The Real Questions About the Boston Attack

April 24, 2013

With so few answers on hand about motives behind the Boston bombings, are we asking the right questions? Columnist Glenn Greenwald tells Bill that, if there is a connection between the perpetrators and radical terrorist groups, we need to investigate why “there seem to be so many people from so many different parts of the world willing to risk their lives or their liberty in order to bring violence to the United States, including to random Americans whom they don’t know.”

Greenwald rejects the oft-given answer: “They hate us for our freedom.”

“People are very cynical about that answer and realize that’s not really the reason,” says Greenwald. “When [terrorists] are heard, which is rare, about what their motive was, invariably they cite the fact that they have become so enraged by what Americans are doing to Muslims around the world, to their countries in terms of bombing them, imprisoning them without charges, drone attacking them, interfering in their governments, propping up their dictators, that they feel that they have not only the right, but the duty to attack America back.”

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Glenn Greenwald on this weekend’s Moyers & Company.

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  • Anonymous

    America has instituted regime change in so many countries. It is not this peace loving country it depicts itself as. The United Fruit Company, FFS, lobbied the Eisenhower administration to overthrow the democratically elected government of Guatemala. A country that refuses to align itself with US interests is always targeted for regime change. This happened with Mossadegh in Iran, who was replaced by the Shah, which led to the Islamic Republic. It has happened in many countries, and cost countless lives, yet Americans always say those who attack them hate America for its democracy and freedom.

  • Anonymous

    I think Glenn needs to go further back, to when the United States replaced the UK in the Middle East and Eurasia during the Great Game. The problem has been brewing much longer than Gulf War I, much longer than our propping up of the Shah in Iran. It even goes back before the founding of the Jewish state. It started when the Western world decided to arbitrarily create different nation states, ignoring native tribal, religious factors. It started when we allowed oil companies to dictate foreign policy.

    But, if you want to focus solely on recent history, I would look at how China has inserted themselves into these hot zones with little of the focused hate that western countries receive. China is exploiting their natural resources, but they’re using soft power to win over influence, they’re building infrastructure, hospitals and schools. When the US rolls in, we supply weapons, give money to warlords and clerics who pocket the cash and turn against us.

  • marinako

    The second suspect was NOT armed! Oh, God!

  • btxusa

    I’ve done quite a bit of reading since 9/11 and I have formulated a theory about home-grown terrorists.

    We all know that when a group or individual or university think they
    have a theory about something that needs to be researched (example:
    President Obama wants the brain mapped in order to cure diseases like
    Alzheimer’s and ALS). If they come up with a good idea, they write a
    proposal and apply to some foundation or even the government for a grant
    to fund their activities/research.

    I remember back when McVeigh and Nichols plotted to bomb the Oklahoma
    building, that the various news reports said they traveled to the
    Phillipines (or some such place), and when they got back they bombed the
    Oklahoma government building.

    The Boston bombers traveled back to a Russian country before they perfected their bombing spree.

    My theory is that Al Qaeda (or when Osama Bin Laden was still alive, his
    organization or “foundation”) is funding these radical incidents. They
    don’t PLAN the terrorist attacks, but my theory is that they have made
    it known (perhaps via internet blogs?) that anyone who comes up with a viable idea can meet with their
    “committee” for approval. If the plan meets the goals and approval of
    the “committee” (al Qaeda) then they receive the help and training to do
    whatever it is that they have thought of. It’s all kind of like our
    foundations or government grants that fund ideas that individuals bring
    to them if they meet certain criteria.

    That means that any “wildcatter” who comes up with an idea and wants to
    feel important can meet (after first writing a proposal?) with those leaders who want to destroy the U. S.
    A’s world strength and probably get the money they need to fund their
    “project.” Then they come back and live it up for a while and glory in
    their excitement before the plan is executed (a la the pilots who flew into the twin towers). If they survive it, they
    are probably promised riches for the rest of their lives; if they don’t,
    then they die as martyrs. I think it’s the money and excitement that they are seeking — not just religious fervor.

