The Tough Question: Did Drones Indirectly Lead to Boston Bombing?

After reading an article last week about Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei condemning the bombing in Boston but criticizing the U.S. policy on drone attacks, the question came to mind as to just how relevant it was for him to associate the two so closely.  He stated:

The Islamic Republic of Iran, which follows the logic Islam, is opposed to any bombings and killings of innocent people, no matter if it is in Boston, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria and condemns it…The US and other so-called human rights advocates remain silent on the massacre of innocents in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but they cause a ruckus after a few blasts in the United States.

This week an op-ed appeared in the Atlantic addressing this issue specifically.  An important summary from the piece:

But propaganda is most powerful when it’s at least within shouting distance of the truth–and, unfortunately, that’s the case here. Obama’s drone strikes have killed, if not more civilians than mujahideen, lots of civilians, including women and scores of children. Every time such killing happens, the jihadist narrative, the narrative that seems to have seized the minds of the Tsarnaev brothers, gains a measure of strength.

The evolution of terrorism?

This is a commonsensical realization but there is another underlying issue that would contribute to this argument: the evolution of Al Qaeda’s message.

What I mean by that is there seems to be a change in how Al Qaeda once presented its message and how it delivers it now.  If we look at the issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda’s magazine, linked in the Atlantic piece, we see many articles addressing and encouraging lone wolf-types of attacks similar to what we saw in Boston.  This comes along with ideas on how to attack as an individual, such as creating car crashes and, coincidentally, using ricin.

Overall, the emphasis in the rhetoric seems to be on attacking and terrorizing civilians.  As noted by the author:

That’s where drone strikes can come in handy, and the latest issue of Inspire spells out the logic explicitly: Because America is “ruled by the people,” its “rulers (people) should pay for their country’s action till they change their system and foreign policies.” So “war on America including civilians” is legitimate, says Inspire, so long as Americans are killing Muslim civilians with drone strikes. “The equation should be balanced. Like they kill, they will be killed.”

But if we look back at some of Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, he doesn’t seem to be as concerned with attacking civilians as he is with attacking what he sees as more symbolically important targets.  And he even makes a distinction between the American people and the actions of the government.  After describing many instances of what he sees as American oppression, he leaves the reader with these remarks:

In conclusion, I tell you in truth, that your security is not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaida.  No.

Your security is in your own hands.  And every state that doesn’t play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security.

Bin Laden clearly had a eye on symbolism, along with casualty counts, when he targeted the U.S. for his attacks.  America’s military dominance was attacked by hitting the Pentagon and the U.S.S. Cole.  America’s economic dominance was attacked by bringing down the WTC.  And America’s heavy hand in foreign affairs was attacked when Al Qaeda struck at U.S. embassies.

And therein lies the new evolution and difference with the Boston attack.  It wasn’t an attack on a structure that also carried a certain symbolism for the U.S.  It was specifically targeted at civilians and civilians only just as the rhetoric contained within the pages of Inspire would suggest.  There may not be a direct link between the Boston bombers and Al Qaeda (and in all likelihood none will be found) but there is little doubt where the Tsarnaev brothers drew their inspiration.

As American tactics in finding and destroying Islamic extremists has evolved over the years with the expanded use of drone, the tactics used against us has gone through its own evolution.  We are seeing the next phase in the War on Terror and the likelihood of more lone wolf attacks in the future is seemingly high.  The question now becomes: how much longer will we let drone attacks be carried out in our name when we are being told they are the reason for the oncoming lone wolves?

How Do We Decide Our Outrage About Civilian Casualties?

As the casualty count mounts in Syria, the outrage in the United States continues to grow.  The State Department has now made it clear they are very angry with Russia about their arms sales to Syria and because of those transactions, more people are dying.  Outrage is perfectly understood.  In fact let’s take it down to the bare bones.  An entity in one country is killing people in large numbers, many innocent civilians, and they are obtaining their arms from another country who benefits economically from the transaction.  The U.S. government has responded appropriately from a seemingly compassionate perspective.  The following from an article in the Christian Science Monitor:

At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland laid the spilling of Syrian blood at Moscow’s feet. “On a daily basis, on an hourly basis, we are seeing Russian- and Soviet-made weaponry used against civilians in towns all across Syria,” she said.

People are dying “on an hourly basis.”  We should all be appalled at this and the idea a foreign country is contributing to the deaths in another through their arms policy is shameful to say the least.  In fact, we as Americans should expect nothing less from our government.  They should ask for policies that lessen the deaths of civilians in other countries and make sure the lives of so many are not ended so violently.  And we actually have another case to look at as far as this outrage goes.

There is another country in the world where arms policies are very negatively affecting the lives of civilians in a second country.  And in this one, the casualty per hour estimate has been projected to be even higher than Syria’s of one per hour.  In this country, it is estimated by the affected government to be one per half hour.  In this country, just like Syria, the death toll is estimated to be over ten thousand in the past year.  The killings in both are very brutal and innocent civilians are not safe in either.

Since the cases are so similar, we would obviously expect similar responses from the U.S. government as they would be doing all they can to stop this type of violence against civilians.  So, has the U.S. government condemned the country responsible for an arms policy that is killing someone every half hour in another country.  Well, no.  But why not?  Who are these other countries and what is this other situation?

The country negatively affected with the one per half hour death rate: Mexico.  The country with the arms policy affecting Mexico: the United States.  What’s the difference?  It certainly doesn’t seem to be casualty count.  If it were, the outrage would be the same from the U.S. government.  A hypothetical State Department quote would look like the one on Syria with a few words changed: On a daily basis, on a half hourly basis, we are seeing American-made weaponry used against civilians in towns all across Mexico.  Which leads to another potentially uncomfortable question for the U.S. government.

Is the selective outrage because the U.S. economy profits from one and the Russian economy profits from the other?  We are left to simply draw our own conclusions judging from the facts.