Almost immediately after the September 11th terrorist attacks, rightwing ideologues began blaming liberals and the left for the heinous taking of innocent lives. Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson tried to blame secular liberalism, claiming that it had caused God to remove his protection from America and thus allow the attacks to succeed. Not to be outdone, gay conservative Andrew Sullivan (whose right to live a normal life was responsible for the attacks according to Fallwell and Robertson) took the lead in lambasting liberals as a traitorous "fifth column."
But now it turns out that the latest wave of anthrax attacks on America is most probably the work of rightwing Christian white supremicists. This is not a matter of any sort of far-fetched metaphysical causality involving God's will, nor of attitudes, ideas or voting patterns. It's a matter of attacking specific individuals with deadly germs. It's clearcut murder. No metaphysics. No spin. No ifs ands or buts. It's murder. Period.
Rightwing terrorism has a long history in America. Every slave kept in captivity was kept there by it. After slavery was abolished, the KKK and other rightwing terrorist organizations played a crucial role in crushing the promise of a democratically re-united country. They were the shock troops, which enabled the institutionalization of systematic terrorism to maintain white power and keep blacks poor, powerless and afraid throughout the segregationist era. Rightwing terrorism as been used as well against immigrants, labor, and religious minorities throughout American history. It is a deep stain on our national heritage, which continues to haunt us in large part because it has long been coddled, when not actively extolled.
A tragic example of that was the way in which the Congress, the FBI, the Justice Department and the corporate media responded to the Oklahoma City bombing-that is, after the initial misdirected accusations against Arab Americans. The Republican House of Representatives, newly installed after 40 years of Democratic control, responded by giving a respectful-some might say obsequious-hearing to militia leaders who conducted themselves as if the Oklahoma City Federal Building had bombed them. The FBI and the Justice Department narrowed their gaze on just two men, ignoring the claims of ATF informant Carol Howe who connected the plot with the larger Christian white supremacist network through its nearby nerve center in Elohim City.
While many who tout Howe's significance on the internet and elsewhere show extreme cynicism toward the government and gullibility toward any government-critical viewpoint, the fact remains that a more thorough investigation of Elohim City-which has been the site of armed confrontation in the past-was clearly warranted, and would certainly have taken place if it had been a gun-toting left-wing compound. The Elohim City connection is particularly significant in view of continued reports connecting the US anti-Semites with counterparts in the Middle East.
There's another connection which has been widely ignored-the long-running terrorist war against abortion clinics, which also issues from the violent fringe of rightwing politics. Writing in the Boston Globe on October 17, Eileen McNamara, wrote: "Welcome to Gloria Feldt's nightmare. Threats of anthrax contamination are a fresh peril to most Americans, but they are terrifyingly familiar to Feldt, the president of Planned Parenthood, and to hundreds of her colleagues in women's reproductive health clinics across the United States."
At that point, 110 letters claiming to contain deadly bacteria had been received by abortion clinics in 13 states that week. Most "were immediately deposited, unopened, inside plastic bags by receptionists who were trained in terror long before anyone ever heard of Osama bin Laden." Similar letters have been sent to clinics in 16 states since 1998. All the letters were hoaxes, but they still constitute serious crimes, as Bush recently made clear. Yet, there was not a single arrest in any case, "leading Feldt and others to wonder why a campaign of terror against women has failed to inspire the kind of mobilization we are witnessing now that terror has targeted Tom Brokaw."
The reason is fairly obvious: terrorism against the powerless, in defense of tradition powers is basically condoned by our political system. The right wing will never forget incidents like Ruby Ridge not because they are so outrageous-the Black Panthers could point to far worse in any one of several years-but because they are so rare. But now, suddenly, America as a whole is beginning to feel some of the consequences of nearly four hundred years of coddling rightwing terror.