Terrorism Begins at Home

--October 15, 2001

In late-breaking news tonight, federal authorities revealed that over a hundred abortion clinics around the United States have received letters containing a "white, powdery substance" (remember the days when the media used that phrase to refer to cocaine?) and accompanying notes indicating the powder contained anthrax. Preliminary indications are that a shadowy network of anti-abortion activists called the "Army of God" is responsible.

A quick check of the Internet and major news outlets reveals that -- surprise -- this is nothing new for the Army of God. It turns out that large groups of terrorist anthrax-threat letters have been sent out for years by these yahoos, the vast majority of whom were born and raised in the USA. In 1998 and 1999, 14 clinics were targets of the anthrax-threat terror campaign - using tactics (symbolic return postmarks) and white powders similar to those reported today. In 2000, the anti-abortion anthrax terror campaign escalated, involving anthrax-threat incidents in 29 communities across 21 states and the District of Columbia in the first two weeks of the year alone.

Anyone who has read the Army of God's list of 99 methods for propogating anti-abortion terror shouldn't be shocked. This list is part of an AOG manual that parallels Al Qaeda's manual in its mix of religious invective and anarchic hell-raising tips. This perky radical Christian primer (listen for the familiar cries: "but these aren't real Christians!") suggests dosing clinics with pyridine ("deadly if exposed to it for long periods of time...at any rate, no more dead babies!") and backing up bomb threats with destruction by various means (helpful tip: get a voice digitizer so you can mask your identity and "sound like Darth Vader from the Star Wars films. Very ominous. If one of the death camps happens to be destroyed in your community, these threats become very, very real...").

Let's not forget that this is the same group that has infamously carried out dozens of bombings, arsons and sniper-style killings in the name of religious righteousness. For more background on the use of anthrax terror and other tactics in the domestic anti-abortion movement, see Brad Knickerbocker's article in the 11/2/98 Christian Science Monitor.

We all have seen Osama Bin Laden attempt to excuse his organization's inexcusable use of violence by referring to prior acts of violence by others. The "Reverend" Donald Spitz uses his bully pulpit as a spiritual leader of the Army of God to make similar justifications. Just as Bin Laden tries to argue that Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign is simply vengeance for a greater violence, Spitz claims that the Army of God uses violent terror as a necessity for preventing greater evil. Let's look at just a smattering of Spitz's recent terrorist rhetoric:

"I believe helpless babies deserve to be protected and defended from those who plan to kill them - just like the people in the World Trade Center deserved to be defended. If someone was able to stop the terrorists before they were able to crash the plane into the World Trade Center, that someone would be deemed a hero. In the same manner those who stop babykilling abortionists from murdering innocent children are heroes.... Abortionists murder helpless babies. Abortionists do not deserve legal protection."

Spitz's use of violence to justify violence is so ridiculous that we might laugh him off as a mere kook if we didn't know that his followers have followed the argument to its conclusion and killed others in the name of righteousness.

Bioterrorism. Chemical Agents. Bombings. Theology-Soaked Training Manuals. Our nation's attention has turned overseas to find a way to explain the events of the past month. Commentators and documentary producers ask, "What is it about these strange nations with their strange religions that can lead to such inhumane behavior?" But we need not go so far afield to look for answers. Timothy McVeigh was not a lone aberration; we have our own home-grown terrorist network right here in the USA.

Terrorism also begins at home. As we try to search the souls of others to find some kernel of insight into the madness of violence, we might do well to search our own for a little while, too. Our response to domestic terrorism - the patient yet dogged pursuit of justice through legal channels - provides a viable alternative on the international scene to the strategy we now pursue, which in its daily accumulation of "collateral damage" transforms our nation into the very thing we aim to defeat.


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