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A Commentary on the Marathon Murders


The dominant reactions to the horrific bombings on April 15th, the day of the running of the Boston Marathon, as well as the celebration of Patriots Day, have been so far: compassion for the victims, a maximal resolve to track down the perpetrators, a pundit’s notebook that generally agrees that Americans have been protected against terrorist violence since 9/11 and that the best way to prevail against such sinister adversaries is to restore normalcy as quickly as possible. In this spirit, it is best to avoid dwelling on the gory details by darkly glamorizing the scene of mayhem with flowers and homage. It is better to move forward with calm resolve and a re-commitment to the revolutionary ideals that midwifed the birth of the American nation. Such responses are generally benevolent, especially when compared to the holy war fevers espoused by national leaders, the media, and a vengeful public after the 9/11 attacks that also embraced Islamophobic falsehoods. Maybe America has become more poised in relation to such extremist incidents, but maybe not. It is soon to tell, and the somewhat hysterical Boston dragnet for the remaining at large and alive suspect does suggest that the wounds of 9/11 are far from healed.

destruction of the World Trade Center and the shattering of the Pentagon. Also, although each life is sacred, the magnitude of tragedy is somewhat conveyed by numbers, and the Marathon incident has so far produced three deaths as compared to three thousand, that is, 1/1000th of 9/11. Also important, the neocon presidency of George W. Bush, was in 2001 prior to the attacks openly seeking a pretext to launch a regime-changing war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the 9/11 events, as interpreted and spun, provided just the supportive domestic climate needed for launching an aggressive war against the Baghdad regime. The Iraq War was undertaken despite the UN Security Council failure to lend its authority to such an American deadly geopolitical venture and in the face of the largest anti-war global demonstrations in human history. In 2001 the preferred American grand strategy, as blueprinted by the ideologues of the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution, was given a green light by the Bush/Cheney White House even in the face of the red lights posted both at the UN and in the streets of 600 or more cities around the world.

Middle East. Remember, as well, that this was the period of quick victorious wars that were also cheap when measured by casualties or resources. The Gulf War of 1991 and the NATO Kosovo War of 1999 were the poster children of this supposed revolution in warfare that enabled the United States and its allies to fight ‘zero casualty wars.’ At least it seems that for the present irresponsible and unlawful warfare are no longer the centerpiece of America’s foreign policy as had become the case in the first decade of the 21st century, although this is far from a certainty. The war drums are beating at this moment in relation to both North Korea and Iran, and as long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy.

Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib?” And another asked, “in light of the authoritative reports of officially sanctioned torture as detailed in the 577 page report of a task force chaired by two former senators, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, and containing senior military and security officials, has not the time come to apply the law to the wrongdoers during the Bush presidency”? Can we not expect one among our politicians, other than the Tea Party darling Rand Paul, to have the courage to connect some of these dots? Should we not all be meditating on W.H. Auden’s haunting line: “Those to whom evil is done/do evil in return”?

Islamic world needed a fundamental moves by the US Government for the sake of reconciliation, including the adoption of a far more balanced approach to the Palestine/Israel impasse. But as the months passed, what became evident, especially given the strong pushback by Israel and its belligerent leader, Bibi Netanyahu, were a series of disappointing reactions by Obama, which could be described as an accelerating back peddling in relation to opening political space in the Middle East.  

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Aside from the tensions of the moment, self-scrutiny and mid-course reflections on America’s global role is long overdue. Such a process is crucial both for the sake of the country’s own future security and also in consideration of the wellbeing of others. Such adjustments will eventually come about either as a result of a voluntary process of self-reflection or through the force of unpleasant events. How and when this process of reassessment occurs remains a mystery. Until it does, America’s military prowess and the abiding confidence of its leaders in hard power diplomacy makes the United States a menace to the world and to itself. Such an observation is as true if the more avowedly belligerent Mitt Romney rather than the seemingly dovish Barack Obama was in the White House. Such bipartisan support for maintaining the globe-girdling geopolitics runs deep in the body politic, and is accompanied by the refusal to admit the evidence of national decline. The signature irony is that the more American decline is met by a politics of denial, the more rapid and steep will be the decline, and the more abrupt and risky will be the necessary shrinking of the global leadership role so long played by the United States. We should be asking ourselves at this moment, “how many canaries will have to die before we awaken from our geopolitical fantasy of global domination?” 

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