Boston Marathon Bombings and American Exceptionalism

Three are dead including a small boy, over 140 are wounded. Lives are shattered, peace is disrupted.  President Obama stopped short of calling the attacks terrorism.  One would hope this is because there has been no claim of responsibility yet, and we dont know why these innocents have been targeted.  Without threats or demands from a political agent of some type, this is an awful random act of violence, and not terrorism at all.  Yet it is likely the current administration has other motivations from avoiding, for the moment at least, the “T” word.

What we do know is that there is a tremendous search going on right now to find the person or group which planted these devices.  The only hope these killers have of avoiding detection is if they were either brilliant in their coded messages, or they avoided using all digital media completely to plan their horrible attacks.

Boston Marathon survivor

Boston Marathon survivor

i scanned a dozen newspaper articles on these bombings, many have human interest angles, interviews with witnesses or people in the area.  Most articles are filled with  promises by government officials that they will investigate fully and punish wrong doers.  But what is missing from every report i have read (and there are hundreds that i have not read of course) is why some individual or group might feel justified in doing this.

So this is the point in this blog post where the “true patriots” are going to want to bail out and read something else.  Because what is politically untouchable is that there are hundreds of groups which could have planted these bombs as retaliation for US policy towards them.  What no one wants to talk about is the possibility that these are not unprovoked and unjustified attacks, but simply a completely predictable chapter in a widening war the US is waging all over the world.

If you were a Pakistani American who just heard that drones had killed some child in your family, for no apparent reason at all, this type of bombing might feel like revenge for this strike against your family.

Which brings us to the useful definition of terrorism.  For me a useful definition would be:

Terrorism is the act or threat of violence against non-combatants to advance a political agenda.

This is not at all the definition which is in common use.  Wikipedia goes on at length at the problem that governments have with defining this word.  For starters, almost all definitions of terrorism exclude state actors.  States can not be terrorists, even if they behave exactly like non-states.  Unusually non-combatants are excluded, governments want their troops and secret police to be able to be victims of terrorism, regardless of what actions these trained killers have perpetrated against these so-called terrorists.

What seems obviously true, but no one wants to talk about is as long as the US is killing innocents in other countries, someone is going to feel the appropriate response is to strike back at the US.  Sometimes this will be on US soil and sometimes civilians will die tragically like they did in Boston.