Terrorism in America

by Brian on November 2, 2004

I’ve been thinking today about what the biggest surprises (other than the absence of even bigger surprises) about the campaign have been. I agree with “Big Media Matt”:http://www.prospect.org/weblog/archives/2004/11/index.html#004655 that the it’s surprising the Republicans didn’t go after Kerry’s Senate vote against the first gulf war. I think it’s surprising that the Kerry campaign didn’t make more of his great successes as a Senator, e.g. BCCI, Iran-Contra, POW investigation etc, especially since every one of them tells against the narrative of Kerry as someone who takes the soft option.

Also on the list should be how much the anthrax attacks completely disappeared from the public consciousness. For a gratuitously extreme example, here’s “Cliff May”:http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/04_11_02_corner-archive.asp#044520

bq. It’s 3 PM on November 2, 2004. There has not been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11/01.

Were the anthrax attacks not terrorism, not on American soil, or not after September 11 2001? Either of the three options boggles the mind, but presumably May believes one of the disjuncts is true.



jet 11.02.04 at 9:03 pm

In the context of the anthrax, terrorism happens all the time in the US. Swastikas are carved into Jewish buildings, crosses are burned, people in need of a lobotomy drag other people down dirt roads. Like all those, the anthrax incident looks to be a domestic issue.

I also thought it was understood that when speaking of Terrorism, it was meant foreign terrorism.


jet 11.02.04 at 9:10 pm

I too am mystified that Bush didn’t go after Kerry more for Gulf War I. If Kerry wasn’t for force then, it would be an easy case to make that he’d never be for force, ever.

As for Kerry making points on Iran-Contra and the POW “accomplishments”. The Right still sees Iran-Contra as “yeah, it was against the law, but…” And for the POW issue, the last thing Kerry wanted was yet more pictures of ticked off Vets on motorcycles with black POW flags flying behind them calling Kerry a traitor and conspiracy theories about Kerry’s family and Vietnamese business deals getting any air play what-so-ever.

I think Bush played the Gulf War I issue weakly and in-effectually and Kerry played the smart hand (for once, ie I don’t think Vientnam helped him) and stayed away from controversial issues he couldn’t gain from.


Joe O 11.02.04 at 9:11 pm

The anthrax attacks were probably from some US extremist group or person. Perhaps unfairly, it gets put into the “crime” category rather than the “terrorist” category. The DC snipers were also put into the “crime” category even though the snipers meant to spead fear and may have had political goals.

Still, it is good that there hasn’t been a replay of the pre-election spanish bombing. I was a little worried after the new OBL tape.


Brian Weatherson 11.02.04 at 9:16 pm

We don’t know whether the anthrax attacks were foreign or not because the Bush adminstration didn’t ever find out who it was. It was probably domestic, but who knows?

And I really doubt that’s what terrorism means. Was Oklahoma City not terrorism? Would anything pulled off by alleged Buffalo based Islamic groups not have counted? Would Sept 11 not have been if the hijackers had been nationalised?

And as horrible as carving Swastikas into doors is (very very horrible) assassination attempts against political leaders should probably be kept in a separate category.


jet 11.02.04 at 9:17 pm

As evidence of the POW issue, google “Kerry POW” and as of 11-02-04 4:16pm Eastern, this site is what you get.

Yeah, Kerry didn’t want anyone digging into his POW past.


JRoth 11.02.04 at 9:19 pm

Remember, guys, to people who support Bush, terrorists are ONLY the ones who look foreign. Timothy McVeigh /= terrorist. There have been perhaps 1/2 dozen significant terror plots intercepted in the US in the last 3+ years (see Dave Neiwert), but all involved white Americans (most with right-wing leanings), and so were not taken seriously by the media or the FBI. One guy in Texas had hundreds of cyanide pipe bombs, and the FBI explicitly said it was a local issue.

Since the anthrax attacks at this point appear to have been perpetrated by a white American, it is clear to most Bush supporters that they were not terrorist attacks.


Locutor 11.02.04 at 9:51 pm

Jet typed:
The Right still sees Iran-Contra as “yeah, it was against the law, but…”

but then again, the Right is rarely uncomfortable with the deaths of foreign brown people. On the other hand, the families and survivors of the hundreds of thousands of killings, kidnapping, and tortures that occurred in Central America because of the Reagan administration’s little schemes would have a very different opinion.

