Linda Heard

The 19-year-old alleged Boston bomber, currently in hospital, unable to speak due to a bullet that penetrated his throat, is an enigma. The US authorities appear certain that he dropped his rucksack containing an explosive pressure cooker designed to kill and injure marathon runners and spectators, even though US law is founded on “innocent until proven guilty.” The officials say he is a terrorist, who was out to wreak vengeance against the US. When arrested he was not read the usual Miranda rights warning, advising suspects of the right to silence until they have the services of a lawyer. And at least four Republican Senators are urging President Barack Obama to classify Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an American citizen, as an “enemy combatant”, which would deprive him of legal advice, rob him of his day in a civilian court and render him to the judgment of a military tribunal.

Apart from the illegality of describing an American national as “an enemy combatant,” a categorisation that the Obama administration’s Attorney General has slammed in the past as being contrary to US values, even a casual scrutiny of the young man’s history indicates that nothing he has ever done or said fits the bill of a rampant religious or political extremist, who considers the end justifies the means, even when those means involve the murder of innocent children.

Indeed, the alleged co-perpetrator of this heinous crime does not fit any known terrorist profile or even that of a criminal sociopath. To a man (and woman), everyone who ever crossed his path describe the younger Tsarnaev as a normal college student, who took full advantage of the typical American lifestyle. Unlike disturbed loners, usually failures whose embrace of the dark side led them to shoot school children, teachers or cinemagoers, Dzhokhar was sociable impressing acquaintances with offers of help. In fact, he was a member of a buddy organisation tasked with helping children afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, which shows he was not devoid of compassion.

His neighbours describe him as “a sweet kid.” His teachers say he was well adjusted and never caused any trouble. His closest friends admit that they are in shock because he never showed any serious interest in either politics or religion and was, generally, a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who had a smile for everyone.

The biggest mystery is why someone who was liked and admired by all and had everything to live for would go from Mr Hyde to Mr Jekyll overnight. It is true that as someone who had been brought up in the US from a young age, he did communicate with Dr Brian Williams, a local Professor, in an attempt to understand his Chechen roots and the background to the Chechen wars. It is understandable that he would be curious about his antecedents and inclined to empathise with the suffering of his forefathers, but even if he felt passionately about the Chechen battles for independence, that goes no way to explaining why he should seek to kill Americans when the US lent its support to Chechen rebels on occasion and the prime enemy of Chechen separatists is Moscow; certainly not Boston.

The other mystery is why the brothers didn’t attempt to flee subsequent to the crime. It wasn’t as though they didn’t have anywhere to go; they could have rejoined their parents in Dagestan, for instance, without incurring undue suspicion during the bombing’s immediate aftermath. What’s even more startling is that Dzhokhar by all accounts carried on as usual, sleeping in his dorm, attending a party with friends, chauffeuring one to a football game and sharing a pizza with others. Those who saw him in before he became a wanted man, say he was relaxed and behaved as always. One disclosed that Dzhokhar was saddened by the incident, which he referred to as “a tragedy.” If he is guilty, then his acting abilities put even Hollywood’s finest to shame.

Unless this seeming paragon of virtue recovers from his injuries sufficiently to be questioned as to his motives and unless he receives a transparent trial, conspiracy theorists will have a field day.

    The writer is a political analyst.

    This article has been reprinted from

    the Arab News.