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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

When is a Terrorist Not a Terrorist?

If Eric Rudolph's crimes do not fit the definition of terrorism, then what does? He pleaded guilty this week to bombing abortion clinics, a gay nightclub and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

These apparently were not personal grudges against any particular person, which would put the crimes purely under murder. Instead, they seem politically motivated. Rudolph is "a follower of a white supremacist religion that is anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-Semitic," according to MSNBC.

The FBI defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

Likewise, the Defense Department defines it as "the calculated use, or threatened use, of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives."

So why hasn't Rudolph been charged with terrorism? Violence against pro-choice clinics that provide abortions has been a tool of the right-wing nutjobs for years, and considering Rudolph's affiliations, it is not hard to see how the government could call his acts terrorism.

A possible answer: calling Rudolph a terrorist would not please Dubya's "base" of support – that is, the right-wing nutjobs who share Rudolph's opposition to gays and abortion but who have enough sense not to go on a killing spree to terrorize people who work at abortion clinics or visit gay nightclubs. Rudolph was just acting on impulses they all share.

Doubt me? The consider what would happen if Rudolph had been a member of Greenpeace or some other environmental activist group and had, say, blown up several offices of oil company executives. Dubya and Co. would have slapped a terrorism charge on that person faster than you can say "pandering to the right".

UPDATE (4-20-05): See what I mean?

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