And, if the average right-winger’s belief in an angry, vengeful god turns out to be true, woe unto Reagan and his followers. What was it that Jeebus said? “As you do unto the least of them, so you do unto me”


Gabriel Rossman 11.02.04 at 10:16 pm


i don’t think it’s an issue of race but of scale. even if one makes the rather silly assumption that only islamic terrorism is real terrorism, there have been attacks on US soil since 9/11, they just a) didn’t have especially large body counts and b) were committed by ideologically-motivated, but unaffiliated, freelancers rather than bona fide AQ members. specifically, i’m thinking about the dc sniper and the fellow who shot some people at LAX. the interesting thing is that, in contrast to the fbi, right-wing pundits generally favored calling these attacks terrorism. given that there’s a blurry line between a freelancer and an affiliate (esp with ELF which only has freelancers), i think mark steyn is right and the fbi is wrong. however, once you define these attacks as terrorism, then there have demonstrably been attacks since 9/11. the most the corner could credibly say then is that there have been no attacks on US soil that were either large in scale or formally tied to AQ.


russkie 11.02.04 at 10:19 pm

You say:

Were the anthrax attacks not terrorism, not on American soil, or not after September 11 2001? Either of the three options boggles the mind, but presumably May believes one of the disjuncts is true.

The letters accompanying the anthrax were dated 9/11 – and were certainly mailed either then or shortly after. Even if May forgot about the anthrax, he’s not doing any of your “mind-boggling” foolishness.

That’s the quintessential CT rhetorical move: twist someone’s words around and then thrill as the whole cocoon sneers loudly.


jet 11.02.04 at 10:24 pm

Locutor, interesting post, but what does that have to do with Kerry’s talking points? Are you implieing Kerry should start quoting scripture to denounce his political aponents :P

And as for terrorism, if you want to get caught up with technicalities and not the spirit of what was meant, then say it. Say WMD’s were found in Iraq. Come on now, technically theye were, so anyone who says there was terrorism in the US since 9/11 needs to also say WMD’s were found in Iraq.

Are we having fun yet :P


Peter 11.02.04 at 10:52 pm

The book Amerithrax goes into lots of details about the anthrax letters in 2001. The letters were sent to democrats who were critical of the patriot act, and to media that a foreign terrorist would not bother with.

If a foreign terrorist wanted to strike at a symbol of the US tv-news, they would have sent letters to cnn and fox (both prominant outside the US), not to nbc or abc.

If a foreign terrorist wanted to strike at a symbol of the US newspapers, they would have sent anthrax to the wall street journal, ny times. usa today and international herald tribune. They would not have sent anthrax to the NY post, national enquirer (although the NY times did get some anthrax, I am reminded of Ann Coulter’s remarks that the only thing that mcveigh did wrong was to fail to go to the ny times).

If you look at who was sent anthrax, who was not sent anthrax, and to WHOM do those distinctions matter, you reach the inevitable conclusion that the anthrax letters sent in 2001 were sent by a right wing domestic terrorist.

Foreign terrorists aren’t going to go around bragging that they tagged the Podunk Times. Their audience would only go “who?” Instead they would strike at a target all their audience recognizes.


matt 11.03.04 at 12:17 am

I’d think the anthrax letters are at least presumptively in the ‘terrorism’ pile, since they seem to have been done for at least some sort of political motive, and in an indirect way since a “frontal” attack would be unlikely to work. That seems to be about as close to a definition of terrorism as one can get, I think. This is nice in that the DC sniper probably isn’t a terrorist, the unibomber probably is, McVeigh certainly is, etc. Jet largely seems to be making special pleading, as is typical. We should all be quite happy that nothing worse happened, and maybe we should call these “small-scale terrorist attacks” but they do seem to fit a fairly reasonable classification.


jet 11.03.04 at 4:52 am

I was under the impression that when News agencies, Bush, or Kerry spoke about terrorism, they were speaking about Al Queda unless specified otherwise. I’m probably alone here in thinking that, but I doubt I’m alone in the US in thinking that ;)


Joshua W. Burton 11.03.04 at 4:59 pm

What about the LAX attack on 4 July 2002? It certainly passes the “US soil”, “swarthy assailant” and “murderous” cuts. Is the point simply that killing people with names like Victoria Hen and Yaakov Aminov doesn’t meet the “global reach” criterion, no matter where in the world it happens?

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