Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The other kind of terrorism, Ch. 489

Fred Clarkson has an excellent series running on Women's News. This is the latest installment:

Radical Abortion Opponents Said to Be Laying Low

While there have been peaks and valleys on a graph of serious crimes against clinics over the years, it is nevertheless striking that, according to the National Abortion Federation's statistics for 2002, there were no murders or attempted murders last year in the United States and Canada. No bombings or attempted bombings. And only one arson.

Analysts credit Attorney General John Ashcroft for making clear that violent crime will not be tolerated and the change in the public tolerance of anti-abortion violence after the attacks of Sept. 11. In its aftermath, more than 500 anthrax threats were mailed to clinics and abortion rights organizations and Ashcroft issued a statement that these crimes were serious and would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Within days of Ashcroft's statement, Clayton Waagner, who has admitted to sending the anthrax threats, was captured.

Law enforcement authorities felt that "it was only a matter of time before anti-choice extremists might be able to get a hold of anthrax--and that they had already said very vocally that they would not hesitate to use it," says Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation. "That Ashcroft characterized it [the anthrax threats] as domestic terrorism and the seriousness with which the FBI treated the matter, I believe, headed off copycat crimes."

Give credit where it is due. I think many of us suspected that when Ashcroft took over the Justice Department, pursuit of right-wing terrorists would grow lax. That clearly has not been the case (though one could argue that the failure to solve the anthrax case remains troubling).

However, it is clear that for most of this administration, the only meaning of "terrorist" is "Al Qaeda operative." That's unfortunate, because it tends to ignore the fact that right-wing terrorists have clearly stated they intend to piggyback on the back of Al Qaeda in sowing and reaping fear and public panic. That's become a key part in their own terrorist agenda; and if you don't believe they have one, then take a moment and recall Oklahoma City. And I'm not sure Ashcroft gets this point, either.

In any case, the end offers an interesting perspective:

Meanwhile Dallas Blanchard is taking the long view. He sees the decades of anti-abortion violence as a sure sign of the death of the movement. He compares the recent history of anti-abortion militancy to the last decades of segregation and to efforts to crush organized labor with violence. "These," he says, "were in retrospect their last gasps."

One could only hope.

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