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To understand political violence, we must first recognise its potency

by An American in London Mon May 14th, 2007 at 07:49:27 AM EST

Excellent column in Today's Guardian by Garry Younge on the contradiction of Northern Ireland and Iraq where in order to bask in the success of Northern Ireland, both Britain and America had to forget their justifications for the war on terror of the past five years. Also highly recommend viewing of the newly released , 'The Battle of Algiers'. It is playing in theatres in London with new prints and will be re-released for DVD shortly. Just as important now as when made 40 years ago. On my list of top ten films to see. Link for Guardioan column is: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2078849,00.html The professed goals of terrorists may well be legitimate, but acting in isolation does nothing to advance their cause

Gary Younge
Monday May 14, 2007
The Guardian

Last Tuesday in Philadelphia the FBI exposed an alleged terror cell of young Muslims planning to attack a military base in New Jersey. The authorities say the six men, aged between 22 and 28, hoped to kill as many soldiers as they could with assault rifles and grenades.

Once again, those who believe a potential terrorist should be easily identifiable were disappointed. Like school shooters, the men fit the profile of dangerous people who are impossible to profile. They are not drawn from the underclass, nor did they lead segregated lives. They delivered pizzas, worked in stores and ran their own roofing business. The neighbours suspected nothing; their families are in shock.

They were amateurs, apparently egged on by the FBI informer among them. At some stages they blew hard about jihad. At others they worried about being caught. But they were determined. "As far as people, we have enough," another claimed. "Seven people and we are all crazy ... We can do a lot of damage with seven people."

They were amateurs, apparently egged on by the FBI informer among them.

every time I read something like this it makes me crazy(er).  how many of these "terror cells" would exist, or plan anything more than pamphleting, if it were not for the paid agents-provocateurs?  how many windows would get broken at demos by young men in black masks if the agents-provs were not inciting, or even doing the window-breaking themselves?  there is more than one use for a black bandanna... it can conceal the face of an undercover cop as well as a wannabe revolutionary.

how many drug arrests would stick if the cops didn't plant evidence at the scene -- how many arrests are made solely to shake down the dealer?

what the hell kind of "justice" system consists of cops encouraging and abetting criminality, creating it where it might not otherwise have existed?  OK, sting operations on mafia organisations I can see, where you plant a mole in the woodwork in the course of a RICO investigation -- a fly on the wall.  but actively instigating crime in order to "forestall" it???

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 14th, 2007 at 08:46:00 PM EST
I also recall the so far most 'serious' case of eco-terrorists, a group in California which too was egged on by the FBI informer, which also tried hard to get the group associated to some established environmentalist organisation's leader (Greenpeace?) -- do you know the case?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 15th, 2007 at 07:20:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's this:

On the morning of January 13, the FBI was keeping a close eye on a cabin in Dutch Flat, about a half-hour north of Auburn. The government had the cabin and its four occupants--two men and two women--under 24-hour surveillance for nearly a week because the group was suspected of plotting acts of domestic terrorism in the name of the Earth Liberation Front.

The four left the cabin at around 10 a.m. in a 1997 maroon Chevy Lumina and traveled about 30 miles to a Kmart in Auburn. There were agents inside the store, watching them shop.

...Once all four reassembled in the parking lot, carrying bags full of household cleaning supplies and a Pyrex bowl--bomb-making materials, according to the government--members of the FBI, the SWAT team and the Joint Terrorism Task Force moved in.

It wasn't a violent takedown.

Three from the group were quietly handcuffed and loaded into patrol cars. Their shopping bags were inspected, quickly inventoried and loaded into the trunk of another. All but Anna were taken to the Sacramento County Jail and then charged with conspiracy to commit arson. The government alleged that the conspiracy was part of a planned terrorist bombing campaign targeting power stations in San Francisco, a forest-genetics research lab in Placerville and even the Nimbus Dam.

The three never saw Anna again. She had befriended them, brought them together, paid the rent on the Dutch Flat cabin and encouraged them every step of the way. She had been an FBI informant all along.