    When Osama Bin Laden was alive, he probably was the one funding various
    terrorists’ attacks. I wouldn’t be surprised if his instructions were to
    put his inheritance into the hands of some such “foundation” to be
    distributed among those who come up with workable ideas to advance the

    Our intelligence people need to find
    out where that money is coming from. Anyone who contacts that source
    should be examined.

    I’m sure others have already figured this out, but it appears quite obvious to me. me!

  • Mike Sampson

    so what does a russian from the caucasus with a name like Zohar Czar have reason to bomb a marathon on a date and time that have significance to rebellion and unsettlement, have to do with american empire games in the arabic/persian region. i’d say none at all. so you have to search for another track to this battle with moscow? in boston. a paid and hired insurgent perhaps? or an agent used to make a point or instigate a change in fact for the public at large. my question is motive, chechen motive is 0. so please find me one, american or other please

  • Neil Friedman

    I agree with Greenwald’s assessment up to a point. But I am not about to dismiss the possibility that the hatred some of the individuals and groups hold for us may have have other sources as well. Not every hate is the same and each individual might claim different reasons fro “bringing violence to the U.S.A.”

  • Sydni Moser

    Terrorist attacks are not exclusive to the USA, western Europe has had far more incidents by radical Muslims, many of whom have immigrated there seeking asylum. Comparatively we’ve been greatly spared.

  • William Koggan

    It simply simple minded to blames
    us and not Wahhabism or other schisms or radical Islam. If they hate dictatorial regimes so much why do they just replace our “dictators” with their own (Iran, Egypt etc).

    And what about the relentless humanitarian crimes committed by these nice guys against women. Should we sit back and do nothing. Is this relentless abuse acceptable? Greenwald’s attack is superficial and a-historical. We’ve helped and hindered democracy, and most of the victims of Al-Qaeda have been Muslims. So why are they pissed at us, our de-shackling
    of women and our small “L” liberalism.

  • Michael Cohen

    The Boston violence is a textbook case of Blowback a concept elaborated by the late CIA analyst Chalmers Johnson, the unexpected consequence of violent conduct by the U.S. government abroad. The motivation however evil to make Americans think twice about their governments murder abroad is while not commendable is eminently understandable.

    We are very lucky that the level of violence in the U.S. because of our foreign exploits is not far higher. We have been blessed in this regard and I truly hope this continues for the future.

    On the other hand many murderous actions of going by the name of criminally negligent industrial accidents such as the West Texas explosion show that American corporations like the mythical 007 have a license to kill. When corporations are forcibly bankrupted their executives executed and their assets sold to benefit the victims of their murders such crime will largely cease at little cost to Americans. Aside from Bhopal where the many 1000s of murderous deaths called for the execution of Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide CEO and fugitive from justice, the U.S. is by far country with the highest density of reported corporate murders. As any conservative will tell you weak American laws in this regard will lead to further corporate murders. Force the accountable executives and owners of large corporations to be held accountable for their crimes and a far larger source of American suffering will end.

  • Christopher H. Lee

    About time someone said this aloud. It was my first thought on 9/11 but no-one wanted to hear about it – unpatriotic, they said. And I’m sure they’ll say it to you too, Glenn, but keep on saying it. The only way to stop terrorism is for us to stop giving people reasons to attack us with terrorism because we have overwhelming arms superiority.

  • Linda Findley

    i always thought of the german people pre world war two as someway accountable, but how do you stop your goverment, when they make these moves you do not agree with and lie and brainwash both you and your kids, when they sell off our country to corporations, and take little heed of the wants and needs of its people, caring only for what is in it for them! to top it off, they make sure our children are no long taught to think and analyse as that could be dangerous to their agenda, but have them jumping through hoops passing tests, and just in case someone starts to think they scare everyone working in the school system and they pressure the children to keep them on task! whew! what to do?? i can see why people dont want their guns taken away at this point! it has nothing to do with the nra, but instead the takeover of our goverment by private interests! the future should be interesting indeed!

