Exactly twelve months ago, on April 15th 2013, at 3.35pm, I wrote in a short post:
There are reports of two huge blasts and multiple serious injuries at the finish of the Boston Marathon.
Herewith, a few excerpts from what I wrote in the days that followed. With atrocities like Boston, I've learned over the years not to jump to conclusions before the basic facts are known. Not everyone was so restrained:
The politicization of mass murder found its perfect expression in one of those near-parodic pieces to which the more tortured self-loathing dweebs of the fin de civilisation West are prone. As the headline in Salon put it, "Let's Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American." David Sirota is himself a white American, but he finds it less discomforting to his Princess Fluffy Bunny worldview to see his compatriots as knuckle-dragging nutjobs rather than confront all the apparent real-world contradictions of the diversity quilt. He had a lot of support for his general predisposition. "The thinking, as we have been reporting, is that this is a domestic extremist attack," declared Dina Temple-Raston, NPR's "counterterrorism correspondent." "Officials are leaning that way largely because of the timing of the attack. April is a big month for anti-government and right-wing individuals. There's the Columbine anniversary, there's Hitler's birthday, there's the Oklahoma City bombing, the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco." Miss Temple-Raston was born in my mother's homeland of Belgium, where, alas, there were more than a few fellows willing to wish the Führer happy birthday back when he was still around to thank you for it. But it was news to me it was such a red-letter day in the Bay State. Who knew? At NPR, "counterterrorism" seems to mean countering any suggestion that this might be terrorism from you know, the usual suspects.
That was from my weekend column a few days later. As it happens, David Sirota got his wish:
The two suspects in the Boston bombing turned out to be Caucasian males — that's to say, males from the Caucasus, specifically the North Caucasus, Chechnya by way of Dagestan. Unfortunately for his delicate sensitivities, the two Caucasians were also Muslims. They were alumni of Cambridge Rindge and Latin, one of the oldest public schools in America and latterly one of the most "diverse," boasting (being the operative word) students from over 80 countries. The Tsarnaev brothers had spent most of their lives in the United States, and lived the diversity dream. They seem to have had a droll wit when it comes to symbolism: Last year, the younger brother took his oath of citizenship and became an American on September 11. And, in their final hours of freedom, they added a cruel bit of mockery to their crimes by carjacking a getaway vehicle with a "Co-exist" bumper sticker. Oh, you must have seen them: I bet David Sirota has one. The "C" is the Islamic crescent, the "O" is the hippy peace sign; the "X" is the Star of David, the "T" is the Christian cross; I think there's some LGBT, Taoist, and Wiccan stuff in there, too. They're not mandatory on vehicles in Massachusetts; it just seems that way.
I wonder, when the "Co-exist" car is returned to its owner, whether he or she will keep the bumper sticker in place. One would not expect him to conclude, as the gays of Amsterdam and the Jews of Toulouse and the Christians of Egypt have bleakly done, that if it weren't for that Islamic crescent you wouldn't need a bumper sticker at all. But he may perhaps have learned that life is all a bit more complicated than the smiley-face banalities of the multicultists.
Good Iuck with that. The aftermath of Boston pared the media terrorism template down to its essence:
Let's Hope The Boston Marathon Bomber Is A White American (Salon)
The Boston Bombers Were Muslim: So? (The Atlantic)
Cut-out-and-keep these two headlines, and you too can be on top of the conventional wisdom within moments of the next atrocity.
By now the usual no-jihad-to-see-here routine had begun. As I wrote a week later:
As is now traditional in these stories, we're now being told that the Brothers Tsarnaev are merely the latest card-carrying members of Local 473 of the Amalgamated Union of Lone Wolves. No broader pattern can be discerned, or should be discerned. All jihad is local. Nobody could have seen this coming:
Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared to lead normal lives
If by "normal lives", you mean reported to the US Government by a major foreign power as possible terrorists, interviewed by the FBI, had your citizenship application put on hold, and cheerily posting a series of videos to YouTube as part of your "Terrorists" playlist. No doubt millions of people in America lead lives that "normal".
Indeed. That's why Melissa Harris-Perry preferred to blame the terrorism on "Ben Affleck and the connection between Boston and movies about violence". While she and her MSNBC colleagues were delving into the real root cause, it was left to the grubbier types in Fleet Street to do the old-fashioned shoe-leather stuff and track down neighbors of Tamerlan's all-American wife, whose conversion to Islam had been warmly "supported" by her parents. As Daniel Greenfield wrote:
The story of Katherine Russell is the story of Europe and America. It's the story of what happens when you tolerate and tolerate until you're wearing a Hijab and a black eye and your husband roams the streets murdering your friends and neighbors in the name of the religion you accepted even though you don't really understand it.
As usual, the Tsarnaevs had gamed a system more or less begging to be gamed:
The Tsarnaev family were admitted to the United States as refugees supposedly because they were in fear of their lives in the Russian Federation. It's so deadly that Tamerlan vacations there for six months. Meanwhile, thanks to Green Cards and a naturalized younger son, any and all of the Tsarnaev family can return to live in the US any time they want. Why is this in the interests (to use a quaint concept) of the American people?
