Who Are The Real Snowflakes?

donald trump
Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

The Supreme Court’s June 26 decision to partially uphold President Donald Trump’s March 6 executive order to block people of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. is the most recent manifestation of the fear that Osama bin Laden succeeded in creating with his September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The 9/11 attacks were the worst terrorist attacks in world history, killing 2,996 people and injuring more than 6,000 others. The World Trade Center attack in New York was the most psychologically traumatic one for most Americans because millions watched it happen on live television.

Rudolf Giuliani was New York’s mayor when it happened. The following year he visited London and toured the local museums and memorials dedicated to the 1940 Battle of Britain and the Blitz. He wanted to do it, he explained, because the toughness exhibited by Londoners in those dark days of the Second World War had inspired him in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.

The suffering that Londoners endured during WWII was truly awful. From September 1940 to May 1941 they were bombed by Hitler’s Luftwaffe almost daily. Then from January through May of 1944 the Germans bombed them regularly again, in what came to be know as the Baby Blitz. After the Western Allies landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, Hitler unleashed thousands of  V-1 flying bombs against southern England. And in September he began sending thousands of V-2 rockets. Hitler ordered these attacks as vengeance for the Allied bombing of German cities, but he also he hoped to instill a level of terror in Londoners that would destroy Britain’s will to fight. The Nazi attacks on London killed about 30,000 and seriously injured another 50,000, but the city kept calm and carried on.

The same can be said of most Americans after the 9/11 attacks. Nothing would ever be the same again, as intensive security measures were permanently implemented across the nation. But it helped when President George W. Bush addressed Congress in a nationally televised speech on September 21, 2001, and warned Americans about succumbing to fear and hatred:

I ask you to live your lives and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat. I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here. We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.

Bush simultaneously took military action against the 9/11 terrorists. In October of 2001 he launched an invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban regime that had given Osama bin Laden a safe haven. In 2003, however, he launched an ultimately disastrous war for dubious reasons against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Barak Obama subsequently won the 2008 presidential election partly due to his promises to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, and to focus on killing Osama bin Laden while destroying his Al-Qaeda Islamic extremist terrorist network. Obama’s focus on fighting terrorism paid off when on May 2, 2011, he was able to tell a national television audience that, under his direction, U.S. Navy SEALS had killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistan.

Under Obama, U.S. military and foreign intelligence agencies also inflicted enormous damage to the Al-Queda terrorist network. But the chaos created by the Syrian Civil War and the incompetence of the new Iraqi government created a vacuum that allowed for the meteoric rise in 2014 of a new Islamic extremist group in the Middle East who called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – more popularly known in the West as ISIS. They were different than Al-Queda, because they had an army that captured and held large portions of Syria and Iraq, which facilitated their declaration of Raqqa, Syria, as the capital of their new “worldwide” Muslim caliphate.

ISIS was also more ruthless than Al-Queda, subjecting the people in the territories it occupied to torture and mass-executions for any perceived offense to their religious rules. And they generated terror worldwide by posting videos of brutal executions on social media, while encouraging Muslims around the world to carry out spontaneous attacks against non-believers.

They succeeded in inspiring numerous Islamic extremist terror attacks across the globe, but the ones that alarmed Americans the most, as usual, were the ones that happened in Europe and the U.S.  In Western Europe, the November 2015 attack in Paris killed 130 people, the March 2016 attack in Brussels killed 32, and the July 2016 attack in Nice killed 86. In the U.S., the December 2015 ISIS-inspired attack in San Bernardino killed 14 and injured 24, and the June 2016 attack in Orlando killed 49 and wounded 58 – making it the worst terrorist attack in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks.

President Obama responded to the San Bernardino attack, and subsequent reports of the harassment of American Muslims, by giving a speech at a mosque in Baltimore in February 2016 wherein he said:

As Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths. An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths, and when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. We cannot be bystanders to bigotry. We have to reject any politics that targets people because of religion. We have to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld.

But Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner in the  2016 presidential election, decided to exploit the terrorist attacks.

Clinton’s response to the 2015 Paris attack, however, touched on the same American ideals that were recognized by Bush and Obama.

