If you happened to be looking for a demonstration of the utter uselessness of "bipartisanship" as an approach to the world's problems, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better example than the Bipartisan Policy Center's latest terrorism-threat assessment, a report titled "Assessing the Terrorist Threat" [PDF of full report here].
It does offer a lot of useful information on what is indeed an important developing phenomenon -- namely, the growth of homegrown terrorism with an international orientation, that is, radical Muslims of American background. But -- even as it urges the government to prepare for and deal with "the radicalization and recruitment of Americans to terrorist ranks" -- it proceeds as though radical Islam is the only component of that problem.
This, of course, is exactly the kind of narrative that the Muslim-bashers at Fox love to run with, as you can see from the above video. Likewise, "mainstream" media like the Wall Street Journal did likewise, while NPR's execrable Dina Temple-Raston -- who not so long ago was writing warm and fuzzy profiles of the "new, kinder, gentler militias" -- chimed in with a piece headlined "Homegrown Terrorists Pose Biggest Threat, Report Says".
No doubt these homegrown Islamic radicals do pose a real threat. But whether they are in fact the "biggest" terrorism threat Americans face or not is very much open to question -- because the longest-running, most consistent and in fact currently fastest-growing domestic-terror threat comes from a component completely ignored in the BPC report: radical right-wing American extremists.
Just this week we had a clear-cut case of this:
Federal authorities charged a Concord man this week with providing information to create explosives he believed would be used to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic.
Justin Carl Moose, 26, who the FBI alleges referred to himself as the “Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant, was arrested on Tuesday, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of N.C.
Moose is charged with providing information related to the manufacture of an explosive, destruction device or weapon of mass destruction to the informant, who he believed was plotting to bomb an abortion clinic.
In an undercover operation, federal officials state they had the informant provide Moose with a name and address of a clinic he was supposedly targeting.
... Agents verified Moose’s ownership of the web page and noted it contained numerous anti-abortion postings, videos and images that support others convicted of murder or attempted murder at abortion clinics, along with links about building explosives.
On the Facebook page cited in the complaint, which was still online Thursday, Moose describes himself as:
“Whatever you may think about me, you’re probably right. Extremist, Radical, Fundamentalist...? Terrorist...? Well... I prefer the term “freedom Fighter.”
“End abortion by any means necessary and at any cost”. “Save a life, Shoot an abortionist.”
The FBI analyzed the links regarding explosives and found they provided credible information for building functioning devices.
In one post, Moose allegedly taunted federal authorities by acknowledging he was likely being monitored, writing:
“To all the feds watching me: You can’t stop what is in motion. Even if you bring me in, my men will continue their mission. Furthermore, I will not go peacefully. Do you really want another Waco?”
Of course, this is only the latest and most recent example of right-wing American domestic terrorism manifesting itself. Indeed, when you consider the litany of the past couple of years alone, we're compiling quite a record:
-- July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how "liberals" are "destroying America," walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.
-- October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.
-- December 2008: In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.
-- January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.
-- February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.
-- April 2009: A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.
-- April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama's purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.
-- May 2009: A "sovereign citizen" named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Topeka, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.
-- June 2009: James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.
-- February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one "domestic terrorism" too.)
-- March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.
-- May 2010: A "sovereign citizen" from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.
-- May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.
-- May 2010: Two "sovereign citizens" named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.
-- July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.
That's sixteen major incidents in a two-year period -- significantly more than we've seen over the same timespan from domestic radical Muslims. The BPC's report enumerates a total of seven incidents in 2009 -- two attacks and five serious plots (not to mention four attempts to join terrorist organizations). We've had the same number of right-wing extremist-related incidents of domestic terrorism in 2010 so far -- and the year isn't even over yet.
This has in fact been quite predictable, especially considering that both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL have reported a significant increase in recruitment by right-wing extremists, particularly white-supremacist and radical "Patriot" groups, in the wake of President Obama's election. These two factions, after all, have been responsible for the overwhelming majority of domestic-terrorism cases of the past thirty years and more. Indeed, the problem is serious enough that the Pentagon has finally begun to clamp down on the far-right extremists who have been infiltrating the ranks of U.S. troops in recent years.
But right-wingers are always eager to dismiss the reality of right-wing extremists -- even in the face of overwhelming data. So this means, evidently, that when we now assess terrorism on a "bipartisan" basis, we must omit them altogether.
I'm sure it makes for wonderful comity inside the Beltway. But it creates a dangerous level of ignorance -- and concomitant vulnerability -- when that becomes the standard media narrative.