22 April 2013

Boston bombers: mission accomplished

First of all: our condolences to the families of four innocent victims of the murderous rampage and wishes of quick recovery to the wounded.

Of course, like many other people around the world, I was watching the unfolding drama and the pursuit of the culprits. Needless to say, like most of the observers, I feel relief knowing that the second bomber is captured and there were no more victims. Saying all that, however, I can't share the celebratory mood that seems to be overwhelming the cities of America. Sorry to be a spoilsport, but there isn't much to celebrate. The handling of the affair by the various authorities is far from being a cause for celebration. While it's not really my business to advise the multiple security and civil outfits that managed this crisis, I can watch, compare and say what is on my mind. So:

The lockdown

As heard on TV during the day of the pursuit, the authorities in charge issued a request that Bostonians stay at home that covered about 7.5 million people (more citizens than in some countries I could mention). As a result, being nice and disciplined, Bostonians were cooped in their houses for a long time, stewing in their own fears, not at all alleviated by "live" TV reports. In other words, doing exactly what any terrorist dreams of - being afraid and having their normal lives disrupted.

That a pair of two-bit punks could paralyze the normal life of millions, even if only for one day, is unconscionable. Of course, I am thinking about similar cases in our place here, and the only possible conclusion is no, this is not the way to manage such crisis. Someone or, rather, many someones, must rethink the approach to handling situations like this - if only because they will occur again, and you can take this rather bleak prediction to the bank.

The posse

Yes, I understand that finding a needle in a haystack isn't easy. When that needle is suspected of carrying firearms and all kinds of bombing paraphernalia, it may take some guts an some superior firepower to go after it. However, watching hundreds of variously (and colorfully) uniformed officers of all possible security branches walking around with determined faces, the black vans awkwardly maneuvering in tight parking lots, cops standing on the corners chewing gum - all this was (possibly) making a good TV, but didn't really make a lot of military sense, not where finding that needle was concerned. And the scene where a team of SWAT folks in their black glory marches somewhere in a column (which doesn't make any sense too, unless it's a parade formation) with weapons at the ready - no, really, someone should think better about staging a posse for TV next time.

It is a miracle that with such a concentration of trigger-happy and nervous personnel not a single innocent bystander got stitched by a burst or two.

But eventually the culprit was found - no thanks to oversaturation of Watertown by cops and G-men. It happened just because one citizen with a good eye for details and sufficient knowledge of his own backyard was allowed to step out of his house, where he was told to hide many hours ago. Were David Henneberry allowed to roam freely, who knows how many hours of tension could have been spared.

The capture

This part of the proceedings was a total mystery to me - and not only to me. Why, having Dzhokar Tsarnaev located and visible on infrared cameras, knowing that he is already wounded and at least partially incapacitated, the posse "unleashed a hailstorm of gunfire into the backyard" (I am quoting from the above linked article)?

If above mentioned David Henneberry was able to stick his head under the tarpaulin without any adverse consequences, why couldn't the cops further incapacitate the punk by a few well placed shots by a sharpshooter, instead of the hailstorm of gunfire? If the decision, on the other hand, was not to take prisoners*, how come the hailstorm of gunfire didn't do the job?

Bumbling extraordinaire.

Update: It could be that the above reports about the hailstorm of gunfire were wrong or vastly exaggerated by the press for dramatic effect or for other reasons. According to this report, only flash bombs were used during the capture. However, most other sources report an exchange of gunfire.

Update 2: After all, there was gunfire.

Although police feared he was heavily armed, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing had no firearms when he came under a barrage of police gunfire that struck the boat where he was hiding, according to multiple federal law enforcement officials. Authorities said they were desperate to capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev so he could be questioned. The FBI, however, declined to discuss what prompted the gunfire.
And various branches stepping on each other toes:
The FBI was in charge of the scene, but there also were officers from the Massachusetts State Police, local police and transit police.
And yes, there was a hail of gunfire:
The FBI declined to discuss the exact sequence of events that led officers to open fire on Tsarnaev’s hiding place and whether the dozens of bullets that struck the boat caused any of his gunshot wounds.
What a mess... I hope David Henneberry will get a new boat from the FBI (although I am sure they will try to make the others to pony up too.

(*) Which version I don't really believe.

And now let's take a look at a (randomly chosen) list of typical terrorism objectives. The list is headed by the following three:
  1. Produce widespread fear. Accomplished.
  2. Obtain worldwide, national, or local recognition for their cause by attracting the attention of the media. Accomplished in full: worldwide, nationally and locally
  3. Harass, weaken, or embarrass government security forces so that the government overreacts and appears repressive. Accomplished with a good measure of over-achievement.
No matter what the "grievances"* of the couple were, the goals of their murderous activities were fulfilled - with vengeance. There was only one item not listed in that piece: desire of martyrdom. The older brother had reached this goal, albeit with some assistance from his little sibling who, if we believe the reports , has driven the getaway car over his big brother. I only hope that the Massachusetts' judiciary doesn't give the same satisfaction to the remaining sibling, letting him rot in jail instead, to achieve the martyrdom in installments.

