Increasingly Ludicrous WH denial that Austin bombings were “terrorism”

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Update: The suspect in the central Texas bombings is dead, after he detonated a bomb in his car on being surrounded by police, and was shot.

Two more package bombs were found in Austin and San Antonio Fedex offices on Tuesday, giving evidence of originating with the same person responsible for a string of bombings that killed two persons and wounded several others. Some of those targeted were African-Americans from families who have played a prominent role in civil rights activism.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied again this week that the Austin bombings were terrorism, and Austin Chief of Police Brian Manley asked “That’s been the question all along: Is this terrorism? Is this hate-related?”

It is well known by now that “terrorism” is often used by American officials as a dog whistle to refer to acts of political violence carried out by Muslims or by minorities, and that typically white violence of a terroristic sort is characterized by other adjectives (the poor things often seem to be off their meds or at most involved in “hate crimes.”)

This linguistic hypocrisy has got to stop. If the character of the legislation is the problem, let’s change it. We know who some of the victims are, and that tells us a great deal.

The US Federal code says

” U.S. Code › Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 113B › § 2331
18 U.S. Code § 2331 – Definitions

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
(Added Pub. L. 102–572, title X, § 1003(a)(3), Oct. 29, 1992, 106 Stat. 4521; amended Pub. L. 107–56, title VIII, § 802(a), Oct. 26, 2001, 115 Stat. 376.)”

Two of the first victims belonged to the same historic African-American church and belonged to families who were connected, and who had a distinguished history of activism for civil rights.

Fox News: “Austin NAACP president talks links between bombing victims”

Subsequent bombings were more scattershot in their targeting of victims, but that could well be a tactic aimed at muddying the waters. Even just on the basis of the two African-Americans targeted and killed, it seems clear that a political motive and attempt at intimidation was present, and that these bombings fell under the rubric of domestic terrorism.

One of my tweeps pointed out that the Unabomber killed one victim (he did injure others, including a scientist at Yale), and provoked a years-long FBI prioritized manhunt. Until recently the Austin bombings didn’t even get much press.

13 Responses

  1. Trump…”Arm teachers and shootings will stop. Problem solved. I’ll be on the golf course.”

    “Obama should have dealt with the drug problem. Death penalty for drug dealers. Problem solved.”

    Domestic terrorism in Texas… Trump “It’s not terrorism but if it is, and I stress if, my highly dysfunctional, politically motivated FBI who tried to throw the election to Crooked Hillary and my spineless Attorney General will get to the bottom of this. OK… If you need me I’ll be at Mar a Lago.”

    “Putin. Great victory. Congratulations. Can you come to my military parade?”

  2. Forcing something like this into the box of ‘terrorism’, or contriving to keep it out, both tend to be tendentious.

    The ‘T’ word itself is the problem, being so loaded and susceptible to manipulation. This discussion rather makes my point.

    There are so many politically self-serving definitions for terrorism, and the above may be one of the most even-handed and useful, since this sort of thing does need a label.

    The problem is the lack of any clear coercive focus. Kozinsky had that in spades, but those two people related to families involved with civil rights? It may turn out they were his focus, but it may also turn out his motivation was more personal spite than any political agenda.

    This was not just an act of criminality, but I’d keep my mind fully engaged, should it be necessary to label it terrorism for lack of a better word.

  3. While we are at it, the international definition of terrorism should be amended to eliminate the exclusion of state actions such as Assad in Syria or Israel in Gaza or Putin in Great Britain.

    • Oh yes, I love how artfully ‘state sponsorship’ is included or omitted, depending on whose in the drivers seat and who needs to be delegitimized at the moment. That’s the problem with your suggestion. Settling on any one definition obviates its rhetorical utility.

      After all, what else could ‘Shock and Awe’ have been? Speaking of which, notice how another ‘T’ word has been tortured until it confessed, allowing for the CIA director designate to be immune from the precedent of Nuremberg.

      I say all this not to infuriate or frustrate, rather just to encourage people to be really critical when treading around these issues. Now, more than ever, words are power.

  4. Don’t you mean “a 24 year old white guy,” . . . who bombed a variety of minority citizens? Motivated by what? Who?

    There will be more of these deadly Texass clowns, tis the season.

    Three (3) so far.

  5. We shall see what background information on the presumed bomber reveals. Will anyone be surprised if he ascribed to white nationalist views?

  6. Of course its terrorism. It really winds me up when mentally ill mass/spree shooters are wrongly classified as terrorists (like the narcissist/sociopath Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock) just because they kill people, but equally some people clearly are, and denying it for partisan reasons is equally heinous.

    Here in the UK, the weird far right loner Thomas Mair (who assassinated Jo Cox MP) had a documented history of fascist beliefs and activities going back decades; for all he might have mental health issues, he clearly killed out of political conviction and wanted everyone to know it. Likewise in the US, the Congressional baseball game lone shooter James Hodgkinson was clearly acting with intent to kill and injure Republican legislators, i.e. political motive was present.

    Whoever this guy was, I imagine it will take all of 30 seconds to establish he was a right-winger with a hatred of black and Hispanic people once his social media accounts are checked. If he just wanted attention, it would have been easier to just buy a gun and kill people randomly in public.

    • See, the problem is if your definition of terrorism were imposed on the US, so many of us would be terrorists that we’d have to throw ourselves in Guantanamo in order to be safe from ourselves.

      Right-wing movement politics have become a bunch of paranoids daring each other to step over a line, the line of open war against all the people they hate, partly so all the individuals can see proof that they aren’t themselves suckers who will be left in the lurch if their fantasy war actually breaks out. So of course now and then one of the more unstable members finally breaks and steps over the line and is arrested or killed, and the rest immediately disavow him as a “lone wolf” even as they claim the attack was actually a government false-flag hoax and fall even deeper into those same shared beliefs that took that lone wolf over the edge. The line itself creeps forward, imperceptibly, ever closer to that collective leap into mass insurrection.

  7. Hopefully, his motive will be fully revealed in the examination of his computer and any journals or other written materials. Most these right wing terrorists leave an obvious paper trail to their particular flavor of hate.

    • Pat – Perhaps if “these right wing terrorists”” were not horny, soft-minded young white men who are empowered to arm themselves to the teeth with killing machines, progress could be made? White Privilege protects these seething fistulas of h8, only to report their lethal potential AFTER the fact.

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