Who's a terrorist?

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There was a terrorist attack in the United States last Sunday. Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed while attending services at a Lutheran church in Kansas. Was it the work of radical Islamists? No,it was a terrorist crime committed by a right-wing Christian extremist. Will the killer be charged for terrorism? Probably not, but one could bet had it been a nut bar from some other religion, particularly Islam at this point in history, much ado would be made about terrorism.

The fact is that Christian terrorists are not that unusual. The person charged in last Sunday's shooting is connected to the Freemen organization which has a history of violence and anti-government activity. In 2007, Paul Ross Evans placed a bomb near an abortion clinic in Texas and is now doing 40 years in prison. He is affiliated with the Army of God, another nut bar Christian organization whose website currently is celebrating the shooting of Dr. Tiller.

The Army of God maintains a long list of people it calls "Prisoners of Christ" who it supports. People who have been imprisoned for murder, robbery and other crimes in pursuit of their beliefs. One could argue that the Army of God is as much a terrorist organization as any radical Islamic sect.

And what about the venom filled conservative media? Bill O'Reilly has been singled out in the media for his hate filled rants about Dr. Tiller over the years and people like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity pour volumes of hate over the air waves. I often listen to these nuts on talk radio when travelling in the U.S. If inciting people to commit acts of terrorism is a crime, these guys are at a minimum sticking their toes over the line.

It may be that the U.S. military is also breeding Christian terrorists. A recent article in Harper's magazine by Jeff Sharlet details the spread of militant extremist Christians in the military, and some of the stunts that they have pulled in Iraq, such as driving around in a fighting vehicle with the phrase "Jesus kill Mohammed!" written on it in Arabic while using a loud speaker to disrupt prayers.

Recently there were reports in the news that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan were distributing Bibles translated into Pashto and Dari. To do so is against regulations, and the military disputes the reports, saying that all Bibles in question were confiscated and destroyed. Of course the fact that they were there to confiscate in the first place illustrates the problem festering within the ranks.

The issue was taken seriously enough by the Afghans that the former prime minister called for an investigation into the allegations that U.S. forces were trying to convert Afghans to Christianity.

Muslim radicals who carry out attacks against others are labelled terrorists, Christians seem to get treated more circumspectly. Is there really a difference? Samuel P. Huntington, in his papers and book on The Clash of Civilizations said that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. Although that idea is highly debatable given the importance of the control of resources which daily become more scarce, it certainly seems like both the radical Islamists and the radical Christians are trying their hardest to make it so.

Looking at this situation, a student of history might wonder if the world had not regressed to the 16th and 17th centuries where various Christian sects were merrily indulging in all sorts of terrorist depredations against one an other.

What really constitutes being a terrorist? Fortunately for the Freemen, the Army of God and other home grown Christian terrorists, they do not populate countries that either have lots of oil, or are in the path of direct access to oil. If they did, their terrorist status might get revisited.

Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada's West Coast.

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