WASHINGTON -- The one thing no one has suspected Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of being is a closet essayist. The idea of this young Chechen/Dagestani/Khrgyz man who, with his brother is accused of the vicious Boston Marathon bombings, making notes on his ideas had not entered the bio.
And yet, as I write, news sources are reporting new information about Dzhokhar. Lying helplessly in the landlocked boat he was hiding inside of, in the small Massachusetts town outside Boston where they had fled, he wrote several primitive but revealing thoughts on the hull of the bullet-pocked boat with a pen he found. Since these are the first revelations of this young would-be Trotsky leaking out his likely last words to the world, they are probably quite honest -- and they would be totally admissible in court.
The most important thing he says is that, far from carrying out his nihilistic act with his brother because of persecution in Russia's war-wracked Chechnya province, they had attacked the Boston Marathon because of American soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and "crimes against Muslims" across the world.
He seems to know that his brother is dead. But he will not mourn him, because he knows that Tamerlan is already in paradise, where he himself will soon join him. Yes, there was "collateral damage" in the marathon bombings, but that is simply the way of war.
It had seemed that there would be not really very much more to discover about the marathon bombers. But these simple words -- as he imagined he was about to be killed -- do help to clarify some elements of the case.
Since it was discovered several days after the attack that Tamerlan, the older and more ideological of the brothers, had taken a lengthy six-month trip to Dagestan last year, ostensibly to see his mother and father, analysts have never stopped talking about the fact that he may well have made contact with the multiple radical Islamist groups there, hiding in the hills and ready to fight their old nemesis, Russia.
Throughout Central Asian history, the Russians have been exceptionally brutal to the Chechens and other Caucasus mountain people, deporting them from their native lands in 1944 and fighting two recent wars against them, one in which they leveled the Chechen capital, Grozny.
This ingrown Chechen hatred of the Russians and so many other persecuting peoples may well have inspired Tamerlan, but now it seems unlikely that it inspired Dzhokhar, who was born much later in the saga. So this gives a new twist to the already poisoned story.
For if the younger brother was not inspired by Chechnya, the first cause, then his secondary hatred against Americans in Arab lands opens up even more the bigger question: Are American "boots on the ground in the Middle East," as so many have claimed, the real reason for young men in the region, and even here in the U.S., to turn to radical groups in the Muslim Brotherhood and even al-Qaida?
One should never forget the paradigm for much of what we are finding today. Remember, it was at the beginning of the Afghan war against the Soviets, from 1979 onward, that the U.S. sent Special Forces to train Afghans and Pakistanis to fight the Soviets more effectively. Their fighting was so effective that these "Mujahadin" won the war.
However, as the Soviets were ushered out across bridges in the north, the American trainers were leaving of their own will in the south. The men they trained, whom we left to themselves, became so disillusioned with America that they formed the radical and retrogressive Taliban, which we are still fighting today.
You could say that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could well be like one of these young men -- and you would be right. We have not understood how all over the world young men with little to do, hanging around street corners, looking for answers to meaningless lives, are the fuel of terrorist fires -- whether in Beirut, Cairo, Mumbai or Boston!
There have already been a number of American boys making bombs and trying to set them off in New York. These boys are looking for adventure, for importance, for power. This is a very cheap way to get it. And in a country that barely teaches its own civics and history, it becomes easier all the time.
The Boston Marathon story is far from over. We can take enormous pride in the way the police, the FBI, the CIA and all the other first-responders did their jobs. But there will be new revelations, and we must continue to learn from them.
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