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After the horrific terrorist attack in Boston, news commentators are deliberately failing to provide information relevant to a real discussion on causes. Take, for example, the would-be Times Square bomber of 2010.


On April 19, Ronald Brownstein in a Los Angeles Times op-ed failed to give the real reason for the abortive attack in Times Square. After sending email to Brownstein on April 19, pointing out a key source so that he could check his facts, and then during my inquiry in person on April 20 at the LA Festival of Books if he had looked up the information, he seemed completely disinterested. Then on April 24 Jessica Stern of Harvard gave similar false information while interviewed on the PBS NewsHour.

Here are the facts:

When Faisal Shahzad plotted to put a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010, he was doing so in retaliation for deaths of innocent civilians, including his friends in Pakistan, due to attacks from American unmanned aerial “drones.” He said so during his allocution in court, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

While George W Bush was president, American drone strikes were taking place in the tribal zones of Pakistan . Some Al-Qaeda residences were targeted, but many civilians died in the raids. As reported by a British journalist on May 8, 2010, Shahzad told a Connecticut neighbor in 2008, “They shouldn’t be shooting people from the sky. You know, they should come down and fight.” Aerial murders of persons outside battlefields are contrary to international law because they are “extrajudicial executions.” Shahzad explicitly accused Bush of being a “war criminal.”

While campaigning for president, Barack Obama pledged that he would authorize military force inside Pakistan if Islamabad were unwilling to hunt down Al-Qaeda members hiding in Pakistan . Yet the Pakistani army has been hunting down Al-Qaeda and the Taliban on the ground. After becoming president, however, Obama authorized a major increase in aerial attacks inside Pakistan . As a result of faulty CIA intelligence, the United States continues to be responsible for murdering hundreds of innocent civilians.

American aerial attacks in Pakistan have been conducted by unmanned drones operated by the CIA, not the U.S. military. The Pakistan government has repeatedly condemned CIA drone attacks whenever civilians have been killed.

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Meanwhile, militant Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-born “YouTube” preacher of Yemeni descent, is said to have inspired both the Fort Dix attack plot of 2007 and the Fort Hood shooter of 2009. In mid-December 2009, Obama ordered Cruise missiles to bomb a portion of Yemen believed to house Al-Awlaki, murdering more than 100 civilians. In apparent retaliation, the “underpants bomber” left Yemen with a bomb that he intended to explode over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

Obama’s order to assassinate Al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was issued in January 2010. The would-be Times Square bomber returned from Pakistan after that assassination order on February 3.

Prior to May 1, 2010, the people of the United States suffered no consequences from the killing of innocent civilians by the CIA in Pakistan and Yemen . They still have not been murdered in retaliation for what the CIA and the American military are doing. No-fly lists, Miranda nonwarnings, and similar measures may stop future plots. But terrorist plotting evidently will continue as long as the war crimes continue—indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Yemen .

Shahzad was angered by the deaths of innocent Pakistanis in his homeland while Bush was president. He was doubtless disappointed when Obama ordered a sharp increase in drone attacks of Pakistanis. And he was arguably unhappy about reprisals in Yemen. Actions indeed lead to reactions.

The title of a recent book by former ambassador Peter Galbraith is Unintended Consequences (2008). Its subtitle is How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies. Surely there must come a time when decision makers in Washington will learn from Galbraith and others to become better chessplayers, anticipating reactions before taking actions.

Meanwhile, Washington refuses to connect the dots and continues to foment more anger among Muslims around the world, who in turn are aware of and eager to retaliate against such obvious American war crimes. The conspiracy of silence among American pundits for the real reason for the actions of someone to target Times Square is part of the failure to face reality.

michael haas

Thus far, the surviving Boston bomber has been asked many questions, and his answers have prompted Jessica Stern and others to draw inferences. The one question that may have been asked but has not yet reported is what really motivated his action. The American people need to know the real reasons for terrorist acts rather than being fed conjectures and lies. Deliberate deception about the actual motivations of terrorists does not serve the national interest.

Michael Haas