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November 10, 2009



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Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

True, the radical Jeffersonians were known to be publicly upset: Ruby Ridge was 1992, followed by Waco in 1993. Also in 1995, the Unabomber was still at large and had made public his manifesto.

But the Oklahoma City bombing was the 1st anti-federal terrorist act of the type and scale already established by Islamic terrorists, at least as far as American targets. Even though the upset of the anti-federal groups over recent events was known, it still made more sense initially to suspect Islamic terrorists than assume anti-federal radicals had made a copycat leap in their methods and jumped precedent.

The Oklahoma City attack set a new precedent, including the affirmation that 'domestic' terrorists learn from 'foreign' terrorists. The correct response was to expand our vigilant scope with the new knowledge, not to recriminate reasonable suspicions based on already known, threatening, dangerous enemies.

Related, this is a reason the controversially named "War on Terror" is aptly named. We were compelled into the War on Terror by the 9/11 attacks; therefore, we have in mind a specific fairly well-defined enemy. However, our failures of 9/11 proved generally our pre-9/11 counter-terrorism methods, tactics, and strategy were obsolete and inadequate. Therefore, by way of the war against the particular enemy, our counter-terrorism ability is evolving to compete with the adaptable 'open source' methods, tactics, and strategy of terrorism that virally develop and spread among revolutionary radical groups and aspirants, foreign and domestic.


Eric, as always your comment is thoughtful and very much appreciated.
As for suspecting Arabs and/or Muslims immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, there was plenty of reason to suspect person's in or infected by the anti-government, right-wing extremist fringe at the time.

Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

"the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was spontaneously and, of course, wrongly blamed on “Middle Easterners” or Arabs or Muslims."

I agree with almost all of this post, especially the obsolescence of the notion that in order to qualify as a terrorist one must be a dues-paying, card-carrying, registered member of a terrorist organization, but I take issue with your implication that the initial speculation about the origin of the Oklahoma City bombers was baseless.

At the time, Islamic terrorism and incitement against the West already had a decades-long history. More, at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, our mission to disarm Saddam's Iraq was collapsing and radical Islamic extremists, indeed much of the Arab public, were rallied against our then-intervention in Iraq - which unlike our current liberal mission in Iraq, lacked any commitment to a better future for Iraq. Specifically, a similar high-profile Islamic extremist terror attack had recently happened within the US, on the World Trade Center, in 1993, which also used a vehicle-based demolition bomb. Not to mention, of course, the famous 1983 vehicle-bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut. In short, given the historical context, it would have been no less than naive and foolish for anyone not to immediately suspect Islamic terrorists.

But law enforcement did their job, the culprits were soon identified, and historical context changed. Of course, terrorism is largely a method adaptable by different revolutionary radical groups. A promising attempt by one group can be improved upon by another group in short order. The right-wing radicals of 1995 learned from the Islamist radicals of 1993, and in turn, the Islamist radicals learned from the right-wing radicals of 1995, perhaps influencing the 1998 US Embassy truck-bombings. The different identities of the bombers in no way diminished the Islamic terrorist threat even as the politically correct perspective sought to distract us from the known, threatening, and dangerous enemy.

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