I’m sure the families who lost loved ones, or the victims of the Tsarnaev brothers who will live with their injuries for life, wish they hadn’t come either.
A friend sent me this Wall Street Journal story about the Tsanaevs written by a Russian-speaking reporter who knew them in earlier days and I was excited to read it in hopes we would learn more about how exactly they got here. No such luck, author Alan Cullison tells us that rich uncle Ruslan helped but not exactly how. We assume they claimed persecution back home and were granted asylum as was reported earlier, but suspect that Ruslan’s wealth and connections may had sped up the process.
Here are some snippets of the article with my commentary, but please read the whole thing. Emphasis is mine:
When I first met Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now familiar as the elder of the two alleged Boston Marathon bombers, he gripped my hand like he was wringing out a rag. It was 2004, and Tamerlan had been in the U.S. for about a year, but he already had an outsize American dream. He planned to box for the U.S. Olympic Team one day, and he wanted to earn a degree, perhaps at Harvard or MIT, and to hold a full-time job at the same time, so he could buy a house and a car. I suggested he forget the house and the car during college, as most American students do. He didn’t see why he should.
A decade ago, there was nothing about the Tsarnaevs to suggest any involvement in Islamist extremism. But they already seemed like “losers,” as their successful Americanized uncle told reporters after the attack. They were out of place in the U.S., and my relationship with them developed because they needed so much basic advice about how to get by. I didn’t sense impending danger in their household, but looking back, I can see now that I glimpsed a new type of threat to the U.S., one that we have only recently begun to confront.
Now, that last sentence (above) turns out to be a big disappointment because I eagerly read-on wondering what Cullison would say was the new type of threat the US must confront. Were budding Jihadists a new threat? Muslims generally? How about “losers?” Should we be weeding them out of the immigration process? How about the mentally unstable, are we letting too many of those in? Maybe immigrants with illusions about the grand life they would have in America should be excluded? Or, those whose cultures don’t easily assimilate? Crooks and cheats? How about boys whose moms are nuts and fathers are weak? Or, should we be worried about the threat from rich uncles connected to the CIA? All of the above? Maybe you can find the “new threat” we must confront in this otherwise entertaining narrative.
Then came the attack in Boston last April. And although I was stunned to hear police say that Tamerlan and his brother were the bombers, it fit with the profile of terrorists I’d encountered in my work. The failed suicide bombers I’d interviewed in Afghan prisons were mostly young men with no prospects. One told me he was planning to kill himself because he had no job or family, and some Islamists persuaded him to try to take out some American soldiers while he was at it.
Ruslan, married to the daughter of a former CIA official, helped his “loser” family get into the US. Did the rich lawyer help them through the asylum process? That is the sort of thing I want to know!
The Tsarnaevs had come to America thanks largely to Anzor’s younger brother Ruslan, who, as the family told it, was a rich and successful lawyer. He lived near Washington, D.C. and for a time was their model in adapting to the new world. I had known little about Ruslan when I was in Cambridge, but now, reporting on the family after the bombing, I learned his story.
When I met him in Washington last summer, he looked the part of the rich uncle. He picked me up in a silver Mercedes and drove me to Off the Record, a bar in the Hay-Adams hotel near the White House, where we talked for three hours.
Ruslan was indeed successful in ways that his older brother wasn’t. They grew up in the penurious former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, where Ruslan excelled in school, learned English, landed a white-collar job in the capital of Bishkek, and met and married the daughter of a retired high-ranking CIA officer, who was there advising the government on privatization. Soon he had a U.S. passport and was studying law at Duke University.
Uncle Ruslan says he tried to help Tamerlan who only got nuttier as time went on:
As Tamerlan’s options dwindled, he started to take an interest in conspiracy theories, according to neighbors and his former brother-in-law. He saw silent, unseen forces working against him. When the family’s landlord allowed me into their old apartment over the summer, I was able to examine Tamerlan’s books and a ring-binder full of articles that he had copied and marked up: material from a course on how to seduce women quickly, a manual on how to hypnotize people, some collected biographies of famous Jewish actors, and pages filled with racial theories purporting to explain why Jews were so successful. [I was surprised to see that a reporter could gain so easy access to Tamerlan’s apartment, wouldn’t you think the Justice Department would have it sealed before the trial to come.—ed]
Mom got them all into Islam, but it couldn’t be THE reason for those evil acts at the Boston Marathon because the local mosque (conveniently) says they didn’t like him either.
Zubeidat, the boys’ mother, told me that she was the one who got Tamerlan interested in Islam, because she worried he was becoming wayward and was partying too much with American friends. But even Islam didn’t give him a place in society that he could keep. In Cambridge, he was told to leave the local mosque because he couldn’t control his outbursts against speakers whom he considered too moderate, according to a spokeswoman for the mosque.
You can read the rest and note that Mom thinks maybe they shouldn’t have come to America. So is America the problem? What am I missing?
Let me know if you find the “new threat” that we have recently begun to confront? Maybe Cullison plans a part II.
Photo is from this April AP story.
See our category on the Boston Marathon Bombing, here.