Posts Tagged United States

Boston Bombings: looks like Tamerlan and Dzhokhar were homegrown terrorists

Turns out the spurious-sounding rumours that I reported earlier were, in fact, incorrect – meaning that Alan Jones was wrong. Who saw that one coming?

The bombers were not actually radical leftists. It turns out to have been Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tzarnaev – two Muslim brothers from Chechnya.

As of writing, Tamerlan has been shot and Dzokhar is apparently holed-up in a house, surrounded by police and National Guard. There is not a huge amount of information out there about them, but it is coming in drips and drabs – and everything that I have seen so far points to homegrown terrorists.

One of the quickly cobbled-together reports comes from Foreign Policy‘s David Kenner (my bold):

Who is Tamerlan Tzarnaev? | FP Passport.

Tamerlan was apparently a boxer who hoped to gain citizenship by being selected for the U.S. Olympic team: “Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia,” Hirn wrote.

Other captions paint Tamerlan as a devoted Muslim. “I’m very religious,” he says at one point, noting that he does not smoke or drink alchol. “There are no values anymore,” he says, worrying that “people can’t control themselves.”

Tamerlan also appears isolated and bewildered by American life. “I don’t have a single American friend,” he laments, despite living in the United States for five years. “I don’t understand them.”

At the time the photos were taken [2009], Tamerlan’s life did not seem all bad: Hirn writes that he was competing as a boxer, enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College and pursuing a career as an engineer, and had a half-Portuguese, half-Italian girlfriend that converted to Islam for him. “She’s beautiful, man!” he said.

At some point, though, it all went wrong. In 2009, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic assault and battery after assaulting his girlfriend.

Dzhokhar, meanwhile, was a second-year medical student.

I don’t have a link for this, but I just listened to an interview of their uncle and I picked up a couple of other facts. Their uncle claimed that it is likely that Tamerlan had been influencing Dzhokhar, and that Dzhokhar was a sweet boy but Tamerlan had problems. He also said that their parents worked extremely hard and were only concerned with putting food on the table, although they both returned to Russia a year ago.

Also of interest is Tamerlan’s social media page. There are not many posts, but one includes a video entitled “Chechnyan accents”, and another has this joke:

Inside a car sit a Dagestani, a Chechen and Ingush. Who is driving?

The police.

According to this photo by photojournalist Johannes Hirn – who did a series on Tamerlan – Tamerlan was not doing too badly for himself. At least according to the designer clothing and the Mercedes he was driving:

Tamerlan by Johannes Hirn

Finally (and most significantly), according to Adam Serwer at Mother Jones, Tamerlan had been consuming and distributing Islamist propaganda.

Putting this all together, we can build a profile of the two boys (well, more so for Tamerlan):

  • Second generation immigrants (they both went to high school in the US, so more or less second).
  • Relatively affluent.
  • Devout Muslims with an Islamist bent.
  • Well educated.
  • Socially isolated – had trouble integrating into America and did not really feel as though they belonged.
  • Viewed Western culture as amoral.

What you have right there is the textbook profile for homegrown terrorists. They tend to be young second or third generation Muslim immigrants feel like the don’t belong anywhere – they can’t relate to their new adopted country, but have grown up there, so don’t fit in back in their old country. They feel lonely and isolated, so begin searching for meaning – and find it in extreme Islamism. This requires that they are affluent/educated enough to read and understand the jihadi propaganda, and to navigate the complex online network that jihadi groups operate in.

The truth remains to be seen, but from what we do know, my bet is that this is more or less the story of the Brothers Tzarnaev.

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Ivory tower watch: collective responsibility and saying ‘yes’ to racism

A lot of people were very upset when evidence emerged of American war crimes in Iraq. The particular images that will always stand out are the photos taken of torture at Abu Ghraib, but there were several other incidents of massacres and, generally, soldiers not behaving as they are supposed to.

But what if these crimes were not only the fault of the people who committed them, or even the commanders who may have been negligent in not preventing them? What if every single competent adult American was in some way responsible for the massacre in Fallujah?

If that sounds familiar, or kind of like something you may have heard from violent Islamists, you would be right. Al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups often talk about the ‘Zio-Crusader alliance’ that they are fighting — which essentially means that every single Western person is attacking Islam and therefore they are all legitimate targets for retaliation. It is that attitude which led to the recent riots in Sydney — the idea that any Australian authority figure can be held responsible for acts committed by the American army overseas, because they are part of the same ‘people’ — or something.

Well, it is not only al-Qaeda that prescribes to this kind of thinking — apparently it is shared by the odd Ivy League professor. In ‘Citizen Responsibility and the Reactive Attitudes‘, Amy J Sepinwall from the University of Pennsylvania sets out to show that all Americans share some blame for war crimes in Iraq (although she does distinguish herself from Islamists by saying that it’s a matter of degree. I’m convinced…).

