrorists are terrible people. But an awful lot of what governmen ts do is also terrible and I think it would be a good thing if people were less gullible and supportive of the violent things proposed by and done by their governments.

It'easy to be appalled by violence against some civilian target inside one's own country because we identify with the victims. It seems like it also sholuld be easy to identify with the civilians killed in our name, paid for with our taxes, by people we elect.

And governments kill A LOT more people than terrorists do.

I don't know the solution for this. I just finished reading a book about Stalingrad and all that suffering was so unnecessary. What was it all for? Hitler's ego? What was WWI for? The Spanish-American War? We had no reason to get into Viet Nam and sure as hell had no reason for staying year after year. We got into that war based on a mistaken theory and stayed because people confused honor with vanity.

People fall for the same crap over and over and the crap terrorists tell themselves to justify their actions often doesn't differ a whole lot from the crap politicians have used sell citizens on wars.

I'm not a pacifist, but I do wish more people had fucntioning bullshit detectors.

Weird--I typed up a long post, thought I posted it, but must not have. Anyway, I don't think there's a distinction in the behavior of secular vs. religious terrorist groups.

Here is a wikipedia list of attacks by the Tamil Tigers, a secular nationalist group (Marxist too) that conducted suicide bombing attacks, among other things--

link

Here's a list of attacks by Irgun--some are aimed at British targets, but some were just meant to kill random Arab civilians--

link

I didn't look up the history of Palestinian terrorism, but both secular and religious groups murdered civilians.

When one brings in state terror then there's even less evidence for an explicitly religious link to indisriminate murder. I have a friend who likes a statement by Stephen Weinberg (I think) who claimed that only religion had the power to lead good people to do bad things. Which is obviously absurd. Ideology, even good intentions, can do that too. Does he think everyone who supported communism had bad intentions from the very start? Or that every supporter of America's glorious attempts at civilizing others with explosives is a religious fanatic?

There is the whole thing about the state is basically about a monopoly on force. One may not think that is right, but if you accept it as explaining how asymmetries exist, you can then see why governments kill more people and why people may tolerate it more.

I don't think there is a nice neat line between secular and religious violence. Does bombing churches in Alabama during the civil rights movement fit in the secular or religious violence? How about the Holocaust? Or the Reign of Terror?

What I do think is that "religious" violence can raise the bar of what is conceivable, but I tend to define religious in this case as acting with a particular fervor and disregard of any other considerations. To me, someone like Jean-Baptiste Carrier exhibits the same sort of 'religious' mania that gives religion a bad name. That definition might be problematic in that anything bad gets dumped in the religious bag, but I think that it doesn't automatically consign everything in religion as being bad, just that you should take your religion in small doses and not get carried away.

The Tamil separatist movement is an interesting example. Nominally Marxist, it grew out of the particular conditions of Ceylon. While there was no sense of national unity in Ceylon, there was a commitment to communal government, so Sinhalese and Tamils worked together. However, and strange to say, unfortunately, the British government chose to give Ceylon universal suffrage, one vote for one man, which then ended up disenfranchising the Tamil minority, which then led to the violence. This chapter of an Asia Times series is good for explaining the effects of the Donoughmore Commission, which proposed universal suffrage, but the whole series is worth reading (here are the links to all the chapters.)

I'm not sure how good the later chapters are, they often discuss present day political considerations that may color the recounting, but I think the earlier stuff is relatively straightforward and worth a read if you want to try and figure out why the struggle has been so bloody and how it defies a simple definition of either religious or secular.

ps I have no idea, but this comment and Donald's previous one got caught in the spam filter. Not sure why...

"just that you should take your religion in small doses and not get carried away."

Not the way I'd put it. You can be passionate in your religious devotion--whether that leads to saintly behavior on the one hand or crusades, jihads, and terrorism on the other depends on how the religion is interpreted. Some of the people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust were motivated by intense religious feeling. (Others were not--the mistake that religious people sometimes make which maybe Weinberg was reacting against is the notion that you have to be religious to be a saint.)

There's a huge difference between most terrorist acts and most wars, even when the wars have been wrongheaded (although there certainly have been terrorist acts by people fighting in wars, such as My Lai, and a lot of other massacres and criminal behavior that didn't make the news).

