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Muslim Terrorism vs. Right Wing Domestic Terrorism

Mother Jones has a story that details all of the terrorist violence in the United States since 9/11 (terrorism being defined as violence committed to make a political, religious or ideological statement). The article is based largely on this report from the New America Foundation (I spent a weekend at a conference a couple years ago with Steve Clemons of the NAF; very, very smart guy and a virtual encyclopedia when it comes to foreign policy).

While we’ve seen all manner of terrorist bomb plots since September 11—the Times Square bomber, the underwear bomber, even the guys who fantasized about destroying the Sears Tower—all have been thwarted by the FBI, the perpetrators’ own bumbling, or both. If one or both of the suspects in last week’s attack, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were motivated by radical Islamic beliefs, then they will have the dubious distinction of being the first jihadists to have set off a bomb on American soil since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

While America has been fixated on the threat of Islamic terrorism for more than a decade, all but a few domestic terror plots have failed. Between September 11, 2001, and the end of 2012, there were no successful bomb plots by jihadist terrorists in the United States. Jihadists killed 17 people in the United States in four separate incidents during this time, according to data collected by journalist Peter Bergen and the New America Foundation. All four of these incidents involved guns, including Nidal Hassan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, which killed 13 people. In contrast, right-wing extremists killed 29 people during those 11 years…

The weapons of mass destruction charges filed against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may sound like a big deal. However, the federal WMD statute is sufficiently broad that it has been used against at least 25 defendants since 9/11, covering all kinds of destructive devices, from grenades and car bombs to theunderwear bomb and the planes hijacked on 9/11. There have been no Islamist plots involving what we commonly know as WMD—biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. However, according to the New America Foundation data, the only terror suspects who have recently obtained biological or chemical weapons such as anthrax and cyanide were right-wing extremists.

Neither Islamic terrorism or right-wing domestic terrorism should be taken lightly at all. But we pay far more attention to the former than we do the latter. And the right in this country continues to argue that terrorism is almost exclusively Islamic. But this data matters.

There was also one incident of left-wing domestic terrorism since 9/11, the attack on the Family Research Council headquarters by Floyd Lee Corkins. He has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.

Comments

  1. Alverant says

    Just one nitpick, jihadists are also right-wing by definition. They’re just right-wingers from a different country. Also I wouldn’t count Hassan’s shooting as terrorism because he was suffering from PTSD and went crazy. AFAIK this wasn’t a planned or organized attack, he just snapped one day and started shooting. If that’s terrorism then just every time someone was attacked for being homosexual or looking mid-eastern should also count as an incident of terrorism. I’d also include the guy who murdered his family because he was scared President Obama would be re-elected as well as a guy who tried to physically restrain his wife from voting because she was going to vote to recall Gov Walker of Wisconsin.

  2. johnfromberkeley says

    If a pressure cooker bomb is classified as a WMD, then that means we found plenty of WMDs in Iraq.

    And, we can invade any nation that has pressure cookers.

  3. Abby Normal says

    Ed, how are you defining left-wing; are you excluding animal rights and eco-terrorism? Otherwise I think you’ll need to expand your list.

    February 2008: Animal rights activists attack a researcher and her family in Santa Cruz.
    March 2008: Earth Liberation Front burns some McMansions in Washington.
    August 2008: Animal rights activists firebomb two cars at University of California-Santa Cruz.
    September 2010: Eco-terrorist, James Lee, attacks Discovery Communications.

    That’s just the successful attacks. If you include foiled attempts, as Clemons did in your quote, then I’ve got at least a half dozen more.

  4. dingojack says

    johnfromberkeley – and fondue sets, please can the US include fondue sets.
    Fondue – goop of the devil!
    :) Dingo

  5. dingojack says

    Abby – does one include attacks on Planned Parenthood (and similar organisations) as terrorism?
    This is the problem, there is no rigorous definition of terrorism and (in some cases) no way of knowing the motive(s) of the perpetrator (or would-be perp), so it is almost impossible to rule something in or out, therefore it is difficult to gather any kind of real data on the problem.
    Dingo

  6. Abby Normal says

    DJ, I certainly would, yes. For the purposes of this discussion I’m content to use the definition of terrorism Ed provided in the article. “(terrorism being defined as violence committed to make a political, religious or ideological statement).”

  7. Doug Little says

    And, we can invade any nation that has pressure cookers.

    Well you know who invented the pressure cooker… A Frenchman. Freedom fries for everybody!

