04/26/2013 09:41 pm ET Updated Jun 26, 2013

A Lesson of the Boston Bombings: Stop Classifying Criminal Anarchist Violence as Acts of War


With all the considerable news coverage and analysis of the twin April 15 bombings that left three people dead and 282 others injured, including 16 who lost limbs, there's been practically no reference to the plentiful examples of similar violence in our nation's history, sadly. The Boston bombings are being reported on and viewed strictly in the context of a "war on terror" started by President Bush in the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings and continued with vigor by the Obama administration, an imprudent war that has always lacked any true definition of enemy or purpose. And the lack of reference to American historical precedent over the last two centuries, which is replete with similar instances of mass violence and bombings resulting from unabated reverence for political and/or religious teachings, incorrectly builds the significance of the Boston bombings.

In fact, the only historical reference really made was mention of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings, a terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, which was the most destructive anarchist bombing act in American history if correctly framed in purely anarchist terms. If there's a lesson to be learned from Boston, it is that we need to, on the one hand, frame the "war on terror" as a fight against an organized Islamist-fascist enemy abroad, which has so far been avoided, in deference to political correctness and misguided internationalism, and, on the other, define individual acts of anarchy on American soil as such in traditional terms and not in warlike terms that encompass unwise references to acts of war and treason.

Unlike the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the recent Boston bombings are just the latest of criminal bombings, or, in today's lingo, "acts of mass destruction," that Americans have dealt with since the inception of the nation. And our lack of knowledge and reference to these historical precedents continues to wrongfully guide both our government's lack of will to differentiate between war and domestic anarchy and our citizens' acquiescence to a reduction of our constitutional rights. Back in the early 20th century, "terrorists" were referred to as "anarchists" (basically the same thing) and carried out what would be termed these days as "acts of war." President McKinley was assassinated by one such anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, in 1901 in Buffalo, N.Y. Between the years 1919 and 1920, anarchists led by Luigi Galleani, an immigrant from Italy, mailed bombs to banks, government offices and other institutions and carried out assassination attempts on prominent American businessmen and politicians. That led to the Red Scare that resulted in substantial illegal searches and seizures, unwarranted arrests and detentions and the deportation of several hundred suspected radicals and anarchists.

Much like the government actions in the Red Scare, the tragic events in Boston, framed as an act of war, could continue to allow the federal government to violate and decrease our constitutional rights and individual liberties in the name of fighting terrorism. Sure, there's been some debate and significant questions raised by the Obama administration's decision to administer the reading of Miranda rights to the younger, surviving Tsarnaev brother; some congresspeople are calling for him to be declared an "enemy combatant," which would suspend his constitutional rights and due process. But framing such debate in any other context, like characterizing the bombings as an act of political or religious violence or purely in criminal terms, not only would decrease the Boston bombings' newsworthy significance but would diminish the symbolic magnitude of its destruction as an act of war and international terrorism.

In fact, the issue surrounding trying Tsarnaev as a criminal or as a treasonous terrorist soldier was strictly framed in the perspective of how to punish, and hang, average Americans citizens acting as terrorists in alleged wartime conditions. And it was silly, because any confession garnered from Tsarnaev would probably have been superfluous given the massive amount of evidence already amassed by the FBI against him, much of it from witnesses using social media and camera surveillance of public places in Boston.

Referring to the question of whether the Tsarnaev brothers were "homegrown" or "international" terrorists, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated, "This is Exhibit A of why the homeland is the battlefield." The conduct of all war, whether propagated by individuals, rogue groups or nations, is pure and simple acts of terror, organized or not. Framing the Boston bombing as a terrorist act without viewing it in a historical context will, in the end, lead to justification of the depreciation of individual liberties, all in the misguided name of national security.

The Tsarnaev brothers were nothing more than immigrant anarchists carrying on a tradition of political violence, this time framed in religious fervor. And we should not get carried away in exaggerating the significance of their attack, in light of our historical past. On April 15, Boston and America were truly not another battlefield in the "war on terror."

Cross-posted from The Florida Squeeze.

Steven Kurlander, Esq. is an attorney and communications strategist from Monticello, N.Y. He blogs at Kurly's Kommentary and for the The Florida Squeeze. He can be emailed at

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