...but what I remember is a rather similar case, except the arrest was after some bomb attacks carried out, and it happened maybe two decades ago.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 15th, 2007 at 08:05:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, more on the same woman! Apparently a serial agent provocateur.

But I found the other case: THERMCON - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

THERMCON was the code name of a FBI operation which was launched in response to the sabotage of the Arizona Snowbowl ski lift near Flagstaff, Arizona in October 1987 by three people from Prescott, Arizona, Mark Davis, Margaret Millet, and Marc Baker. In a November, 1987 letter claiming responsibility, the group called themselves the "Evan Mecham Eco-Terrorist International Conspiracy" (EMETIC). The group named themselves after Evan Mecham, a former Arizona governor. The Arizona Snowbowl spent $50,000 repairing the damage.

EMETIC's first act was to damage a chairlift at the Fairfield Snow Bowl near Flagstaff, Arizona. During the incident an acetylene torch was used to cut bolts from several of the lift's support towers. A warning letter claiming responsibility for the damage also contained a threat to "chain the Fairfield CEO to a tree at the 10,000-foot level and feed him shrubs and roots until he understands the suicidal folly of treating the planet primarily as a tool for making money." Upon receipt of the letter the resort shut down the lift in order to repair the over US$ 50,000 in damages caused by the EMETIC.

The EMETIC made two other attacks against targets the group considered to be causing ecological damage before the FBI began arresting group members.

...Short for "Thermite Conspiracy" - thermite being an incendiary mixture of powdered aluminium oxide and iron oxide - Operation THERMCON employed more than 50 FBI agents and involved the infiltration of the group between 1987 and 1989 by undercover FBI agent Michael Fain, and the recruitment of Ron Fraizer, a friend of the three, as an informant.

...Two additional persons were also indicted as a result. ...The fifth, Dave Foreman, at the time the leader of Earth First! based in Tucson, Arizona, was not involved in the group but was nonetheless charged with conspiracy, on the grounds that he had given a copy of the book Ecodefense inscribed "happy monkeywrenching" and a $100 donation to undercover agent Michael Fain. [1]

...Earth First! claimed the operation was intended to discredit Earth First! by linking its leaders to the conspiracy, particularly Dave Foreman. During the course of the operation, undercover agent Michael Fain (who used the name Mike Tait) was recorded saying "I don't really look for them to be doing a lot of hurting people... (Foreman) isn't really the guy we need to pop -- I mean in terms of an actual perpetrator. This is the guy we need to pop to send a message. And that's all we're really doing... Uh-oh! We don't need that on tape! Hoo boy!" [2] According to an FBI field office file released to Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney in 1996, FBI agents provocateurs associated with THERMCON spent two years winning the trust of the Prescott group, actively encouraging them to sabotage powerlines and attempting - unsuccessfully - to convince the group that they should use, and even offering to buy, explosives for this purpose. FBI agents also selected the site and purchased and transported cutting equipment prior to the sabotage attempt on 30 May, 1989, leading to accusations of entrapment.

...The four from Prescott entered into a plea bargain. Davis was sentenced to 6 years in prison and restitution of $19,821 to the Arizona Snowbowl. Millet was sentenced to 3 years and restitution of $19,821. Baker was sentenced to 6 months and a $5000 fine, and Apslund to 30 days and a $2000 fine. The four were sentenced in September 1991.

Dave Foreman's case was separated from the other four and sentencing was deferred until 1996, when the charges were reduced to a single misdemeanor and he was fined $250.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 15th, 2007 at 08:24:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but the potency of political violence is principally to extend the authority of the state. The first response of electorates is always to ask of the exceutive "what are you doing to protect us ?" Cue authoritarianism.

The advantage of political violence is never with the lone actor, only with the state. This is especially true when most perpetrators of violence are extremely naive about what they are trying to achieve and how their actions are supposed to advance their cause towards that goal. They are more wedded to the nihilism of destruction than the usefulness (or otherwise) of any action.