“After a major terrorist attack, every society faces a choice between fear and resolve. The world’s great democracies can’t sacrifice our values or turn our backs on those in need. Therefore, we must choose resolve. And we must lead the world to meet this threat.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s inflammatory statements about Muslim extremist attacks helped him win a narrow election victory, even though more Americans have died from domestic right-wing terrorism. And his rhetoric hasn’t cooled off since the election. This March, an ISIS-inspired attack took place in London near the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament, killing 4 and injuring more than 50. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, responded to the attack by making a statement to ease the fears of Londoners.

There can be no justification for the acts of these terrorists and I am quite clear that we will never let them win. My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.

Trump attacked Khan on Twitter for telling Londoners there was no reason to be alarmed by the increased police presence in the city. A spokesperson for the mayor responded to Trump’s tweet by saying the mayor “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet.”

Donald Trump’s abandonment of long-held American values during the election campaign, and his continuing use of fear as a political tool have done immeasurable harm to the country in innumerable ways. That’s not an exaggeration. For example, far-right groups promoting racism, hatred and xenophobia now feel legitimized. Is this making America great again?

But even more troubling, he’s shown there are a lot of American voters who are willing to sacrifice other people’s rights for their own security. I bet a lot of Londoners would call them snowflakes.

Domestic Right-wing Terrorists A Growing Threat in the U.S.

donald trump
Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

The U.S. media continues to describe the recent attack by a husband and wife team of Islamic extremists in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and injured 24 as the worst terrorist attack in the country since the 9/11 attacks. It’s a true statement, but it’s also a bit misleading because it fails to acknowledge that a lot of Americans have also been killed and injured by right-wing terrorists.

The infamous September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attacks killed 2,977 people and wounded more than 6,000. There’s never been a single right-wing terrorist attack in the U.S. that killed that many people, but the numbers are alarming if you add them up. According to the Tuskegee Institute, for example, from 1882-1968 there were 3,446 black people lynched in the U.S.

But lynching wasn’t the only form of terror used against black people after the Civil War. White supremacist paramilitary groups such as the Ku Klux KlanWhite League, Knights of the White Camelia, and the Red Shirts used violence to suppress voting by Southern blacks.

In November of 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, a mob of 2,000 Democratic Party white men overthrew the city’s popularly elected government and installed their own people. Republican President William McKinley refused to intervene because he wanted Southern support for Senate approval of his peace treaty with Spain following the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War. Property belonging to the city’s black people was destroyed and 15-60 people were killed. At least 2,100 blacks abandoned their businesses and properties and left the city permanently after the riot, changing the city’s population from mostly black to mostly white.

In 1919 in Elaine, Arkansas, a white mob went on a rampage that killed an estimated 100-237 black people. But the worst incident of racial violence occurred in 1921 when a white mob started a race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that killed about 300 blacks, injured 800 more, destroyed more than 35 blocks of a black neighborhood, and left about 10,000 blacks homeless.

Tulsa race riot 1921
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921 (Unknown)

Well into the 1960s there were sundown towns posting signs along roads at their town limits ominously warning blacks that they had to leave town by sundown.

More recently, on April 19, 1995, anti-government right-wing terrorists detonated a massive bomb outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, including 19 children, and wounded more than 680. On August 5, 2012 a white-supremacist killed 6 people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

In 2009 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a report that warned of the growing dangers of right-wing extremism. But it was ignored and severely criticized by conservative politicians and commentators

Last April dozens of armed right-wing militia members flocked to Clark County, Nevada, in response to appeals for help from 67-year-old cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in his dispute with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In order to avoid violence the BLM was forced to cancel the roundup of Bundy’s cattle, which were illegally grazing on public land. A subsequent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) showed that Bundy’s success in getting the government to back down had energized violent right-wing extremists.

A short time after Bundy’s standoff began a white-supremacist killed 3 people at some Kansas City Jewish institutions. He shouted “Heil Hitler!” when he was arrested. In June a husband and wife team of right-wing terrorists killed 3 people, including two police officers, in Las Vegas. They left a swastika and a note that said, “The revolution is beginning.” Then in September an anti-government extremist shot two Pennsylvania state troopers, killing one and wounding the other. It took a massive, six-week-long manhunt to capture him.

