Not Your Average Chechen Jihadis: Drawing the Wrong Conclusions About the Boston Bombing

Ever since the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were identified as ethnic Chechens, the national conversation about the incident seemed to focus on the connection between the violence and Chechnya. The two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, certainly lived in two places at once: in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in an imagined homeland in Chechnya and the North Caucasus more broadly. And although their ancestral land was something they knew mainly through family stories and nationalist mythology, they reveled in that part of their identity—at least judging from their social media profiles and the other traces they left in the public domain. In other words, the Tsarnaevs seemed quintessentially American. Perhaps that is one reason their involvement in the Boston bombing is so horrifying.

This is from Georgetown University political scientist Charles King writing at Foreign Affairs.  King concludes his piece by speculating that:

In the long term, the Chechnya link will probably end up being less important than, oddly, the Syrian one. In blocking further international involvement in the Syrian crisis, Russian officials have long maintained that Syrian rebel groups are dominated by al Qaeda affiliates, whose victory in the Syrian civil war will have dire consequences for the region and beyond. Now, Russians have already begun to portray the Tsarnaevs as an unlikely link between Boston and Damascus. There are somewhere “between 600 and 6,000” Chechens from the North Caucasus fighting in Syria, said Kotliar in a recent interview with Russian media, “and from what happened in Boston, perhaps Americans will finally draw the lesson that there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists, no ‘ours’ and ‘yours.’” Keep arming the Syrian rebels, the argument goes, and sooner or later you will have to face the consequences of a Syria overtaken by Islamist radicals.

That might not be a bad line of reasoning, especially given what we know about the complicated mix of ideologies and motivations inside the Syrian opposition movement. And after Boston, Moscow now has an additional argument, however tenuous, against greater international involvement in Syria. That is also why, from the perspective of the Tsarnaevs’ parents, things all look like a set-up—tarnishing the reputation of Chechens as a way of serving some vague end contemplated by an all-powerful Russian state. Chechnya’s moment in the American consciousness may end up leading in a bizarre direction: the tragic aftereffects of the death and maiming of people in Massachusetts may well be the continued killing and brutalization of a great many more in Syria.

The (ungated) full article is available here.

4 Responses to Not Your Average Chechen Jihadis: Drawing the Wrong Conclusions About the Boston Bombing

  1. RobC April 22, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Forgive me, but it must be said: the Chechens are coming home to roost.

  2. Ken Wedding April 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    From Nick Hays, St. John’s U, Collegeville, MN

    http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2013/04/boston-bombings-understanding-tsarnaev-brothers-and-their-intended-audience

    “After [Tamerlan’s] return to the United States, he posted on his YouTube page videos of jihadists. The fact that this past Sunday the Kavkaz (Caucasus) Center denied any connection to the Boston bombings and emphasized that it was at war with Russia, not the United States, may well be further evidence that it does not control the proliferation of terrorist cells across the Caucasus.

    “Terrorist organizations do not accept every volunteer to their cause. The infamous Serbian terrorist and assassin in the 1914 killing of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Gravrilo Princip, had been rejected as “too small and weak” by several Serbian terrorist groups. He vowed “to prove that he was the equal of the others.” Tragically, he made his point…”

  3. Steve Sailer April 22, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Chechen culture fascinated such Russian writers as Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, and Solzhenitsyn, none of whom would have been surprised by the Tsarnaev’s courage and cruelty. The Bomb Brothers were Chechens acting Checheny:

    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/04/pushkin-on-chechen-not-acting-checheny.html

  4. Andreas Moser April 23, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    When going through the bios of terrorists, it’s not religion or ethnicity that makes somebody a terrorist. It is studying a computer, science or engineering course and failing: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/geeks-are-killing-us/