Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hey, do you remember domestic terrorists?

We have seen ample evidence that Bush's is focused exclusively on terrorist threats from outside the US, despite the fact that the majority of threats come from within the United States itself. You might wonder how I could think that domestic terrorism is more of a threat to us than foreign terrorism after 9/11. Well, the truth is simply that the FBI hasn't screwed up since the Oklahoma City Bombing. Unfortunately other agencies were charged with keeping us safe from the 9/11 conspirators and they did drop the ball. That doesn't change the fact that there are thousands of people who are so unfriendly to the federal government that they would assist or harbor those who undertake terrorist threats to the United States. And don't doubt for a second those threats exist.

The article linked above is from the Christian Science Monitor, and it tells the story of a little-heard terrorist threat from a place called Noonday, Texas (it's near Tyler, about an hour and a half east of Dallas).

Inside the home and storage facilities of William Krar, investigators found a sodium-cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands, more than a hundred explosives, half a million rounds of ammunition, dozens of illegal weapons, and a mound of white-supremacist and antigovernment literature.

What did he intend to do with all this? Well one thing's for sure, he wasn't intending to fly over to the Middle East and use it there.

The case began in the fall of 2002 when a package bound for New Jersey was misdelivered to a New York address. The family inadvertently opened the package and found fake identification badges, including Department of Defense and United Nations IDs. The FBI eventually tracked the package back to Mr. Krar in Noonday, Texas.

And of course, it's hard to feel that the lack of publicity in this case (and others) has nothing to do with the politics of the war on terror. Americans don't want to hear that the greatest threat to them is themselves, nor that we need to be more worried about our internal situation than our external situation.

Experts say the case highlights the increased cooperation and quicker response by US agencies since Sept. 11. But others say it points up just how political the terror war is. "There is no value for the Bush administration to highlighting domestic terrorism right now," says Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas in Austin. "But there are significant political benefits to highlighting foreign terrorists, especially when trying to whip up support for war."

Mr. Levitas goes even further: "The government has a severe case of tunnel vision when it comes to domestic terrorism. I have no doubt whatsoever that had Krar and his compatriots been Arab-Americans or linked to some violent Islamic fundamentalist group, we would have heard from John Ashcroft himself."

Isn't it ironic? Bush invades Iraq on the tenuous claim that there were weapons of mass destruction present, and yet here we have a white supremacist in Texas who actually has a weapon of mass destruction, and they don't even make a statement! No one should be surprised that domestic terrorism is as much of a threat as it is. After all, many of the worst terrorist acts that occur around the world are between domestic groups, such as the Aum Shinrikyu attacks on the Tokyo Subway, or the Basque nationalists against Spain, or a host of other examples from around the world. And lest you start doubting the scope of the problem, check this out.

The fact is, the number of domestic terrorist acts in the past five years far outweighs the number of international acts, says Mark Pitcavage of the fact-finding department at the Anti-Defamation League. "We do have home-grown hate in the United States, people who are just as ill-disposed to the American government as any international terrorist group," he says.

Levitas estimates that there are approximately 25,000 right-wing extremist members and activists and some 250,000 sympathizers. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 708 hate groups in 2002.

You might think that if these organizations were active, we'd be hearing about them. Well, you'd be wrong. Tell me if you ever heard about this:

[Pitcavage] cites two other cases. In 1997, militia members gathered in central Texas allegedly to plan to attack a military base on Independence Day. They were arrested the morning of July 4 near Fort Hood. Three years later, he says, three heavily armed people described by federal investigators as anti-government extremists shot down a California Highway Patrol helicopter near the California-Nevada border during a standoff with police.

I'll close with an anecdote. I was once at a graduation ceremony for home-schoolers which was being held at a church. A lot of home-schoolers' parents do it for religious reasons, because they can be privately taught according to a Christian agenda (creationism, Bible studies, etc). Well, a few of the graduates were that sort, and one girl's grandfather got up to say a few words in her honor. He started telling us how there was a "war out there" on Christianity. And he meant a literal war, because as he said, "People have died for their beliefs." In his view, the federal government (and all law enforcement) was the enemy, and if we wanted to hold on to our way of life we would have to fight them. You might think he was just a silly old man, but even so, there are those who take actions based on those kinds of beliefs. There are stories about park rangers getting shot in the forest by right-winger Christian extremists. It happens.

So be on the lookout. Next time you see some guy driving down the street with his shirt that says "S.S." (in stylized letters), just know that he might actually be willing to kill you and hundreds of others.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

This only goes to show that many people's fear of terrorism is linked with their fear of the "other". I don't want to get all psycho-babble on this issue, but it's clearly true that people are more afraid of Islamic terrorist because they are Islamic, they are Arabic (or at least brown, usually) and that his also feeds into the whole notion of a "clash of civilizations" between western and Islamic culture. It's also true that we're more afraid of more dramatic threats rather than more commone ones (see the fear of the plane crash versus the fear of the car crash) and 9/11 style terrorism is far more dramatic than even the blowing up of a federal building by a right-wing racist.

Of course, it is the purpose of government officials to rationally identify those threats and respond to them according to their level of danger (and public desire to a degree of course), not pander to the fearful among us and use terror as a political campaign tool. But if it works to get you in power, why stop when you're ahead?