Beware! The groundwork is quickly being laid for use of the “War on Terrorism” against domestic political radicals, anarchists, and environmentalists. Will the term “terrorist” be used to suppress anyone who questions the corporate/industrial system, in a kind of “new-McCarthyism”?
The danger of being labeled a terrorist for engaging in domestic political activity is high because once labeled, there is no way to fight the label. Groups or people labeled terrorists may be subject to increasingly extreme and unpredictable forms of government repression.
The definition of terrorist activity is so broad and includes so many types of activities that virtually anyone opposing corporate or government action using tactics other than voting and letter-writing could be labeled a “terrorist.” Federal law defines terrorism as “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of criminal laws of the U.S. or any state; that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population and to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce” the government or the civilian population.
Six days after the September 11 attacks, attorney general John Ashcroft announced the creation of anti-terrorism task forces in all federal district attorney offices across the country. His announcement appears to revive COINTELPRO tactics, although this time to disrupt and neutralize “terrorists” instead of “subversives.” He noted: “Once substantial credible information is received indicating that individuals or groups in a particular district may be terrorists or abetting terrorism or aiding terrorism, the members of the anti-terrorism task force in conjunction with the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice will determine and implement the most effective strategy for incapacitating any terrorist activity on their part.”
Since Ashcrofts announcement, numerous articles in the mainstream press have appeared to lay groundwork for labeling anarchist and radical environmentalist groups as terrorists who should be “incapacitated.” The New York Times recently published an article on the dangers posed by rowdy anarchists to the Olympic games. In another article, the Times noted that anarchist-based anti-racists who had protested a Nazi gathering in Pennsylvania were more violent and dangerous than the Nazis they came to protest. And a recent preview article about the protests against the World Economic Forum featured photographs of black-clad anarchists trashing a McDonald’s restaurant in Davos, Switzerland, and pictures of police and protesters clashing in Melbourne and Salzburg, Austria. All these articles, and many others found in papers across the country, appear designed to justify repression.
One of the most blatant war on terrorism based attacks on domestic dissent so far has been against the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (EFL). On October 31, Craig Rosenbraugh, the former press spokesperson for the ELF, was subpoenaed to testify before a FEBRUARY 12 Congressional hearing on Ecoterrorism. Rosenbraugh has said he won’t cooperate, and could be jailed indefinitely for refusing to respond to Congressional questions. The FBI has an on-going investigation against the ALF and the ELF (they were listed as terrorist groups before September 11) and it is unclear what might happen after the congressional hearing. “In probing the threat of terrorism, it only stands to reason that Congress should probe the threat of eco-terrorism as well,” Representative Scott McInnis (R-Colorado) said.
Soon after scheduling the hearing on ecoterrorism, McInnis and other congressmen sent letters to a number of mainstream environmental groups asking them to condemn the ALF and the ELF. The letter stated “As our Nation begins the recovery and healing process following the tragedy of September 11, we believe it is critical for Americans of every background and political stripe to disavow terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. No matter its shape, source or motivation, Americans simply cannot tolerate, either overtly or through silence, the use of violence and terror as an instrument of promoting social and political change. ”
When it comes right down to it, the corporations and governments and industrialism and property are killing the earth and killing far more people than any terrorists’ bombs. The kind of terrorism which seeks to butcher people at random so the terrorist can obtain power - the same kind of power wielded by the corporations and the governments the terrorist attacks – that kind of terrorism is not liberation, but just more of the same death and domination.
But the struggle for liberation from power is a struggle that requires disruption of the system it seeks to destroy. “Working within the system” only strengthens the system and cannot free us from the system. The struggle for liberation doesn’t seek to kill people – it seeks to fight a system of power which dominates people. We must not permit those who seek to retain power to label our struggle for libaration as “terrorist” thereby justifing use of the system’s violence against liberation.