Let’s also battle home-grown terrorists

Published December 1, 2001

As America goes to war against terrorism in the wake of the savage attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, we must recognize the need to battle all terrorists who threaten our nation–not just foreign-born Islamic radicals who hate America’s Middle East policies.

Many of today’s terrorists were born in the USA. Yet, they openly detest our nation’s businesses, our free enterprise system, our environmental policies, our use of animals for food and medical research, our judicial system, and many other things about the country most of us cherish.

Every day, often unchallenged, these home-grown extremists are waging war against our economy and our freedom. They use arson and other weapons to destroy private and public property, exploiting concerns about the environment, animal rights, and “globalization” to justify their criminal behavior.

While in no way does their toll compare to the senseless human carnage achieved by the terrorists who struck September 11, make no mistake these domestic zealots are engaged in their own holy war and believe their goals are so noble they justify violence.

Taking credit for terror

Consider that on the very same day the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked, the Animal Liberation Front took credit for torching a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, causing an estimated $500,000 damage. According to the “communique” sent by activists and disclosed by the Arizona Daily Star, animal rights was not the only reason for burning down the restaurant.

“This action is meant to serve as a warning to corporations worldwide: You will never be safe from the people you oppress,” the activists wrote. “Globalization is nothing more than the government-sanctioned rape and murder of the Earth’s resources, and we, the people, will never stand for it.”

What about the peaceful protests that are part of America’s tradition, and protected by our Bill of Rights? For terrorists, non-violence is a sign of weakness. Since they believe themselves to be the embodiment of absolute virtue, they feel free to use absolutely any action to achieve their goals.

Terrorists will never admit to being terrorists. The mass murderers who killed thousands in the attacks on New York City and the Washington area considered themselves freedom fighters and men of God. In the same way, environmental, animal rights, and anti-globalization fanatics who engage in violent action consider themselves guiltless defenders of our planet and all its creatures.

It’s not just property at risk

Thankfully, no previous act of terrorism in American history even comes close to the terrible toll of death and destruction caused by the suicidal hijackers who flew airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

However, too often, we tolerate the smaller acts of violence committed by our American-born terrorists as “stunts” or “pranks” because, so far, damage has been largely limited to property.

But as FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele warned last summer in an interview with the New York Times, “Sooner or later, one of these events is going to happen where somebody gets hurt.”

There have been numerous instances of terrorism around the country in the past few years. For example:

  • Animal rights terrorists have “liberated” thousands of animals from fur farms and medical research labs. Most of the animals released have wound up as road kill or have died of starvation. Medical research designed to find life-saving cures to AIDS, cancer, and other deadly diseases has been set back, and people are likely to die as a result.
  • The Earth Liberation Front claims credit for arson attacks that have caused millions of dollars’ worth of destruction in the past four years. These include a $12 million arson at a ski resort in Colorado, a $1 million arson at a lumber company in Oregon, and the burning of luxury homes, sport utility vehicles, and logging trucks in several states. The group posted a primer on arson on its Web site that included helpful tips on starting fires with timers, and the admonition that “the objective of every action should be assured destruction.”
  • When two teenagers on Long Island, New York, pleaded guilty to arson conspiracy in February in connection with a rash of fires set to burn newly built homes and construction equipment, arsonist Matthew T. Rammelkamp told a judge he was a member of ELF. The 16-year-old added: “I obtained and received information from the ELF Web site and used that information in furtherance of that conspiracy.”
  • In an unsuccessful effort to spark an explosion, eco-terrorists who attacked a car dealership in Eugene, Oregon set up jugs of camp fuel and gasoline around a fuel truck belonging to an oil company. Arsonists later destroyed 30 sport utility vehicles in a blaze at the dealership.
  • More recently, ELF terrorists destroyed the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture and the Clatskanie tree farm in Oregon. These two simultaneous terror attacks caused over $5 million in property damage and incalculable millions in lost research.

It’s time we paid attention

Once a group decides that violence is justified–whether to protest logging, animal research, or a Western presence in the Middle East–the danger that attacks on trucks will become attacks with truck bombs is too big to ignore.

For too many years, the United States failed to devote the necessary attention and dedicate the necessary resources to fighting terrorism originating abroad. We shouldn’t make the same mistake when fighting the home-grown variety now worsening in our country.

If we’re serious about stopping the attackers, we need to crack down hard with more aggressive investigations and tougher action against all terrorist threats against our nation. We can’t afford to let our inaction give American terrorists the green light today to escalate their terror tactics to horrifying proportions tomorrow.

Nick Nichols is chairman of Nichols-Dezenhall, a crisis management firm in Washington, DC. He is the author of a new book, Rules for Corporate Warriors: How to Fight and Survive Attack Group Shakedowns, published by The Free Enterprise Press. The book provides details about the escalation of home-grown terrorist attacks within the United States. It is available in hard cover for $25 at Amazon.com; point your Web browser to http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0939571218/theheartlandinst.