There is simply no getting away from the fact that the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs may mark a turning-point in the debate about gun violence. And I don’t mean a positive turning-point either. Because like it or not, the assault by Robert Lewis Dear was a classic example of domestic terrorism, in particular the type of terrorism directed at human targets that has been significantly increasing since a certain you-know-who started living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008.
If anyone wants to place the Colorado Springs episode in its proper context, I suggest you read a very detailed study and report on American terrorism that came out of the West Point Combating Terrorism Center in 2012. This report covers nearly 4,000 terrorist attacks on American soil between 1900 and 2012, of which more than 1,600 occurred after 2008. The report only deals with Far Right terrorism, but that’s because Far left terrorism, which was endemic during the Viet Nam War, particularly after Nixon was elected, fell off and then basically disappeared following the Paris peace accords in 1973. Far Right terrorism, on the other hand, has a long pedigree beginning with the Ku Klux Klan prior and particularly during Reconstruction, gaining strength again during the Civil Rights era and once again emerging in the recent Obama years.
The authors of this report break terror activities into three basic but related strains: racist terrorism, anti-federalist terrorism, and fundamentalist terrorism, the last often associated with racist ideologies and behaviors, but also aimed at attacking abortion providers and eliminating abortion rights. The most notorious abortion attacker was the survivalist Eric Rudolph, who bombed two abortion clinics before his deadly assault at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. The other fatal abortion attack took place in Wichita, KS, when a physician who was not a PP provider but ran his own abortion clinic, was shot dead in his church.
A majority of American terrorist acts are not, as it turns out, directed at human targets but at property, which ranges from graffiti on the side of a synagogue to burning down a Black church, although it’s not really clear whether some of those Black churches burned during the Clinton Administration were actually White churches, rather than Black. But even though attacks against property still comes out ahead of attacks against persons in all terrorist activity, there has been an alarming increase in terrorism aimed at individuals since the beginning of the Obama years, with 700 human targeted events between 2008 and 2011, as opposed to 425 human attacks during the administration of George Bush. The good news, if you can call it good news, is that attacks against mass populations, such as Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995 are the rare exceptions, with mass attacks accounting for less than 3% of all terror incidents since 1991.
On the other hand, the report notes that “contentious and conservative political environments as well as the political empowerment are positively associated with the volume of violence; thus, it is not only feelings of deprivation that motivate those involved in far right violence, but also the sense of empowerment that emerges when the political system is perceived to be increasingly permissive to far right ideas.” And let’s be honest folks. This report wasn’t written by a bunch of lefty do-gooders sitting at Harvard or Yale. It came out of West Point which, the last time I looked, promotes a pretty traditional view of things; i.e., left, center or right.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not accusing anyone of fomenting attacks on anyone else. But the bottom line is that Robert Lewis Dear fits the profile of the American terrorist perfectly: a white male, loner, head filled with fundamentalist ideas and, it goes without saying, access to a gun. Now if fundamentalism and gun ownership isn’t the sine qua non of Red political rhetoric these days, want to tell me what is?