02 May 2010
Terror in Times Square
The latest word from New York City is that the police are looking for a white man in his forties whom a surveillance camera captured running from the SUV that was apparently rigged to explode yesterday evening. Fortunately, the car bomb proved a dud, an explosion inside the vehicle failing to detonate a larger device that might have caused mass casualties. The mayor has said that New York was lucky, and that sounds like a fair assessment. Some people, inevitably, are speculating that this was a deliberate dud designed to test the city's response, with the objective of doing even greater damage in the future. It won't surprise me, either, if some say it was a deliberate dud designed by the government to justify repressive measures. Meanwhile, representatives of the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the failure, a claim dismissed by investigators but not necessarily belied by the apparent involvement of a white guy. Whether the would-be bomber was a Muslim or not can't be determined by the fact that he fled the vehicle. If he was a Muslim, he would have seen no reason to stick around once he realized the bomb had failed. When he got out of the car may be significant, though we should remember that not even all Muslim terrorists are suicide terrorists. Nonetheless, the idea of a terrorist leaving his vehicle to explode as he gets away will remind people of Tim McVeigh, and the hunt for a white suspect will certainly inspire speculation about domestic extremists motivated by domestic politics. Why such people would choose Times Square as a target is open to speculation, but American extremists can have quite obscure motives at times. It may be that this sort of thing is simply going to get more common in our time, and it may come at us from all directions. What to do about that should be one of the great political questions of our time worldwide.