Martin LeFevre: It’s All ‘Domestic Terror’ Now
It’s All ‘Domestic Terror’ Now
When Timothy McVeigh and cohorts blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the American media initially blamed Muslim extremists. Now, five years after 9/11, a score of Canadian “homegrown terrorists” have been arrested on charges of conspiring to blow up the Canadian Parliament and behead the prime minister. What do these events have in common?
Comparisons in the Canadian and American media with the Oklahoma City bombing go no further than fertilizer. McVeigh and his co-conspirators used one ton of ammonium nitrate, while the 17 young men in Ontario had accumulated three tons. The real threads connecting these cases lie just below the surface. The skeins have to do with the militaristic vs. criminal approaches to terrorism, national borders vs. global security, and the inter-state exploitation of fear for propaganda purposes.
Sounding indistinguishable from his soul mate to the south, the new Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in Ottawa,"We are a target because of who we are and how we live, our society, our diversity and our values…their alleged target was Canada: Canadian institutions, the Canadian economy, the Canadian people.” He neglected to mention that the suspected terrorist wannabes were Canadian citizens.
CNN and Fox were quick to exploit nationalistic sentiments and speculate about how ‘our borders with Canada aren’t safe.’ But these young men in Ontario don’t represent an outside threat at all. Rather, like McVeigh and his crew, they are homegrown manifestations of extreme alienation and rage.
The plot to blow up the Murrah building was hatched in the ‘Thumb’ of Michigan, a few miles from where I grew up. For a couple weeks during the autumn before the bombing, I stayed at the family cottage on the Saginaw Bay. One day I had a run-in with one of the First-Amendment (gun nut) fanatics with whom McVeigh and Nichols were fellow travelers in Michigan.
There is a wetland preserve near the cottage, and I would often walk the three-mile loop through the supposedly protected area. One morning I passed a group of elementary school students on a day trip with their teacher. The next I came upon a hunter standing near the trail with his high-powered rifle. Deer hunting season, an autumnal, quasi-religious rite in Michigan, had opened that day.
I pointed out to the guy in full camouflage gear that this was a preserve, and that I’d seen small kids just the day before not far from where we were standing. He went ballistic, shouting about his right to carry arms. Then he pointed at the tree he was leaning against and said, “That is the boundary to the park.” “You may be right,” I replied, “but you’re in the wrong.” I walked away, feeling my exposed back for the two hundred meters I was in his line of sight.
Thinking I had encountered just a lone gun nut, I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper, discussing the need to keep hunters away from the preserve, especially since school children often use the refuge. Well, the gun nuts came out of the woodwork. Michigan has long been a hotbed for right-wing extremists and anti-government fanatics. Michael Moore, who is from Michigan, satirized them in his movie, “Bowling for Columbine.”
My family expressed fear about the atmosphere in the state, but chastised me for stirring things up. “You don’t pick a fight with a skunk,” my father said. “It already stinks around here because virtually no one speaks up,” I replied. (As the saying goes, ‘all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people remain silent.’)
After the Branch Davidian deaths at the hands of ATF agents in Waco, Texas, McVeigh and Nichols, who met at Ft. Benning during boot camp, grew impatient with Michigan Militia inactivity, and formed their own militia “cell.” (McVeigh fought in the first Gulf War, while Nichols obtained a hardship discharge.)
They and co-conspirators blew up the Murrah building in April 1995; there was no direct connection between McVeigh and Nichols with the Michigan Militia. But they shared a common philosophy, as they apparently did with Islamic terrorists as well. (Right wing extremists share with Islamic jihadists a rabid hatred of Jews and the US government.)
Prior to the Oklahoma City bombing, Terry Nichols had made several trips to the Philippines, where he attended meetings with Islamic extremists, including Ramzi Yosef, the perpetrator of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. (Yosef was the mass murderer who made a prediction during his transfer after his conviction on that incident. As the plane passed in sight of the World Trade Center, an FBI agent cracked, “See, they’re still there.” “We’ll get them next time,” Yosef replied.)
Let’s ‘connect the dots.’ An address by Monsignor Ivan Illich to the Conference on Inter-American Student Projects (CIASP) in Cuernavaca, Mexico on April 20, 1968 contains insights that remain pertinent to present day America. In a speech entitled, “To Hell With Good Intentions,” Illich said, “The U.S. cannot survive if the rest of the world is not convinced that here we have Heaven-on-Earth.” Nearly forty years later, not only is America not the “Heaven on Earth” that most Americans delude themselves into believing it is, it is a Hell-on-Earth, a huge Potemkin village that is actually the mirror image of the Iraq America has created.
Concluding his talk, Illich prematurely wondered, “Perhaps this is the moment to instead bring home to the people of the U.S. the knowledge that the way of life they have chosen simply is not alive enough to be shared.” Has that moment come, and if not now, when will it ever?
In truth, North America also provides (along with repressive Islamic regimes) the soil for terrorism, not just through US government policies, but also by exalting such a hellish culture as Heaven-on-Earth. It never occurs to us that rather than envy what we have, there are many people, here and abroad, who fear and loathe it.
The much-derided (by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their ilk) criminal approach to terrorism is in fact the only one that is working. The military model has elevated stateless terrorists to nation-state status, giving suicidal nihilists a purpose for living until they blow themselves up and take as many others as they can with them.
However, the cooperation between law enforcement agencies (Canadian, American, British, and other national police forces were involved in the Ontario arrests) poses a real and present danger of merging with the militaristic mind-set and becoming a worldwide police state. As the main author of the just published Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report on US rendition practices, Dick Marty, said, “the [American] approach is utterly alien to the European tradition and sensibility, and is clearly contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
"It is now clear -- although we are still far from establishing the whole truth -- that authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities," according to the report. "Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know."
The “global war on terror” is a monumental lie, with politicians like Bush, Blair, and now Harper in league with terrorists to spread fear amongst the people of the world. The invasion of Iraq is a self-fulfilling prophecy, turning it into an incubator for terrorism and terrorists.
The good thing is it’s obvious now that national sovereignty—‘my country first and last’-- is finished. Human beings will either create a fair and just global society, or we’ll continue the slide into an authoritarian network of nation-states, with politicians keeping up the façade of sovereignty for purposes of manipulating nationalistic emotions.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.