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Jihad and Right-Wing Extremism Not So Different
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Since 9/11, 34 people have been killed in America by Islamic jihadist terrorists.
Wait, did I say Muslim terrorists? I meant right-wing extremists.
For some reason, we’re better at recognizing threats from outside the castle walls than from within. I’m not saying that radical Islamic terrorists are not a threat to American lives and western civilization. After 9/11, only a fool would not recognize Al Qaeda as a clear and present danger to our national security. Since then, the Southern Poverty Law Center says right-wing extremists have killed more people in this country than have Islamic terrorists. Why then do we habitually consider those terrorists as aberrations?
Why do we not see that our country is being attacked from within by right-wing extremists?
Case in point: Paris. With all the attention focused for good reason on the terrorist attack in Paris, we forgot to worry about attack in our own backyard when a presumably homegrown terrorist bombed an NAACP office in Colorado. What happened to those folks at Charlie Hebdo was an atrocity, but paying heed to that terrorist attack is not a reason to ignore the terrorist attack within our own borders.
It’s not just the NAACP bombing. It’s also three militia members who were arrested in January for plotting to bomb the Atlanta police station, the murder at a Kansas City mosque in December, and the right-wing extremist who shot more than 100 rounds at government buildings the same month in Austin, which is where the software engineer flew his Piper Dakota into an IRS building in Austin not too long ago.
It’s the couple from the Bundy Ranch who killed three people, including two police officers, before shooting each other in Las Vegas last June.
It’s the neo-Nazi who shot and killed three people at a Kansas City-area Jewish community center last April.
It’s the white power musician who murdered six people in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.
It’s Dr. George Tiller being murdered while sitting in a church pew in Wichita in 2009.
It’s more attacks than anyone could be expected to remember unless they were no longer described as isolated incidents committed by lone gunmen, deranged individuals, and loners.
It’s terrorism.
Like Islamic terrorism, right-wing domestic terrorists use violence to stop people from doing things they find morally objectionable. They want people to be too scared to perform legal medical procedures, to observe a religion they don’t like, or to perform basic government functions such as collecting taxes.
A major impediment to Americans understanding that they are under attack from Americans is that a wing of the political party controlling our legislative branch agrees with some of the views of these right-wing extremists. Until we wrap our minds around the fact that the Republican Party is home to radical views, we can’t see that this extremism has metastasized in some cases as violence.
There is nothing inherently un-American about holding these views. Our country started as a tax protest, after all. But just as the Muslim community condemns violence by Islamic radicals, we-all of us-must recognize and condemn violence done in the name of politics.
Instead, some conservative pundits criticized the Department of Homeland Security in 2009 when it warned of the dangers posed by domestic terrorists motivated by right-wing extremism. And when the FBI issued a threat assessment for 2013 saying domestic terrorists posed a greater danger to the country than Islamic terrorists did, some criticized it as political correctness run amok.
We won’t stop bombings by confiscating guns. And we won’t stop them by outlawing right-wing extremism as Germany banned the Nazi party. This is America. We have the freedom to think whatever foolishness comes into our heads. A little less hyperbole about the tyrannical federal government might be nice on the part of our elected officials, but expecting politicians to speak responsibly is another foolish thought.
The first step is admitting we have a problem. It would be idiotic to say that Islamic terrorists pose Americans no threat. Maybe it’s time to not act like idiots by ignoring a similar if not greater threat from domestic terrorists.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford