The Blog

A Letter to the Boston Bomber

Are you a Muslim? Are you a member of 'al Qaeda' or a 'jihadist' with AQ 'linkages' ? Were you 'inspired' or 'radicalized' after listening to sermons by some firebrand preacher in Yemen or a holiday in Pakistan? Are you a foreign import or a 'homegrown' terrorist?

Dear Boston Bomber,

It's now two days since you - or you and your associates - exploded your bombs at the Boston marathon and the death toll currently stands at three, one of whom was Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy who was photographed last year holding up a placard reading 'no more hurting people- peace' which he carried during a march after the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Maybe you feel disappointed by the low death toll. Don't be: just think of the 176 runners and spectators who have been injured, some of whom have lost limbs, as a result of bombs that were clearly intended to maim as well as kill. It's true that the overall results fall well short of the 75 people killed and 376 injured in bomb attacks that took place in Iraq on the same day.

But never mind, no one really pays any attention to that. So well done: you've done a fantastic job and you can feel well satisfied. Yet we still don't know anything about you. Are you a Muslim? Are you a member of 'al Qaeda' or a 'jihadist' with AQ 'linkages' ? Were you 'inspired' or 'radicalized' after listening to sermons by some firebrand preacher in Yemen or a holiday in Pakistan? Are you a foreign import or a 'homegrown' terrorist?

Of course, as you undoubtedly knew beforehand, each of these possibilities has its own particular implications. There are many people who were ready to conclude that you must be a Muslim as soon as the bombs went off, even without being told that a 'Saudi national' had been 'acting suspiciously' near the crime scene.

Now it turns out that the 'Saudi national' is not a suspect, but a witness. And many of us have breathed a sigh of relief - for now. Because we know that if you are a Muslim or an Arab or come from anywhere near Asia or the Middle East, then Muslims everywhere will be stigmatized and in some cases victimized, regardless of whether or not they condemn what you've done.

If you are a 'homegrown' jihadist, then American Muslims will become a suspect community and an enemy within and subject to inquisitorial scrutiny about their 'divided loyalties'. If you turn out to be a Muslim with any foreign connections, on the other hand, then the US government will want to know what those connections are, and may well feel obliged to target the country that you come from or are connected to, or simply use Boston as broader vindication of the endless 'war' that has been raging across the world for more than a decade now.

That would mean more 'renditions', more torture, more killings-by-drone, more Special Forces hit squads, more bombings, perhaps another fullscale war somewhere, the reinforcement of the national security state and the perpetuation of governance-through-fear that we have all become so familiar with over the last twelve years.

Maybe you want that to happen, and your decision to target the Boston marathon was an act of strategic 'political violence', calculated to achieve these effects. Or perhaps you didn't think that far ahead. Perhaps you wanted revenge for the US drone strikes carried out in Pakistan and other countries in recent years, many of whose victims, according to a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, consisted of 'civilians who had gone to rescue victims or were attending funerals'.

Perhaps you wanted to 'bring the war home' to the American public and demonstrate that the US government was unable to protect its own citizens, even after all these years in which al Qaeda has supposedly been 'degraded'. And then of course there is the possibility that you aren't a Muslim or an Arab after all.

You might be a 'rightwing extremist', who hates the idea of 'big government' and a black president, or believes that Obama wants to 'take your guns' or flood the country with immigrants. You might be a neo-Nazi, a white supremacist, an anti-abortion fanatic, a veteran of the Iraq war with PTSD, an anti-immigration 'patriot'. You could be a 'lone wolf' or a you could be a member of a group and organization.

Or perhaps, as Obama suggested, you are simply a 'malevolent individual'. All this is speculation. And we now await your communique or 'statement', in which you explain it all to us and tell us why it was all necessary. Surely you have a 'chilling video'?

Do you hate runners? Do you think that marathon races are decadent and frivolous spectacles and deserve to be attacked? Had you designated the Boston marathon a legitimate 'military' target, or was it simply a useful means of generating maximum publicity for your 'cause'?

Until we hear what you have to tell us, we can only gape with revulsion at what you have already told us, and try to contemplate the appalling fact that a human being spent weeks or months calmly working out how to use pressure cookers filled with shrapnel in order to kill and mutilate human beings who were running in a race, or who simply turned out to watch them.

One wonders how you felt about all this beforehand. Did you go to bed at each night and get up each morning with a sense of quiet purpose and excitement at the prospect of the slaughter you were planning to enact? When you looked at yourself in the mirror did you consider yourself 'cowardly', as the FBI have described you, or did you feel noble, heroic and powerful? Did you tell yourself that you were 'a soldier', doing a dirty job that had to be done for the greater good?

Did you imagine the headlines and the news footage, and feel a sense of your own imminent fame and importance - almost certainly the only thing you will be remembered for? Are you enjoying it now? We long to know.

And until then, let me say that what you have done is truly disgusting and contemptible and even though I know nothing about you I think that you are too - and I very much doubt whether anything you might say will make me change my mind.