I'm not about to give any advice on an open forum about how better to structure a terror campaign, but, however horrific, I'm genuinely relieved that most of them haven't got a clue.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 15th, 2007 at 06:35:12 AM EST
I could never understand why terror groups don't follow the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, realizing non-violent protests on a massive scale-striles etc. will accomplish much more than terror.
by An American in London on Wed May 16th, 2007 at 08:52:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cos passivity isn't as much fun I guess. Terror groups are always run by headstrong young men who just like blowing shit up more than achieving anything concrete.

'sides which, there is a genuine difference in attitude between those who want to destroy the system and replace it with the fantasy de jour and those who want to create something lasting.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 16th, 2007 at 01:31:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the problem is the conflation of mildly irritated eco-warriors with so called 'terrorists'. The term 'terrorists' itself is fluid and highly useful to the state. I'll give you an example, some relatively naive folks who called themselves the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) who I believe DoDo is referencing scratched the paint and glass of some SUVs in Richmond, VA. Another so called cell of this outfit carried out the burning of the resort. Because of the designation, the FBI got itself involved in both cases. As it turned out the Richmond ELF 'members' never got nabbed, but Jeffrey Leurs who burnt some SUVs in Oregon did. Jeffrey Leurs, has been sentenced to a prison term of 22 years, eight months.

To put this in context, in Eugene, Oregon, where Jeff Leurs was convicted, the local newspaper, The Register Guard, reported that a man who killed a woman while driving drunk received a 10 year jail sentence. Six days later, the same newspaper reported that Jeffrey Leurs had been sentenced to 22 years and 8 months for causing a few thousand dollars worth of damage to SUVs. Even though the judge admitted that Leurs had taken precautions against harming people, Jeffrey, who is now 22, will spend as much time in jail as he has already spent on earth.

In my view, there's a slight problem with working out why a basic property crime should involve a sentencing that effectively destroys a persons's life.

And it's not as though the ELF's 'cause' is exceptionally vile or evil. In point of fact, almost everyone on this blog would probably highly laude their basical goals, only questioning (as I do) their methods.

Probably some basic questions should be asked about the nature of the 'violence' being discussed. Does it involve harm to person or to property?

If to person--if even indirectly--then obviously the sentence should be severe.

If to property--and if, furthermore, the property itself is symbolical of a larger belief system (ie, a nuclear missile, a racist monument, an SUV or Hummer) then the punishment should be equal to the cost of the damage incurred, but close to a life sentence should be looked upon as extreme (in my opinion, anyhow).

I've copied below a relatively long interview I conducted with the ELF press office to give you some idea of the type of folks we're actually talking about. Some of the rhetoric is impassioned and a bit immature, but there is much in the interview that is true.

One last note, after we published this interview at DM, our hits went through the roof, the vast majority of them coming from some curious domains near Langley, VA with .gov extentions :-)

Since so much ink has already been spilt about 'eco-terrorism', but very little on the actual reasons behind such organizations, we at the DelicateMonster felt it only fair to give the 'eco-terrorists' a chance to state their side of the matter. Through anonymous email, we've asked ELF to respond to a series of questions regarding their motives and actions. A copy of this interview is being emailed to Rep. Scott McInnis, as well, so that he may better know his 'enemy':

1) On your website you state that a goal of your organization is to
inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment. I presume one of the reasons you would carry out such actions is to reduce the profitability of exploiting the environment. Do you have any methodology that lets you track such a reduction? In other words, have you any way of measuring your organizations effectiveness in preventing environmental exploitation?

One goal of the organization is to inflict economic damage, the other two being to educate the public and to make known that earth-abusing entities can all be considered targets. Whether each action is successful on all counts can only be considered on a case by case basis. We do not keep statistics on how much each ELF action sets back corporations and government entities that are targeted. To date, the ELF has carried out actions that have cost over $45 million which is quite a  financial hit taken by a few corporations, universities and government agencies. We fail to see how this does not affect the operations and the considerations that these agencies must take into account. There is no question that each of these agencies have their profits cut into when they
have to spend more on security, insurance, staff training, and damage control. A target hit again and again becomes unprofitable over time and it's the long-range view that matters in the struggle to save the planet.

