The Bizarre Illogic of Terrorists

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, as I anticipated an activation of my Air National Guard unit, I saw a photo of a pro-al Qaeda demonstrator in Pakistan. He held a sign that said: The World is Red With Muslim Blood.

I wanted to ask him, “Where? Shed by whom?”

I’d like to ask a similar question to the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings: “What did Americans do to you, other than give you refuge?”

Prior to 9/11, my only combat experience had come in missions to protect Muslims. In September of 2001, the U.S. was not at war anywhere. But we had recently worked to stop the bleeding in one place truly reddened by Muslim blood–the Balkans. My squadron mates and I flew airlift missions to Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s, and those experiences inspired my upcoming novel set in the region, The Warriors.

As the former Yugoslavia tore itself apart, Serb nationalists launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslims. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 people died in Bosnia alone, and this figure does not include deaths in Kosovo, Croatia, and other breakaway republics.

Who ended that killing spree? NATO, led by U.S. forces. Perhaps we should have done more sooner, but at the very least the U.S. prevented worse tragedy.

The Boston Marathon attacks appear to be another case of illogical blame placed on the U.S. for crimes against Muslims committed by other parties in other places. The suspects—one dead and one hospitalized—have roots in the troubled Russian state of Chechnya.

Ironically, the men suspected of killing and maiming our fellow citizens shared historic ties with other Eastern European Muslims whom the U.S. has defended at no small cost.

Perhaps the suspects didn’t realize America pressured Russia over human rights violations in Chechnya. U.S. efforts, however feeble, worked to mitigate bloodshed there, not abet it. Our diplomatic overtures in the Caucasus and military operations in the Balkans go back to when the Boston bomber suspects were children.

No cause justifies a deliberate strike at civilians, but an attack on Americans allegedly by these two brothers seems especially nonsensical. One can’t help but wonder how much of their own larger history they knew.

But then, illogic has always marked the global jihadist movement and its hangers-on. Again, note that in September of 2001, the U.S. was at peace. The withdrawal of the American military presence from the Arabian Peninsula—a key al Qaeda issue at the time—was well under way. The U.S. forces that did remain were enforcing no-fly zones over Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein from slaughtering Shiite Muslims.

Most people have a natural inclination to seek cause and effect, to impose order on the events they witness. But to look for any reasoning—even twisted reasoning—in the Boston Marathon bombings is a waste of time

This point becomes clearer when we look at our own domestic terrorists. Did Timothy McVeigh have any legitimate grievance when he bombed the Oklahoma City federal building? Do Klansmen or neo-Nazis communicate any message we should listen to? Of course not.

So why should we suppose that a foreign-born terrorist is any smarter, any better informed, or any more justified in his actions than an ignorant Klansman? They all bear the same trait: a lack of any reasoning that makes sense.

In the aftermath of this—or any—terrorist attack, some might ask, “What did we do to bring this on?” The very question gives the bombers more credit than they deserve.


Leave a Comment