Monday, December 3, 2001

Week of 12/03/2001

Using The "T"-Word
- by David Matthews 2

"You can tell the man who rings true from the man who rings false, not by his deeds alone, but also his desires." - Democritus

The one thing that then-Texas Governor George W. Bush liked to say separated him from then-Vice President Al Gore in his 2000 race for the Presidency is character. Sure, ol’ Bush Junior would say that he’s made mistakes. He’s not perfect. But he owned up to them. He admitted to them. And he paid the price for them.

And the Republicans were quick to sing the never-ending praises for Da Big W’s pick for Attorney General. John Ashcroft, after all, was a former member of Congress. (Never mind he had been voted out of office in 2000 by a dead man.) He was a man of virtue and character, and he wouldn’t let the Justice Department be mired in the political shenanigans that tainted that department under the watch of Janet Reno.

So after the 9-11 terrorist attacks on America, and the subsequent unleashing of Anthrax and of Anthrax hoaxes, Bush and Ashcroft both pledged to hunt down those responsible for the despicable acts.

"If you send Anthrax through the mail, you’re a terrorist!" decried Bush in a public form in October. "And if you send an Anthrax hoax through the mail, you’re a terrorist!"

And the people applauded that statement. It was direct and straightforward. There was no quibbling there. No Clinton-like soft lawyer-like language involved. If you sent Anthrax through the mail, you were a terrorist. Period. And if you sent an Anthrax hoax through the mail, you were also a terrorist. Period.

USA Today went so far in their October 25th editorial as to call all those who send Anthrax or even Anthrax hoaxes as collaborators of Osama bin Laden, and as such guilty of treason against the United States of America. Harsh words, perhaps, but it certainly reflects the sentiment many of us share about these people who would create fear and havoc in America.

So imagine this commentator’s surprise, then, when the FBI announced this past week who they believe was responsible for the mailing of over 200 Anthrax hoaxes to women’s clinics across America. Not that they wouldn’t find out who this person was, or that the so-called "Army of God" was nothing more than an escaped prisoner by the name of Clayton Lee Waagner.

What surprised this commentator was how the FBI DID NOT describe this man.

Yes, they said he is believed to be armed and dangerous, and to possess strong survival skills. Yes, they said he has a history of violence, including bank robbery, carjacking, and possessing bombs and stolen firearms. Yes, he considered himself to be appointed by God to be a "holy warrior", not unlike the Islamic mujadaheen, and believed it was his sworn mission in life to kill doctors who provided abortions.

But what Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the FBI… and for that matter many of the members of the media… did not mention in describing Mr. Clayton Lee Waagner was the dreaded "T" word. Terrorist.

Remember what Bush said about those who send Anthrax hoaxes by mail? He called those people terrorists, right? If that is the case, why aren’t Bush’s people calling Clayton Lee Waagner a terrorist? Or even a suspected terrorist? Where’s Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge, and why isn’t he coordinating efforts with his state and regional counterparts to track down and bring in this suspected terrorist before he strikes again? He’s clearly proven to be a threat to the well-being of American citizens.

We’ve spent two months since the terrorist attacks of September 11th being told by Bush and his people that we have to take a firm and hard line against terrorism, no matter if they are overseas or in our own backyard. They have asked for and received unprecedented powers over and above the old Alien and Sedition Act. Even after getting as much raw executive power as Joseph Stalin, they are saying it is still not good enough to start tracking down the bad guys. They have generated so many "alerts" now that even the boy who cried wolf is calling us drama queens! They have fouled up airport security so badly in many places that it is almost cost-effective to simply WALK to your intended destination instead of fly! They have turned us into skittish Chicken Littles, afraid not only of our own shadow, but even the light creating our shadows!

But let’s get brutally honest here… Even after we have been told to be aware of terrorists, here we have a clear example of domestic terrorism, and the Bush Administration is hesitant to call it for what it is, never mind treat it as such!

Oh, but wait a minute! This guy Waagner isn’t a threat to EVERY American, is he? No, this one-man self-professed "Warrior of God" is only a threat to doctors and clinic workers and patients who go to women’s clinics and people who support the right of a woman to choose.

In other words, he’s not really a terrorist in the eyes of the Bush Administration, is he? No, he’s just a spirited and misguided pro-life activist who just happens to also be a dangerously armed escaped convict. And since many members of the Bush Administration are decidedly pro-life (or to be more specific, anti-abortion), it would be no skin off their teeth if this terrorist continues his wild and wacky ways without having to bring the nation’s new anti-terrorism forces to bear.

This sets up a very dangerous and hypocritical precedent for the Bush Administration. How can the Administration be trusted with protecting Americans from terrorism when they cannot even properly identify domestic terrorists simply because they happen to share the same social ends?

How can President Bush claim to speak up for tolerance and freedom, when his people are harassing college students who display questionable posters, and then turning a passive eye to those who pose as much a threat to this nation as do any other terrorist from around the world?

Terrorism is the perversion of activism. It smears all legitimate forms of protesting and political persuasion, and it condemns any cause that it claims to support. That has been the message we have been trying to tell the world since September 11th. I don’t think that any legitimate pro-life supporter – especially those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ – would want to be associated with wanted terrorists like Clayton Waagner. And yet, the refusal of the Bush Administration to identify and differentiate between terrorists like Waagner and peaceful pro-life protesters only serves to bloody and condemn the pro-life movement. Is that what you pro-lifers want?

Francis Bacon once said that "Constancy is the foundation of virtue." If Bush and his people want to continue to be seen as the paragons of character and virtue they campaigned as in 2000, then they have to be willing to go after terrorists from EVERY corner, including those whose political leanings they may agree with.

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