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The end is near …

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And by that I mean the end of this year’s tragedy/horror show/circus/train wreck/national disgrace series of presidential debates.

Trump and Clinton square off for the final time on stage in Las Vegas (fitting somehow) tonight, and since throughout this process I’ve strongly urged my students to do their civic duty and tune in, I’ll be watching it too.

As a viewer, there are all kinds of ways to prep. I’m going to follow the lead suggested by the brilliant Wiley above. You might want to as well.

Or you could follow some of the links below:

NPR gives us four things to look for in tonight’s debate. And during the debate they’ll be producing live transcripts and real-time fact checking.

The New York Times also has a preview and summary of the themes they will be watching for in tonight’s debate, from Clinton’s struggle to sound human to the possibility that Trump will take his time at the podium to burn the GOP to the ground.

Finally, if you’re not sure where to find the debate on TV or radio, or if you’re one of those youngsters who consumes all media via streaming the Internet across the screen of your smartphone, Vox has your complete guide to how to watch. You can also read their preview take on the role of tonight’s moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, here.

So buckle in folks. See you on the other side.

Americans at war with America

Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.
Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.

 

In thinking about the threat of terrorism facing the United States, it’s important to remember where most of the real danger comes from. Hint: It’s not immigrants, refugees, or jihadi infiltrators.

Nope, most of the danger comes from red-blooded Americans like the 24-year-old man from Pontiac, MI, who has been charged with threatening to kill the judge presiding over his child custody case. His plan involved blowing up the Oakland County Sixth Circuit Court building with a bomb modeled after the one Timothy McVeigh used to level the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people and wounding nearly 700.

According to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, the suspect indicated that he was ready and willing to “go to war” and told an acquaintance that he shared McVeigh’s anti-government ideology. Would he have followed through on his threats? It’s impossible to know, and thankfully we won’t have to find out.

But whether he was serious or just blowing smoke, the threat of right-wing terrorism is no joke. In June 2015 the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security reported that “Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face.”

right-wing-1In March last year, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Anti Defamation League released a chronology of conspiracies, plots, and attacks by right-wing extremists since 1995. A total of 120 separate incidents are chronicled in the report. The graphic at right breaks down the number of attacks, plots, and attempted attacks by ideological movement.

You can download the report here. It makes for chilling reading. Here are some excerpts:

Battle Creek/Kalamazoo, Michigan, March 1998: In 1999, members of the North American Militia of southwestern Michigan were convicted on various conspiracy and weapon charges related to a terrorist plot. Prosecutors accused Bradford Metcalf, Kenneth Carter, and Randy Graham of plotting to kill federal officials, and to destroy a federal building, an IRS office, utility transmitters, and a television station. Carter pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government; he received a five‐year sentence. Metcalf received a 40‐year sentence; Graham a 55‐year sentence.

Washington County, Pennsylvania, February 2003: Ku Klux Klan leader David Wayne Hull was arrested at his home on weapons and explosives charges in connection with a plot to blow up an abortion clinic. Federal prosecutors charged Hull, the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a small Pennsylvania‐based group, with receiving, manufacturing, possessing and transferring a destructive device in violation of the National Firearms Act. He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2005.

Crockett, Tennessee, October 2008: Crockett County sheriff’s deputies arrested white supremacists Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, who were casing houses to rob in order to get funds to launch a murderous rampage primarily targeting African‐American children, which would culminate in an assassination attempt on presidential candidate Barack Obama. Both men pleaded guilty to federal weapons and conspiracy charges. Cowart was sentenced to 14 years in prison, while Schlesselman received 10 years.

Concord, North Carolina, September 2010: Anti‐abortion extremist Justin Carl Moose of Concord, North Carolina, was arrested for providing information related to the making, use, or manufacture of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction. According to the criminal complaint, Moose used social networking sites to advocate violence against women’s healthcare clinics and where abortions are performed, as well as their employees. Additionally, Moose allegedly met with an individual he believed was planning to bomb a North Carolina clinic and provided detailed information and instruction about various explosives and incendiary methods that could be used to destroy the clinic. Moose, a self‐ proclaimed member of “Army of God”, an extreme anti‐abortion group, pleaded guilty to distributing information on making and using explosives. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Las Vegas, Nevada, June 2014: Husband and wife anti‐government extremists Jerad and Amanda Miller assassinated two Las Vegas police officers in June 2014, killing them while they were eating lunch at a restaurant. The couple then crossed the street to a Wal‐Mart, where they killed a civilian who attempted to intervene. Jerad died in a subsequent shootout with police. Amanda also died, killing herself at the scene after being shot by police.

