The New Normal

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A “Failure of Imagination” is often how 9/11 was described, most notably by the commission formed to study it and the lessons to be learned from it. If there was a failure preceding the Boston Marathon attack (and it is unclear yet that there was), it was not a failure of imagination. It was not, in any real sense, a failure of foresight.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev (The deceased older suspect) and Dzhokar (the younger suspect, as of this writing still being sought by police), were/are Chechen Muslims who had resided in this country for over a decade. They attended school, had friends, girlfriends and social activities (Tamerlan was a golden gloves boxer who expressed a desire to box for the American national team.) Western intelligence officials have long expressed concern over the possible threat from Chechen terrorists, because of their perceived ability to blend in to a “typical” American crowd.

They were also apparently devout Muslims (Tamerlan did not smoke or drink from religious prohibitions and complained about a lack of “values”), who were active in online Islamist activities. A Youtube account believed connected to Tsarnaev features Islamist videos, including homage to the notorious “Black Flag of Khorasan” referencing a hadith popular among jihadists. The hadith relates to an army arising from Khorasan, usually understood as Central Asia, leading to a confrontation and the end times.

For tactics they used multiple improvised explosive devices using what were apparently remote-controlled cars and pressure-cookers, a signature device common to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and recommended as an explosive of choice by Al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine. Inspire was produced by American Muslim Jihadist Samir Khan under the guidance of Yemeni –American cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, until they were both terminated via drone strike last year. The magazine noted that the death toll from such a device could be in the “tens”. Mercifully it was not, but the Inspire manual puts the lie to those who rushed to proclaim that the event could not be Jihadi-inspired because the weapons were not devastating enough in their casualties.

Their method of dress, their bags, and their movement prior to the bombing was disturbingly similar to that of the 7/7 London bombers, even down to each attack featuring a suspect in a white hat, as noted by terrorism expert Dr. Walid Phares .

Following the revelation of their names and faces by law enforcement, the two engaged in a series of crimes, including a convenience store hold up and a carjacking, which seem guaranteed to draw law enforcement attention, followed by a series of mobile gun battles with police reminiscent of the Mumbai shooting.  Thankfully, American law enforcement have clearly drawn many important lessons about dealing with active shooters since 2008, and are operating with skill and precision in hunting down the remaining suspect or suspects.

In other words, there appears to be very little in this terror attack which was unforeseen or unimagined. Quite the opposite. We may yet learn details to show that these Jihadists’ terrorist tradecraft was more or perhaps less than the Al Qaeda standard, but there can be absolutely no doubt that their tactics, techniques and procedures are completely in line with Al Qaeda’s current operational strategy of self-indoctrinating, self-activating autonomous cells seeking to deal whatever death they can.

The terror in Boston is not a failure of imagination. It is the new “normal.” And it has been for some time.

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About the Author

Kyle Shideler
Kyle Shideler is the Director of Research and Communications for the Endowment for Middle East Truth

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