Boston Marathon Bombing

I hesitated to write about this, both because so much is still uncertain and also so many news outlets are already covering it so much, but writing about things helps me to process them, and I figure there’s no harm in putting what I know out there and then giving my thoughts.

Please keep in mind that things are very chaotic in Boston right now, and it is possible that some things I write here will later be proved incorrect. But then, I’m sure I’m not anyone’s first source for breaking news, so I’m sure anyone reading this has already seen other reports as well. Correct me if you find errors here.

What we know:

  • 2 devices exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon around the four-hour mark.
  • Another 3 were found by authorities and safely detonated once the area was cleared
  • A fire reported at the JFK library has been determined to be unrelated
  • The latest from the Boston Globe’s latest report is that there are 2 dead and over 100 injured. The dead includes an 8-year-old boy.
  • Boston Globe is also reporting that a person of interest is being questioned by police. It is very important to note that a person of interest is not the same as a suspect. It is simply someone who might have important information/insight into the crime
  • The FAA has implemented a no-fly zone over Boston
  • Many people fleeing the explosion dropped handbags and other personal items, and those are being treated as potentially suspicious
  • Security is being stepped up in major cities across the country and around the world, including DC, NYC, LA, and London

So far, although it has been acknowledged that this was a deliberate act, it has not been officially called a terrorist attack.

Thoughts:

One thing that I have seen on social media and in reports on the bombings is that so far officials are not using the word “terrorism” to describe the bombing. And I have seen a number of people question that. So here is a little clarification on that point.

Terrorism has different definitions according to the different agencies and organizations that work to study and fight it, but there are some common elements. For simplicity’s sake, we can say pretty safely that terrorism is the use of violence or the threat of violence in order to achieve a political end.

Thus far, no individuals or groups have claimed credit for the bombings. Until we know more who did this, we can’t know what their goal was. So while in my opinion it seems likely that this was a terrorist attack, refraining from labeling it as such is an exercise in caution for officials, and one that most of the media (and I) will likewise respect for the time being.

However, that said, I will write a bit now about terrorism as a tactic. Since there is a political aim behind the violence inflicted in terrorist attacks, a big factor in deciding the nature of an attack is how you want it to impact people’s view of your cause.

Some attacks only aim to cause chaos and fear, to coerce people into providing the desired political outcome. This would be more along the lines of terrorist attacks like the ones on 9/11. If today’s bombing is declared a terrorist attack, that would also be the best way to describe it.

Other times, though, a terrorist organization might still want to generate sympathy for their cause. In that case, they might choose more military or governmental targets and tailor their attacks to only really impact those who design and execute the policy they oppose. Or they might even tailor their act to only damage property, and not to hurt or kill anyone. A generic example of this might be an “eco-terrorist” who damages an empty office building belonging to a major polluter. He/she doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and hopes to avoid alienating the public from the cause.

I think it’s safe to say that is not the case for someone who bombs the Boston Marathon.

Finally, for anyone who wants it: Obama’s remarks on the explosions http://bigstory.ap.org/article/text-obamas-remarks-boston-explosions

Update:
The bombing is officially being treated as an act of terrorism, although we still don’t know who was responsible. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/boston-marathon-bomb-blasts-kill-at-least-three-leave-scores-injured/2013/04/16/92f25550-a677-11e2-b029-8fb7e977ef71_story.html?hpid=z2?wpisrc=al_comboNP_p

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