FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The New War on "Terror"

by WILL POTTER

The Bush administration sent a calculated message to grassroots political activists this week: The War on Terrorism has come home.

FBI agents rounded up seven American political activists from across the country Wednesday morning, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey held a press conference trumpeting that “terrorists” have been indicted.

That’s right: “Terrorists.” The activists have been charged with violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 1992, which at the time garnered little public attention except from the corporations who lobbied for it. Their crime, according to the indictment, is “conspiring” to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences, a company that tests products on animals and has been exposed multiple times for violating animal welfare laws.

The terrorism charges could mean a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The activists also face additional charges of interstate stalking and three counts of conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking: Each count could mean up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Since September 11, the T-word has been tossed around by law enforcement and politicians with more and more ease. Grassroots environmental and animal activists, and even national organizations like Greenpeace, have been called “eco-terrorists” by the corporations and politicians they oppose. The arrests on Wednesday, though, mark the official opening of a new domestic front in the War on Terrorism.

Bush’s War on Terrorism is no longer limited to Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden. It’s not limited to Afghanistan or Iraq (or Syria, or Iran, or whichever country is next). And it’s not limited to the animal rights movement, or even the campaign against Huntington Life Sciences. The rounding up of activists on Wednesday should set off alarms heard by every social movement in the United States: This “war” is about protecting corporate and political interests under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The activists arrested are part of a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, an international organization aimed solely at closing the controversial lab. The group uses home demonstrations, phone and email blockades, and plenty of smart-ass, aggressive rhetoric to pressure companies to cut ties with the lab. It has worked. The lab has been brought near bankruptcy, after international corporations like Marsh Inc. have pulled out their investments.

To most, this is effective– albeit controversial– organizing. According to the indictment, though, it’s “terrorism” because the activists aim to cause “physical disruption to the functioning of HLS, an animal enterprise, and intentionally damage and cause the loss of property used by HLS.”

That’s like saying the Montgomery bus boycott, a catalyst of the civil rights movement, was terrorism because it aimed to “intentionally damage and cause the loss of property” of the bus company.

It seems the biggest act of “terrorism” by the group is a website. Members of the group are outspoken supporters of illegal direct action like civil disobedience, rescuing animals from labs, and vandalism. Whenever actions-legal or not-take place against the lab, the group puts it on the website. The activists are not accused of taking part in any of these crimes.

Such news postings are so threatening, apparently, that the indictment doesn’t even name the corporations that have been targeted. They are only identified by single letters, like “S. Inc.” or “M. Corp.”

“Because of the nature of the campaign against these companies, we didn’t want to subject them further to the tactics of SHAC,” said Michael Drewniak, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New jersey, in an interview.

Some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office must protect them from a bunch of protesters. This is what the War on Terrorism has become: The Bush administration can’t find real terrorists abroad, yet it spends law enforcement time and resources protecting corporations from political activists.

The lawsuit is so outlandish that some activists, who asked that they not be identified, said they don’t think it is intended to win. Instead, they see it as an important political move in the War on Terror. In a hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee just last week, a U.S. Attorney said the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act needed to go further to successfully be used against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. If this lawsuit fails, the Justice Department can say, “We told you so.”

So, these activists face a double-edged sword. If they lose, they go to prison, and are labeled “terrorists” for the rest of their lives. If they win, it could be fodder for an even harsher political crackdown.

Their only chance is for activists of all social movements– regardless of their political views– to support them, and oppose the assault on basic civil liberties. Otherwise, in Bush’s America, we could all be terrorists.

WILL POTTER is a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Chronicle of Higher Education, and close followed the emergence of “domestic terrorism.” He can be reached at: william.potter@alumni.utexas.net

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail