Dzokhar Tsarnaev, an American Terrorist on Trial
Dzhokhar Anzorovich “Jahar” Tsarnaev is 22 years old. He is accused of committing a horrific crime. A terrorist act of great violence, and consequence, and is now being tried by a Boston Jury. If he is found guilty, he may be subject to the Death Penalty. Indeed, if he is guilty, he must die.
Dzokhar Tsarnaev, who is half Chechen(father) and half Avar(mother), came to the United States with his parents from Chechnya when he was only eight years old. He had assimilated with the neighborhood in which he lived located near Cambridge Mass, and from most reports was a “normal” kid. He spoke English well, and was popular. He attended university and sought a degree in Marine Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He was also said to sell marijuana to support himself.
By all reports he was never perceived as abnormal, and there seemed to be no signs of his discontent. But he was apparently angry, though that anger might have been latent and hard to perceive.
His anger stemmed from the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq where Dzhokhar and his older brother Tamerlane felt that too many Muslims were dying from the US invasions of these nations. He apparently felt that these attacks were killing too many innocent people, or as he termed it “collateral damage” and that this was unjust.
However, there was no tangible sign in Dzokhar’s character that pointed to any radicalism, or propensity for violence. Rather those traits seemed to belong to his older brother, Tamerlane Tsarnaev.
Tamerlane, the older brother, had a history of radicalism even before he came to the United States. He arrived in the U.S. two years after the younger brother who is now on trial, and was apparently under the scrutiny of the Russian secret service for possibly having been “radicalized” as a Muslim extremist. The Russians claim they had warned the US Secret Service that Tamerlane was dangerous but that no action was taken.
There is ample evidence that most of what occurred was the realization of the older brother’s conclusions, and that Dzhokhar, who was younger and more susceptible to suggestion became radicalized under the direct influence of his older brother Tamerlane.
Together they plotted to explode a homemade pressure bomb filled with shrapnel at Times Square in New York City with the intent to do as much “collateral damage” as possible. Instead they settled for the Boston Marathon where three people were killed, and some 263 others injured.
After detonating the bomb they quietly went back to their “normal” lives. For awhile Dzhohkar acted as if nothing had happened, even attending a party thrown by his schoolmates. But when his picture was posted by the police he fled with his brother. Ultimately hijacking a car, and killing a Cambridge guard in the process bringing the total number of homicides to four. It is important to note that Tamerlane, the older brother and main proponent of the Boston Marathon attacks is suspected of a triple homicide before these attacks that most probably had more to do with drug distribution than with political ideology. Yet this alleged act possibly emphasizes the often dismissed link between terrorists, and homicidal criminals.
The two brothers were discovered soon enough after the bombing, and in a shootout his older brother Tamerlane was killed, while Dzhokhar again fled the scene. Some report that Dzokhar may have contributed to his brother’s death by running over him with the stolen SUV during his escape. He was found a short while later cowering in a yard, under the tarp of a small boat. A shootout took place, and Dzhokhar was wounded, but later it was determined that he was not armed, which of course left the police to explain the purpose of the shootout.
What Should be Done in this case?
What is clear here is that this boy’s life need not have turned to the worst. Under some other circumstances this young man could have grown up to be a productive member of American society. He was popular, well adjusted socially, and seemingly headed for a degree. His father was in no way radicalized, nor was there much peripheral incentive for his actions other than his older brother and the constant media bombardment concerning these wars. That there was anger directed at US foreign policy is true, but this may be true of nearly every American in the nation for one reason or other. Moreover, Dzhokhar was a naturalized American citizen.
This young man, in the prime of his life, who might have had the American dream in his reach is now facing the death penalty, and indeed, there are few other options but that he be put to death if found guilty-if the best overall solution is to sought for.
The crimes he and his brother committed, if judged to be true-something which can only be determined by a jury -are not excusable, and cannot be subject to leniency. He is the worst of all cases, if indeed he is guilty of the crimes he is accused of. This young man Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is the real life example of an ideal traitor. A person who posed as one of us, but instead plotted to murder what would be his own people. For a case like this, there can be nothing but death.
