There Are No 'Acceptable' Terrorists

There Are No 'Acceptable' Terrorists

Horner Op-Ed in The Bucks Country Courier Times
February 10, 2002

The United States has engaged in war on terrorism, irrespective of source, form or target. The president clarified his intentions with his State of the Union affirmation of the Bush Doctrine, alerting the "Axis of Evil" that its behavior, barring reform, risks U.S. intervention.

Yet, the terror campaign under way on American soil well before Sept. 11 will test this doctrine. President Bush must not manifest, through word or deed, a policy distinguishing "good" and "bad" terrorists. As Congress explores the matter of eco-terrorism, this issue deserves thoughtful consideration.

Post-Sept. 11, the Earth Island Institute was the first to seemingly sanction the terrorist mindset of "by whatever means necessary," editorializing on its Web site that our victims essentially got what they deserved. After all, according to EII, they mostly worked for the Pentagon and "multinational financial empires," perpetuating an oil-based economy. An anti-anti-American backlash led EII to implausibly label its editorial as a personal e-mail accidentally posted (by the site's editor) and not reflecting the institute's views.

The spokesman for a more active eco-extremist group, David Barbarash, whined with equal plausibility, "to call Animal Liberation Front terrorist is an insult to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11." According to, Barbarash's record includes being charged with possessing explosives and impermissibly toting weapons. Our animal activist is not likely a hunter.

On Sept. 11, ALF took credit for firebombing a Tucson McDonald's, one of a string of many such acts. reported, "ALF has also set off firebombs at meat companies and feed mills, kidnapped and tortured a British journalist, and was called 'a true domestic terrorism group that uses criminal activity to further their political agenda' by the FBI. Jane's Intelligence Review calls ALF 'the most prominent eco-terrorist group' ... noting that one ALF target 'received two letter bombs, letters with razor blades, his car was damaged and the windows and doors of his house destroyed.' "

It seems at the same time both unnecessary, yet imperative, to articulate that such activity is intolerable by civilized society and that a policy of turning the other cheek toward such "low-level" terrorism irrefutably encourages escalation. Any "war on terrorism" not attacking this scourge is irresponsible. It hit our shores well before Sept. 11 and is increasing.

Congress has heard tales of eco-terror's threat in the recent past. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh addressed domestic terror in his prepared remarks last May submitted to several Senate committees:

"Special interest extremists continue to conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including the general public, to change attitudes about issues considered important to their causes. These groups occupy the extreme fringes of animal rights, pro-life, environmental, anti-nuclear, and other political and social movements. Some special interest extremists - most notably within the animal rights and environmental movements - have turned increasingly toward vandalism and terrorist activity in attempts to further their causes ..."

Freeh went on to point out that the ALF "has become one of the most active extremist elements" in the United States with eight terrorist incidents in the United States during 1999 attributed to either the ALF or the Earth Liberation Front, another extremist group.

The administration defined "domestic terrorism" in its anti-terror legislative proposal after Sept. 11 consistent with Director Freeh. Plainly, there is no justifying, for purposes of the "war on terrorism" or otherwise, the idea of "acceptable," or exempt, terrorists such as self-described "environmentalists."

Let us hope our lawmakers recognize the folly of playing favorites.

Christopher C. Horner is Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.