Well, because Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are so vibrant and diverse, if only we'd taken the trouble to get to know them:
Former brother-in-law Elmirza Khozhugov explains Tamerlan Tsarnaev's grievances to the New York Times:
He was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.
So he blew up an eight-year old boy and a couple of hundred other Americans.
And now the media are full of stories about how the Tsarnaevs were all-American kids and "beautiful, beautiful boys" and maybe it was the boxing or the Ben Affleck movies or the classical music but, whatever it was, it was nothing to do with Islam. Nothing whatever.
So I guess it worked.
By the end of the second week, I was growing weary of the beautiful-beautiful-boy drooling:
One of the most ingenious and effective strategies of the Left on any number of topics is to frame the debate and co-opt the language so effectively that it becomes all but impossible even to discuss the subject honestly. Take the brothers Tsarnaev, the incendiary end of a Chechen family that in very short time has settled aunts, uncles, sisters, and more across the map of North America from Massachusetts to New Jersey to my own home town of Toronto. Maybe your town has a Tsarnaev, too: There seems to be no shortage of them, except, oddly, back in Chechnya. The Tsarnaevs' mom, now relocated from Cambridge to Makhachkala in delightful Dagestan, told a press conference the other day that she regrets ever having gotten mixed up with those crazy Yanks: "I would prefer not to have lived in America," she said.
Not, I'm sure, as much as the Richard family would have preferred it. Eight-year-old Martin was killed; his sister lost a leg; and his mother suffered serious brain injuries. What did the Richards and some 200 other families do to deserve having a great big hole blown in their lives? Well, according to the New York Times, they and you bear collective responsibility. Writing on the op-ed page, Marcello Suarez-Orozco, dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and Carola Suarez-Orozco, a professor at the same institution, began their ruminations thus:
"The alleged involvement of two ethnic Chechen brothers in the deadly attack at the Boston Marathon last week should prompt Americans to reflect on whether we do an adequate job assimilating immigrants who arrive in the United States as children or teenagers."
Maybe. Alternatively, the above opening sentence should "prompt Americans to reflect" on whether whoever's editing America's newspaper of record these days "does an adequate job" in choosing which pseudo-credentialed experts it farms out its principal analysis on terrorist atrocities to. But, if I follow correctly, these UCLA profs are arguing that, when some guys go all Allahu Akbar on you and blow up your marathon, that just shows that you lazy complacent Americans need to work even harder at "assimilating" "immigrants." After all, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were raised in Cambridge, Mass., a notorious swamp of redneck bigotry where the two young Chechens no doubt felt "alienated" and "excluded" at being surrounded by NPR-listening liberals cooing, "Oh, your family's from Chechnya? That's the one next to Slovakia, right? Would you like to come round for a play date and help Jeremiah finish his diversity quilt?" Assimilation is hell.
How hard would it be for Americans to be less inadequate when it comes to assimilating otherwise well-adjusted immigrant children? Let us turn once again to Mrs. Tsarnaev:
"They are going to kill him. I don't care," she told reporters. "My oldest son is killed, so I don't care. I don't care if my youngest son is going to be killed today. . . . I don't care if I am going to get killed, too . . . and I will say Allahu Akbar!"
You can say it all you want, madam, but everyone knows that "Allahu Akbar" is Arabic for "Nothing to see here." So, once you've cleared the streets of body parts, you inadequate Americans need to redouble your efforts.
There is a stupidity to this, but also a kind of decadence. Until the 1960s, it was assumed by all sovereign states that they had the right to choose which non-nationals were admitted within their borders. Now, to suggest such a thing risks the charge of "nativism" and to propose that, say, Swedes are easier to assimilate than Chechens is to invite cries of "Racist!" So, when the morgues and emergency rooms are piled high, the only discussion acceptable in polite society is to wonder whether those legless Bostonians should have agitated more forcefully for federally mandated after-school assimilationist basketball programs.
As Ma Tsarnaev's effusions suggest, at the sharp end of Islamic imperialism, there's a certain glorying in sacrifice. We're more fatalistic about it: After Major Hasan gunned down 13 of his comrades and an unborn baby, General Casey, the Army's chief of staff, assured us that it could have been a whole lot worse:
"What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here."
What happened at Boston was a "tragedy," but it would be an even greater tragedy if there were to be any honest discussion of immigration policy, or Islam, or anything else that matters.
And so there has not been. I watched a few moments of today's "memorial service", but, as often these days, found its passivity unnerving. The post-marathon media coverage was near parodic in its willingness to seek refuge in even the most absurd alternatives for why the Tsarnaev brothers did what they did. And so what happened will happen again. Because, as my Happy Warrior column put it, "Jihad Abhors A Vacuum":
Post-9/11, we in the omniscient pundit class were all Afghan experts. Post-Boston, we are all Chechen experts.
