On the Bombing in Boston and the Aftermath: The Morality We Need

May 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On April 15, explosive blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy. Dozens more were injured, many very seriously. Scenes of bloodshed and terrorized race participants and spectators stunned people on the scene and hundreds of millions who saw the scene on TV.

Immediately after the events in Boston, the following statement was posted at revcom.us:

Many people are shocked and concerned over the events in Boston on April 15, 2013. As yet, it is not clear who or what is behind this, and uninformed speculation and comment serves no good purpose.

One thing is clear: acts such as this cause great harm and have nothing to do with genuine emancipatory revolution.

But almost instantly, those who rule this country moved through the highest political figures, through police authorities, and through the media that serves this system, to channel people's shock and pain into mindless revenge; to implement new assaults on civil liberties; and—most fundamentally—to whitewash, cover up, and justify their own far, far greater crimes around the world.

Channeling Pain into Revenge and Patriotic Complicity with Great Crimes

At this writing, law enforcement officials and news reports have identified two men as responsible for the bombing at the Boston Marathon. One is dead. The other was questioned by authorities for more than two days before being read his Miranda rights and informed of his right to an attorney. And at this writing, there have been no public statements from the surviving suspect, nor has any movement or organization taken responsibility for the attack. Under these circumstances, it remains irresponsible to speculate on who was behind this attack, and why.

Nonetheless, prominent reactionary forces in the ruling class and their mouthpieces immediately targeted all Muslims in the U.S. and beyond for attack, detention, and death. Republican senators demanded the surviving suspect be denied a criminal trial and instead be detained as an "enemy combatant." On April 23, former Republican Rep. Joe Walsh from Illinois recommended that the U.S. begin profiling "our enemy ... young Muslim men." And Fox "News" contributor Erik Rush said of Muslims on Twitter, "Yes, they're evil. Let's kill them all."

As this kind of rhetoric spews forth, Barack Obama seized on the moment to proclaim the moral superiority of the USA, to uphold and justify what it does around the world, and to rally people—including people in this country who are repelled by the kinds of fascist responses coming from Republican spokesmen—behind the USA and its flag and agenda around the world. At a church service on April 18, Barack Obama said "in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what's good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion. In the face of those who would visit death upon innocents, we will choose to save and to comfort and to heal. We'll choose friendship. We'll choose love."


Another Massacre—But This One Covered Up

While the deaths of three people at the Boston Marathon were being given pervasive all-out media coverage, at the very same time another very important development was taking place, in another country. It received very little, if any, mention in that same media. The event was the trial in Guatemala of Efrain Ríos Montt for genocide—horrific massacres and mass atrocities carried out against the civilian population of that country. Human rights groups place the number of people massacred in the area of 200,000 men, women, and children brutally slaughtered.

Ríos Montt was president of Guatemala during the years 1982-1983—the bloodiest years in Guatemalan history. In March, Ríos Montt went on trial in Guatemala City, charged with the murders of 1,771 indigenous people. The charges against Ríos Montt came after decades of courageous protests and demands that he be brought to justice by people in Guatemala, in particular the indigenous people who suffered so severely.

Dozens of people who had, as children, survived the massacres Ríos Montt orchestrated risked their lives to testify against him. Death threats from people associated with Guatemala's military were sent to judges and lawyers charged with prosecuting Ríos Montt. On April 18, as the trial neared closing arguments, Ríos Montt's lawyers stormed out of the courtroom and declared the proceedings "illegal." Carol Flores, the presiding judge, then ruled that all matters in the case since November 2011 were null and void, and that the legal proceedings against Ríos Montt were suspended. Protesters in the court room screamed that Flores is a "sold out judge." At this writing, it is unclear whether the proceeding against Ríos Montt will resume. (see "Ríos Montt on Trial in Guatemala: A Censored Massacre Made in USA," at revcom.us).

Ríos Montt, a Christian fundamentalist, claimed he had been told by god to be president. And in fact he was fully and openly backed by the U.S. and its then president, Ronald Reagan. Reagan enthusiastically embraced Ríos Montt, personally and publicly. Reagan said Ríos Montt was a man of "great personal integrity" who was "getting a bum rap" from human rights activists. In December 1982, Reagan and Ríos Montt met at a conference in Honduras. After the conference, a reporter asked Ríos Montt about his "scorched earth" policies; he "quipped" that he had a "policy of scorched communists."

American Lives Are Not More Important than Other People's Lives

Compare the way in which the attack at the Boston Marathon was given massive coverage, to the almost total whiteout of the trial of Ríos Montt, and what it revealed, including about the role of the U.S. in massacres on a scale literally thousands of times greater than things like the attack in Boston.

Where are the politicians, the media pundits and others in positions of authority and influence denouncing Ronald Reagan for his sponsorship of these massacres? Where were the media and government officials demanding answers to how this could have happened—and how to make sure it could never happen again?

The gross disparity—the covering up of the greater crimes this country committed—is profoundly revealing of the logic and (im)morality of those who rule this country. A logic that anything that serves the interests of the U.S. empire is good, and a corresponding mass culture and morality that American lives are more important than other people's lives.

This is not the logic, and should not be the morality of people in this country.

At this moment, there is a need for all those who are outraged by unjust terror and violence to open their eyes to what it is the U.S. brings to the world. To learn about, to expose, to resist and rebel against the brainwash, and to politically confront the most monstrous criminals in this world.