  8. Alverant says

    Abby,
    If we were to include the actions of eco-terrorists and anti-abortion terrorists to be left/right wing respectively we’d still have right-wing terror greatly exceeding left-wing terror. The problem is, as Jack mentioned, getting such things to be called terrorism. The media and the law are very relunctant to use the T-word when right-wing christians are doing it. For example a few weeks ago a man attacked a women’s clinic with an axe. That would be considered terrorism but he wasn’t charged with it. Likewise in my home town of Davenport, Iowa another anti-abortion terrorist tried to detonate a car bomb at another clinic because he thought (incorrectly) they were performing abortions there. Again no terrorism charges were filed.

  9. dmcclean says

    I second Abby Normal at 3. We need to be meticulous about calling out the eco-terrorists along with the abortion clinic bombers.

  10. dingojack says

    Abby – ‘violence’? Are the Weather Underground or the ANC equivalent to the IRA or FARC say? What about agents of countries (CIA, MI6, DGSE, MOSSAD, KGB, and etc.) are they terrorists too? How about the police? The definition still isn’t sharp enough for my anal mindset.
    Still I take Ed’s general point though.
    (This is really a side issue.My apologies, I don’t want to thread-jack. Ignore this and carry on…).
    ;S Dingo

  11. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    AbbyNormal,

    Neither animal rights activism nor radical eco-activism fits neatly into left or right categories. One of the most prominent animal rights activists in Europe has been Brigitte Bardot (yes, that Brigitte Bardot), a supporter of the far-right Front National in France. Dave Foreman, the chief founder of Earth First!, later left the organization because of his dislike of the growth of leftist influence within it, and is an advocate of severe restrictions on immigration to the USA. I don’t have information on the leftist or rightist views of those who have crossed from activism to terrorism, but I see no reason to suppose they are uniformly of the left.

  12. glodson says

    I am not seeing the necessity for this topic in distinguishing between left wing and right wing domestic terrorism, as we are comparing it to the threat of terrorism fueled by Islam. Even if we include acts of domestic terrorism(acts done by citizens) fueled by Islam, there are still many more examples of non-Islam terrorism. Much more.

    This is devastating to the the tribalistic rhetoric of the right. They want the bogeyman to be something apart from us. So they prop up this idea that terrorism has a foreign source, in particular, Islam.

    Of course, as other pointed out, not all animal rights groups can fit neatly into the Left-wing classification. But in the end, the point should be that we shouldn’t let the right frame the discussion as our greatest threat for terrorism comes from Islam.

  13. raven says

    Neither animal rights activism nor radical eco-activism fits neatly into left or right categories.

    This is true.

    They are sort of orthogonal to the left right axis. Although the eco-terrorists fit into the left sometimes.

    I’m left of center, which these days is about where Richard Nixon was. And have been targeted in a minor way by the animal rightists. They broke in and stole some white lab rabbits at an off site facility. And, idiots that they are, let them go in a park.

    These are fat, domestic rabbits and have zero chance of surviving in the wild. Fortunately people managed to pick up most of them before a dog or cat got them.

  14. raven says

    According to an old post of Ed Brayton’s citing FBI statistics, since 9/11 2/3′s of all terorist activities have involved right wingers and/or christofascists.

    That is true in my area.

    There have been two terrorist attacks around here. Some xians firebombed the local mosque, a common occurrence everywhere, with dozens of attacks. And some guy got in a shootout with the police while on his way to bomb an environmentalist group.

  15. Abby Normal says

    we’d still have right-wing terror greatly exceeding left-wing terror.

    Absolutely, right-wing and jihadist terrorism far exceeds left-wing in both quantity and severity. I’m in no way trying to draw equivalence. The only reason I posted the list is because Ed implies there’s only been one example of left-wing terrorism since 9-11.

  16. poxyhowzes says

    Oh for f..k’s sake, stop being so two-dimensional, people!

    Practically speaking, “terrorism” is a violent act committed without regard to the specific folks who get killed or maimed, or swept up in house-to-house searches in the aftermath.

    Crimes that are NOT terrorism are thefts, burglaries, rapes, robberies, stalkings, murders, and such that are committed against a specific individual.

    I’m sorry that SCOTUS hasn’t adopted my abundantly clear definition, but there it is.

    Are there ‘niceties” in these definitions that require adjudication? Of course! But various jurisdictions have, with varying success defined “hate crimes,” so what’d the problem with a definition for “terrorism?”

  17. poxyhowzes says

    …..The problem is defining crimes in terms of the motivation of the (supposed) criminal.

    If we never allowed the (supposed) motivation of the (supposed) criminal to be introduced as evidence, we’d be better off, I submit.

