By William Saletan | Posted Monday, April 22, 2013, at 7:52 PM
The Boston Bombers’ Awful Parents
They ignored the warnings, they deny the crime, and they’re slinging false accusations.
Three years ago, al-Qaida’s magazine, Inspire, published an article titled, “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom.” The article explained how to build a pressure-cooker device like the ones that blew up last week at the Boston marathon. But the recipe left out the most important ingredient. To make a bomb in your mom’s kitchen, the first thing you need is an inattentive mom.
That’s what Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had. We don’t yet know where or when they made the bombs they’re accused of planting at the marathon. But we do know that their father, Anzor Tsarnaev, and their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, had plenty of warnings that Tamerlan was becoming dangerous. Tamerlan was a human pressure cooker loaded with zeal, violence, and destructive ideology. His parents, blinded by adoration and excuses, refused to see it. ...
Most people who met or knew Tamerlan, including family members, say he was a jerk. His dad, however, insists Tamerlan was “kind” and “very nice.” He thinks the elder brother has been keeping the younger one away from bad influences. ...
Tamerlan’s mother is just as deluded. She swears Tamerlan and Dzhokhar couldn’t be involved in a bomb plot because “my sons would never keep a secret.” Instead of correcting Tamerlan’s conspiracy theories, she swallowed them. According to one of her spa clients, Zubeidat recently called the 9/11 attacks a U.S. plot to stoke hatred of Muslims. “My son knows all about it,” she allegedly told the client. Zubeidat also says the FBI has been watching her family constantly for years, which the FBI denies. Last year, she was arrested, but apparently never prosecuted, for shoplifting $1,600 worth of clothes.
Anzor and Zubeidat were given several warnings that Tamerlan was headed for trouble. Sometime between 2007 and 2009, Tamerlan and Zubeidat turned to religion. Zubeidat became observant, but Tamerlan became intolerant and hostile. He pushed his strict views on the rest of the family, causing tensions. ...
When his sister married a non-Muslim, Tamerlan didn’t accept the man. ...
So the warnings passed. When the marathon bombs exploded, and videos implicated Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, the uncles acknowledged the evidence, but the parents didn’t. They didn’t just stammer, as many parents would, that their sons couldn’t have done it. They declared that the young men had been “set up,” and they hurled conspiracy theories at the authorities. “The police are to blame,” said Anzor. “Being cowards, they shot the boy dead. There are cops like this.” He denounced the pursuit of his sons by law enforcement as “a provocation of the special services who went after them because my sons are Muslims and don’t have anyone in America to protect them.” Zubeidat said the authorities “wanted to eliminate [Tamerlan] as a threat because he was in love with Islam.”
Anzor’s sister, Maret Tsarnaeva, echoed these self-deceptions. ... She concluded that “our boys were framed.”
Neighbors and congregants at Tamerlan’s mosque had warnings, too. In November 2012, he angrily rebuked a merchant in Cambridge for advertising Thanksgiving turkeys, which Tamerlan viewed as an affront to Islamic law. At Friday prayers, he disrupted and criticized a sermon that defended the celebration of Thanksgiving and July 4. Two months later, he interrupted an imam who suggested that Martin Luther King Jr., like the Prophet Mohammed, was worthy of emulation. Tamerlan protested that King was “not a Muslim,” and he called the imam a “Kafir,” or non-believer. Some of the congregants threatened to expel Tamerlan, but apparently, none of them reported him to the authorities, since, as far as they knew, he hadn’t preached or committed any violence.
This story is probably more plausible than it sounds: I would imagine that a mosque in Cambridge, MA would be fairly liberal and MLK-worshipping.
You can’t expect witnesses to report every fanatical outburst to the FBI. But when family members are repeatedly exposed to signs that a loved one is drifting into the vortex of violent extremism, they have a duty to intervene, or at least to alert someone. If they don’t, and the fanatic becomes a killer, they bear an awful responsibility. If they deny that responsibility by accusing the police and the government of anti-Islamic conspiracies, they forfeit our sympathy, our respect, and our trust. Police your family. Police your congregation. Police your community. If you don’t, the rest of us will do it for you.
Slate commenters are enraged by Saletan's piece.
My take, however, is that the Tsarnaevs' parenting was less deficient than effective at reproducing Chechen ethnicity under distracting circumstances. The more I read about all the brave psycho Chechens down through history, such as the suicide rearguard of Chechen volunteers that saved Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora in 2001, the more the Bomb Brothers sound like an example of what Chechens value the most in their sons.
From a policy standpoint, the question is what's the most plausible and cost effective option:
- Let Chechens into America and hope they police themselves?
- Let Chechens into America and become a Surveillance State?
- Keep Chechens out of America?