FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Terrorism, American Style

shutterstock_353116853

As the popularity of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and other race-baiting antidemocratic politicians attest, a significant portion of the American public is hostile to Washington, whether with respect to expansion of civil liberties and human rights, taxation, immigration policy, or diplomacy.  This part of the public wants a strong, no-nonsense leader who will take them out of the cultural and political wilderness, and restore to them (mainly meaning to white male America) the respect and power it once supposedly had (and supposedly deserves).  A subset of this public consists of gun lovers (again, all white males) who live by conspiracy theories, a distorted notion of the Constitution and the Bible, and a craving for violent action against authority.  They are our terrorists.

We in America thus must deal with the unfortunate fact that domestic terrorism is becoming a serious national security threat, greatly helped by the provocative rhetoric of the leading Republican presidential candidates.  Since 9/11, “non-Islamic extremists” actually account for more lives lost than “Islamic extremists,” by 48 to 45.  Yet, this predominantly white, male, Christian terrorism invariably escapes being labeled as such.  Instead, the mass media uses more polite language, such as “militia men” and “armed activists”—words that probably would not be applied if the terrorists were American Indians, African Americans, Jews, or of course Muslims. As Janell Ross writesin the Washington Post, “The descriptions of events in Oregon appear to reflect the usual shape of our collective assumptions about the relationship between race and guilt—or religion and violent extremism—in the United States.”

Which brings me to the current situation in rural Oregon’s Malheur National Forest Refuge.  A small group of self-styled “militia” seems to think that an armed occupation is the only alternative when complaints against government are not satisfactorily addressed.  But that is nonsense: peaceful protest, passive resistance, elections, petitions, and recalls are all available.  Four years ago, when the Occupy movement was in thrall, peaceful sit-ins were the norm, not armed invasion, seizure of buildings, and declarations of self-rule. The current Oregon situation in fact was preceded by a peaceful protest against federal regulation of ranch land, only to have the “militia” preempt it to serve its own needs.  Its leaders never bothered to ask the Hammond family, on whose behalf the extremists says they are acting, if it wanted their support.  The extremists’ action is reminiscent of various US interventions abroad that have occurred without a request for it by local authorities or indigenous groups claiming oppression.

The so-called militia in Oregon is armed and dangerous.  These people have been spoiling for a fight and, while preaching peaceful intentions, seem to welcome doing battle with government officials.  Its leaders speak the language of millenarian groups: referring to loyalty to a higher power, professing to act on behalf of “the people,” vowing violence only if provoked.  This is the familiar language of terror groups which, while to some degree reflecting a larger public anger, exploit it to further its own ambitions.  The Oregon group would like nothing better than to be joined by more far-right antigovernment outfits as a means of self-justification.  It’s a microcosm of the ISIS end-of-days perspective.

Local and federal law enforcement will need to confront these people at some point, hopefully with Waco and Ruby Ridge in mind and therefore without violence.  There are plenty of options, including cutting off the group’s water, power, and telephone to isolate it.  A negotiated solution also seems possible, one that trades the group’s willingness to end its occupation in return for no prosecution.  The federal authorities also might consider reducing the sentences of the two Hammond family members who have been returned to jail.  Their five-year sentences do seem excessive, for range-fire arsonists.  A sentence reduction would calm public resentment in that county and take the ground out from under the terrorists.

More articles by:

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail