Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What The Boston Marathon Bombers Tell Us About Radicalization

When an act of terrorism is committed in the United States often the initial assessment of it or the perpetrators is inaccurate or wrong.  This is becoming clear in the investigation into the recent bombing of the Boston Marathon by the Tsarnaev brothers.  As we search to find the motive behind the attack, we often hear the term radicalization bantered about.
Understanding what it is and, more importantly, what it is not is crucial in preventing future acts from individuals who think they have a divine right to kill innocent women and children or maim civilians at a public event.
Notwithstanding Peter Bergen, of the New America Foundation analysis of the term and how it applied to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar.  They were not "self-radicalized"
When we hear that we think in terms of self-taught or self hypnotized.  When it comes to radicalization nothing could be further from the truth.
According to the National Counter Terrorism Center, "Radicalization is a dynamic and multilayered process involving several factors that interact with one another to influence an individual.  The process is influenced by internal and external factors"
As someone who has observed the process during my career I can emphatically tell you there are always external factors.  The case of the Tsarnaevs is no different.
In their case there was overseas travel and contact with radical Islamic extremists.  This information was provided to us by the Russian intelligence agency two years ago.  It has been confirmed by the FBI and the CIA.  Now we are finding out that there was at least one individual in the united states, "Misha" who acted as a facilitator in radicalization process.  There was also a religious organization, in this case the Islamic Society of Boston, with a history of radicalization either with former members who were tried and convicted of terrorism or inflammatory speakers who incited others to act.

The same external factors were also evident with several other individuals who either committed acts of terrorism or conspired to act before they were stopped by law enforcement.
Among them were Carlos Bledsoe, Nidal Hasan, and Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber.

A terrorist is not hatched overnight nor does he live in a vacuum devoid of outside influences that shape his thoughts and actions.  The myth of "self radicalization" attempts to simplify a complex issue and as a result it confuses the public.  More importantly it absolves responsibility of those who were involved in radicalizing the terrorist brothers.  As the investigation continues and more information about case is developed, we cannot overlook the obvious.   Those who contributed to the radicalization of the Boston Bombers must be held accountable.

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