By Gilbert Mercier and Dady Chery
We might never learn the motive behind the Boston Marathon bomb attack on Monday, April 15, 2013, which is reported to have killed three people and injured more than 170. It could be as simple as an unhinged individual going postal on tax day or a sinister message to Americans from a foreign national illustrating the proverb “You can run, but you can’t hide.” In any case, the improvised explosive devices (IED) were amateurish and ineffective at causing maximum casualty. According to investigators, the crude IED were made from rigged pressure cookers loaded with gunpowder, nails plus ball bearings, and triggered by egg timers. The clumsy work suggests an unbalanced individual rather than an organization. Nevertheless, all day Monday and Tuesday the United States and world media talked about a “terrorist attack,” and the story became the only story. What matters more, however, is the way the incident will be exploited worldwide by policy makers and their media sycophants.
Boosting fear and paranoia to reinforce the global police state
Overall, the tragedy is a minor incident in the scope of world affairs. Around the same time: in Iraq for example, a wave of bomb attacks killed 50 people and injured 300; in Afghanistan, 30 people at wedding party were killed and about 90 wounded because a US bomb missed its target. Nevertheless the Boston bombing has already raised the level of fear and paranoia. Just like 9/11 was used to justify the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the start of the global war on terror, the Boston Marathon incident will be exploited by repressive governments to justify an ever-growing war economy that benefits the industrial-military complex. Private security and surveillance companies will thrive even more, and US citizens may expect the Department of Homeland Security to grow into a bigger monstrosity. One can easily foresee that, at upcoming big crowd gatherings such as sporting events, drones of all functions, shapes and sizes — some presumably designed to look like hummingbirds — will fly overhead to protect us from ourselves. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, many young Americans joined the military with the fervor of naive patriotism. With unemployment still high, it is likely that the Boston marathon incident will lure more young men and women into becoming cannon fodder for the war machine.
A story to hide others: Guantanamo, CISPA and Bradley Manning
Before the Marathon incident, the top news stories in the United States suggested that Americans might be regaining their senses and worrying about the erosion of their civil liberties. A foremost concern was the free dissemination of information and protection of privacy. Earlier this year, the Cyber Intelligence Protection Act (CISPA) was reset into motion by an executive order and a vow from President Barack Obama, during his State of the Union address, to “strengthen cyber defenses by increasing information sharing.” CISPA is about to be put to a vote in the House of Representatives. If passed in its current state, it will allow companies to collect the confidential e-mail and web-browsing histories of private individuals and share the information with the government, including its military and intelligence agencies, ostensibly to counter cyber threats.
To the US government, the epitome of a cyber threat is Pfc Bradley Manning. Mr. Manning has been detained for over a year without trial and more than 1,000 days without a conviction for blowing the whistle about US attacks on Iraqi and Afghan civilians. He is charged with espionage, not because he knowingly shared classified information with a foreign agent but because some of his information was published online and might have been used by a hostile foreign agent for some unspecified nefarious purpose. Mr. Manning enjoys considerable sympathy, and it is not lost on the internet community that some of the charges against him represent an attack on all online publishers, who obviously have no control over who uses their information.
For what seemed to be the first time since 9/11, Americans began again to express publicly their sympathy toward some Muslim foreign nationals. In a New York Times editorial of April 14 that was exceptional for allowing an incarcerated Muslim to present his plight directly to the US public, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel detailed some of the horrors he suffered in Guantanamo during his 11 years of detention there without trial. The story was damning. More than half of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are on a little-publicized hunger strike that started over two months ago, and 16 of them, including Moqbel, are being force fed. One man weighs only 77 pounds. Moqbel, whose weight has dropped to 132 pounds, describes that: “During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual…. It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused…. When they come to force me into the chair, if I refuse to be tied up, they call the E.R.F. [Extreme Reaction Force] team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding.”
Comments about the editorial were overwhelmingly sympathetic; the readers recognized, not only that prisoners everywhere are entitled to decent treatment, but also that Moqbel, in particular, has never been charged with or found guilty of anything. This outpouring of sympathy stopped as suddenly as the Boston Marathon explosions, which are presumed, without proof, to have been orchestrated by a Muslim.
International ramifications either real or manufactured
There are already some alarming signs of the ways the Boston Marathon tragedy might be used in a broader geopolitical context. On Wednesday, April 17, The Times of Israel announced that police chief Yohanan Danino and “other police officers” left the Jewish state on Tuesday to help the FBI with the Boston Marathon investigation. This is the highest ranking police delegation ever sent overseas by Israel. President Shimon Peres, during a foreign diplomatic gathering, expressed his condolences and jumped on the opportunity to crank up the terror narrative. “Today the real problem is terror, and terror is not an extension of policy: their policy is terror, their policy is to threaten. Terrorists divide people, they kill innocent people,” said Peres.
This intrusion of Israel into an investigation that the FBI should handle with the Boston Police indicates that the case will likely expand. Allegations — legitimate or not — might soon materialize to link the case to Iran or organizations like Hezbollah. To keep the global war on terror in the limelight is to lull the public into docility despite the continuous assaults on its civil liberties and human rights. So long as terror can regain its place as the number one public-opinion priority, CISPA may be implemented with the blessings of a large majority of US citizens, Bradley Manning may stay in prison, and Guantanamo may remain open.
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