Boston bombs reverberate around the world
It happened live on Twitter: the flames of coordinated bombs and clouds of debris were shared instantly by iPhone; people's horror in streams of tweets. The screams echoed around the world; the pools of blood; the sirens of the firefighters; the instant response of the National Guard; the picture of a young man in a wheelchair with half a leg blown away, bone protruding, flesh hanging. Three dead; at least 140 injured; some scarred and maimed for life. Awful. Absolutely awful.
The President was briefed by his Homeland Security team and the FBI: they 'continue to monitor and respond to the situation'. He directed the full resources of the Federal Government to help state and local authorities protect his people - the American people, who were asked to say prayers. The President and First Lady sent their deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.
In situations like this, there are no Republicans or Democrats: they are Americans, united in concern for their fellow citizens. The priority is care for the victims and counselling for their families. America is united in grief with the people of Boston. The free world is united in shock with the people of America.
We still do not know who did this or why. The President has warned against jumping to conclusions before we have all the facts. "But make no mistake," he assured, "we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice."
It is difficult to assure the wounded and grieving what 'the full weight of justice' may mean in cases of terrorism: political killing is only rendered illegitimate by the target; the perpetrator justifies tyrannicide as legitimate if low-level warfare. The principles of the Just War are not universal to all religions and cultures: harmless civilians can be as culpable as responsible politicians. The crimes of the elected are shared by the electorate, and unilateralism - the terrorists' political philosophy - justifies the aversion of a greater evil. Deontologically, the innocents of Boston are members of the oppressor group, or they just got in the way: they are 'collateral damage'. Either way, the objectives of the terrorist are justified because they deny they are terrorists: they are freedom fighters, in which paradigm terrorism and political violence against the state is always justified.
We don't yet know the grievance of these murderous criminals, but we can know that they rail against a perceived injustice and are motivated by a higher moral code. There is no easy distinction between terrorism and the ostensibly legitimate use of military force which may be called into question if the actions of some end up terrorising people into submission. Freedom is constrained, rights are infringed, and virtues are relativised.
At least 31 people were killed and more than 200 maimed and wounded in Baghdad yesterday, too.
But nobody cares very much about that.