HOMELAND SECURITY: Boston Carnage, Commentary [UPDATE]

April 19, 2013 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

A Commentary

(UPDATE below in italics: one suspect, two police officers killed, second suspect at large)

Boston skyline (Photo by Y. Sakawa via Wikipedia)

Boston skyline
(Photo by Y. Sawa via Wikipedia)

The joy and exuberance of the 117th Boston Marathon were shattered a little more than four hours into the 26.2-mile race on Monday when two bombs shattered storefronts and bodies near the finish line.

The latest casualty report puts the death toll at three – including an 8-year-old child and two young women – and 180 injured, many of them suffering horrendous injuries to their legs.

[A SHOCKING AND ALMOST INCREDIBLE DEVELOPMENT:

Early Friday morning two men —  identified Thursday by the FBI as suspects in the bombing — reportedly tried to rob a convenience store in Cambridge, Mass., shot and killed two police officers, hijacked an SUV and fled. They engaged in a four-mile firefight with pursuing police. One suspect was killed, the other fled and is the subject of a massive manhunt in the Boston area. Stories can be read here, here and here.]

Your 4GWAR editor is going to drop the “royal We” normally used when directly addressing the blog’s readers – and rely on the singular pronoun “I” to express my sadness, anger and hurt.

I have run three marathons although I could never qualify to run Boston. But if I had been running there on Monday, I probably would have been crossing the finish line about 40 minutes after the blast. I would have seen all that chaos and pain first hand. And that is disturbing to contemplate.

Boston is one of my favorite cities and I have visited it many times – most recently, the day of the bombing. So I take this attack very personally. I left Boston Sunday, the day before Marathon Monday by train a little more than 25 hours before the first bomb went off.

There is still no one in custody. No suspects have been identified – that we know of. But I believe justice will be served. Remember, it took more than 10 years, but Osama bin Laden now sleeps with the fishes.

Make no mistake about it. The bombings in Boston were acts of terrorism – even if this turns out to be the work of a nut job like the Unibomber or just some crooks who wanted to divert attention from some other illegal activity.

When acts of violence like those in Boston, occur, they have a profound effect on a community and often on the larger society. And it almost doesn’t matter what the motivation was. I say this as someone who lived through the Washington area sniper siege back in 2002. That, too, was the act of criminals with non-political motives. But it was terrorism nonetheless. Schools canceled field trips and recess. Night life in Washington suburbs  dried up because people were too afraid to go out at night. Restaurants, stores and movie theaters all lost business.

The day of the first shootings, I saw police cars with their sirens wailing rush to the street outside the store I was in — just a few hundred feet from where one of the first victims was shot.  Helicopters hovered over head and police in bullet proof vests toting machine guns scoured a nearby parking lot.

During that period I pumped gas while crouching behind my car: One of the early attacks came at a service station. I ran in a zig zag pattern from the car to the ATM and kept a nervous eye on the nearby woods. The snipers used similar woods as cover to shoot a schoolboy on his way to class.

Experts like to cite specific factors that determine whether an act of violence is “terrorism.” But I believe this distinction is a legalistic one – like the definition of hate crimes. If all violent acts are hate crimes, how do you enforce the law against hate crimes? Where do you get the resources to combat them?

Of course every violent act isn’t an act of terrorism but authorities need to take a look at widening the definition to encompass acts that terrorize people on a large scale.

A last word. Boston is a tough town, just ask anyone who’s driven there. It’s people are tough. They can be demanding of themselves and difficult with others. But they are fair and they are unrelenting in wanting to fix things that are no functioning properly. I am sure Boston will get through this crisis.

Corrects: that I left Boston the day before the bombings NOT the same day as the attack.

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Entry filed under: Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, Homeland Security, Lessons Learned, Skills and Training. Tags: , , .

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