  • katfish

    Yes, but it’s not about our having overwhelming arms superiority, it’s about the impunity with which we have used (abused) that superiority historically.

  • katfish

    Thanks for taking this one on, Glenn. Yes and yes again.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been impressed with Moyers’ coverage of the political corruption and wealth disparity issues. But I still hold him at arm’s length: point in case his interview with the very important Glenn Greenwald. Moyers gave everyone a glimpse into his American exceptionalism roots when he pointedly asked Greenwald if he didn’t support the need to engage in counter-terrorism activities. Greenwald was noticeably uncomfortable with the question, shifting in his chair, and appeared surprised. He cagily replied, but it took me right back to the Moyers’ interview of Arundhati Roy in 2001 when the host expressed indignant outrage that she would dare intimate that 9/11 had a context.

    Had Moyers asked me the same question he put to Greenwald he would have heard a resounding NO. I would have asked him, in reply, how many Americans died in the U.S. from “terrorism” since 2001 as opposed to the number of Americans killed by gun violence, killed by medical negligence in our hospitals, killed by drunk drivers, killed by lack of health insurance, or killed by smoking related diseases. But, then, I’m not selling books on the open market.

  • Robert Gex

    I would say it goes back to the founding of the USA. After all, there were about 7000 soldiers on land in the Continental army and about 20000 pirates from the colonies looting the high seas in the Revolutionary War. There actually is a codification of state sponsored terrorism in the US constitution, Article 1 Section 8 Letter of Marque. It was last used in World War 2 by a Goodyear blimp. A black man was counted as 3/5 of a white man in the constitution. Then, there is the US history of the 19th century , where the concept of Manifest Destiny put a fancy name on an ugly reality, racial and cultural genocide against native Americans Americans have some pretty nasty things in their past that might explain some of their present behavior.

  • Question Authority

    But didn’t he shoot himself in the throat?

  • Anonymous

    Another way to put that might be to say the only way to stop terrorism is to stop being terrorists.

  • Anonymous

    Well said.

  • Anonymous

    There is one source: the U.S. is the greatest purveyor of terrorism in the world. And btw, the violence we bring on ourselves dwarfs anything any terrorist ever considered.

  • Anonymous

    What are you beefing about? 1 in 3 American women will be sexually assaulted in their life times.

    Take the plank out of your own eye.

  • Anonymous

    You’ll find all the answers you desire in a careful review of your nation’s foreign policy.

  • Anonymous

    Have you spoken about the tendency for Dominion-religion in US-Christianity?
    What does this do with how they se the world and how would they use their religious-world view?
    You have these groups both in catholic and evangelical environments and they work activly for position in society.
    There are equivalent groups in Islam

  • MBrecker

    While in no way do I support terrorism, it’s no surprise that attacks like the Boston one happen now. One contributing factor is many of Obama’s policies that make terrorism worse. Yet, nobody dares to publically say that because if you do, Obama will cut off your “access”. Then, you’ll be just another unemployed network correspondent waiting for a job call from your agent.

  • Barbara Blough

    Are we so shallow, afraid, ignorant, or all three, to be able to consider this honestly? Who ARE we, REALLY?

  • Steve Brown

    The real reason for all the violence against America is that the international corporations have allowed the Islamic nations to bankroll trillions of dollars from oil revenues and now the arab world is using their money to take over the world with the goal of making the entire earth submit to the perfect will of Allah. Anybody that does not believe this is brain dead. It is impossible a muslim to not want every human on earth to submit to the perfect will of Allah. So eventually there will be bloody civil wars throughout the world and billions will die in the war/ Islam vs. non Islam. The fools with the COEXIST license plates will have their throats slit because it is impossible for a muslim to not want want every human on earth to submit to the perfect will of ALLAH. The literal definition of Jihad means,”Submitting to the perfect will of Allah”.

  • Steve Brown

    I do not hate muslims. I just hope someday, some how people will realize that we must all accept each other regardless of our religious beliefs.

  • Joyce Pollack

    I believe Moyers does this in a rhetorical way. It seems that he asks these kinds of “typical American” questions as just those, in order to allow his guest to address the kinds of questions that “most Americans.” have.

