“Whatever they thought they could ultimately achieve, they’ve already failed,” says President Obama of the Boston Marathon bombers.
“They failed because the people of Boston refused to be intimidated. They failed because as Americans we refuse to be terrorized.”
Bostonians did react splendidly. From first responders to folks who gave blood, from hospital staffs to the FBI, ATF and state troopers, from the Boston and Watertown cops to the hostage rescue team that talked Dzhokhar Tsarnaev out of that boat.
But did the Brothers Tsarnaev really fail — as terrorists?
On Sunday’s talk shows, a sub-theme was that this had been the “most successful terrorist attack since 9/11.”
For consider what these brothers accomplished.
By brazenly exploding two bombs right at the finish line of the marathon, with TV cameras all around, they killed three and injured, wounded and maimed 178 people for all the world to see.
Within hours, their atrocity had riveted the attention of the nation. Cable channels went wall to wall, as did major networks. By the evening of the attack, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and President Obama had gone live to reassure us they would be apprehended and justice done.
Day two, Obama appeared again as the greatest manhunt in U.S. history was underway. On day four, the FBI released photos, imploring citizens to come forward and identify the men in the white and black caps.
That evening, the brothers murdered an MIT police officer, hijacked a Mercedes van and engaged in a gunfight with Watertown police that left Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead and his brother a fugitive.
On Friday morning, Gov. Patrick went before the cameras to tell a stunned nation he was imposing a lockdown on all of Boston and half a dozen neighboring communities. Red Sox and Bruins games were canceled.
A million people in and around the city of Paul Revere, of the Lexington and Concord patriots, of Bunker Hill, locked their doors and hid inside because a lone armed teenager with pipe bombs was on the loose.
Boston, said The New York Times, was a “ghost town.”
“The scene was extraordinary. The hub of the universe, as Boston’s popular nickname would have it, was on lockdown from first light until near dark Friday. A massive dragnet for one man had brought a major U.S. city to an absolute standstill.
“The people were gone, shops were locked, streets were barren, the trains did not run. The often-clogged Massachusetts Turnpike was as clear as a bowling lane.”
Saturday, all six newspapers this writer receives led with the capture of Dzhokhar. “Frenzied Hunt Paralyzes Boston,” ran the Times banner.
TV and print media are still consumed with the brothers, their motives, their travel history, their Chechen background, their Islamic beliefs. And Washington is in a ferocious debate over whether Dzhokhar should be interrogated at length or read his Miranda rights.
Each side of the gun control and immigration debates claims the marathon massacre and its aftermath validates their position.
On April 15, the day the Tsarnaevs set off the pressure cooker bombs on Boylston Street, there were 40 bombings and shootings across Iraq that took the lives of 75 and wounded 350. No one in the outside world knows the names of those who set off these bombs, and no one cares. And Baghdad was not locked down.
How, then, when these brothers are now as well-known as Timothy McVeigh, if not Osama bin Laden, and they committed an atrocity that mesmerized America for a week, and they forced a lockdown of one of our greatest cities, can it be said that they failed — as terrorists?
Worse may be yet to come.
For, just as some of the perpetrators of the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown massacres found inspiration and exemplars in mass murderers before them, so the Brothers Tsarnaev may have shown the way for those who hate us to go out in their own special blaze of glory.
All true Americans were with the people of Boston last week. Yet there are individuals to whom these brothers are heroes. Lest we forget. Millions across the Muslim world still believe bin Laden struck a blow for them when he sent those planes into the World Trade Center.
Al-Qaida has been growing and gaining recruits since 9/11. Yet, while Osama targeted the symbols of U.S. economic, military and political power — the Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, the Capitol — the Tsarnaevs hit a “soft target.” They went after innocent people engaged in the purely innocent activity of competing in and watching a sports event.
And from the weapons and bombs they were carrying Thursday night, they were prepared to keep on killing, until killed themselves.
Suicide-seekers going after soft targets such as ballgames, concerts, malls, parades or school events is something other nations have known but we have largely avoided. Our luck may have run out.
Let us pray the Boston Marathon massacre is not the new paradigm for the sick souls within.