What if the Boston bombing is just the first one?
Legions of commentators have been crying for a decade that American invasions, and now drone bombings, spawn new terrorists who will one day seek revenge on America. Has that day arrived?
At this writing, it is unclear exactly what provoked the Tsarnaev brothers to plant bombs, though clearly religious belief, a sense of solidarity with aggrieved Muslims, and anger with America's wayward foreign policy all contributed. How many others, either inside the U.S. or outside, Muslim or otherwise, have felt the horror of America's wars at first hand -- even in the flesh -- and are planning to do the same?
President Obama's talk after the apprehension of the second brother was thoughtful and measured, and hit all the right points: hatred won't prevail, American values define us as a country, unity and diversity make America strong, every ethnic group is welcome, "liberty and justice for all." Say what you like about Obama, he makes those statements with sincerity and conviction -- quite the opposite of George W. Bush's childish recitations or Ronald Reagan's schmaltz. You could hardly ask more a president at a moment like that.
Unfortunately this is the age of television, and prospective terrorists are more likely to be impressed by the chest-beating crowds and their ugly gorilla chant: "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" It rings with a muscle-bound triumphalism just touching racial superiority, and must make blood boil across the Middle East.
And of course, the images being what they are and the news what it is, those chanters appeared on every newscast in the world, even here in Spain, where I live. And it makes me wonder how many individuals from a half-dozen countries, their lives long studded with explosions and gun battles and the sight of drone aircraft hovering over their villages, look at those images and long to wipe the grins off those faces and cut the fists off those upraised arms.
What will Americans say when that happens? What if the next time around the bombers are two brothers from Pakistan -- or any other country where America carries on an undeclared war -- whose family Mr. Obama's drone missiles obliterated, with the possible exception of, say, a sister who lost all her limbs?
Imagine these two brothers, dressed in shapeless orange prison garb, in a 60 Minutes interview, and as long as we're imagining, let's imagine the best case -- that they're educated and speak English, so that we needn't hear their words through a milky translation.
60 Minutes: Why did you attack our country?
Older Brother: What would you have us do? Just bury our dead, pick up our lives and move on? Would you do that?
Younger Brother: You bomb our country saying that we are harbouring terrorists. What terrorists? After hundreds of bombing strikes, and all the terrorists your government says that you have killed, can there still be actual, operating commander terrorists?
60 Minutes: In some cases, victims' families have received compensation for innocent lives lost.
Older Brother: I don't want your money. I want justice.
60 Minutes: Is it justice to plant a bomb at a high school football game and kill thirty people? And maim another two hundred? Those people had nothing to do with the bombs that fell on your family.
Younger Brother: It is not justice, it is revenge. Besides, to judge by popular American films, revenge is well understood and accepted by Americans.
Older Brother: All attempts to bring American servicemen or intelligence agents to justice have failed. Obama himself has protected agents who committed torture from being brought to justice. Or look at Italy : CIA agents condemned in abstentia for kidnapping people off the street. The Italian involved got nine years. In Iraq, the American military finally ended up leaving the country because they would not allow themselves to be subject to Iraqi justice. So don't ask us to depend on justice.