Human Rights

Why America Doesn't Call It Terrorism If the Perpetrators Are White

Domestic, far-right terrorism attacks have killed far more people than foreign-inspired "Jihadist" attacks.

Photo Credit: via YouTube/ABC News

At this week’s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas and in the courts of America, it seems like when we talk about “terrorism” we only appear to bring the subject up when the perpetrators are Muslim and/or brown-skinned. 

Since September 11, there were nine foreign-inspired “Jihadist” terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that killed 45 Americans, while 18 domestic-inspired far right terrorism attacks killed 48 people. We consider and debate all sorts of measures to change surveillance and immigration procedures while ignoring due process and the Constitution for foreign and Muslim threats because of the 14 people killed in San Bernardino last week. But we do absolutely nothing in response to the nine people killed in Charleston by Dylann Roof, or the six people killed at a Sikh temple in 2012, or the three killed in Colorado at Planned Parenthood last month, or the three killed in Las Vegas in 2014 including two police officers and one “good guy with a gun” in Walmart, or the three people killed at a Kansas Jewish center in 2014, or the four people killed in a multi-state spree by white supremacists in 2012, or the four people killed by the FEAR Militia in 2011.  

But then in those 18 deadly domestic terrorist attacks, nearly all of the “violent killers” involved were white. So I guess it just doesn’t count then, does it?

And all of that's not including the 32 people killed by Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech, the 26 killed by Adam Lanza in Newtown, Connecticut, the 12 killed by James Holmes in Aurora Colorado, the 12 killed by Aaron Alexis at the D.C. Shipyard, the seven killed by Elliot Rodger in Isla Vista, California, the six killed by Jared Loughner in Tuscon, Arizona, and the two killed by Vester Lee Flannigan in Moneta, Virginia. Those cases, which killed a total of 97 people and wounded dozens, were deemed to be the result of “mental illness” and not “terrorism” so there’s nothing to discuss about them, is there? Certainly not background checks or temporary weapons restraining orders for those under emotional duress, so let’s move on.

This very point was the core of the Young Turks’ discussion this week following the Republican debate, because when you look at not just the lethal attacks but the non-lethal violence of domestic terrorists, it gets even worse.

“In the last 13 years, there’s been five times as many right-wing attacks in this country as Muslim attacks. Not a single question about it,” host Cenk Uygur said. He pointed out that while Republicans have been critical of Democratic candidates for not saying the phrase “radical Islam,” the GOP refuses to say “right wing terrorism.”

The panel, which included John Iadarola, Ben Mankiewicz, and Jimmy Dore also brought up mass shootings.

“If we’re having a debate about terror, can we also bring up the terrorism watch list and why they can buy weapons [on] the terrorism watch list?” Uygur said. “How do you not get a single question on that? …The mass shootings are right around the corner, in your neighborhood. That’s what’s making you less safe.”

Dore said it’s easier to scare voters when the perpetrators don’t look like them.

“It’s easier to scare people of the ‘other,’ someone who doesn’t look like you, especially if they’re darker,” he said. [emphasis added]

Terrorism from foreign sources has not risen dramatically in recent years, despite San Bernardino. But the fact is that acts of hate and domestic terrorism against Muslims have been increasing.

A new FBI report says hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise.

As Republican officials wring their hands about letting Muslim refugees in the country, hate crimes against Muslims in this country are actually on the rise in the U.S.


Hate crimes in all other categories went down; attacks on Muslims bucked the trend.

The agency’s annual report on hate crime statistics indicates that the total number of reported hate-crime incidents in 2014 is lower than in 2013, decreasing from 5,928 to 5,479

Of the 1,092 reported hate crimes related to anti-religious sentiment, 16.3 percent were anti-Muslim—a total of 154 incidents and 184 victims. In 2013, there were 135 reported anti-Muslim incidents with 167 victims.

The Southern Poverty Law Center suggested the uptick in crimes targeted at Muslims because of their faith will likely continue in 2015.

That prediction for 2015 seems to be proving true as we look back just over the last couple of weeks:

Another point is that there is no real or practical difference between a “hate crime” and “terrorism.”  U.S. Federal statutes define hate crimes as:

(1) Offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin.—Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person—

Which has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison or life in prison if someone is killed, butdomestic terrorism is defined as:

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;(B) appear to be intended—(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

Which has maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for conspiracy, or death if murder is involved. But in real terms, anyone who attacks or attempts to intimidate someone on the basis of their race, religion, or national origin is also trying to “coerce a civilian population” by injecting them with fear, aren’t they?

In one case it’s about the race and religion of the victim, in the other it’s the race/religion of the perpetrator, which is largely a distinction without much real difference.

