Sunday, April 21, 2013

After Thoughts on the Boston Marathon Thing

One of my visceral and more or less immediate reactions to the Boston Marathon Bombing Thing was, "Damn, this must be something like what folks in Baghdad (and elsewhere) have been going through for years now." Random acts of brutal violence like this suffuse the regions of the Middle East and Africa where Our Valiant Warriors and their Native clients have been active in suppressing the Popular Will while simultaneously Unseating Dictators Who Don't Toe The Line.

Terror bombings per se are quite rare in the United States, comparatively speaking, though they have been remarkably frequent overseas (and not just in Baghdad) wherever and whenever resistance movements are engaged with a weak state -- or one that's not necessarily weak but is perceived to be vulnerable to violent terror tactics. Certainly, the British Isles and Europe have faced long term resistance movements which used all kinds of terror tactics, including bombings, over the years, and there was a time when such tactics were not unknown in this country as well.

But terror tactic bombings have been so infrequent in the recent past, Americans are shocked and stunned when they happen, making Americans surprisingly vulnerable to the terror such tactics produce. The British came to accept the fact that the Provisional IRA was going to plant bombs in various locations like pubs and parades and the bombs would go off and innocent people would be maimed and killed; it was taken as something that would happen, there was little could be done about it -- except to round up ever more Paddys and torture them. That's what Her Majesty's Government did in reaction to the IRA bombings, and I'm sure they believed it was "working." They wouldn't have done it otherwise, would they?

Of course, it never occurred to the British Government to quit Northern Ireland or even to mitigate their harsh regime there that gave rise to the resistance...  It was a vicious circle that was only broken when some clever dick realized that this relatively low-key, relatively permanent terror-war between the British and the Irish wasn't really necessary. It was stupid and counterproductive and cruel. How about trying something else? So they did, and now, while the conflict is far from resolved, at least they're not blowing each other up and murdering and torturing one another with glee and abandon the way they once did.

In the case of the Boston Marathon Thing, however, it's all very peculiar, so peculiar that it doesn't make the least bit of sense. There is no Chechen resistance movement in this country; at least none that I'm aware of. The Chechens have a long-time animosity and resistance toward Russia, and for cause, too. This is no idle matter. The Chechens have been horribly abused by Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union, with all of the panoply of state terror applied to them on a routine basis. Grozny was completely destroyed, hundreds of thousands of Chechens murdered, millions put to flight. All to ensure Russian control of Chechnya in perpetuity and to suppress the Chechen independence movement as thoroughly and completely as possible.

The excuse, of course, is suppression of Jihadi Islamism, as is the case practically everywhere state terror is employed these days. Must stamp out Jihadi Islamism or Civilization Is Doomed. Or something.

Yes, yes, but what's this got to do with Boston, with the Boston Marathon specifically, with the United States in general, and with these two purported bombers who created extraordinary levels of mayhem and chaos -- shutting down an entire major metropolitan area -- for what?

For what? What was this all about?

From beginning to end it was just bizarre, and I for one am not about it accept it as yet another advance in the New Normal.

The Ratchet Effect was absolutely in play, but that's the routine reaction of the US Government to any and all security events. That has been the New Normal for years, and there's apparently no way to reverse course.

We saw repeated "gunfights" in the streets of Watertown, Massachusetts -- whether there were actual gunfights or merely extreme levels of police gunfire at the fugitives (or potentially at nothing at all) we'll leave for historians to sort out. There were claims that the fugitives threw crude bombs and grenades at the police as they tried to make their escape -- after carjacking a citizen's Mercedes (but then, one of them was also said to own a Mercedes so who knows...?) If it was a carjacking, how did they cart around all their bombs and grenades, crude as they were? And what has become of the carjack victim? What's become of the Naked Guy? What's become of the student who was repeatedly shown spreadeagled on the ground -- supposedly a suspect -- as the manhunt continued. People who were witnessing and reporting what was going on behind the police tape in real time saw and reported gunfire, multiple arrests and interrogations, and much else, most of which never made it to the mass media news.

What's become of the people who were so directly affected by the zeal of the manhunt?

We saw an entire major city and its suburbs put on lockdown, something unprecedented in the history of the United States [correction: apparently this is the first time a major metropolitan area was put on lockdown due to a fugitive hunt, but according to reports, this is the third time Boston has been put on lock down in recent times, the previous two being due to storms -- the most recent a blizzard, the previous one Hurricane Sandy], while one fugitive was unsuccessfully sought by authorities. The fugitive was found by an alert civilian minutes after the lockdown was lifted, so what was that all about, anyway? My own sense was that the lockdown of Boston and its suburbs was a trial run -- a remarkably successful one at that -- for the eventual imposition of a kind of National Martial Law to control a suddenly restive and rebellious People. The authorities wanted to see if the people would comply with arbitrary orders like "shelter in place," and behold. For the most part they did, and once they saw how harsh and humiliating was the treatment of those who failed to comply, few very few dared leave their "shelter" for the duration of the order. It worked. Amazingly. People not only complied, they seemed to be eager to do so.

The lockdown of Boston and its suburbs was a form of martial law without a declaration, and that -- like the whole concept of "lockdowns" -- may become a New Normal that Americans just accept without question, though it is something that runs completely counter to American values and culture. If an entire major American city and its suburbs, a state capital at that, can be put on indefinite curfew and placed under undeclared martial law at the command of the governor (who was acting at the behest of whom?) then there is no effective limit to the imposition of state power under the current regime.

Those who claim this development does not represent the further evolution of the American Security State into a full on Police State are akin to other sorts of denialists. Those who express their worshipful admiration of the authorities under the circumstances -- and who question none of what's gone on -- seem to me to have fallen down the rabbit hole into a fantasy world.

No, this was something new and dangerous.

While the reaction of the American authorities can be rationalized as something they were prepared to do given the right cues, the bombing itself still seems inexplicable. Some "experts" have been trying to draw conclusions about it from the Chechen connection, and it just falls to pieces. Americans are not the targets of Chechen resistance, at least they haven't been up till now, and there is no sign whatsoever that the Boston Marathon Bombing was in any way connected with the Chechen resistance. So, what the fuckity fuck?

I'm sure there are plenty of conspiracy theories and there will be many more, most of them (I'm convinced) spun by operatives and apparatchiks.

Another issue is the usefulness of "crowd-sourcing," something engaged in enthusiastically and sometimes disastrously  by a wide range of enthusiasts on the internet during the course of the pursuit.

There were several widely publicized misidentifications due to enthusiast efforts to find the perpetrators of the bombing based on FBI and other pictures.

On the other hand, it was a civilian who noted blood on a tarp covering his boat -- after he was released from lockdown -- who located the surviving fugitive and reported it to the police. Had civilians been free to leave their "shelters", the fugitive might have been found much sooner and there might have been much less mayhem and chaos as well.

There will be questions about these incidents for years to come. On the other hand, if there are no rational answers, it may just fade away into the background noise of terror and counter terror.

They say the surviving young bomber-suspect was shot in the throat, is intubated and cannot speak, so there is little that can be learned from him at this point. There may not be a whole lot to learn from him in any case.

But I'd sure like to know what the hell was going on.

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