The Vietnam War, to further the discussion of specifics, is a good example to talk about. It was begun with a wrongheaded, and misguided belief about the Domino Theory, which held that Communism was going to take over the world, countries falling like dominos. The experience of Communism was as a murderous, totalitarian, anti-democratic and militaristic regime, under Stalin. There was some evidence that, in fact, Communists did want to take over the world, and the Soviet government did exercise a sphere of influence over a large percentage of the planet. Communist China, under Mao, had obvious significant problems as well. Neither of the Communist superpowers could have given anyone confidence in the success of the Communist ideology, at least not until well after Vietnam ended. (Of course, even now, North Korea? Hmmm.)

That's not to say that our involvement in Vietnam was a good idea, or that it should have been handled by war, or that Ho Chi Minh would better have been made an ally, or any number of arguments against the Vietnam war. But to say that it was nothing but a terrorist attack writ large is misunderstanding history to a very large degree.

That doesn't excuse the means by which the war was carried out, or the crimes that were committed in the name of war, etc. The crimes (including violations of international law by the United States, as well as war crime atrocities by individuals) were, perhaps, terrorism. But, except for truly right-wing crackpots, we all pretty much agree on that.

We could talk about Iraq as well. The war was not only misguided, but was dishonest, etc., and a huge number of civilians were harmed by it. But it had a theoretical nonterrorist purpose - to depose a sadistic dictator who supposedly had, and was willing to use, weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his neighbors, including allies. Okay, it was a lie, was wrong and shouldn't have happened. But it's not the same as terrorism, which targets (not as "collateral" damage, but as the focus) civilians.

By the way, I'm not apologizing for either debacle, and I was against both. But just because violence happens doesn't mean it's terrorism.

Donald, that's a fair point, but (and this is related to me getting old, I suppose) intense feelings seem to be asking for trouble, at least the way I see it. YMMV of course, but I find myself longing for a boring, non newsworthy year. Or month. While there are those for whom religion spurs them on to do superhuman acts of kindness, I have this vague suspicion that if we line up the people who qualify for that group and have another line for the ones for whom religion spurs them to be terrible to people who don't believe what they do, the second line will dwarf the first. Of course, this might be what Russell notes, pissed off folks looking for an excuse to wreak havoc and if it weren't religion, it would be something else. But I can't help but think that religion adds something to the mix.

Hey folks, good conversation but the first act of terror in Boston was definitely this (from Wikipedia, narrated much better in Philbrick's "Mayflower"):
The next day, Standish arranged to meet with Pecksuot over a meal in one of Wessagusset's one-room houses. Pecksuot brought with him Wituwamat, a third warrior, an adolescent boy (Wituwamat's brother) and several women. Standish had three men of Plymouth and Hobbamock with him in the house. On an arranged signal, the English shut the door of the house and Standish attacked Pecksuot, stabbing him repeatedly with the man's own knife.[53] Wituwamat and the third warrior were also killed. Leaving the house, Standish ordered two more Massachusett warriors put to death. Gathering his men, Standish went outside the walls of Wessagusset in search of Obtakiest, a sachem of the Massachusett tribe. The Englishmen soon encountered Obtakiest with a group of warriors and a skirmish ensued during which Obtakiest escaped.[54]
Having accomplished his mission, Standish returned to Plymouth with Wituwamat's head.[55] The leaders of the alleged plot to destroy the English settlements had been killed and the threat removed, but the action had unexpected consequences. The settlement of Wessagusset, which Standish had, in theory, been trying to protect, was all but abandoned after the incident. Most of the settlers departed for an English fishing post on Monhegan Island. The attack also caused widespread panic among Native Americans throughout the region. Villages were abandoned and, for some time, the Pilgrims had difficulty reviving trade.[56]
Pastor John Robinson, who was still in Leiden, criticized Standish for his brutality.[57] Bradford, too, was uncomfortable with Standish's methods, but defended him in a letter, writing, "As for Capten Standish, we leave him to answer for him selfe, but this we must say, he is as helpfull an instrument as any we have, and as careful of the general good."

" But to say that it was nothing but a terrorist attack writ large is misunderstanding history to a very large degree."

Which again seems to make a non-existent moral distinction between America and some terrorist organizations, most of which claim to have some noble cause motivating them. In some cases the cause actually is noble, even if the methods aren't.

LJ--

I don't think you can usefully lump all strong religious feeling into the same category. Strong feelings against social injustice (some religion based, some not) can motivate a non-violent civil rights movement, or a terrorist campaign, or a war to end all wars.