All in all: this was not the way to tackle terrorism. And again: there is a good reason to be better prepared next time. Because there is definitely going to be a next time.


(*) While that subject is out of the scope of this post, I strongly believe that Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the two terrorists, hit the bull's eye in his succinct analysis of the underlying causes:
A reporter asked what might have provoked the violence. “Being losers,” Tsarni shot back. “Hatred to those who were able to settle themselves” in this country. Then Tsarni raised his voice to make a point: “Anything else to do with religion, with Islam—it’s a fraud. It’s a fake.” He went on: “We are Muslims. We are Chechens.” But that didn’t explain his nephews’ violence, he said. “Somebody radicalized them.”
Yup. Better find that someone - he is the one to be helped into martyrdom - asap.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

I don't know snoop, it could counter productive in America. In the past people here have shown themselves remarkably able to cope with bad situations after the initial running around in circles and just being silly. Of course the past isn't necessarily a window to the future. Our biggest problem remains the supposedly really smart people who are in charge (yeah we put them there) and can't for the life of them admit the reality of a situation much less deal with it.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I don't think you need to concede anything. You are dead right about their aims (pts. 1,2, and 3) and about their success there this time. But Americans are a funny bunch who I doubt will be kept indoors many more times. Actually here in Texas it could be a very different story. One day I'll you about my father and the Charles Whitman incident.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I like your three aims, but I think their success is more of a matter of where the bombing took place than anything else. The sheep up there in Taxachusetts who allowed themselves to be disarmed years ago may consider themselves the elite but much of the rest of the country finds them embarrassing, especially after this fiasco.

I also don't buy the "someone radicalized them" line. The brothers had handlers, of course, their detonators alone were too sophisticated to be made off Google. But they were not puppets (except, maybe, of their bloodthirsty religion) and they made their own choices.

I would agree with the idea of the baby-faced monster rotting in prison except that, if he is not executed, you can bet that someday he would be freed. On which day it would be good if a relative of one of the people he maimed, crippled and disfigured for life shot him down on the street like a rabid dog. That could happen here in Texas. Probably would. But not in Massachusetts. So, yes, I hope they execute him.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Let's hope you are right. Let's hope that the powers that be will do the next one better as well. And I never doubted the indomitable spirit of the Texans.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Of course, I can't argue the first point (re location): only I have to confess to my misunderstanding. I looked up the gun laws of Mass. here:


Apparently hand guns are more or less easy there. The assault rifles are another matter, but handguns are in a wide range...

As for "someone radicalized them": the terrorist handlers by now have a lot of experience and (possibly) even some written guidelines on how to find, recruit and train the future martyrs. Of course, it is in the framework of the Islamist fundies. And they are training the next bunch of suicider martyrs as we speak here. The handlers should be addressed first, that's the only point I wanted to make.

I agree that there always a possibility that a prisoner will be freed in some exchange. Happens here all the time. Still, creating an instant martyr, esp. for Chechens who positively thrive on this, is quite a problem.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Aside from the not-always-reliable information of Wikipedia, I would note that since all guns there require a permit, getting the permit can be the problem. If the authorities don't want to give you one, you don't get one.

In Texas I can buy a gun from a friend with no questions asked and no background check (as required at a gun show or gun shop). I happen to think it's none of the authorities business whether I buy or own one and so far the state agrees.

In California (I don't see it explained there about Mass.) the police have to sign off on your concealed carry license and will only do so if they see a "need," such as you carry lots of money in your normal business. No "need" that satisfies them, no permit.

As for "assault rifles," being a political term to begin with, it depends on how they are defined in the law as to what is prohibited. In general, Mass. and particularly Boston is a leftist place where gun control came early and occasionally the political screws are tightened.

I would mainly like to know who supplied them with the detonators and explosives, which I gather were fairly sophisticated. Might also be smart to find out where they got their money to live as neither seems to have been employed.

Prisoners aren't generally "exchanged" here, but just let go when the courts decide, based on a petition, that they should be left go. Which is why "life in prison" is meaningless.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Thanks for the update. Yes, I didn't think of that aspect. True, a permit of this kind will depend on the whim of a bureaucrat, police in this case.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

" And I never doubted the indomitable spirit of the Texans." Heh, well we have been known to be full of it

SnoopyTheGoon said...

It ain't braggin' if it's true.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

The rest of the world's just trying to catch up!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

View the additional pic's in this link you will never view from the LSM! 4chan ThinkTank Explosive Proof Boston Marathon Bombing a Staged Terror Attack!