As a basic point of orientation and morality, and with particular import at this moment, there is this statement by Bob Avakian:

"American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives."
(BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, 5:7)

Systematic Massacres of Civilians with Drones

In addition to coinciding with the trial of Ríos Montt in Guatemala, the attack at the Boston Marathon took place at a time of emerging exposure of great crimes the U.S. is carrying out around the world—including maintaining a torture chamber at Guantánamo (see "Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Bay: 'Respect us or kill us'" and "From A World to Win News Service: U.S. military moves to crush Guantánamo hunger strike," both at revcom.us), and the ongoing reign of terror against the people of a large swath of the world waged by the U.S. in the form of drone attacks.

A 2012 report, "Living Under Drones," issued by two U.S. academic research groups, calculated that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, U.S. drone strikes killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan alone. For example, the report describes a 2006 drone attack on a religious school in Pakistan that killed more than 80 people, 69 of them children. Sixty-nine children massacred in school by a U.S. drone! Where is the coverage by the U.S. media? Where is the corresponding outrage in U.S. public opinion?

And civilian deaths from drone attacks are not just accidental "collateral damage" but the deliberate result of U.S. policy: what U.S. authorities cynically call "double tapping," the practice of following up on one missile strike with another one or more, minutes or even hours later, with the clear intent of killing relatives and neighbors frantically searching through the rubble for survivors and loved ones, "looking for the children in the beds," and trained rescue workers. The report says, "one humanitarian organization had a 'policy to not go immediately [to a reported drone strike] because of follow-up strikes. There is a six hour mandatory delay.' According to the same source, therefore, it is 'only the locals, the poor, [who] will pick up the bodies of loved ones.'" (See "'Living Under Drones,' Interview with James Cavallaro on The Michael Slate Show" and "Murder by Drone," by Larry Everest, both at revcom.us.)

Since Barack Obama took office, there has been a radical increase in the number of drone strikes across a wide stretch of the world from Afghanistan to Yemen. At a U.S. Senate hearing on drones on April 23, Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemeni who spent a year in the U.S. due to a State Department scholarship and who describes himself as pro-U.S., testified:

"Just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers. The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine."

And he stated, "I have to say that the drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen. In some areas of Yemen, the anger against America that results from the strikes makes it dangerous for me to even acknowledge having visited America, much less testify how much my life changed thanks to the State Department scholarships. It's sometimes too dangerous to even admit that I have American friends."

Al-Muslimi told the Senate that U.S. drone strikes in Yemen "make people fear the U.S. more than al-Qaida."

And again, the question has to be asked, where is the mainstream news coverage of this? Where are the statements of outrage from those in authority?

And where is political protest in this country commensurate with these crimes?

Breaking Through a Clash of Two Reactionary Forces

As emphasized in the beginning of this article, at this writing the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon attack has not made a public statement, and—at this writing—no Islamic Jihadist group has claimed credit for the attack at the Boston Marathon.

That said, there have been attacks in the U.S. that, from what can be known about them, have been committed by individuals or forces associated with or motivated by Islamic Jihad. And between the overtly fascist, "kill the Muslims" statements from the Fox News contributor and Obama's calls for everyone to rally around the principles that supposedly make America great, the U.S. ruling class is seizing on this incident to justify and rally people behind ongoing monstrous crimes, as well as attacks on civil liberties in the U.S. in the name of opposing Islamic fundamentalism.

In the aftermath of the Boston attacks, Obama declared a message to "anyone who would do harm to our people. Yes, we will find you. And, yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable."

Such calls and threats have, in the recent past, been used to mobilize public opinion for wars against countries and people who had nothing to do with attacks on the U.S., but who the rulers of the U.S. saw as impediments to their interests, like the invasion of Iraq in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. And coming in the context they did, Obama's statements had the effect of justifying the crimes the U.S. is carrying on right now against forces it claims are associated with Islamic Jihad.

The following points are crucial in getting at the reality behind imperialist crimes being carried out in the name of "fighting terrorism."

First, the rise of reactionary Islamic fundamentalist jihad is in large part a product of the workings of imperialism (including specific policies of the CIA in Afghanistan, where it backed and funded Islamic fundamentalists going up against the Soviet Union).

Second, the crimes of U.S. imperialism—with the U.S.-orchestrated massacre of 200,000 Guatemalan peasants being just one in a long list—far out-shadow those carried out by Islamic Jihadist forces.

And third, if you don't oppose, but instead fall into active or passive complicity with either "the West" (U.S. imperialism and other imperialists) or Islamic Jihad, you strengthen them both—in the vicious cycle where every drone attack that massacres dozens of schoolchildren in Pakistan (with far, far too little protest in the U.S.) serves to recruit more jihadists, and on and on.

Do the Right Thing in Dangerous Times

So, again the question poses itself: Will people in this country allow themselves to be manipulated into active complicity with terrible crimes at this moment? Will people who know better be paralyzed by moral incertitude? Will far, far too many people be intimidated into passive complicity and silence in the face of the crimes "our own" government is carrying out around the world?

Or will people start from the interests of humanity as a whole, oppose "our government" and its immoral and criminal actions around the world?

Doing the latter—with courage and conviction—sets terms on which real struggle can be waged to end all oppression.


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