  • Alberto N. Jones

    In 1953, I was the only one in my school in Guantanamo, that had experience first hand the attacks on the Moncada Garrison in Santiago de Cuba, that was led by Fidel Castro and the mayhen, torture and executions that followed. Yet, we all took it as an event, news, tragedy, without any further consequence.
    One day, Chucho the most friendly, beloved and admired fellow students, was caught the night before with a Molotov Cocktail, torture, murdered and his body left to rot on the side of a dusty road.
    This enraged the entire school, community and our province. Similar cases took place around the country, which lead to the anger, massive enlisting in the 26 of July movement that ended the murderous regime of Fulgencio Batista.

    Can the US extrapolate anything positive from these human reactions anywhere?

  • Anonymous

    Or as some have put it, including me, the American Taliban.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly – we are considered the biggest hypocrites in the world, and rightly so.

  • Anonymous

    Jihad translates EXACTLY to “struggle”.

  • Anonymous

    And, just as our American Taliban (the far-right wing Evangelical Dominionists) chooses Old Testament laws and punishments to push their agenda, so do these Islamic extremists. You can’t put all Muslims in the same basket, just like you can’t put all Christians in the same one. I am a believer, but I was taught the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ, which was a message of “Love one another is the sum of all law”. I’ve worked with Muslims and they have always condemned these extremists.

  • alex

    it wasn’t the black man that was counted as 3/5 of a man it wae any slave, although almost all slaves were black

  • alex

    after reading most of these comments i didn’t see one of them mention that fact that we defend Israel, which the muslems have hated for thousands of years and due to their lack of true education they belive it only goes back to their grandparents

  • JE Smith

    “Anybody that does not believe this is brain dead.” A perfect example of the death of civil discourse in these times when opinions are expressed as absolute truth, rendering anyone who disagrees as “brain dead.”

  • weneedrubio

    What was their excuse before we did any of those things? These ignorant liberals couldn’t get the facts right if their lives depended upon it. It’s called Islamic jihad you dimwits.

  • Wayne Cook

    Yes, watching Oliver Stone’s Unwritten History provided a balance to the cheerleading propoganda that our government engaged in even before WW2. It has never become so clear that our presidents stop representing American or supporting the Constitution as soon as they get sworn into office. The internet, twitter, and even social networks have provided instant revelation of misdeeds on a national scale.

  • Wayne Cook

    Yes, Michael, it seems more and more that the adage I heard as a teen, has been a reality for more than 60 years. The Golden Rule….He who has the gold makes the rules!

    This bovine scatology about God blessing our nation because of the number of “Christians” living here is just that. I suspect the mercy of God plays a far greater part. But the USA in the personages of the Dulles brothers was a progenitor of more assassinations than Russia for the time they occupied two cabinet offices.

  • Byron

    Mr. Greenwald’s discussion of the reasons for the hostility between many Muslims and the U.S. is astonishing for his failure to mention Israel even once. It’s like Hamlet without the prince.

    Furthermore, with his predetermined conclusions, his argument is often worthy of Fox News (only on the other side). To say that there was no benefit from the vast investment in security apparatus in Boston is ridiculous. First, because the security apparatus is run not by the government but by retailers, who are not only “spying” on shoplifters but also monitoring safety (slip-and-falls, jammed doors, snow and ice on the walks, auto accidents in front of the store, etc.).

    Secondly, the benefits were huge: identifying the culprits before they could commit any more acts.

  • Dale Freeman

    With regard to the issue of government surveillance versus the privacy of citizens — indeed with regard to the whole war on terror, we would do well to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  • Aleta Kasper-Halter

    When do you think was “before?”

  • Aleta Kasper-Halter

    When people blame an entire group for the actions of a few, they are just showing their ignorance. There are over 1.6 billion Muslims. Obviously they are not all terrorists.

  • Anonymous

    People who break the law to harm others have to be punished. What background they have and what motivates them is of secondary importance, at best.