One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

When Isn't It "Terrorism?"

I wasn't really shocked that the feds raided a right-wing "Christian" militia headquartered about 70 miles outside of Detroit. If you know Michigan, the idea of some kooks crawling around the backwoods of Adrian with AK-47s just isn't that jarring. And given how crazy the political fringes of our entire nation have become of late, I guess I'm not even surprised that this Hutaree "Christian" militia has been accused of plotting to kill a law-enforcement official in order to launch a war on cops (and maybe others). Disturbed, sure. Shocked? Not so much.

But I was a little stunned at what I didn't read: Despite the laundry list of suspected offenses laid out by the FBI, I was a little curious as to why no one seems to want to say what seems quite obvious to me -- that these guys are being accused of outright terrorism.

The indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court today claims that the Hutaree planned to kill an unidentified member of local law enforcement and then attack the law enforcement officers who gather in Michigan for the funeral. According to the plan, the Hutaree would attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with improvised explosive devices rigged with projectiles, which constitute weapons of mass destruction, according to the announcement by U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.

“Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time," McQuade said in the announcement. “Hutaree members view local, state, and federal law enforcement as the ‘brotherhood,' their enemy, and have been preparing to engage them in armed conflict.”

Each is charged with seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. They face up to life in prison if convicted.

I'm not saying that the Hutaree members who were arrested are terrorists or that they should be called terrorists. They haven't been convicted of anything. I'm talking more about the way we discuss the actions of homegrown extremists like these in so many of the early official narratives. I'm talking about how what the FBI is alleging fits the term quite snugly and  yet there seems to be a deliberate effort to sidestep the very word: terror. Same with the actual early news reports and headlines. In none of the early pieces from the mainstream outlets has the "t-word" come up. There's nothing about "alleged terrorism" or a "terrorist plot" or "suspected terrorists." There's not even a mention of which FBI task force took these guys down. (Was it the same Joint Terrorism Task Force we learned about on the same day we read reports about the slaying of a Detroit imam at a Dearborn warehouse last year?)

I'm not saying be sensational, but terrorism is exactly what these allegations sound like...

Their goal was to "intimidate and demoralize law enforcement, diminishing their ranks and rendering them ineffective," according to the indictment. The group then intended to use the incident to spark a "war" against law enforcement, using bombs, ambushes and prepared fighting positions.

Meanwhile, back in December, Northwest flight 253 had barely landed at Detroit Metro, reports about the attempted bombing had barely come out, before we were inundated with 'round-the-clock cries of an attempted "terror attack" on our city.

Now, imagine for a moment that, instead of cuffing a bunch of scruffy white "Christians" out in the boondocks this past weekend, the FBI had arrested a gaggle of, say, Arab-American Muslims who were threatening to shoot and bomb police officers. Imagine that the feds had busted Iraqi-Americans openly discussing religious war "to keep the testimony" of their god "alive" and openly plotting to kill their countrymen in the name of some misguided politico-religious ideal. Think we'd be as judicious about tossing around the "t-word" then? Neither do I.

But somehow, people like those in this Hutaree outfit get a pass, at least early on. Somehow, people like that Flying Teabagger who crashed his plane into an IRS building in Texas get to be at the center of huge debates about whether he deserved to be labeled a terrorist. There are even those who to this day refuse to call what he did a terrorist act. Extremist, maybe. But terrorist? That's somehow "debatable."

Of course, plenty of fair minded people know "terrorism" certainly can have American roots. Timothy McVeigh taught some of us that. The Ku Klux Klan taught many others. But despite this history, our public discourse is still too willing to associate incendiary terms like "terrorism"  with the alleged evil of one group (usually dark-skinned and/or foreign) over  another (usually white and from right next door).

If the members of this organization actually planned these terrible acts, then these guys apparently so willing to arm themselves for the "end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive" are no different than any plotters who've worked to harm law-abiding Americans in the name of Allah. If what the feds say is true, then their schemes need to regarded as a terrorist plot like any other -- and I'm hard-pressed to see any reason to debate whether to call it that.

  • Print
  • Comment

Add Your Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The Detroit Blog Daily E-mail

Get e-mail updates from TIME's The Detroit Blog in your inbox and never miss a day.

More News from Our Partners

Quotes of the Day »

NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.