    Criminal court cases should revolve around the questions: Was an act committed that is unlawful? Did such-and-such a person commit this act? How do you (the prosecution) know? “Motivation” should be routinely ruled out of order in court cases.

    pH

  18. Ichthyic says

    every time someone was attacked for being homosexual or looking mid-eastern should also count as an incident of terrorism.

    yes, it should, because that is exactly what those are in most cases.

    hence why it was relatively easy to pass hate crimes legislation.

  19. says

    If the Ft. Hood killings (which afaia were not “jihadist”) are taken out of the mix, it leaves 4 deaths in the U.S. attributed to “jihadists”.

    If the attacks that did not result in death are added into the mix then we’re looking at a huge difference between “jihadists” and ReiKKKwingers. The leftwing attacks are few and far between.

  20. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ democommie : Four deaths? You seem to be forgetting the three thousand or so who were murdered by Jihadist terrorism on 9-11.

    Of course, the fact that the death tool from Jihadist scum isn’t very much higher isn’t through lack of trying on the Jighadists part – the number of foiled and failed attacks (Times Square, shoe bomber,Chechen brothers stopped from attacking New York as they’d planned post Boston, etc.) is much higher. Thank the cops and anti-terror agencies for that.

    Also why take the Fort Hood Palestinian terrorist shooters attacks off the list? Pretty clear case of Jihadist terrorism in my view.

    @14. raven :

    According to an old post of Ed Brayton’s citing FBI statistics, since 9/11 2/3′s of all terorist activities have involved right wingers and/or christofascists. That is true in my area. There have been two terrorist attacks around here. Some xians firebombed the local mosque, a common occurrence everywhere, with dozens of attacks.

    Common everywhere eh? Ya reckon? Even in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia and Africa and so many other places? Er, no. I don’t think so.

    As for most terrorism being committed by right wingers and Christofascists, well as pointed out the Jihadists – who are utterly homophobic, uber misogynist and ultra-conservative by definition are included as right wingers themselves. Can’t get further right wing than the Islamists really. At best /worst the neo-nazis and KKK equal them rather than surpassing in “right-wing-ness.”

    Also, globally speaking, most terrorism is conducted by Islamic groups and individuals. I bet for every single non-Muslim terrorist group anyone cares to name I could name at least five and probably ten Islamic Jihadist ones!

    @10.dingojack :

    Abby – ‘violence’? Are the Weather Underground or the ANC equivalent to the IRA or FARC say?

    No, I don’t think so although if memory serves boththeWeatherundergorund and AMC at one stage fit that criterion as terrorist – not as bad though still wrong.

    What about agents of countries (CIA, MI6, DGSE, MOSSAD, KGB, and etc.) are they terrorists too?

    Um, NO! Duh. Counterterrorism groups who are actively opposed to and fighting terrorists are by definition and purpose obviously NOT terrorists. The fact that their role is to prevent terrorists from attacking and save innocent people rather than killing them should be a bit of a giveaway here.

    How about the police?

    Are you off your rocker Dingojack?!? Police? Police are law enforcement appointed by the government to protect law abiding citizens and society. They don’t deliberately set out to harm innocent people to supposedly futher their own politcial-religious-ideological agenda which is what the terrorists by definition do. The police, like MOSSAD, CIA, FBI, homeland security, etc .. by definition are counter / anti-terrorist not terrorists. Fuck, thought you were much smarter than to even suggest that.

  21. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    D’oh. Typo fix second sentence : “death tool ” = death toll instead natch.

  22. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Argh. Plus typo shortly after (that third full sentence): “Jighadists” = Jihadists of course.

    As well as : “I don’t think so although if memory serves boththeWeatherundergorund and AMC at one stage” meaning actually to write : I don’t think so although if memory serves both the Weather Underground and ANC at one stage ..”

    In addition , no doubt to other typographical errors. Oh well, y’all get the gist anyhow I hope. Sigh, Sorry.

  23. lochaber says

    StevoR>

    check this bit on wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism#Origin_of_term

    I tend to view terrorism as the use of violence to control people through fear. I don’t think any organization is exempted from this based on whether they are an official government agency, or if they claim to ‘fight’ ‘terrorism’.

    I think te police are a damned good example. Did you miss all of the brutality and abuses that went on with the various occupy movements? What’s worse, is that this is how law enforcement typically operates, except this time there were too many cameras for them to confiscate, so footage got out.

    On another note, I got the impression that most of the ‘ecoterrorism’ (I hate that term it’s been horribly misused) acts have been targeting equipment and infrastructure, not people (with a few exceptions). I can’t remember the specifics, but wasn’t there some guy who set a bunch of SUVs on fire at a dealership in the middle of the night? I didn’t follow what happened, but I heard the terms ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ bandied about quite a bit. Lighting an automobile dealership on fire at night is an okay way to wreck some stuff, but isn’t so great at killing people…

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