This year a right-wing terrorist shot 10 black people, killing 9 and wounding 1, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17 in Charleston, South Carolina. He said he did it to incite a race war. And on November 27 an anti-abortion right-wing terrorist killed 3 people and wounded 9 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

There are plenty of other examples of right-wing terrorist attacks in the U.S., but these are enough to prove they are far more frequent than violent attacks by Islamic extremists. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the American mass media or the Republican presidential candidates.

Front-runner Donald Trump, for example, suggested that the San Bernardino attackers were obviously radical Islamic terrorists because of their last names, and falsely claimed that one of their neighbors “knew what was going on” but didn’t report anything because he didn’t want to racially profile them. Unfortunately, this type of political fearmongering has been the focus of the mass media coverage of the San Bernardino attack and has further obscured the reality that domestic right-wing terrorism is a bigger danger.

Update

On August 12, 2017, a right-wing terrorist drove his car into a gathering of anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators in Charlottesville, VA, killing one person and injuring at least 19 others.

That same day the the FBI arrested a right-wing terrorist in Oklahoma City, OK, for trying to detonate a large bomb to blow up a downtown bank building.

On December 22, 2017, a neo-Nazi teenager shot and killed his girlfriend’s parents in Reston, VA, after her parents forbid her from seeing him any more because of his right-wing beliefs.

On February 5, 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report documenting that over 100 people had been killed or injured by perpetrators influenced by the “alt-right” movement.

On April 26, 2018, the Equal Justice Initiative opened its National Memorial for Peace and Justice to remember the more than 4400 African Americans who were killed by white mobs between 1877 and 1950.

On October 24, 2018, a white man killed two black people in Kroger grocery store in Kentucky after he had failed to break into a black church to kill black people there.

On October 26, 2018, Donald Trump supporter Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr. was arrested by the FBI for sending pipe bombs to Democratic politicians and supporters.

On October 27, 2018, an anti-Semite shot and killed 11 worshipers at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On November 5, 2018, ABC News reported they had found at least 17 criminal cases where Pres. Donald Trump’s name was invoked in direct connection with acts of violence.

On January 6, 2019, the Arizona Republic newspaper reported that members of the Patriot Movement AZ were conducting intimidating protests outside churches in metro Phoenix which are housing immigrants for ICE.

On January 23, 2019, the Anti-Defamation League released a report which found that individuals linked to right-wing extremists killed 50 people in the U.S. in 2018 –  which was every single extremist-related murder during the year.

On March 31, 2019, a memorial to slaves and African-American workers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was defaced with urine and racial slurs.

On April 4, 2019, the Louisiana state fire marshal announced he was concerned because three historically black churches had burned in less than two weeks in St. Landry Parish. Investigators found “suspicious elements” in each case.

On April 10, 2019, Louisiana law enforcement officials arrested the son of a local deputy sheriff in connection to the three recent fires in historically black churches.

On April 20, 2019, in New Mexico, the FBI arrested Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who runs The United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), for allegedly illegally detaining immigrants who were crossing the border while he was pretending to be working for the U.S. Border Patrol.

On April 23, 2019, Isaiah Peoples, an Iraqi War veteran and fundamentalist Christian, intentionally drove his vehicle into a crowd of people in Sunnyvale, CA, because he thought they were Muslims. Eight people were injured, including a 13-year-old girl who is in a coma.

On April 27, 2019, a gunman opened fire in a synagogue in Poway, CA, killing one person and wounding three Passover worshippers.

Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy Is A Dangerous Kook, Not A Hero

cliven bundy
Cliven Bundy (Wikipedia)

Armed right-wing militia members are flocking to Clark County, Nevada, in response to appeals for help from 67-year-old cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in his dispute with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Earlier this week BLM agents armed for their own defense began rounding up Bundy’s cattle, which have been trespassing on BLM land for many years because of Bundy’s refusal to recognize and comply with the laws governing the management of our public lands. Bundy family members and supporters have confronted BLM rangers, so defined areas for protestors have been set up to try and ensure the safety of everybody involved.

Bundy continues to issue inflammatory statements and the anti-government types are working themselves into a good lather. But a closer examination of the situation shows that Bundy is full of what comes out the rear ends cattle.

