It has now been reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the two brothers involved in the Boston Bombing, had been receiving welfare benefits. The Boston Herald reports:
State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits. Russell Tsarnaev’s attorney has claimed Katherine — who had converted to Islam — was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tsarnaev stayed at home.(See also this story from Fox News). It is also notable that the younger brother had received scholarships and educational assistance.
In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.
Is there a connection between the welfare and the terrorism? Last night, Glenn Reynolds linked to a December 2001 article by Mickey Kaus that explored this issue. Kaus noted several terrorists that had been the news had been receiving welfare benefits, and wrote:
The point isn't simply that many terrorists take advantage of Western welfare states, the same way they take advantage of Western freedoms and Western technology. The point is that extreme anti-social terrorist ideologies (radical Islam, in particular) seem to breed in "oppositional" cultures supported by various government welfare benefits.
This is particularly evident in France, where—as this Los Angeles Times piece describes—unemployed and alienated North African Arab immigrants in subsidized public housing projects turn to crime and violence in a vicious cycle familiar to students of the African-American "underclass." Except that in France, in the "violent neighborhoods, the housing projects where the young men can be recruited" into terrorism, an "ironic thing" happens, according to a French intelligence officer quoted by the Times' Sebastian Rotella:
"When the extremists take control, violence goes down. Islam brings discipline. But then we have to watch that neighborhood for a different reason."Such North African Arabs make up "the backbone [of] Islamic terrorist groups in Europe" reports Peter Finn of the Washington Post—although the 9/11 hijackers seem to have been a separate, elite al-Qaida group drawn largely from Persian Gulf states.
What do you want to bet that the French pattern is visible in Britain, which has been (in the Post's words) "a haven for fundamentalists who enjoy traditional British liberties and a generous social welfare system even as they rail against the culture that has given them refuge"?
In fact, there's a good argument that "welfare benefits + ethnic antagonism" is the universal recipe for an underclass with an angry, oppositional culture. The social logic is simple: Ethnic differences make it easy for those outside of, for example, French Arab neighborhoods to discriminate against those inside, and easy for those inside to resent the mainstream culture around them. Meanwhile, relatively generous welfare benefits enable those in the ethnic ghetto to stay there, stay unemployed, and seethe. Without government subsidies, they would have to overcome the prejudice against them and integrate into the mainstream working culture. Work, in this sense, is anti-terrorist medicine. (And if you work all day, there's less time to dream up ways and reasons to kill infidels.)There is another point, in the Fox News article, that shouldn't be overlooked. The story reports:
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who was arrested in the United States in June on charges of shoplifting, has told The Associated Press that her son Tamerlan greatly enjoyed his time with her relatives during a trip to his ancestral homeland in southern Russia last year. But Tsarnaeva said he never traveled to her native village in a mountainous region of Dagestan, which is a hotbed of an ultraconservative strain of Islam known as Wahabbism. Wahabbism was introduced to the Caucasus in the 1990s by preachers and teachers from Saudi Arabia.