If you try to distinguish between religious motives and non-religious ideological motives, I don't think that works either. If anything, the non-religious ideologues might even be worse. After the 20th century (really, given the French Revolution, after the 18th) it's clear that you don't need to be a religious fanatic to be a violent extremist.

What religion adds to the mix is the same thing that eschatological historical theories add to the mix, and the same thing that myths about the superiority of one group over another add to the mix - a rationale for ignoring the plain fact of the human person looking back at you from the other end of your gun.

Same thing that paranoid fantasies about the wholesale collapse of civil society and the sh*t hitting the fan adds, for that matter, but I digress.

Regarding Islamic terrorism in the US, what strikes me is that it's rarely (never?) targeted at J-random civilians, but instead at iconic people places or things - the Pentagon, the WTC, the CIA at Langley.

Truly random acts of violence are more often the work of folks whose agenda is more personal. I.e., they don't have any particular outcome in mind, they just want to kill people, and anyone will do.

In the case of the Tsarnaevs, clearly Islam played a part in big brother's general agenda of resentment and aggression, but I haven't seen or read or heard anything to indicate that that connection existed anywhere but in his head. If anything, the Muslim community around him appears to have gone to some lengths to discourage that association.

Maybe he hung out with like-minded militant political Islamic fundamentalists when he was in Russia, and they encouraged him toward violence, but that's unclear.

Mostly, he sounds like an aggressive, hostile, resentful dude with great big issues. In a word, a huge @sshole. And rather than deal with himself and his issues, he hitched his wagon to Allah and used that to blame all of his problems on everybody else in the world.

And then, of course, from there to blowing up eight-year-old kids.

Personally, I don't mind that he's dead. Not many folks I feel that way about, either.

At any rate, that's my two-bit analysis, and it's worth at least one of those two bits.

Religion's like anything else, people will bend it toward their own agenda.

"Which again seems to make a non-existent moral distinction between America and some terrorist organizations"

Correct that to read "between America in some of its wars and foreign policy adventures and some terrorist organizations". Anyway, not only did we bomb villages in Vietnam, intending to drain the civilian support for the guerillas, which is terrorism, but we also have supported numerous groups (some governments, some not) which fought their wars with campaigns targeted at civilians. I don't see much use for a morality that says that the Vietcong were terrorists (which they were) and the US should not be compared to them, though our method of war there was obviously aimed at making life extremely dangerous for villagers that supported the VC.

What I do think is that "religious" violence can raise the bar of what is conceivable,

Raising the bar is interesting. I can't help but think of the Holocaust though. Or the concept of mutually assured destruction. How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?

but I tend to define religious in this case as acting with a particular fervor and disregard of any other considerations.

I've read a lot about why the US went to war with Iraq. Yet I still don't see a coherent answer. There was a definite lack of fervor there; I mean, at least most terrorists are able to give some answer, even if it is absurd, to explain why they do what they do. But the US started a war for no apparent reason that led to the extermination of a million people. Somehow, I find that far more disturbing than a deranged group of highly religious people doing anything. Chalk it up to the banality of evil if you will.

Which again seems to make a non-existent moral distinction between America and some terrorist organizations

There are definitely distinctions. America is a huge country with diverse opinions, and with a government that acts on behalf of its people, but not necessarily with everyone's support. A "terrorist organization" is made up of people who support both the means and the end. They represent themselves only. What's moral or immoral is ours to ponder.

The disappointment that it wasn't a couple of bubbas, ideally NRA members, was palpable. That they turn out to be part of an Islamic terrorist cell seems to be inspiring absolute horror.

I apologize if someone has already addressed this, but I have to respond. Have you ever given thought to the idea that this may be due to "bubbas" constantly issuing all kinds of veiled threats? Swaggering around celebrating the watering of the tree of liberty is more than a cute historical salute.

"America is a huge country with diverse opinions, and with a government that acts on behalf of its people, but not necessarily with everyone's support."

That's partly why I went back and changed my comment to read "America in some of its wars"

Thanks all for the various counter-examples. Although I confess that I was only thinking of terrorists acting in America when I put up that proposed distinction.

Raising the bar is interesting. I can't help but think of the Holocaust though.

imo, The Holocaust is the wedding of 2000 years of anti-semitism to the modern bureaucratic state. I'm not sure that it could have happened had that background of religious feeling not existed, though I don't go as far as to support the notion that German anti-semitism completely explains the Holocaust.

