Law enforcement sources leaked last week that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scrawled a confession/political statement inside the Watertown, Mass., boat in which he lay bleeding on April 19. According to CBS News, the message declared that the Boston Marathon bombings were in retaliation for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it included the statement, "When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims." So, not a Tea Partier, this guy.
Lest certain reactionary types blame George W. Bush's warmongering for the bombings, the U.S. House voted 420-1 to authorize force against Afghanistan, and the Senate voted for it 98-0. Barack Obama supported the war, and four years into his presidency we are still there. To blame American foreign policy for the Tsarnaevs' terrorism is to demand surrender. If we cannot respond to a terrorist attack on our soil because the killing of any Muslim will provoke retaliation from other Muslims, then we must lie down and submit to their aggression.
That is not the American spirit, at least not yet. We will defend ourselves from totalitarians of all species. How we do that when the totalitarians are within our borders is the tricky question. It is easier to keep them out (though we have been awful at that) than to identify, isolate and neutralize them within our borders. Americans have civil rights that prevent totalitarian measures from being used domestically to catch totalitarians - though that might be changing.
The FBI acknowledged last week that Tamerlan Tsarnaev went target shooting in Manchester the month before the bombings. It was one of several visits he made to the Queen City to interact with an exiled Chechen rebel who lives in an apartment just off of Interstate 93.
That alarming revelation underscores just how vulnerable the citizens of a free republic are. In choosing freedom over security, we run the risk of encountering the likes of Tamerlan Tsarnaev on our own streets. It is a risk we have been willing to take for centuries because Americans have long understood that an all-powerful state is a greater threat than the occasional guerrilla warrior. Even in an age when jihad is spread by the Internet and aircraft, that remains true. We forget that at our peril.