I touched on this before in this space, when black churches were being burned across the South in the wake of the slaughter of black churchgoers in Charleston, SC. I bring it up (again) because it is important to remember that the main terrorist threat to America comes from within. Specifically, it comes from Americans plotting against and targeting other Americans to advance political and religious causes that are deeply rooted in American history, society, and culture.

We are our own worst enemy.

This week in terrorism history: Feb. 10-16

Convicted terrorist plotter, US Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson and his arsenal.

A year ago this week, an active duty US Coast Guard officer, Christopher Hasson, was arrested and charged with plotting a campaign of domestic terrorism targeting prominent MSNBC and CNN media figures, liberal professors, Supreme Court justices, and Democratic politicians. I first wrote about Hasson the week after his arrest.

As I noted then, again on the blog last week, Hasson’s case is an exceptionally good example of the logic of terrorism in democracies. The political scientist Ted Gurr argued that terrorism can emerge in democracies when activists with extreme political views lose patience with conventional politics and look for new tactics, like terrorist violence, that will have greater impact. 

A committed white nationalist, Hasson despaired that his fellow whites had succumbed to “liberalist” ideology, concluding that violence, and only violence could shake them out of their complacency. In a rambling email drafted on his work computer at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, DC, Hasson wrote (emphasis mine):

Liberalist/globalist ideology is destroying traditional peoples esp white. No way to counteract without violence. It should push for more crack down bringing more people to our side. Much blood will have to be spilled to get whitey off the couch.

In a 2017 letter to Neo-Nazi leader Harold Covington, who had advocated for the creation of a white ethno-state in the Pacific Northwest, Hasson went in to greater depth concerning his frustration with “normal politics,” even as practiced by Neo-Nazis and white supremacists (again, emphasis mine):

I never saw a reason for mass protest or wearing uniforms marching around provoking people with swastikas etc. I was and am a man of action you cannot change minds protesting like that. however you can make change with a little focused violence. … We need a white homeland as Europe seems lost. How long can we hold out there and prevent niggerization of the Northwest until whites wake up on their own or are forcibly made to make a decision whether to roll over and die or to stand up remains to be seen. But I know a few younger ones that are tired of waiting.

Less than two weeks ago, Hasson was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison in connection to his plot, the arsenal of weapons he had amassed to carry it out, and the large quantity of painkillers found in his apartment. It is worth noting that Hasson was convicted on firearms and drugs charges, not terrorism. As I’ve written before, this is because the United States has no federal domestic terrorism statutes.

“Christopher Hasson intended to inflict violence on the basis of his racist and hateful beliefs,” Robert K. Hur, the United States attorney in Maryland, said in a statement Friday. “As long as violent extremists take steps to harm innocent people, we will continue to use all of the tools we have to prevent and deter them.”

Now on to this week’s look back:

  • Feb. 11, 2010 — Bisembe, Democratic Republic of the Congo: Fifteen civilians are kidnapped, with seven later killed. Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FLDR), an ethnic Hutu group operating in eastern Congo. It is thought to be one of the last factions of Hutu genocidaires still active in Congo.
  • Feb. 14, 2011 — Bahrain: Political unrest sparks the formation of the 14 February Youth Coalition, a group dedicated to overthrowing Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. The group was also connected to firebomb and other attacks on Western interests in the Gulf state.
  • Feb. 14, 2019 — Silver Spring, Md. — The FBI arrests U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson, after labeling him a domestic terrorist who pushed for a “white homeland” and had a hit list of Democratic politicians and media figures. The FBI says Hasson self-identified as a white nationalist and was an admirer of Norwegian domestic terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a rampage over Muslim immigration. According to the FBI, Hasson stockpiled weapons and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition at his Maryland home.
  • Feb. 16, 1992 — Lebanon: Hezbollah Secretary General Abbas Musawi is killed when rockets fired from Apache attack helicopters of the Israel Defense Forces strike his motorcade. Musawi’s wife, 5-year-old son, and four others were also killed during the “targeted killing” operation.

Trump’s America today

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This is what you’re voting for when you vote for Donald Trump:

Episodes like this have become so common that Slate has been keeping a running tally of violent incidents at Trump rallies and events.

The sucker punch delivered to a peaceful protester being escorted out by police is bad enough. Worse yet are the roars of approval from the crowd.

I won’t bother pointing out that it’s the protester that’s shown being arrested on the video, not the man who assaulted him. Nor that any of the other available video shows anything different, though a local television station reported this afternoon that assault and battery charges have been filed in the incident.

The Washington Post has the full story and more video from yesterday’s rally in Fayetteville, N.C., where the latest violence occurred.  You should read it.  And if you think this is a fluke, then read this one. Or this one, with the dire prediction that even worse violence is yet to come.

I am at a loss for words.