As far as Iraq goes, was there a lack of fervor? I'm not sure, I recall a lot of US triumphalism and various invocations of Christianity but a lot depends on how one defines fervor. It seems to me that the same criticism that Raul Hilberg made of Arendt's phrase banality of evil could be applied to those who engineered the war, that they exploited a number of particular features of the US body politic to ensure an outcome that they wanted and so were anything but banal.

"I'm not sure that it could have happened had that background of religious feeling not existed"

It helped, but the Nazis also planned on massacring many or most of the Slavs--not quite as complete as the Holocaust was intended to be, but the same idea, and without the background of Christian theology to lay the groundwork.

Anyway, there are plenty of ideologically and non-religiously motivated genocides one can point at.

I guess if you're willing to define religious ferver as having strong feelings, then sure, people who manage to kill lots of people tend to have 'religious ferver' but that definition seems so wide open that I don't think it tells us anything useful. My book club has ferver. My wife's knitting club has ferver. So what?

Well, now you get into functionalist and intentionalist explanations of the Holocaust. I'm on the functionalist side, which rejects the notion that there was a Nazi 'plan'. At any rate, I generally place arguments about the superiority of one race over another in the category of religious nuttery, because they tend to overlap quite a bit (taking on the Slavic peril and creating a German lebensraum went hand in hand with preserving Christianity, I would think)

I can think of ideological but non-religious motivated genocides, but when they get to the point of genocidal behavior, like the Noyades de Nantes, they seem to share a fervor that can only be described as religious. I mean, if you had a bunch of radical atheist separatist who were killing anyone who believed in God, this would seem just as 'religious' as killing unbelievers.

Albania made atheism its 'state religion' in a way and some other communist states at least played with the concept (but usually limiting themselves to mimicking Christian ceremonies replacing the divine with something else, e.g. abstract rationality).
But in general religion was considered more like a mental disorder (in some countries even officially so). This looks like an echo from the 19th century when democratic ideas were treated as mental illness in some countries.

What made the Holocaust possible was the introduction of 'race' ino the equation. After that it just needed the match.
Imo a very similar brew got cooked up once before by St.John Goldmouth with his claim that Jews cannot be baptized because by being born a Jew one is automatically and irreversibly excluded from salvation. In combination with the theology of St.Augustine that would have been the recipe but the church decided to adopt just the latter not the former, although there remained a general distrust towards baptized Jews (leading to charges of 'crypto-Judaism').

taking on the Slavic peril and creating a German lebensraum went hand in hand with preserving Christianity, I would think

As far as I know, the Nazi propaganda did use Christianity as a reason for Operation Barbarossa, but it was a minor theme in the propaganda. The relationship with the Nazi government and religion was a troubled one, and large portions of the German government, most importantly the SS and the RSHA, were actively non-christian. The buzzwords for international consumption were "New Europe" and "Western Culture".

Sorry, just returning to this. The point you raise about being a minor theme gets to the heart of the functionalist/intentionalist debate. The intentionalist side argues that it was a plan that was directed by a small group, so when you talk about Nazi propaganda, you are talking about something created by a relatively small number of people. The functionalist side argues that there are fundamental trends in both human society and the groups that were involved that conspired to create the Holocaust. As I said, I'm generally a functionalist, because it both seems too neat and too horrifying to think that a small group could get a society to kill 6 million people.

I'll go with functionalist, too. Individual Nazis might not have been Christians and/or might not have believed their own propaganda, but they knew they were tappig into a longstanding prejudice with deep historical roots. The Holocaust was not a fluke; it was a pogrom on steriods, the biggest pogrom of them all.

I still think there is a strong personal side to this. Nazism itself could have easily done without anti-semitism. There were enough targets more popular. But Hitler without anti-semitism is inconceivable (or he would not be 'the' Hitler). Germany would have become a RW authoritarian state in the 30ies even without him (the Weimar republic was imo essentially done and the only question was who would take over) and a 'lebensraum' war against Russia had been on the RW and military agenda for a very long time. A 3rd Reich as a military dictatorship with a foreign policy agenda more or less identical to that of the Nazis but without antisemitism as 'state religion' looks like a very viable alternate history option. So WW2 might have been inevitable, the Holocaust was definitely 'optional' and would not have happened with Hitler out of the picture.

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