And what should be shocking is that except for Timothy McVeigh who was charged with conspiracy and use of a WMD, none of the domestic terrorism cases listed or mentioned at the beginning of this post have resulted in prosecutions for terrorism.

Robert Dear was charged with murder in the first degree—not terrorism—for his attack on Planned Parenthood. Dylann Roof was charged with murder and firearms violations, but not terrorism

The Department of Justice charged Dylann Roof, the white 21-year-old man who allegedly gunned down nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, with murder, attempted murder and use of a firearm, all in the commission of a hate crime. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the charges on Wednesday afternoon.

But the DOJ did not charge Roof with domestic terrorism, or include terrorism in the indictment.

Some media outlets, lawyers, public figures and activists have called for Roof to be charged not just with a hate crime, an illegal act “motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias,” but with the separate label of domestic terrorism. Critics contend that the label of terrorism is too often only applied to Islamic extremists, and not white supremacists or anti-government anarchists. Many were outraged after FBI Director James Comey balked at the term during a June 20 press conference, telling reporters he didn’t see the murders “as a political act,” a requirement he designated as necessary for terrorism.

It wasn’t a “political act” despite the fact that Roof wrote a racist manifesto where he specifically stated he wanted to “start a revolution.”

The same was true of Oregon white supremacists Holly Grisby and David “Joey” Pedersen, who killed four people in a multi-state murder spree.

A 27-year-old woman who joined her boyfriend in a 2011 murder spree to kill Jews and minorities has pleaded guilty in Portland, Ore., in a deal that calls for her to spend the rest of her life in federal prison without the possibility of parole.


Pedersen, now 33, and Grigsby, both from Oregon, were named in a 14-count racketeering conspiracy indictment returned by a federal grand in Portland in August 2012. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to pursue the death penalty, but federal prosecutors in Oregon took the lead in prosecuting the pair who faced state charges in several jurisdictions.

Federal investigators say the two white supremacists hoped media attention given to their hate crimes would spark a revolution.

Yet again, not “terrorism.”

The five members of the "FEAR" militia who killed three people weren’t charged with terrorism, either.

According to prosecutors, the four soldiers were part of a militia formed at nearby Fort Stewart, which trains the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. They dubbed their group FEAR, for Forever Enduring Always Ready, says Burnett.

What the four soldiers allegedly accomplished—the killings of their fellow Ft. Stewart soldier Michael Roark and York, his 17-year-old girlfriend—was a tiny fraction of the destruction they had planned to carry out, according to the prosecution. The two were allegedly murdered because they knew of the soldiers’ reported plans and were considered security risks.

The prosecution has said that the group also planned to bomb the fountain at Savannah’s Forsyth Park, seize control of Fort Stewart itself, bomb the cars of various political and judicial figures in Georgia, poison Washington State’s apple crop and, ultimately, kill Barack Obama.

They wanted to kill the president, but apparently they didn’t want to “affect the conduct of our government by assassination.” Okay.

Even if you go back to before September 11, when the U.S. Olympics were bombed in 1996 by Eric Robert Rudolph, he also was not charged with terrorism.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal authorities today charged Eric Robert Rudolph with the fatal bombing two years ago at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, as well as the 1997 bombings at an Atlanta area health clinic and a nightclub, the Southeast Bomb Task Force announced.

In a criminal complaint filed today in Atlanta, together with a sealed affidavit, the Justice Department charged that the 32 year old resident of Murphy, North Carolina, was responsible for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta on July 27, 1996, the double bombing at the Sandy Springs Professional Building in north Atlanta on January 16, 1997, and the double bombing at The Otherside Lounge in Atlanta on February 21, 1997. An arrest warrant was issued today for his arrest on these charges


Today's criminal complaint charges Rudolph with five counts of malicious use of an explosive in violation of federal law. [emphasis added]

Contrast these facts with the FBI ten years after September 11, giving itself a pat on the back for stopping terrorism—but only cases of terrorism attempted by Muslims. This is not just a coincidence: It’s a biased strategy to shunt dozens of mass murderers with political, religious, or racial intent into the state court system to face conspiracy and murder charges. Unless they happen to be Muslim, in which case they face charges of terrorism. It’s happening at all levels of government, not just during the presidential debates and regardless of whether the current administration is Democratic or Republican. This is just how we roll.

All of which leads you to the conclusion that unless you’re a member of Occupy, are protesting NATO, or are one of the 15 Confederates who crashed a party because they wanted to “kill the niggers,”  if you aren’t a Muslim you pretty much can't be a “terrorist.” Even if you go out and do everything a terrorist would do. Except be whiter.

Not in ‘Murica. No sir.



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