Consideration for the welfare of The Nation
It is hard to look at Tsarnaev and not realize that he is young and full of promise, as are all the young. It is hard to come to the conclusion that the crimes committed can be excused, or pardoned or be subject to dispensation. The world is complex, it is not simple. There were a million other courses he could have taken, but by sheer chance -as all things are ultimately by chance- he now stands here a man virtually condemned to death by his actions. Yet we know that these actions could have been otherwise and that if not for a determined older brother’s criminal detachment, Dzokhar, the younger one could have been on a very different path; a prosperous path that might have one day made him a valued member of American society. But now he is almost certainly doomed to die, if he’s lucky.
Not an easy thing to accept in a nation where individual freedom and individual spirit is considered the foundation of our democracy. But in Tsarnaev’s case, the full length of his tragedy must be sustained. If found guilty, he is a traitor, a murderer, a betrayer, and a terrorist. He is responsible for the deaths of four innocent people, and responsible for countless others who were maimed and injured by his violent actions. He is doomed to accept the worst of sentences for taking part in a political-criminal action against his fellow Americans. Yet, he was young and full of promise, and an American.
Why he cannot live if guilty
The fact is that if his actions were in any way excused, little justice for the deaths of the four Americans who died because of Tsarnaev could ever be found. If for example Tsarnaev was found guilty but allowed to live on in perpetual captivity, there would be an outcry of injustice from those who lost loved ones, and those who were injured during the attack. That by itself would be destabilizing and perceived by the majority as unjust. Why should those people die, and a traitor live? There is little reason here.
More than this however, there would be those who might actually support Tsarnaev and say that his lifetime imprisonment was at some point unjust. How can you really hold a forty year old man, who might by that time regret what his actions, responsible for the acts of a confused twenty year old? At some point in time there would be those who cannot see the vital reason, other than revenge, for keeping Tsarnaev imprisoned for life.
There would also be an incentive by others like him, those holding the same extreme views to hold our own nation hostage for his release. He would serve as a living martyr to some, and an icon of the ultimate injustice of all these wars. In the final analysis Dzokhar Tsarnaev would become a serious liability to the sanity of the nation should he be given a life sentence for his alleged crimes.
We should note, that just as today’s sixty years of age is often considered the “new” fifty, today’s twenty year old, may be considered the “new” twelve. He was young in a very liberal society, and he was impressionable. His mind was easy to sway and this was one of the chief psychological causes for his actions. This can’t ever be far from the mind of an inquiring public. There will always be a case against life imprisonment, especially in the eye’s of those who feel that these wars are fundamentally unjust.
Immigration and Impact
The fact that Tsarnaev and his parents were given asylum even after they entered the United States as tourists further complicates the matter. There will be questions by opponents of a lax immigration policy concerning the potential danger of others committing the same crimes. Again he may become a poster child for those who might come to view him as fundamentally innocent, and merely a victim of circumstance should he be allowed to live.
The truth is that Tsarnaev brings the worst possible scenario to liberal immigration policies. Tsarnaev is representative of the worst possible case for immigration, people who enter the nation, become integrated, but who have no love for the United States and are even possibly inclined to criminal or terrorist acts against it. Should Tsarnaev be found guilty and allowed to live there will be a constant reminder of what these policies may foster, and the effect is probably going to be destabilizing, especially if there’s a perception of innocence, or on the other hand injustice in letting him live after being convicted of what is a heinous act of terrorism.
A few days after the Paris attack, there was a huge rally in Germany protesting this same exact possibility as concerns for liberal immigration policies continue to grow in that nation.
In the end, if we consider the stability of the nation we will quickly find that the only practical option for Tsarnaev is the death penalty. But this does not make it any less tragic, nor any less unjust in the wider view of the world. More and more our old views are being replaced with far wider world views, and there are, due to the liberal immigration policies of the last forty years far more people that may in some real way be receptive to those views.
The Wars and their effect on the minds of the young
There is little doubt that the wars against the “extremist” elements was the trigger behind the actions of Tsarnaev in that he and his brother made that clear through many personal references. However, what is salient here is that the younger Tsarvaev was in fact an American and well on the way to becoming “psychologically” a full member of American society.
It is difficult here to rationalize between who is and who is not an “American”. Or who is and who is not an “extremist” in his or her own mind. What is true is that our personal identify is the product of an entire human history.
