The Boston Marathon bombing’s cruel use of a second bomb, designed to harm anyone assisting those injured by the first, reminded me of the “Collateral Murder” video, which depicted U.S. military helicopters first gunning down a group of mostly unarmed men (including two Reuters journalists), then killing a separate pair of unarmed men after they exited their van, attempting to help the wounded. Curiously, I saw nothing in the press about the two men’s act of heroism that cost them their lives. Not so with the heroism on display in Boston. I will leave the reader to speculate as to why.
As politicians commend the angelic conduct evinced by law enforcement, any critical analysis of the police’s response will be studiously avoided by the major press. A fine illustration of this can be seen in the case of a Saudi student who, after having been injured by the bomb, was tackled by a civilian and subsequently arrested for having “acted suspiciously.” This allegation was faithfully reported by CBS, with no elaboration on what this suspicious activity was. The New York Post went further, falsely designating the Saudi student a “suspect.” CNN described a “dark-skinned male” suspect. The Saudi student has since been cleared by the FBI, after the Bureau raided his apartment and interrogated him. Being accused of acting suspiciously is not without its inconveniences.
Obama has described the bombing as “senseless,” for which reason there will be no attempt to make sense of why it may have happened. In the view of people like Obama, such events are ‘black swans,’ to borrow a term from the apologists of financialization—meaning that they are intrinsically unpredictable, so we had best just get used to this kind of thing. Pay no attention to the fact that these black swan financial crashes, which we are urged to accept as inevitable, came largely after the deregulation of the financial sector.
Likewise, one must pay no attention to the fact that terror attacks have increased sevenfold following the invasion of Iraq, which a study cited favorably by the Brookings Institution (hardly a leftist outfit) found. Whether or not the bombing in Boston was carried out by a group originating in the Middle-East, if we are serious about ending attacks like these we must consider their causes, of which U.S. imperialism is certainly one.
It should come as no surprise that power will strongly resist any attempt to critically discuss U.S. imperialism and, as previously mentioned, the conduct of its police; these are, of course, power’s means. When Obama said that “On days like this, there are no Republicans or Democrats,” he was quite right: any analysis of the political dimensions of such crises is off the agenda for both parties.
If any such analysis occurred, the blame would be catastrophic to the political establishment. Suppose the public was permitted to learn about, say, then CIA director George Tenet’s letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee in which he explains that an invasion of Iraq would result in an increased likelihood of terror attacks on the U.S.
Or what if the mainstream discourse shifted to the leading British intelligence agency, MI5, and its director’s retrospective assessment that the invasion of Iraq did indeed ‘significantly increase the terrorist threat to Britain’? People would be out in the streets by the time they got to the part where the MI5 chief said that “we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad.”
The ramifications of discussion incorporating serious facts such as these (instead of what color of hat the latest suspect was wearing, or how one indomitable runner was undeterred by the attack and went on to finish the race) would be much too threatening to the political establishment to ever be tolerated.
So instead, people desiring a serious discussion about terrorism will be shamed with non sequiturs about how they’re being disrespectful to the victims, and how there’ll be a time for such discussions later—when interest in them is safely dead.
Ken Klippenstein lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he edits the left issues website whiterosereader.org He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org