Minutes after President Obama said that it’s too early to tell who detonated the Boston Marathon bombs, David Axelrod suggested that the White House thought it was a white guy because of Tax Day. Barney Frank then used the terrorist attack as an opportunity to say that the terrorist attack was proof we needed to raise taxes. This morning, Salon’s David Sirota wrote this column to say that he hopes the terrorist is a white guy:

As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing, the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity, the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are, and are not, collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.

This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings, even though most come at the hands of white dudes.

Likewise, in the context of terrorist attacks, such privilege means white non-Islamic terrorists are typically portrayed not as representative of whole groups or ideologies, but as “lone wolf” threats to be dealt with as isolated law enforcement matters. Meanwhile, non-white or developing-world terrorism suspects are often reflexively portrayed as representative of larger conspiracies, ideologies and religions that must be dealt with as systemic threats, the kind potentially requiring everything from law enforcement action to military operations to civil liberties legislation to foreign policy shifts.

Let’s be clear about something important from the outset. The FBI’s investigation should go only where the forensic evidence takes them. If forensic scientists determine that the bombs’ markers suggest that the bombs were patterned after the Iranian-manufactured IEDs that were detonated against US troops in Iraq, then that’s where their investigation should take them.

If the bombs’ components suggest they were the work of a lone wolf domestic terrorist, that’s the direction the investigation should head in.

Next, in the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush made clear that his national security team would welcome US mosques’ help in tracking down terrorists. As the investigation into terrorist networks gathered information, he talked about specific Saudi, Pakistani and Egyptian madrassas as producing terrorists.

In other words, the accusations were based on the information that was gathered during their investigation, not because the Bush administration had it in for Muslims.

By contrast, the FBI hasn’t uncovered a system of white guy training grounds to kill abortionists and others they don’t agree with. For instance, the FBI didn’t find a string of militias started in Tim McVeigh’s honor. That means white guys who’ve committed acts of terror have acted without a network of support, thus fitting the description of acting as lone wolf terrorists.

Sirota then made this reference:

By contrast, even though America has seen a consistent barrage of attacks from domestic non-Islamic terrorists, the privilege and double standards baked into our national security ideologies means those attacks have resulted in no systemic action of the scope marshaled against foreign terrorists. In fact, it has been quite the opposite, according to Darryl Johnson, the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, the conservative movement backlash to merely reporting the rising threat of such domestic terrorism resulted in DHS seriously curtailing its initiatives against that particular threat. (Irony alert: When it comes specifically to fighting white non-Muslim domestic terrorists, the right seems to now support the very doctrine it criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for articulating, the doctrine that sees fighting terrorism as primarily “an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement, public-diplomacy effort” and not something more systemic.)

The Crooks and Liars post refers to Jared Loughner, the man who attacked Gabby Giffords in Tuscon. The Loughner attack on Giffords was tragic but it wasn’t the act of a terrorist. It was an attack by a crazed madman who didn’t have control of his faculties. Comparing Loughner’s attack with the Boston Marathon terrorist attack is foolish.

First, there’s no proof that Laughner pre-planned his attack. There’s tons of proof that the Boston Marathon terrorist attack was pre-planned. Loughner bought ammunition for his gun, then went out and shot a bunch of innocent people. The Boston Marathon terrorist or terrorists bought the bombs’ components, put them together, deployed them to specific locations designed to create the most bloodshed and fear possible.

It’s right to say that the Boston Marathon terrorist attack was pre-planned while the Loughner attack, though tragic, didn’t require any planning.

Second, as to the point about then-Candidate Kerry being right, that’s laughable. Reading terrorists their rights isn’t being right. Passing a global test isn’t being right. Pretending that killing the Taliban in Afghanistan was all that was needed to end the war isn’t being right.

When a domestic terrorist is captured, like the Lackawanna Six, the Bush administration used law enforcement. They applied for and got search warrants through the FISA Courts. When the NSA picked up chatter about a terrorist network while they surveiled terrorists in Pakistan or Afghanistan, the Bush administration used the CIA or other special forces to roll up entire networks of terrorists.

In other words, the Bush administration policy towards terrorists was complex and multi-faceted whereas the Kerry plan wasn’t multi-faceted. It relied on reading all terrorists their Miranda rights, then hoping they could find out about the terrorists’ networks by having a conversation with the terrorists.

Treating Jared Loughner and Tim McVeigh differently than foreign terrorists makes sense because the specifics are dramatically different. Loughner didn’t pre-plan his attack. McVeigh pre-planned his attack but he wasn’t assisted by a vast network of like-minded terrorists. Only time will tell whether the Boston Marathon terrorist attack was supported by a network of like-minded terrorists.

Simply put, let’s hope the FBI captures the terrorist or terrorists before they can strike again.

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One Response to “Sirota: Let’s hope Boston Marathon bomber is a white guy”

  • walter hanson says:

    Gary:

    If it was preplanned it was poorly preplanned. If I understand right the bomb went off when the Boston Marathon was in it’s fourth hour and the Red Sox came had ended over an hour earlier.

    If I was planning to disrupt and injured I would’ve timed it around two hours earlier when the men’s winner was about to take place and instant attention would’ve taken place.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

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