Her basic argument relies on the idea of citizen’s responsibility. She illustrates this through the following analogies (my bold):

Consider the marital union, for example. Individuals in a marriage must act with a certain regard for their union. While exit is a real option, each nonetheless bears an obligation to the other to put the possibility of exit out of his or her mind, at least while less disruptive options exist. And, each is obligated to the other to present a united front to the world, for maligning one’s spouse to others would degrade the union and violate marital trust.

Similarly, individuals in a joint business partnership must each also operate with a certain regard for the joint venture, and commit themselves to working out the kinks of the operation before contemplating dissolution. And, where one partner is empowered to, say, manage the partnership’s business, the other partner may not publicly disparage the result, and disavow responsibility for it. To do so would be to make a fool of the producing partner, and to exhibit a reproachable lack of loyalty.

… some amount of fidelity follows from membership in the nation-state, as well. Thus, with appropriate adjustments for strength of commitment to the nationstate, we may transpose the foregoing observations to the context of the   citizen’s responsibility for American atrocities committed in the course of the war in Iraq. The citizen harbors a commitment to the nation-state and that commitment obligates him in special ways to his fellow citizens. Most relevant here, his commitment entails that he may not step outside the nation-state to point a finger in righteous indignation at his state’s transgressions; instead, he must stand in judgment with his fellow citizens, in recognition that the nation-state is his as well as theirs. To do otherwise is to denigrate the shared venture; it is to demonstrate a solipsism incompatible with citizenship.

Do you see the problem there?

To me, the most obvious one is that, in a liberal democracy, a citizen canin fact, ‘step outside the nation-state to point a finger in righteous indignation at his state’s transgressions’. I do it all the time.

That is not the only flaw in her logic. There is also the fact that business partners, spouses and citizens are not necessarily responsible for everything that their fellow partners, spouses, or citizens, do; and this applies especially when we are talking abut breaking the law.

If one partner embezzles money without the other knowing, the other is not responsible. If a wife is dealing drugs without her husband’s knowledge, he is not responsible. If a soldier breaks the law while on a tour of duty, the citizens of that country are not responsible. Responsibility can only come with some form of acquiescence — it only applies to people on whose behalf the person who committed the act was acting.

For a nation-state, that means that the state had to have been acting — ie the soldiers who committed war crimes must have done so on behalf of the state and, by proxy, its people. That was not the case at all in Iraq. The soldiers that committed war CRIMES were breaking the law — and that is American law, not just international law. Where it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they were tried and punished. Certainly the public officials involved were sanctioned — they lost their jobs, had their names disgraced and faced public scorn and derision. How exactly can we then hold all Americans responsible?

Well, there’s the fact that Americans have no right to decide their own guilt when there’s another ‘rational’ explanation. Using the example of a person who was opposed to the war (‘the dissident’), Sepinwall explains that, really, it’s all a matter of perspective (my bold):

The dissident believes that her resistance cancels out whatever responsibility she should come to bear in virtue of her commitment to the United States as a whole. She has  arrived at this self-judgment because she has synthesized the dimension of her identity that flows from her citizenship and the dimension of her identity that flows from her dissidence and arrived at a coherent conception of herself in which her dissidence is much more definitive of who she is. But though each of us is empowered to perform this synthesis and arrive at a self-understanding that makes sense of the disparate and sometimes conflicting strands of our identity, none of us is entitled to have others conceive of us as we conceive of ourselves. In particular, the dissident cannot legitimately expect that her self-understanding will govern the Iraqi’s conception of her; he is entitled to believe that citizenship looms larger as a constituent element of an American’s (or anyone’s) identity than do acts opposing the policies or practices of one’s government. And, so long as he does hold this belief, he will harbor resentment toward the American citizen, no matter how valiant her efforts at resistance.

To inhabit the dissident’s perspective on America and herself, the Iraqi must abandon a stance of righteous anger through which he might seek to vindicate the worth of his lost loved one, or the Iraqi people as a whole. He must instead contend with the notion that he cannot find an outlet in blame for his loss and injury that corresponds sufficiently to their (perceived) magnitude. He would then incur not just the pain of his tragedy but the profound burden of self-restraint in stifling his own sense of the injury and deferring to that of one of his (apparent) injurers. Should we really reproach him for spurning this path? Given the additional pain of forbearance, is he not entitled to presume the legitimacy of his own perspective, and proceed with resentment?

No, he is not entitled to do that. Know why? Well, let’s apply the same theory, just to a slightly different scenario.

Say, for instance, a group of Lebanese Muslims were to viscously gang-rape a white Australian woman while making remarks like ‘how does it feel to do it Leb-style?’ and otherwise making it clear that they are identifying with the community of Lebanese Muslims in Australia and claim to be acting on behalf of that community. Would a relative of the victim not be entitled to feel a little resentment against Lebanese Muslims and not just the individual perpetrators? Isn’t there some degree of shared responsibility by the Lebanese Muslim community?

