The guilty verdict came as no surprise to anyone, least of all Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense attorney, Judy Clarke, who told the court last month, “It was him.” Tsarnaev could now face the death penalty, and it would be richly deserved, given the fact that he and his brother deliberately placed a bomb filled with nails behind a row of children, hoping to maximize the number of people they murdered, and subjected eight-year-old Martin Richard to a gruesome and excruciatingly painful death.
Whether or not he is executed, however, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a vivid illustration of the abject failure and catastrophic wrongheadedness of the Obama administration’s approach to the jihad threat. For if the mainstream and dominant analysis of the jihad terror threat is true, then Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have been the last young Muslim in the U.S. to become a jihad terrorist: he had everything that mainstream analysts claim Muslims turn to terrorism because they don’t have.
Terrorism, we are often told, is a reaction to political instability. Young Muslims growing up under repressive dictatorships strike out for justice in the only way that is available to them: by joining jihad terror groups. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, however, didn’t grow up amid any political unrest: his family was granted political asylum in the United States when he was eight years old.
Dzhokhar was no deprived and marginalized immigrant. He attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and received a $2,500 scholarship from the City of Cambridge when he graduated in 2011. Then he went to the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, where to all appearances he was a completely Westernized moderate Muslim with an outlook that was little different from that of his fellow students.
John Kerry, if he is paying attention to the Tsarnaev case at all, should be nonplussed. Here is a young man who was saved from political tumult in his homeland (Tsarnaev was born in Kyrgyzstan but spent most of his early life in Chechnya) by the United States of America, open as always to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free. Once here, he enjoyed a comfortable middle-class existence, attending fine schools in the Boston area – in part due to the generosity of the City of Cambridge. He showed no signs of cultural alienation, having a wide circle of friends and appearing to them to be a fully American youth.
So what went wrong? If it wasn’t poverty, lack of opportunity, and alienation, then what drove young Dzhokhar to jihad, Mr. Kerry? Dzhokhar’s defense team and the mainstream media have tried to portray him as completely under the spell of his older brother Tamerlan, who was supposedly a jihadist Svengali leading his bedazzled and impressionable younger brother down the path to mass murder for Islam.
If that were true, it is nonetheless obvious that Dzhokhar was an apt and willing pupil. While hiding out in a pleasure boat just before his arrest, Dzhokhar wrote that he did it for the umma, the worldwide Muslim community: “the bombings were in retribution for the U.S. crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan that the victims of the Boston bombing were collateral damage, in the same way innocent victims have been collateral damage in U.S. wars around the world. Summing up, that when you attack one Muslim you attack all Muslims.” He didn’t think that he shouldn’t exact this “revenge” in light of the fact that America had been very, very good to him.
There also emerged during his trial a photograph of Dzhokhar sitting underneath the black flag of jihad and raising his right index finger in the gesture of adherence to Islamic monotheism that has become the symbol of loyalty to the Islamic State. Clearly the younger brother was as convinced and dedicated an Islamic jihadist as the elder – it is hard to imagine that if he weren’t, he would have gone along with Tamerlan’s mass murder plot, no matter how much he adored him.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should never have become a jihadist, if the mainstream view of what creates jihadists were remotely true: he was not poor, he was not uneducated, he was not deprived of opportunities. In fact, he had it all. And what do you get for the young jihadi who has everything? Apparently, a pressure cooker bomb packed with nails.
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