Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead, killed in a shootout with Boston police about 36 hours ago. The elder of the two terrorist brothers was named for the infamous "Tamerlane", a vicious conqueror who razed ancient cities to the ground and put entire populations to the sword. Tamerlan is the one who said "I don't have a single American friend. I don't understand them."
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger brother of Tamerlan, was apparently wounded in Thursday night's gun battle. He was discovered yesterday evening, hiding in a boat in someone's driveway. He is now in custody in a Boston hospital, where he is said to be in serious condition.
"Why did they do it?" -- assuming that they did do it -- has already been asked by everyone from Walt to the Prez and back again. If Dzokhar lives -- well, who knows? -- he will doubtless be asked that very question. Do not expect a particularly rational answer. Rather we may hear something along the lines of "I was mad at the world, so I decided to kill some Americans".
It may be that the two brothers "suffered" from anomie or alienation or weltschmerz or all of the above. It may also be that they were agents of a foreign power -- Russia, for instance -- or a foreign "religion of peace". They certainly didn't try very hard to cover their tracks or escape. Perhaps they were looking forward to martyrdom for Islam, and the delights of the 72 virgins awaiting them in the Muslim heaven.
But let's go with the first possibility -- that they were acting on their own for no better reason than dissatisfaction with their lives in the country that welcomed them as refugees and gave them the opportunity to get an education and a better life than they could ever have had in Kyrgystan or Dagestan or anywhere else in the miserable part of the world from which they came.
What should be done with someone who would commit a cowardly, dastardly and ultimately meaningless act of that nature? How about strapping a pressure cooker filled with shrapnel to his back and then...
1000s of voices will be raised -- Walt can hear them already -- calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty, at least for acts of terrorism. But was the Boston Marathon bombing an act of terrorism? Or just plain, senseless murder? Assuming the brothers Tsarnaev were not directed or controlled by outside forces, how is their crime any different from that of, say, Adam Lanza?
So Walt asks again, what is to be done with murderers? The Church teaches that we must follow the Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill. What remains, then, is to remove murderers -- including terrorists -- from our society, not so much as punishment as for our protection and the (possible) deterrent effect on other killer wannabes.
Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the British used to transport their worst offenders to Australia. The French gave their a one-way ticket to Devil's Island. Such places seemed so remote, in those days, that there was no way criminals could ever return to "civilization".
Do similar places of exile still exist? Well, Alaska has a lot of cold, empty space. And there are several flyspecks in the Pacific still under the flag of the USA. How about a nice trip to the South Seas for Mr. Tsarnaev? Maybe he wouldn't find 72 virgins there, but America would be rid of him.
Footnote: Walt hasn't forgotten about due process. Put Tsarnaev on trial before putting him on a slow boat to Guam.
Food for thought: Last week's Economist had an article, "Not dead yet", pointing out that the USA executed 43 criminals in 2012, less than half the number killed in 1999, when capital punishment peaked in America. Luckily for Adam Lanza, last April Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the deah penalty.
More food for thought: Should America (and Britain and Canada) really be opening the doors to "refugees" from places like Chechnya, a part of the Middle East that has spawned decades of violence -- from separatist wars to suicide attacks, blood feuds and hostage sieges. See "How did Chechnya's culture of terror come to Boston?"