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Lone-Wolf Terrorism: the Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost

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On Thursday, July 7th, Micah Johnson shot and killed four Dallas police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer in what authorities called a “sniper ambush.”  Endless media reports remind people that this was the worst episode in police killings since the nightmare of 9/11.  CounterPunch’s Eoin Higgins details the events and how the Dallas police executed Johnson as an act of anti-terrorist warfare.

Johnson, 25, was a card-carrying All-American.  An African-American whose parents were divorced and who lived with his mother in a Dallas suburb; his father remarried a white schoolteacher and lived nearby.  After graduating from high school in 2009, he joined the Amy Reserve and served in the 420th Engineer Brigade based at Seagoville, TX, where he was a carpentry and masonry specialist; in 2013 he was deployed to Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

In an online video showing white people killing a whale, Johnson wrote:  “Why do so many whites (not all) enjoy killing and participating in the death of innocent beings? Then they all stand around and smile while their picture is taken with a hung, burned and brutalised black person.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Johnson was an All-American postmodern gunslinger.  He was armed with an Izhmash-Saiga 5.45 mm high-powered rifle; it’s a variation of an AK-style military weapon.  He carried two other weapons: a Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol and a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

In a follow-up search of Johnson’s home, detectives found bomb making materials, ballistic vests, additional rifles, ammunition and a personal journal of combat tactics.  Officials recovered two telling weapons: (i) 1 pound of Tannerite, a powder marketed to make exploding targets for shooting practice, and (ii) a can of acetone that could be mixed with other material to make explosives.

Johnson was an All-American adhering to the Texas’ free-purchase and free-carry gun policies, and had no problem acquiring his arsenal.  He fulfilled the National Rifle Association (NRA) policies of gun ownership and the organization released a statement that said, “With heavy hearts, NRA members honor their heroism and offer our deepest condolences to all of their families.” Sure.

A half-century ago, in the aftermath of Pres. John Kennedy’s assassination, Malcolm X uttered one of his most subversive observations:  “Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they always made me glad.”  The increasing number of lone-wolf terrorist attacks over the last decade or so gives new voice to Malcolm’s warning.

* * *

“The United States (US) is the primary target among western states for lone wolf terrorist (LWT) attacks, and the frequency of attacks continues to increase.”  So opens a June 2015 Georgetown National Security Critical Issue Task Force (NSCITF) report, “Lone Wolf Terrorism.”  It points out that while such terrorist acts constitute a very small portion of all terrorist attacks (1.8 percent), it notes that such attacks have increased from 30 attacks in the 1970s to 73 attacks in the 2000s, a growth of 143 percent.

Since 1900, according to Wikipedia, more than 100 acts of political terrorism took place in the U.S., many committed by lone wolfs.  They include the assassinations of two presidents, William McKinley (1901) and John Kennedy (1963), as well as the attempted assassinations in the continental U.S. of seven presidents — Theodore Roosevelt (1912), Franklin Roosevelt (1933), Harry Truman (1950), Kennedy (1960), Richard Nixon (1972, George Wallace paralyzed), Gerald Ford (1975) and Ronald Reagan (1981, James Brady wounded).

A 1999 FBI report, “Terrorism in the United States,” found that in the two decades between 1980 and 1999 there were 327 domestic terrorist acts that left 205 people dead and 2,037 injured.  A 2010 report from the University of Maryland’s START (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism) project found that between 1970 and 2007 the U.S. faced 1,347 “terrorist attacks.”  It reports that New York was the most targeted city (21% or 284 attacks), followed by Miami (70), San Francisco (66), Washington, DC (59) and Los Angeles (54).

The Georgetown study notes, “While the majority of LWTs are single, white men with criminal records, these patterns are too broad to develop a clear profile for LEOs [law enforcement].”  Among such lone wolfs are: Andrew Philip Kehoe, who committed the 1927 bombing of the Bath, MI, School; George Metsky, known as the New York “mad bomber” during 1940-1956 period; Sam Melville and Jane Alpert, 1960s New Left radicals; and Ted Kaczynsk, the “Unibomber” who operated between 1978-1995.

Some of the more recent lone wolf attacks include:

* On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, OK; the explosion left 169 people dead, including 19 children, and more than 675 people injured; it also damaged or destroyed more than 300 buildings in the immediate area.

* On July 20, 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others in a shootout at an Aurora, CO, movie theatre.

* On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old resident of Newtown, CT, fatally shot and killed 20 children and seven staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School – as well as his mother.

* On April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three spectators and wounding 264 others; the bombers were Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a 26-year-old Chechen immigrant, and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

* On June 17, 2015, the white racists Dylann Roof killed nine African-American parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, SC; his website was named the “Last Rhodesian” and his jacket sported flags of white-ruled Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa; his car license plate featuring the Confederate flag; and his racist manifesto.  “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet,” he asserted.  “Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

* On December 2, 2015, a married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, entered a holiday party in the conference room at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA, and opened fire with two high-powered – and legal – rifles; the husband with a Smith & Wesson M&P15 and the wife with a DPMS A-15, and between 75-80 people were in attendance and the couple shot and killed 14 people and wounding 22 others, many of them Farook’s co-workers.

The FBI reports that between 2002 and 2005, “eight of the 14 recorded terrorism preventions stemmed from right-wing extremism.”  Among these actions were plots by “individuals involved with the militia, white supremacist, constitutionalist and tax protestor, and anti-abortion movements.”  Among them were Matthew Hale, leader of the white supremacist Creativity Movement; Eric Robert Rudolph for several bombings including the Atlanta Olympics; and white supremacist Sean Michael Gillespie for firebombing an Oklahoma City synagogue.

* * *

The Georgetown study identifies “four main trends” among domestic, lone-wolf terrorists:

* Increasingly target law enforcement and military personnel;

* Overwhelmingly use firearms to conduct attacks;

* Increasingly become radicalized via the Internet, extremist media and the civilian workplace; and,

* Proclaim an individual ideology instead of claiming affinity to specific, organized extremist groups.

More individual lone-wolf terrorist attacks are likely to take place in the nation’s near future.  As Malcolm X observed a half-century ago, the chickens are coming home to roost – and they are.

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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