Understanding terrorism is necessary to prevent it 

Was Joe Stack a Terrorist?

On Tax Day, April 15, Americans are angry. Not all of them, and not necessarily those who get money back, but for the millions who have to write a big, fat check to the Internal Revenue Service to feed that overbearing and monstrously over-budget beast in Washington, D.C., Tax Day draws an annual battle line between citizens who have too little and a government that takes too much.

On February 18, Andrew Joseph Stack believed he was taking his anti-government battle to the enemy by flying an airplane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. Explaining his actions, Stack wrote: "Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer."

Was this an act of terrorism? Ask Vernon Hunter, a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran and 20-year IRS employee who was killed by Stack. Said Hunter's son, "My dad, in that building, he didn't write the tax laws." But Stack drew no such distinctions, and in murdering the innocent to advance his agenda, he committed an act of terrorism that differed from Osama Bin Laden's only in scope.

Yet some Americans could easily understand Stack's anti-government frustration. Take Republican Rep. Steve King, who said, "It's sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary, and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it's going to be a happy day for America."

And then there's Republican Sen. Scott Brown. "No one likes paying taxes, obviously. But the way we're trying to deal with things and have been in the past ... people want us to do better," Brown said. "They want us to help solve the problems that are affecting Americans in a very real way."

In recognizing that widespread, anti-government sentiment exists, neither King nor Brown were justifying Stack's terrorism, yet both men are the sort of Republicans who pose as being "tough on terror" by attacking anyone that suggests Americans should better understand the motivation of Islamic terrorists. If King, Brown, and others could implicitly understand that Stack was motivated by what he perceived to be an oppressive government, why is it impossible for them to even consider that the United States' actions in the Middle East — decades of war, sanctions, and occupation — motivates Islamic terrorists? The CIA says U.S. foreign interventionism is a primary motivator for Islamic terrorists. The 9/11 Commission Report stated the same. Yet Republicans like King and Brown consider it "blaming America first" to believe that the U.S. government is possibly at fault.

On Tax Day, countless Americans attended Tea Party rallies across the nation to protest government spending and express anti-government sentiments similar to Stack's. Does this make every Tea Partier a potential terrorist? No, and yet to according to liberal television hosts like Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, the Tea Partiers pose a grave and violent threat, worthy of countless hours of TV time and much gnashing of the teeth. If only the Tea Party folks were in some other country challenging the United States government, then perhaps liberals could convince their hero Obama to wage a preventive war to stop them.

Such fear mongering is good political business and not just for liberals. There are thousands, if not millions, of Middle Easterners who have a beef against the United States government. You can find anti-American signs, protests, and sentiment throughout that part of the world, but still, the number of actual terrorists is comparatively small. Amusingly, right-wing talk radio imagines armies of Islamic terrorists whose only motivation is a religion-fueled hatred for American "freedom" in much the same way liberals see Tea Partiers as terrorist armies motivated by racism or anything other than what they actually say.

Like vigilantism or crimes of passion, understanding something is not the same as condoning it. Tea Partiers want the government out of their lives, and sympathizers like King and Brown don't seem overly shocked that a man like Stack would go to the extreme that he did. People living in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East have wanted the U.S. government out of their lives for at least two decades and have said so repeatedly. Needless to say, many Middle Easterners were probably not as surprised by 9/11 as most Americans were.

Terrorism is a tactic of the weak waged against the innocent in order to elicit fear or provoke a reaction. That was the entire purpose of 9/11 — and it worked, spawning our ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Imagine if our government had responded to Stack's terrorist attack in the same mindless manner by dropping bombs on Tea Party rallies? Stack would be vindicated, men like Steve King and Scott Brown would be declaring conservative jihad, and we would undoubtedly start seeing more Joe Stacks — and understandably so.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.


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