Strictly between us, I can count what I know about Chechens on one leg. A couple of years ago, while I was in Copenhagen picking up an award from the Danish Free Press Society, a one-legged Chechen prematurely self-detonated in the Hotel Jørgensen while assembling a bomb. His device, using the same highly volatile TATP as in the London Tube bombings, was intended for my friends at Jyllands-Posten, publishers of the famous Mohammed cartoons, to whom I chanced to be giving an interview. All things considered, I'm glad the poor fellow pre-activated in his hotel room rather than delivering his package in the midst of my photo shoot. His name was Lors Doukaiev, and he had traveled from his home in Liège, Belgium, in order to protest the Mohammed cartoons by exploding a bomb on September 11. Got that? A citizen of Belgium is blowing up a newspaper in Denmark on the anniversary of a terrorist attack on America.
So whatever was bugging him didn't have a lot to do with Chechnya. In Boston, before he was run over by his brother and found himself committing the jihadist faux pas of greeting his 72 virgins with tire tracks from head to toe, young Tamerlan Tsarnaev had apparently put on his Amazon wish-list the book The Lone Wolf and the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule. Yet while the Chechen-nationalist struggle has certainly become more Islamic in the last two decades, it's a bit of a mystery what it has to do with Jutland newspapers and Massachusetts marathons. Lors Doukaiev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were young men in their mid twenties who had lived in the West for much of their lives. Both were boxers. Aside from the fact that Lors was one-legged and Tamerlan wasn't, the quotes their friends and neighbors offered in the wake of their sudden notoriety are more or less interchangeable: "He was perfectly integrated. He was jovial and very open." That was Fabian Detaille, young Doukaiev's trainer at the Cocktail Boxing Club in Droixhe, speaking to Belgian radio, but it could just as easily have been one of Tamerlan's boxing buddies on NPR in Boston.
The Washington Post covered much of the Tsarnaev narrative under the headline "A Faded Portrait of an Immigrant's American Dream." The story is about what you'd expect from the headline but the "faded portrait" is fascinating — a photograph of the family before they came to America: young Mr. and Mrs. Tsarnaev with baby Tamerlan, and Uncle Muhamad with a Tom Selleck moustache and Soviet military uniform. If you only know Ma Tsarnaeva from her post-Boston press conferences as a head-scarfed harpie glorying in her sons' martyrdom and boasting that she'll be shrieking "Allahu akbar!" when the Great Satan takes her out too, the "faded portrait" is well worth your time: Back then, just before the U.S.S.R. fell apart, the jihadist crone looked like a mildly pastier version of an Eighties rock chick — a passable Dagestan doppelgänger for Joan Jett, with spiky black hair and kohl-ringed eyes. She loves rock 'n' roll, so put another ruble in the jukebox, baby!
Then she came to America and, after a decade in Cambridge, Mass., returned to her native land as a jihadist cliché — pro-sharia, pro-terrorist, pro-martyrdom, pro-slaughter. She arrived here as Joan Jett, and went back all black heart.
The Tsarnaevs were a mixed marriage. Pop was Chechen, Mom was Dagestani, from the Z-list stan on Chechnya's borders. But there's really no such thing as a "Dagestani." Dagestan is a wild mountain-man version of Cambridge, celebrating diversity until it hurts. Its population includes Azerbaijanis, whom you've heard of, because they're from the stan that thinks it's a jan. The rest of the guys are — stan well back — Avars, Dargins, Kumyks, Laks, Rutuls, Aghuls, Nogais, Tsakhurs, and Tabasarans. Oh, and Lezgians, a mountain tribe of fearsome female warriors high on fermented yak's milk. I'm making that last bit up, but for a moment you weren't sure, were you? Dagestan has everything except Dagestanis. They're all in Ingushetia, maybe.
For the last decade, I've been lectured by the nuancey-boys on how one can't generalize about Islam, and especially about Islam in the West: There are as many fascinating differences between Mirpuri Pakistanis in Yorkshire and Algerian Berbers in Clichy-sous-Bois as there are between Nogais and Lezgians in Dagestan. No doubt. But, whatever their particular inheritance, many young Muslims in the West come to embrace a pan-Islamic identity. The Tsarnaev boys, for example, fell under the influence of an "Australian sheikh." That's to say, a sheikh born in Sydney. While back in the Caucasus in 2012, Tamerlan is rumored to have met William Plotnikov, a Toronto jihadist whose Siberian parents are such assimilated Canadians they winter as Florida snowbirds. When they came back, they found a note from William saying he'd gone to France for Ramadan. And thence east, to his rendezvous with the virgins.
Like the photographs of Mrs. Tsarnaeva then and now, these are stories of dis-assimilation, of secularized Easterners who in the vacuum of Western multiculturalism search for identity and find a one-stop shop in Islamic imperialism.
Either that, or it's the local gym. Like Lors and Tamerlan, the Aussie sheikh and the Canuck terrorist were boxers. For African-Americans, boxing used to be the way out of the ghetto. For Western Muslims, boxing is apparently the way out of Cambridge, Mass. — and straight into jihad.