There is a huge rush to judgment right now by the press when it comes to the Boston bombings, eerily reminiscent of the Iraq War runup where everyone in the media simply accepted as fact that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when he didn't.
As Richard Clarke points out, there are some traceable ties between al-Qaeda and Chechnya, but he's at least poking at the unknowns, trying to tease out some nuance.
CLARKE: Well, actually George, Chechens have been involved with al-Qaeda since almost the beginning of al-Qaeda. They were involved in fighting for al-Qaeda in Bosnia. They were involved in fighting against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, so there is a record there. But the real question here is, how do you tell when someone gets radicalized? They're normal, they're happy kids in Cambridge and then something happens, a switch is flipped.
How can the FBI, how can Homeland Security notice when that happens, or when the radicalization occurs? Especially if it's self-radicalization online? It's very, very difficult to do. What I want to know is, what did the Russians do when he went back to Russia? They had already said they were interested in him, and then he goes back to Russian and spends over six months there. What did they do? Did they follow him around? That's a question we need an answer to.
Putin's Russia is a bad place to be if you're not an oligarch. Over the past ten years Russian oligarchs have increased their power and their wealth at the expense of their middle class. Power has been consolidated to the point where the sole difference between Soviet Russia and post-Soviet Russia is that they no longer try to conceal it.
Foreign Policy outlines a brutal history of Chechen oppression by Russians throughout the years. It's worth reading if only to understand the environment the Tsarnaev family fled in 2002.
This is the defining moment in Chechens' modern history, when they were wrenched away from their mountains and dumped like rubbish in an unfriendly land with a flat horizon. Even the Russian government has recognized this was a genocide, and yet few Russians today appreciate the trauma it caused. Everyone lost someone and, when they were allowed home beginning in 1959, many of those bodies came home to Chechnya with them, to be buried in the mountains, not in the foreign steppes.
They were kept together by their faith, by their Sufi Islam with its closed brotherhoods and secret rituals. The generation that grew up in Kazakhstan nursed a seed of grievance. That seed grew in the fertile soil of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, and flowered into a declaration of independence in the dying days of the Soviet Union.