2) If it was determined that activities which inflict economic damage on exploiters actually is not an effective deterrent to environmental exploitation would you try an alternate means?

There are other reasons that actions get carried out. There is no question that these actions raise issues before the public like few others could. The reality is, these actions bring enormous amounts of attention to issues that would not otherwise get any media play or public discussion at all.

In some cases, such as biotechnology research, there is the added
imperative of putting a stop to destructive practices before they are released on an unsuspecting public and planet. There is no question that ELF actions have set back this type of destructive research by decades - which far surpasses any finite and measurable economic damage.

3) A common belief by some who have studied your organization is that you really aren't interested in political change per se. Is this accurate? If so, is this because you believe the current political climate is too saturated with consumerist sentiment to effectively change its [own] habits? Or is the process of political change too slow going at this late stage?

We aren't sure what you mean by "political change" - if you mean change of government then no, ELF members are unlikely to focus on whether Gore or Bush wins the next election. If you mean revolutionary change in which society is transformed into a place where people, animals and the earth are respected, and the systems of hierarchical rule are turned upside down - then yes - ELF members are likely very interested in that type of change. However, the question is whether there is time left on this planet
to make the type of evolutionary leap politically that would be required for such transformation. ELF members obviously believe in taking action in the here and now - directly having an impact on conditions that affect them and their world - rather than waiting for a future that may never come.

5) I understand that ELF traces its roots to EarthFirst! And that they are more or less a splinter group after EarthFirst! turned away from acts of sabotage in favor of more legally acceptable courses of action. EarthFirst! of course was no doubt inspired by Edward Abbey and his novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang. Do you also draw your inspiration for activism from Abbey? Or are their other sources? If so, could you please discuss them?

We are simply the press office, it is difficult to say where people
carrying out actions are inspired from. The Monkey Wrench Gang is an obvious source for ideas in action. Derek Jensen's book - A Language Older Than Words also provides some fine inspiration for would-be monkey-wrenchers. But really, no one needs a book to see that the world we are living in is in deep, deep trouble - and we suspect that people are moved by the suffering and struggle that they witness around them rather than the ideas of a few writers.

6) How do ELF members handle being in an organization that the FBI has characterized as a 'terrorists' group? Specifically, how are the day to day logistics handled. Also, this has to be incredibly difficult on a personal/emotional level how is that sense of marginalization handled?

ELF members live anonymously which is why we, the press office, have no contact with them or any knowledge of who carries out ELF actions. ELF members could be your next door neighbour, or that friend you went to college with. They could be living so-called "normal" lives, or living out of the back of their car in a wilderness area. How each individual or cell handles their day to day existence depends on the situation and it is difficult for us to guess what different scenarios exist for ELF members. There is no question that this is stressful work, since ELF members are
risking arrest and incarceration with every action they carry out - and the actions themselves can pose physical risk to those involved. There is no question that even taking on the ELF Press Office in this day and age (post-september 11th) is a stressful task given the level of repression that has come down on activists across North America and the world. The decision to keep the press officers anonymous (since Leslie James Pickering stepped down) is an obvious outcome of that. Just an association with the ELF could cause one to lose their job, or come under
investigation - and so even speaking out in support has become
marginalizing in itself.

7) Id like for our readers to get a sense of who you are demographically. Obviously any answer will be a generalized aggregate, but it would be interesting to know. Are you more male or female, more young, 20s or older 30-40s? As a group are you more white? Afro-American? Asian? Hispanic? Do you hail from lower class backgrounds, middle class backgrounds? Upper
class? What would you say is the general educational level for your group?

We have no idea. We are the press office and do not know those who carry out actions on behalf of the ELF.

10) There seems to be a strong streak of anti-technology sentiment among ELF members. Is there any place for high-tech solutions to environmental problems in the ELF world view? I am thinking specifically of fuel-cell cars, or so called clean alternative energy sources: solar power, wind power, etc.

