The Boston blowback
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of 'Globalistan' (Nimble Books, 2007), 'Red Zone Blues' (Nimble Books, 2007), 'Obama does Globalistan' (Nimble Books, 2009) and a contributing editor for a number of other books, including the upcoming 'Crossroads of Leadership: Globalization and the New American Century in the Obama Presidency' (Routledge). When not on the road, he alternates between Sao Paulo, New York, London, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
If the convoluted FBI narrative of the Boston bombing is to be believed – and that’s a suspension of disbelief ‘if’ - here’s the new Osama Bin Laden (this time captured alive); Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, a graduate from a Cambridge, Mass. High school, enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, fluent speaker of English, Russian and Chechen, former wrestling all-star, listing ‘career and money’ on his VKontakte (Russia’s Facebook) page as key interests.
The FBI narrative includes exploits worthy of the Die Hard
franchise, such as Dzhokhar running over his brother Tamerlan’s
body - enveloped in a suicide vest - in a stolen SUV, and crashing
a massive police barricade.
It would be so convenient to pigeonhole the Tsarnaev brothers as
Chechen terrorists. But that’s not the case.
Dzhokhar being a member of a few internet groups discussing Chechnya does not prove much. They have been to the US long enough to be thoroughly assimilated; Dzhokhar arrived with his family in March 2002 and Tamerlan on his own in 2004. Before that, the family lived in Kyrgyzstan and then in Dagestan, Russia, where Dzhokhar went to school No. 1 in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital.
So far, the record is murky on whether Dzhokhar, Tamerlan, or
both, went back to Dagestan, for long periods or not, after they
had immigrated to the US. Some influential players are keen to use
this as evidence they received tactical training in
So ultimately, who’re you going to trust? The FBI – whose credibility is in tatters after such blatant fabrications as The Fast and the Furious-style Iranian-cum-Mexican cartel plot to kill a Saudi ambassador?
Or the brothers’ mother, as interviewed by RT? Both parents vehemently insist this was an FBI set-up; something that neatly dovetails, for instance, with what a man who trained Tamerlan in mixed-martial arts in Allston told WBZ-Boston; “I knew him… It's not the guy that they're talking about now.”
Jihadi come home
Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, apart from displaying his
trademark truculence on his favorite media platform, Instagram, has
made a (crucial) point; “Any attempt to make a link between
Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs, if they are guilty, is pointless. They
grew up in the US, their views and beliefs were formed there. The
roots of evil must be searched for in America.”
Dzhokhar was born in 1993 - just before Chechnya, following the
collapse of the Soviet Union, made a bold move for independence. At
first, the process was mostly secular. Slowly, hardcore jihadis
took over. The Kremlin counter-attacked. A low-level jihadist
guerrilla movement – which leaked into neighboring Dagestan –
persists, fought by the Kremlin’s counter-insurgency
Chechnya’s new jihadis want an emirate, as envisioned by Doku Umarov; a Chechnya-istan modeled on the Talibanistan of the late 1990s. Umarov always insists on global jihad – from Afghanistan and Iraq to Somalia and Palestine – against “everyone who wages war against Islam and Muslims.”
Just as I have met a lot of Chechens fighting alongside the
Taliban – and then captured in Afghanistan before 9/11 - there are
quite a few Chechens in Syria as part of a global jihadi brigade
fighting the Bashar Assad government in Aleppo.
But that’s quite a stretch to explain Boston. Especially when as
recently as three weeks ago Umarov called on the Chechen Diaspora
to buy a one-way ticket to wage jihad at home.
Chechens did hit soft targets in the past; it could be two Dagestani female suicide bombers blowing up the Moscow Metro in 2010, killing at least 40 people and injuring 100, or the gory outcome of the Beslan school tragedy in 2004, when no less than 334 hostages died, most of them children.
But this always had to do with Russia – not the US.
‘We don’t do terrorism’
The usual suspects, as in proverbial armchair warriors of Think
Tankland in the US, are busy cataloguing the Tsarnaev brothers as
‘grassroots militants’. So far, there’s no evidence the brothers
are grassroots Al-Qaeda, or even any franchise in the Al-Qaeda
The star of much of what passes for analysis is Al-Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s online magazine ‘Inspire’, which among other things taught how
to make bombs using pressure-cookers. Still, the notion that the
brothers were part of some Al-Qaeda-inspired cell dormant for
almost a decade is nonsense.
If Dzhokhar had been killed, just as Tamerlan, we would never know their motive – assuming they are what the FBI is telling the world they are.
For his part, President Obama has been quite explicit, as in ‘We don’t do terrorism’; that implies only ‘others’ do. The Tsarnaev brothers, as Americanized as they were, still fit the definition of The Other.
For millions of Americans, Boston will only reinforce this view
– further preventing them from empathizing with ‘collateral’
Pashtun civilian victims of the CIA’s shadow war in the Pakistani
tribal areas. Not to mention average Iraqis; in the same day of the
Boston bombing, no fewer than 50 civilians were killed and over 300
wounded by terror in Iraq.
Even before Dzhokhar utters a word, and even before we know for sure that the brothers were indeed responsible for the Boston bombings, the main profiteers are already those pushing for total militarization of US civilian life; to prevent another Boston, they will argue even more forcefully, the Global War on Terror (GWOT), as the Pentagon never ceased to believe, is eternal.
In God we may trust; but just in case an internal state of war is the guarantee of true peace. And as much as another Boston will eventually happen, any serious analysis of US foreign policy provoking blowback will remain taboo.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.