Though we are fond of touting our own “individuality” in modern democracies, and we often tell ourselves we are individuals with free will and purpose, the truth is much less colorful and so it was with Tsarvaev. We are the product of all those people who have ever influenced us psychologically. Most of our thoughts, our inclinations, our emotional “understanding” which we can swear is our own, is merely a personal rendition of a very old folk song which we have learned from others. We are each a product of our culture and the particular experience we managed to relate to within that culture. In the end, the inspiration, even for what may be perceived as new behavior, or a new song, will come from the old order, the old song, and that order from an older world, and older folk song.
In Tsarnaev, the old world came to loggerheads with the new world. Like many immigrants he was cast in the role of the judge between what he was told as a boy to be true by what was a foreign culture, and what his friends and fellow countrymen tried to impress upon him in the new world in which he was now a full, “naturalized” member. No matter how unflattering this may be, he was apparently swayed by the old-at least some part of him felt that he must act for their sake. But this was natural, since the people he must have loved the most, his mother, his older brother and his immediate family believed that our wars on the Muslim “extremists” was fundamentally wrong. Whether that conclusion was objectively verified by Muslim precepts, or American is a very significant question for all of us and will have very significant long lasting effects and consequences.
We shouldn’t think that what made Dzokhar Tsarvaev was only his allegiance to his parents older culture. Part of him was indeed American, and the new culture too probably influenced him.
Is our war a Just War?
The question that must have at some point in time entered Tsarnaev’s mind is this: Is there any justice for our war against the “extremists” from either the viewpoint of the older culture from which he descends, or from the viewpoint of the new culture that he was assimilated in? Somewhere in this questioning, the final tally came out negative for this particular man.
The truth is that a very large number of Americans feel that these wars are fundamentally unjust, and unfounded. A large number too feel that the net effect of these wars is to corrupt our own society and our own people. In Tsarvaev this fear at some point must have become fact.
That the acts of the Tsarnaev brothers were criminal is not to be questioned. Nor is there any great curiosity there. Among the millions of people there will be some who will act in a criminal passion and take matters into their own hands. If any question there is, it would only be whether our own society in some way amplifies such basic criminal inclinations and is that a danger that may soon evolve into an increased incidence of home grown terrorism. But that question is for another time. If indeed Tsarnaev is guilty, there is little room for doubt that his acts were criminal and traitorous and punishable as such.
What is also evident however is that our “Wars” may well not be just, and not founded on just principles and this may come to destabilize a great many Americans no matter their particular blending in American culture. A fifth generation American may well come to very similar conclusions as a first generation American if there is some obvious flaw, or corruption in the basis of these wars. For this reason a constant reexamination of the foundation, and impetus for these wars needs to be enacted, and if there are any questions about the impropriety of these wars, they must be voiced, and voiced quickly in order to avoid the long term damage that may be done to the public psyche.
Our own Principles are on Trial here
The Trial of Tsarnaev, and the trial of any American terrorist will of necessity bring to the surface those lingering doubts we have about the integrity of our civilization and principles upon which our civilization is founded on. There will be those who say that these “Criminals” or terrorists, or traitors will receive a fair trial, but for all practical purposes that would seem very unlikely knowing the difficulties posed. The mind of those jurors, prosecutors, and trial lawyers will all have some aspect of a general bias, and this is not unusual or extraordinary since this man is accused of what is a heinous, traitorous crime against his fellow Americans. Still those fundamental prejudices are not going to allow for a truly fair trial in the end, no matter how good the intentions. This is natural.
But what may elude the courts, may not elude the American spirit. The American spirit will eventually pass the ultimate judgment on Dzokhar Tsarvaev, and whether the final consequence is perceived as just or not may well determine what America becomes in the future. Each individual American will consider the case at some point in time. And each of these will pass their own judgment.
We should not underestimate the American spirit, and its ability to judge historical actions and events. The Civil war took place more than a hundred years ago, but its consequences still resonate with the American spirit. There are countless laws, and customs and deep psychological forces rooted in the public because of the civil war, and the fundamental cause behind it. More recently the Korean, and Vietnam wars affected our collective consciousness and the general psychological and social impact of those wars is still growing in the American spirit as we examine and reexamine the foundations and effects of those wars on the spirit of our nation. The same should be expected of these wars on the Muslim “extremists” as these wars too will be considered, and the phenomenology will be deeply examined and conclusions will be drawn by those who remain.
