Secretary of State John Kerry delivered some off the cuff remarks about the Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and terrorism at a press conference in Belgium yesterday, saying that Tsarnaev had “learned something” in Chechnya and returned to the United States with “a willingness to kill people.” A State Department official quickly clarified to the Boston Globe that Kerry “was simply expressing broad concern about radicalism rather than indicating any new information or conclusion about the individuals involved.”
Kerry didn’t actually mention radicalism in his musings on the topic, though he did suggest that terrorists tend to lack a “belief system,” as well as a “policy for jobs,” and “a policy for education”:
We just had a young person who went to Russia, Chechnya, who blew people up in Boston. So he didn’t stay where he went, but he learned something where he went and he came back with a willingness to kill people.
I think the world has had enough of people who have no belief system, no policy for jobs, no policy for education, no policy for rule of law, but who just want to kill people because they don’t like what they see. There’s not room for that.
That’s what we’ve been fighting against after all of the wars of the 20th century. Now we’re in the 21st century, and it’s time for a different organizational principle. And we need to, all of us, do a better job of communicating to people what the options of life are. And we’re open. Democracies are open to people participating in the democracy, not killing people. And so I hope that we can all figure out how we translate these better opportunities more effectively in our politics.
According to the Globe, Kerry was responding to “a question about disillusioned young people in other parts of the world.” The transcript provided by the State Department records the question as: “Sir, with the problem we have that young people go to Syria (inaudible), does that matter also to the U.S., do you have the same problem?”
It’s fairly safe to assume that the questioner was referring to young Belgians such as Brian de Mulder of Antwerp, whose family says that he joined radical Islamist fighters in the conflict in Syria after converting to Islam two years ago:
The family were at first supportive but say he gradually became more radical after getting involved with a group known as Sharia4Belgium. . . .
Brian left in January this year. By then he had changed his name to Abu Qasem Brazili. His 12-year-old sister Ashia was the last family member to see him.
“Brian told her he was saying goodbye. He said: ‘I love you but you will never see me again.’” says Ingrid.
“To leave all your family and not contact your mother anymore. I think he’s in a state of being a soldier. A soldier of Allah,” she says.
Belgian police raided dozens of houses of people linked to Sharia4Belgium last week.
The authorities have accused the group of recruiting more than 30 people to fight in Syria in the last year.
It doesn’t appear that Abu Qasem Brazili lacks a belief system.