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:
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.
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.
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?
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:
- Produce widespread fear. Accomplished.
- Obtain worldwide, national, or local recognition for their cause by attracting the attention of the media. Accomplished in full: worldwide, nationally and locally
- Harass, weaken, or embarrass government security forces so that the government overreacts and appears repressive. Accomplished with a good measure of over-achievement.
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.