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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Terrifying Lessons of the Boston Terrorists


 It wasn’t Al Qaeda, It was the Golden Gloves.

The investigation is still continuing into the motives and methods of the two Tsarnaev brothers, but it may well be that the most terrifying lesson of the Boston Marathon bombings is that what precipitated it were not exhortations of Al-Qaeda-linked militants; not the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; not the carnage wreaked by America’s drones —though all that may have played a follow-up role--but a decision made by the folks who ran the U.S. Golden Gloves boxing competition in 2010. 

This is according to a must-read article in the New York Times.

What happened was that in 2010, the men running the boxing national Tournament of Champions changed the ground rules so that only American citizens could compete. The result was that several top amateur boxers were barred--among them, Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev, 23, a young man who had immigrated with his family from Kyrgyzstan a few years earlier and had just won his second consecutive title as the Golden Gloves heavyweight champion of New England.

According to the Times, that decision was a major blow for Tamerlan. Amateur boxing had become an intrinsic part of his identity in his new homeland—a sort of emotional underpinning. He had talked about wanting to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, and then turn pro.

According to the Times, who interviewed dozens of people and relatives who had known Tamerlan,  “His aspirations frustrated, he dropped out of boxing competition entirely, and his life veered in a completely different direction….”

His views on Islam became increasingly radical, as did his hostility to the U.S. and its actions in the Muslim world. Presumably, he also radicalized his younger brother.

But, again, all that occurred, said the Times, “only after his more secular dreams were dashed in 2010 and he was left adrift.”

On the other hand, an in-depth piece on the Tsarnaevs by the Washington Post , makes no mention at all of Tamerlan’s being barred from the Tournament of Champions. But it does chronicle in tragic detail the way in which the dream that had brought Tamerlan’s family to the United States in 2004, had slowly tarnished, until it all seemed to fall apart in 2010 and 2011—when his father, with cancer, divorced his mother, and moved back to Dagestan. 
Again-all this on the heels of Tamerlan’s being barred from the tournament of Champions.

Was that the precipitating factor that led to the tragedy in Boson?  We’ll never know for sure. But that convoluted and very human tale rings far truer than the facile clich├ęs and pontifications of the so-called experts on terrorism who filled the media over the past couple of weeks.
  
It also brings home the ultimately impossible task of the 200,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security, established after 9/11, with a budget of 50 billion dollars a year—dedicated to protecting Americans from exactly the kind of terrorist activity as occurred in Boston.

How do you provide one hundred percent protection to Americans when the decision by a Golden Gloves official can propel a young man towards violent jihad, much more effectively than a fatwa from Osama bin Laden himself?

(You may be interested in an earlier piece I did on the Boston Bombers: America the Blind.)


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