After Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing
in Oklahoma City,
many rushed to blame Arab terrorists. In the wake of the Sept. 11 atrocity
it was equally tempting, after envelopes filled with anthrax spores began
turning up in Florida, New York and Washington, to jump to the conclusion
that Osama bin Laden's net-work had turned to biological warfare. In the
moral sense, nobody doubts they're capable of it. The Al Queda hijackers
who investigated crop duster airplanes weren't looking to defoliate cotton.
Speculation has centered upon Iraq, which suits Bush administration hawks
pressing for a wider war.
Yet while President Bush and the ratings-hungry melodramatists
of cable TV appear loath to consider it, there's more than one species of
evil in the world. Last week investigators told reporters what some of us
have suspected: that there's a better than even chance that the anthrax
scare is being perpetrated by home grown fanatics who see Timothy McVeigh
as a hero and a martyr, and who have seized on the present crisis to
advance their own mad schemes.
Within minutes of the World Trade Center attack, David Niewert
writes in Salon, the Neo-Nazi Posse Comitatus website posted this message:
"Hallelu-Yahweh! May the WAR be started! DEATH to His enemies! May the
World Trade Center BURN TO THE GROUND! Rev. 18.Keep Yahweh in your hearts
folks for His wrath is upon His enemies! Praise His Holy name.Hail Victory!"
The Aryan Nations website re-wrote "America, the Beautiful." One
verse reads, "O', wicked land of sodomites, Your World Trade Center's gone.
With crashing planes and burning flames, To hell your souls have gone. America,
America, God's wrath was shown to thee."
William Pierce, whose apocalyptic novel "The Turner Diaries"
inspired McVeigh, expressed hope that Sept. 11 would warn Americans about
"the consequences of permitting the Jews of Hollywood and New York to run
our country through their control of our mass media." In the same
broadcast, Pierce all but encouraged domestic terrorism. "Things are a bit
brittle now," he said. "A few dozen more anthrax cases, another truck bomb
in a well chosen location, and substantial changes could take place in a
hurry: a stock market panic, martial law measures by the Bush government,
and a sharpening of the debate as to how we got ourselves get into this
mess in the first place.The Jews and their collaborators will pull out all
of the stops in an effort to stifle it."
It's the fantasy of a neo-Fascist uprising against the "Zionist
Occupation Government," that gets these loons out of bed in the morning.
But there are other reasons to suspect the crackpot right. First, its
targets. The London Observer's Ed Vuillamy quotes a skinhead website: "Is
there not a single person who has re-ceived these anthrax letters that
isn't an avowed enemy of the white race? Tom Brokaw, Tom Daschle and the
gossip rag offices have all been 100 per cent legitimate targets. Who among
us has the slightest bit of sympathy for these pukes?"
Second, its sheer amateurishness. Sad to say, Al Queda and its
allies have a history of deadly effec-tiveness. For all the media hysteria,
anthrax, non-communicable and treatable with antibiotics, just doesn't make
an effective weapon. The first tainted letters, mailed from Trenton, N.J.
on Sept. 18, accomplished little. So the terrorist escalated, mailing a
deadlier package to Sen. Daschle. Still, none of the intended vic-tims were
harmed, only innocent bystanders. Historically, that's the problem with
chemical and biological weapons. Either they hardly work at all, while
evoking justifiable rage, or they work too well, killing off their sponsors.
It's one thing for a tyrant like Saddam Hussein to gas defenseless peasants,
another thing to hurt enemies capable of fighting back.
Terrorism is arguably different, which leads to the third big
reason to suspect homegrown origin: neo-Fascists have fanatasized about
anthrax for years. In 1998, the FBI arrested an Aryan Nations activist
named Larry Wayne Harris who'd boasted of possessing anthrax. (He'd earlier
been convicted of fraudulently acquiring bubonic plague bacteria.) The
substance turned out to be animal vaccine, but Harris is a micro-biologist
who's written a poison weapons manual widely circulated on the extreme
right. "If they arrest a bunch of our guys," he once warned a reporter
"they get a test tube in the mail."
The so-called "Army of God" has been mailing anthrax threats to
abortion providers for years. In recent weeks, more than 90 Planned
Parenthood clinics have received envelopes filled with fake anthrax powder.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has promised to prosecute terrorist hoaxes,
but emitted nary a peep about the "Army of God." You'd like to think his
silence has nothing to do with his own strident anti-abortion views.
Meanwhile, has some lone demento with access to one of New Jersey's
scores of pharmaceutical plants and research facilities begun his own
private terrorist campaign? If so, the good news is that the FBI will
probably catch him.