In the lead-up to the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and arrest of his brother Dzhokhar in Boston, there was much media condemnation in Australia of broadcaster Alan Jones. On the Sunrise program last Wednesday, Jones said that he “wouldn't be surprised” if the murders were a consequence of “a conspiracy amongst left-wing radical students”.
The leftist newsletter Crikey was quick to condemn Jones for putting his “clown-sized foot so far down his throat”. Certainly it was unwise for Jones to be making a prediction about the outcome of evolving events. Perhaps Crikey has learnt a lesson here. In March last year, it published Guy Rundle's (false) prediction that the murderer of a Jewish teacher and his children at Toulouse was the work of a right-wing extremist.
Jones' prophecy was inaccurate. But it turned out he was not far off the mark. The overwhelming evidence suggests the terrorists were Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Both were from a Muslim Chechen family which sought refuge in the United States and both won scholarships to study in American universities. The younger brother is a US citizen. Both became radicalised in the US and embraced Islamism and the Jihadist cause.
Jones was not the first or only commentator to foretell the outcome of the Boston massacre. ABC Radio National does not have one presenter of, or regular political commentator on any of its main programs. So it came as no surprise that its first substantive comment on the Boston attack took place on Late Night Live last Tuesday when left-wing presenter Phillip Adams interviewed Bruce Shapiro, contributing editor at the left-wing journal The Nation.
Like Jones, Shapiro acknowledged that the facts were not known. However, like Jones, he had a theory. Shapiro made it very clear that the Boston bombing was almost certainly carried out by a home-grown extreme right-wing terrorist who held extreme views “on issues like guns and abortion”.
In his account of home-grown terrorism in the US, Shapiro mentioned the extreme right but overlooked the extreme left. It was very much the case of don't-talk-about-the-war waged on the US in the 1970s featuring such violence prone left-wing groups as the Symbionese Liberation Army (featuring Kathleen Soliah) and the Weathermen (featuring Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert). How convenient.
The following morning Monash University's Professor Greg Barton (who usually talks sense) appeared on the ABC1 News Breakfast program. Barton made it clear that it was most likely that “right-wing extremism was involved” and not “Muslim Americans”.
It turns out that many commentators in the West were hoping that the Boston culprits were home-grown so-called “patriots”. Like Timothy McVeigh, whose terrorist attack on Oklahoma City in April 1995 murdered more than a hundred. For understandable reasons, there was a hope that the Boston terrorists had not embraced the Jihadist cause. But they had.
Most of the Jihadist attacks on the US have been conducted by foreigners or new citizens. The list includes the “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to bring down a plane over Detroit in 2009 and Faisal Shahzad who attempted to explode a bomb in Times Square the following year. The former was Nigerian, the latter a Pakistani-American citizen.
The time has come for blunt talking. The overwhelming majority of Muslim resident in the West are law-abiding citizens. Moreover, the majority of Muslims who currently die violent deaths are killed by other Muslims. Yet the fact remains that the West, including Australia, is under attack from a few jihadists who hate us so much that they are even prepared to murder children watching a marathon.
In Australia, after the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, it was the civil liberties lobby on the left which railed against the national security legislation which John Howard introduced when prime minister with the support of opposition leader Kim Beazley. Today, however, the critics are somewhat bipartisan.
John Roskam is a fine leader of the conservative Institute of Public Affairs. But in recent times the IPA has grown a libertarian faction headed by Christopher Berg and Stephen Breheny. Their attitude to surveillance by such security organisations ASIO and ASIS is not dissimilar to that of such left-wing lawyers as Rob Stary.
The Berg/Breheny libertarian position has been properly criticised by Labor parliamentary secretary Michael Danby and by the conservative commentator Colin Rubenstein, who heads the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
The fact is that the Boston terrorists were detected by CCTV footage. What's more, the evidence suggests that if the FBI surveillance had been more thorough the attacks may not have taken place. Freedom invariably has to be curtailed at a time of war.