Say that a little while later, a group of Lebanese Muslims then attacked some lifeguards — the embodiment of Aussie pride. Are white Australians not entitled to a little resentment?

Well, you see, that happened. The ‘white’ community did feel resentment towards Lebanese Muslims as a result, and then that lead to the whole Cronulla Riots incident in 2005. I would be willing to bet that Ms Sepinwall would not see that as justified, but perhaps it is just a matter of degree. Perhaps indignation and resentment would have been justified, without going on a race-riot.

Like, say, the indignation and resentment that many victims of crime committed by Aboriginal Australians feel towards Aboriginals as a whole. The kind of indignation and resentment that results in this disadvantaged group being shut-out from jobs, routinely harassed by police, and far more likely than any other group to be imprisoned. Sounds justifiable, no?

Or perhaps Ms Sepinwall did not really think through the consequences of allowing a victim to hold not only the perpetrator responsible, but the entire nation to which the perpetrator belongs. That kind of collectivism is what leads to racism and terrorism. It is not OK.

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It’s about the victims, not Assange

Do the names ‘Sofia Wilen’ and ‘Anna Ardin’ mean anything to you? No? Well then, keep reading.

Ever had that feeling where you’re watching someone on TV and every second brings you closer to throwing something at the screen? I came quite close to breaking my beautiful 47″ LCD last night watching the Julian Assange love-in on ABC 24’s The Drum TV.

The whole thing was abysmal, but I was particularly bothered by Assange biographer Andrew Fowler at 5:00,

Julian Assange is a journalist seeking political asylum from Australia, saying that Australia won’t protect him.

And at 5:20,

I think, you know, the issue of the third party, which is the issue of national security, would appear to be what we’re talking about. We’re not really talking about an extradition for sexual molestation.

He’s right, we are not talking about an extradition for sexual molestation. What we are in fact talking about is an extradition for sexual assault, which is a more serious crime than “molestation”.

But that’s not really what our friend Andrew meant, and we all know that. Yes he was trying to make “rape” sound more palatable by using softer language like “sexual molestation”, but what he was really saying was that there is a US conspiracy to extradite Assange once he reaches Sweden and the rape charges are all a fabrication.

Now where does that line of thought come from exactly? Well, you see, Fowler thinks that Assange is a pretty good guy. Assange seems to be a hero for a lot of people around the world who think that pissing off the US government is more important than the lives of US collaborators in Afghanistan or maintaining good diplomatic relations around the world. I personally don’t agree — I think dumping all of those cables was completely irresponsible and a real hero would have gone through them first and only published ones that were actually important — but Fowler is entitled to his opinion.

Here’s the thing though, there’s this old trope that nice, upstanding guys couldn’t possibly be rapists. When women who were clearly throwing themselves at Assange later accuse him of rape, that must be false — they were obviously asking for it.

It is telling that I get 340 words into this post before I mention the two women who are at the centre of this whole affair. Want to know something ridiculous? I had to look up the names Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin — who, by the way, are the victims. All of this media coverage over the last two years and I did not even know their names off-hand. I do feel a little guilty about this (pun not intended), but then you probably had no idea who they were either.

See, this notoriously egotistical Assange character has managed to convince the world that it is all about him.

This is some huge conspiracy to persecute poor little Julian. It’s really the US, UK, Australian and Swedish governments all secretly coordinating to get him into an electric chair in CIA HQ. He‘s the victim.

Bullshit.

It’s not like we’re talking about an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo Bay here, he’s being extradited from the UK to Sweden. Both are European countries with very strong legal institutions and the rule of law. In fact, there is no logical argument that I can see for Sweden being easier to extradite him from, or why the US wouldn’t be trying to extradite him from the UK right now if that was the intention.

It especially bothers me that so many people seem to be attacking the Swedish legal system for being too easy on rape victims. Seriously. Now that’s the argument that the pro-Assange left is using — end Sweden’s draconian anti-rape policies!

Put simply, Julian Assange is doing everything that is humanly possible to avoid standing trial for rape in a liberal, democratic country. Of course he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but his victims are also entitled to justice. If the Swedish prosecutors believe that they can prove the charges, Assange must have his day in court and if he continues to avoid doing that, it only makes him seem more guilty.

In a way, it feels similar to the people who are willing to overlook the horrific culture of abusing women amongst Palestinians because it doesn’t fit their anti-Israel narrative. Because it’s Assange and they like Assange, he is being treated as an oppressed hero and not an accused rapist.

Here’s the reality: nothing you may like about Assange or Wikileaks means that he is not capable of committing sexual assault. Nothing about the behaviour of those women towards Assange means that they were Asking For It.

If you have any credibility, stop making excuses for Assange, it’s not about him. If Julian Assange had sex with Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin and they did not consent, he is a criminal and should go to jail. The only way to resolve the situation is for him to stand trial in Sweden, which he must do by law. That is all there is to it.

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