Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, identified by the FBI as Suspect #2 in the Boston Marathon bombings. (AP Photo/Boston Regional Intelligence Center)
Without wishing to indulge in deep-fried conspiracy gobbling at this point, I will say that the revelations about the FBI's prior involvement with one of the suspected Boston attackers, apparently going on for years, are of great interest. Even more so in the light of the fact that a very large number of the terrorist attacks and attempted terrorist attacks in the United States over the past two decades have turned out to have had significant FBI involvement, often in the form of outright provocation by FBI infiltrators, egging on and sometimes even planning attacks that were later "foiled" -- by the FBI.
This doesn't automatically mean that the FBI or other government agencies were "behind" the events in Boston; sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes people do bad things without government prompting. But the consistent pattern of prior FBI involvement, in various degrees and at various stages, with people and groups that later go on to attempt or carry out violent actions cannot be ignored, and should be more thoroughly explored in this case. Particularly considering the fact the agency at first denied having any contact with the suspect -- until his mother outed them to the media. From CBS News:
"Although the FBI initially denied contacting Tsarnaev, the brothers' mother said they had in an interview with Russia Today. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said her son got involved in 'religious politics' about five years ago, and never told her he was involved in 'jihad.'"She insisted the FBI 'knew what he was doing on Skype' and that they counseled him 'every step of the way.'"- Advertisement -
Tsarnaeva went on to say that "they were controlling him, they were controlling his every step...and now they say that this is a terrorist act."
That may or may not be true; certainly if I were the parent of someone in this situation, that's what I would want to believe. But the now-established involvement of the FBI, as well as the probable involvement of both the American and Russian intelligence agencies with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, should not be ignored when the reasons and roots behind the Boston attack and its bloody aftermath are explored.
That said, it is of course very likely that these connections will be ignored, as the well-worn narrative of "good boys turned bad by Islam" hardens into conventional wisdom. This narrative might be the truth in this case -- but it also works to the advantage of so many powerful forces. This is true not just for those opposing immigration in the United States (that bloody shirt is already being waved frantically by many American politicians and other high-toned peddlers of racial and ethnic enmity), but even more so for all those in power structures around the world who profit -- politically and financially -- from the vast engines of a military-security complex gorging on the fear of Islamic terrorism. (Other kinds of terrorism -- particularly the far more constant and far more murderous attacks of state terrorism -- don't bother them too much.)
Again, these are just speculations, drawing on the few facts that are known at present, and putting them in the context of recent history. Perhaps the Tsarnaev brothers were lone operators: tormented individuals emerging from the brutal and brutalizing background of invasion, repression, violence and murder that characterizes modern Chechnya, who then internalized this violence and hatred, and sought, in anguish, ignorance and error, to expel it by directing it outward toward some generalized enemy, a demonized Other. Perhaps not. Perhaps other psychological factors were at work that we know nothing of at the moment. Perhaps not. Perhaps some agency or other of some military-security apparat somewhere seized on these troubled individuals and turned them toward the agency's own ends, with results that were either intended or else slipped far beyond the agency's wishes or control. Perhaps not.
But I think there are deeper contexts to the case -- whether these are restricted to the twisting of individual psyches by the greater geopolitical and cultural forces that have done so much pointless violence to us all, and in particular to the direct targets of massive power structures, such as Chechnya or, latterly, the Muslim world at large, or whether there are more specific involvements of military-security apparatchiks in the development of this murderous tragedy.
Yet, as already noted, we will almost certainly see none of these deeper contexts explored in the earnest postmortems -- by politicians, pundits, academics and self-appointed "experts" of every stripe -- in the weeks and months to come.