We don't hold a position on this particularly. We suspect that there are many different viewpoints within the ELF on questions like this and some
individuals may hold specficially anti-technology views while others may

11) How do you feel about the Green Party, The Sierra Club, the NRDC? Do
you think they are legitimate political alternatives for individuals who
want to protect the environment through legal political means?

These organizations are as legitimate as any other reform-minded
organizations existing in North America today, however - the mainstream
environmental movement alone can not bring about the type of changes
needed to transform the world we are living in and certainly doesn't
threaten the political status quo any more than the Democratic Party does
(green consumerism being an example of this).

By the same token, members of the ELF have never stated that the tactics
of their group will, on their own achieve full change. Of course there
needs to be public education. The ELF considers itself one part of a
global movement which uses a variety of tactics to stop the destruction of

12) The Sierra club and other environment groups claim that your actions
actually hurt the environmental movement. How do you respond to this

Grassroots and mainstream organizations who have come out publicly against
the actions of the ELF do so either due to economic reasons (they rely on
donations from the public, members, or grants from charities or
governmental or non-governmental organizations) and/or they have a firm
belief in the system of government in operation in their particular area.
Either way this attitude demonstrates a clear misunderstanding and/or a
great reluctance to accept the seriousness of the threats to life on this
planet and to make a firm commitment to work to actually stop that
destruction of life.

13) Do you have any thoughts on such figures as Ron Arnold, the so called
father of Wise Use? In particular, his rather rabid denunciation of civil
protests against environmental exploitation as 'terrorism'?

The Wise Use "movement" is not wise nor is it a movement at all. Simply
put, wise use is just another voice of industry destructive to the earth
and the animal inhabitants on it. It is comprised of fur farmers, logging
companies and large-scale ranchers (to name just a few of the interests
which comprise so-called wise use organizations). Of course, since these
individuals and companies are legitimate targets of the ELF because of
their destructive practices, and are often the targets of more mainstream
protest as well - they have an interest in encouraging more government
crackdown on activism under the guise of fighting terrorism.

14) One point often made when comparing ELF members actions to those of
say Henry David Thoreau or Martin Luther King is that ELF members do not
take responsibility for their actions. They actively try to avoid
detection (while both Thoreau and King accepted jail time in protests).
How do you respond to such criticism?

ELF members are far more useful on the outside carrying out further
actions that stuck inside a prison cell.

15) Last, although we do not have a large readership, it is reasonably
well educated and favors well thought out arguments (as opposed to knee
jerk solutions).  What would you say to our readership so that they might
sympathize with ELF and/or encourage them to create their own cells?

We would say that it is evident that the world is hurtling towards social
and ecological collapse and we must act now if we are to make a
difference. Whether or not people join the ELF is not the point so much as
that individuals take responsibiility for changing the world that they
live in for the better rather than waiting for someone else to do it. The
time for change is today, and direct action makes a real and lasting
impact in the way that symbolic protest does not. If not you, who? If not
now, when?

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Wed May 16th, 2007 at 11:44:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I highly recommend viewing 'The Power of Nightmares', a 3 hour documentary for the BBC by Adam Curtis. The general theme is the western countries have used fear in order to govern. The fear of the Commies has now been replaced by the terrorists. What should have been a cooperative international police action against the terror cells has now been made for the benefit of governments and their multi national oil and military industrial masters. Not sure the documentary is in DVD but worth seeking out when broadcasted.
by An American in London on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 06:46:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably some basic questions should be asked about the nature of the 'violence' being discussed. Does it involve harm to person or to property?

No, no, the basic question is "is this terrorism"?

You see, if you kill someone because you're a criminally reckless fucktard who drinks and drives, there isn't a political motive and so you get 10 years. If you deface some property to send a political message, you get 20 years.

The conclusion is that "terrorism" is code for thought crimes, and "anti-terrorism" a code for thought police.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 08:39:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Counter-argument: who is more likely to kill again and likely to be harder to "rehabilitate" in Prison? The political murderer, because the fucktard presumably didn't believe in the righteousness of his action.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 06:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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