Therefore we should not believe that the Dzokhar Tsarnaev trial will end with a verdict. It will not. Indeed, the essence of that trial will not end ever, not even after our wars with the “extremists” has long come to an end. The spirit of the nation will examine and reexamine the justification, or lack thereof for these wars, and it will have a significant impact on the American psyche and way of being.
The truth is that Democracy can only win out by persuasion, and never by force. We can never force anyone to accept our ways or judgments as the “right” ones. A free human being can make due, pretend to be accepting, pretend to be a part our society, and still not be, as was the case with Tsarnaev. And this may apply for millions of people in any given democracy. In the end what will convince an individual is truth, and integrity of principle and this is really what failed to convince Dzokhar Tsarnaev, and this is something we must be aware of and admit.
As borders seem to be fading, the problem becomes ever more significant. Can we convince people of the integrity of our civilization? If all we do is try to sell them products, and gimmicks that they don’t really want we might well fail to convince them of the integral truth of our civilization. This can ultimately be as fatal to our civilization, as if was for the Romans, and the Greeks.
Dzokhar Tsarvaev could have been an ideal American
If found guilty of the crimes he is accused of, this young man should by all rights be sentenced to death. There is really no leeway since as we mentioned above, his life imprisonment would result in an incoherent and unjust result. To let this man live while the lives of four innocent human beings was taken cannot be expected to resonate with the vast majority of the American psyche at this time. Being that first priorities must concern the vitality of the nation, this conclusion seems inevitable.
However, the end of this trial this should not be thought of as something painless or as simply closure, or the end of anything. It will not be. Rather it will be the beginning of a long and difficult trial for the American people and their spirit. The fact that a young American like Dzokhar Tsarnaev may be sentenced to death for criminal views he “inherited” from his immigrant family, therefore the perceived injustice upon their native culture will live on in the mind of Americans for decades-especially the longer these wars go on. Just as the Rosenberg trials and sentences have haunted the American psyche since their conclusion in the deaths of the two accused so too will the acts and trial of Dzokhar Tsarnaev. There will be millions, whether vocal, or not who will see his sentence as unjust, and not becoming of a “Civilized” democratic society. And these will be more than only those opposed to the death penalty. There are a large number of Americans who are fundamentally opposed to these wars either because they feel these wars are outright unjust, or because they feel these wars are compromising our own society due to the instability within our own culture they are causing. There is perhaps no better locus point than Tsarvaev for this segment of the public focus.
This “boy” should have lived a normal productive life, but something horrific went wrong. And unlike the ordinary psychopath who might claim that his parents or some relative of his or hers abused them as a child or gave them reason to lash out at society at large in a violent, murderous rage, this immigrant “boy” will point to the needless deaths of thousands of young children as the “collateral” damage of our wars as justification for his acts. And no matter what any particular segment of the public may think, either Republican, or Democrat, or left or right, there will be those who will see that argument and understand some part of it. Moreover, there may be thousands, if not millions of others who in some way or shape resemble Tsarnaev at some particular depth of their soul. In other words, whether conscious to the public or not, some of that argument or counter argument made by the Tsarnaev brothers may well exist to a significant degree in our society. And this is what poses the greatest risk. Ending Tsarnaev’s life, may not end his spirit.
Self Examination of our Principles
What this case will do, without question is force yet another significant reexamination of our own integrity as a nation and as a Democracy. We will question not only the necessity of these wars, but the propriety and ultimate justification for these wars. We will question also the impact on our own people and our own youth, of these wars. We will question the mindset and psychology of the many new immigrants who enter our nation today, and what their-or their children’s ultimate judgment will be. We must remember that while the United States was at first largely European, the new immigrants are mostly not and may not necessarily have the same psychological affinities towards the European precepts which were to a significant degree self serving. That Dzokhar Tsarnaev committed a heinous traitorous act will not probably be questioned by most, but the vast social psychology behind those acts will be questioned and the impact may not be favorable.
The long term psychological and sociological impact of homegrown terrorist events, or the wars which may spawn them may have a violent effect on America, and in a democracy, these effects may not be easily avoided. America has its own native instabilities, adding others may not be wise-especially since our culture is fast becoming “global”. Now more than ever the integrity of our foundations must be emphasized, and accentuated if we are to avoid absolute disaster.