May 11th 2013

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Articles from this issue:

SPECIAL FEATURE: Academics' venom signals climate scare's end

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Both government and opposition facing moment of truth

EDITORIAL: Three constitutional amendment proposals before the PM

NEW ZEALAND: NZ parliament's same-sex 'marriage' vote analysed

UNITED STATES: The Boston Marathon bombing in perspective

MEDIA: Experts blamed 'right-wing terrorists' for Boston bombings

PRIMARY INDUSTRY: Fruit-canning industry laid waste by cheap imports

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Currency, manufacturing and trade policy

CLIMATE CHANGE: Why EU emissions trading scheme faces collapse

OPINION: Defence strategy must not ignore the lessons of history

HUMAN RIGHTS: China's grisly organ theft: their crime, our shame

LIFE ISSUES: Killed for being the wrong gender

CULTURE: Australia's intellectual left under scrutiny


CINEMA: Compelling story of a tormented superhero

BOOK REVIEW The economist who became a Christian

BOOK REVIEW Out of shadows and illusions into reality

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Experts blamed 'right-wing terrorists' for Boston bombings

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, May 11, 2013

Within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15 — now known to have been conducted by Islamist terrorists — terrorism “experts” in the United States, Australia and other countries were blaming the attack on right-wing extremists, despite repeated warnings by FBI officials to allow the evidence, not speculation, lead to the perpetrators.

Philip Mudd, a former top counter-terrorism expert at the FBI and CIA, was quoted in a Washington-based current-affairs weekly as linking the Boston bombings with the 1993 Waco siege and the 1995 bombing of government offices in Oklahoma City by an anti-government fanatic, Timothy McVeigh.

He was quoted as saying, “If the Boston attack turns out to be the work of right-wing extremists it really shouldn’t surprise us, because these groups are not a new threat, and they have been growing in numbers and power in recent years” (National Journal, April 17, 2013).

When it was discovered that the attack had been conducted by Islamists from Chechnya, in the Caucasus, Mudd went close to justifying the attack. He said, “Where they’re coming from in the world is where they believe the United States is intervening in places they shouldn’t intervene, they’re raping women, they’re killing children. From their optic, this is perfectly logical. So it’s not inconsistent with being a good person. They would say our responsibility is not just to talk about this, it’s to do something about this. And they did” (New America Foundation blog, April 19, 2013).

A journalist with the US’s National Public Radio (NPR), Dina Temple-Raston, speaking on the radio station’s program, All Things Considered, suggested that the Boston bombings were “a domestic extremist” attack (Radio NPR, April 16, 2013).

The national security analyst for the US Cable Network News (CNN), Matt Bergen, also suggested that the attack could have been the work of right-wing extremists.

He told CNN: “I’m reminded of Oklahoma City which was a bombing, which was initially treated as a gas explosion. So first reports are often erroneous. But the fact that there were two explosions — two bombings — one of the things I’d be looking at is once the device, if it is a device, is found, what kind of explosives were used? For instance, if it was hydrogen peroxide, this is a signature of al-Qaeda. If it was more conventional explosives, which are much harder to get a hold of now, that might be some other kind of right-wing extremists.”

He added, “We’ve seen a number of failed bombing attempts by al-Qaeda using bombs.... But we’ve also seen other extremist groups, right-wing groups, for instance, trying to attack the Martin Luther King parade in Oregon in 2010” (CNN, April 15, 2013).

Chris Matthews, an American news reporter and host of a current-affairs program, Hardball with Chris Matthews, on the left-wing cable TV channel, MSNBC, was quite clear on who was responsible for the bombings. He said: “Obviously, it’s one of those Timothy McVeigh types. You know, white, racist, homophobic and anti-semitic Tea Partiers who want to blow up the government.”

On the day of the bombing, he interviewed Michael Leiter, former director of the US National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) and asked, “Let me ask you about domestic terrorism as a category. Normally, domestic terrorists, people tend to be on the far right, well that’s not a good category, just extremists, let’s call them that.”

Writing on the CNN web site, Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank said that the devices used in the Boston Marathon attack were typical of the “lone wolf”, the solo terrorist who builds a bomb on his own by following a widely-available formula.

“In this case, the formula seems very similar to one that al-Qaeda has recommended to its supporters around the world as both crudely effective and difficult to trace,” wrote Lister and Cruickshank. “But it is also a recipe that has been adopted by extreme right-wing individuals in the United States” (CNN, April 17, 2013).

A slightly more measured analysis came from Professor Greg Barton, of the Monash University School of Political and Social Inquiry. He told ABC News that although global terrorism could not be ruled out, the group responsible for the Boston bombings was “very likely” to be local.

He said, “The fact that it’s Patriots Day in Boston, April 15, the site of the opening battles of the American Revolution, does point the finger of suspicion towards it being a right-wing local domestic group, as does the lack of anyone making a declaration [of responsibility], and the fact that this was not a suicide bombing. But that’s as far as we know at this stage.”

Prompted by the interviewer to declare directly whether it was perpetrated by right-wing extremists, Barton drew parallels between the Boston Marathon bombings and the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh. “On balance that’s the likely line of inquiry at this stage. It could still be an international group, but all these other factors point to it very likely being a local group” (ABC News, April 16, 2013).

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