Bundy claims that his family has “preemptive rights” to the public land he uses because they’ve been grazing cattle on it since the late 1800s. He says the real trespassers aren’t his cattle, but the BLM because the land really belongs to the “sovereign” state of Nevada and Clark County. But according to U.S. history and law, the federal government was the original owner of all land, except for the lands given to the states for the purpose of supporting public schools, a practice established by the Land Ordinance of 1785. People could, of course, purchase land from the federal government, or obtain it through the Homestead Acts. But the land upon which Bundy claims he has preemptive rights has always been federal land. The federal government, of course, first had to extinguish the claims of local Native Americans, so if anybody has a valid prior claim to the land in dispute, it’s the local Paiute tribe.

Bundy’s belief in his right to have unrestricted use of public land is derived from his Mormon heritage. In 1847 pioneer members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) established Salt Lake City in nearby Utah in order to escape religious persecution in the eastern U.S. The Salt Lake Valley was officially part of Mexico at the time, but the Mexican-American War had started the year before and U.S. forces had already conquered the Mexican provinces of New Mexico and California.

The war ended in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which made Utah and neighboring areas officially part of the U.S. In 1849 Mormon leader Brigham Young expressed his desire for the Mormon settlements in the West to become part of a new U.S. state by unilaterally declaring the State of Deseret. Its boundaries included a lot of territory, including most of the state of Nevada, because he was sending Mormon settlers out from Salt Lake City into the surrounding wilderness. However, when Congress officially created the Utah Territory in 1850, it covered a smaller area, although it still  included Nevada. A lot more areas were removed from the Utah Territory by Congress, including Nevada, before Utah became a state in 1896.

Ultra-conservative Mormons, like Bundy, believe their ancestors received a preemptive right from God to use all the lands in original State of Deseret, which was supposed to become their new Zion. But even though Bundy believes that the federal government has oppressed him, it hasn’t stopped him from invoking the U.S. Constitution in his defense. He likes to cite the odd teachings of the late Mormon “constitutional scholar” W. Cleon Skousen – another kook.

The reality is that the BLM’s administration of livestock grazing on public lands was originally authorized by the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. This law was promoted by ranchers who understood that public rangelands needed to be regulated in order to prevent overgrazing. It divided Western public lands into separate grazing allotments and grazing permits were issued giving individual local ranchers the privilege of grazing those allotments using best management practices. There are numerous subsequent court decisions confirming the BLM’s regulatory authority, including the fact that grazing permits are not private property or a right of any kind – but a revocable privilege to be managed by the agency in the public’s interest.

Bundy has refused to comply with BLM range management laws, including ignoring the Endangered Species Act and refusing to pay the annual grazing fee that public lands ranchers must pay to graze their animals. Because of political pressure from ranching interests, the grazing fee is set at the below-market rate of just $1.35 per head per month. Bundy has refused to pay the fee since 1993 and he admits the unpaid total is about $300,000, while the BLM claims he owes the taxpayers about $1.1 million. The BLM finally revoked his grazing permit in 1998 and ordered his cattle off the land. After some protracted legal wrangling, a judge recently authorized the impoundment of his herd.

Bundy has labeled his dispute with the BLM a “range war” and compared it to the deadly confrontations with federal officials that occurred in the past at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas. But despite his attempts to paint the BLM agents rounding up his trespassing cattle as outlaws, it’s clear to anyone willing to consider the facts that he’s the one who’s been ignoring the law. It would be unfortunate if the volatile and dangerous situation he’s created leads to bloodshed.

Updates

On February 10, 2016, Cliven Bundy was finally arrested by the FBI at the Portland International Airport while he was on his way to support the Malheur Standoff in Oregon. He is currently in federal custody awaiting trial.

On November 6, 2016, Arizona’s Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted to name a stretch of road after LaVoy Finicum, a Bundy supporter who was shot by police after pulling a gun on them when they tried to arrest him for participating in the unlawful seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

On January 8, 2018, Federal District Court Judge Gloria M. Navarro dismissed the charges against Cliven Bundy and his sons, Ammon and Ryan. Judge Navarro said federal prosecutors had withheld evidence in the ranch standoff that might have helped the defendants . Prosecutors explained in their court filings that fears of violence against government witnesses were part of the reason they chose not to release everything. The Bundys were subsequently set free without any determination of their guilt, and Cliven Bundy’s cattle continue to graze on public land illegally.