The Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston


It was early afternoon on 9/11. I had stopped by the library to talk with Evan about the destruction of the twin towers in NYC.

He and I had worked together on The Journal Gazette editorial page for many years. I was retired by that day. He had become a research librarian. I was eager to hear his reaction.

As I recall, his first words of greeting were, “What in the world does this accomplish?”

April 15 I had the same reaction to the two bombings near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Two brothers apparently set off the bombs.

Their family, nominally Muslim, had Chechen origins. But Tamerlan Tsarnaev,26, and Dzhokhar, 19, had lived in the Boston area for years. The younger brother, in fact, is a U.S. citizen.

Piecing together the accounts, I found that Tamerlan had encountered lots of setbacks in his life. Clearly, he was a troubled young man. Recently, he visited Russia where he spent time at a mosque led by a radical imam. So we assume the older brother had become radicalized. His life came to an end in the shootout with police.

The younger brother? You get no sense that Dzhokhar was any more than a happy-go-lucky teenager. He’s still recovering from his wounds.

We get a few clues about their motives from a note that he left in the boat he was hiding in when police, on the homeowner’s tip, caught up with him.

In this note he claims the bombings were in retaliation for U.S. military actions in Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. Huh? The brothers’ bombs didn’t hurt the military or U.S. political leaders. Who did the bombs hurt?


The brothers killed three spectators to the marathon, including 8-year-old Martin Richard. Their bombs injured more than 250. These survivors now must recover from their injuries. For many, that includes learning to live without limbs they lost.

I keep thinking about my friend’s reaction to 9/11. Indeed, what was accomplished in the Boston bombings? Certainly nothing that the terrorists sought. Quite the opposite. Over the decade or so since the twin towers went down, the United States has been more militarily involved in Muslim countries than before.

I’m afraid the Tsarnaev brothers only stirred up suspicion of law-abiding Muslims
in this country. Their bombs probably made passing immigration reform in Congress more difficult. Plenty of Americans who will fault unfairly Islam itself for fostering violence.

No doubt, more will come out as we learn new details about the brothers’ lives. Maybe we’ll even learn how the FBI and CIA failed to act on information from Russian intelligence that warned about the older brother.

As for justice for the younger brother, we’ll be poorly served as a country if a federal court gives the 19-year-old the death penalty. It’s just such twisted revenge logic that seems to have motivated these brothers.

Meantime, you can be sure police agencies are drawing new lessons about how to protect crowds at such mass public events. That’s a proper response to the bombing. The other response is to cheer those thousands of dedicated runners at next year’s Boston Marathon. Yes, you can be sure, that race will go on.

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