Words by Kaila Lariviere
On the morning of February 18, 2010, a Piper PA-28-236 small engine plane crashed into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. Two people were killed, including the pilot, and another dozen were injured. Without knowing the description of the perpetrator and his reasons for crashing his private plane into a building of innocent government workers, one could easily pinpoint this as an act of terrorism. However, this was not how this attack was perceived by the media and the public of the United States. In the political climate which was catalyzed by the terror attacks of September 11, one would think that any crashing of planes into populated buildings is terrorism. Yet, this was not the take-away phrase from an which the media failed to cover.
Joseph Stack III, age 53, from Austin Texas, was a member of the Sovereign Citizen Movement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has described this movement as
“…anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or “sovereign” from the United States. As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.”
Before his suicidal attack, he released on his website a six page lamentation describing how the IRS had caused him to throw away any hopes of retirement and subsequently had ensured suicidal tendencies:
“well, Mr. Big Brother I.R.S. man, let’s try something different, take my pound of flesh and sleep well.” Jack Cook, his wife’s step-father, claimed that he is sure that Mr. Stack only meant to target the IRS, not the people.
How does one attack a building and not expect to cause collateral damage? If his aim were really to avoid innocent deaths, perhaps he should have rammed the plane into the building at three AM when everyone would be out of the office. The president of the United States and the Austin Police Chief stated that this was not a terrorist attack, that it was an isolated event and therefore a crime.
He went on a suicide mission, like the members of al-Qaeda who seized the planes that were utilized in the destruction of the World Trade Center. He killed and injured the innocent; the targeting of innocent lives is vital to many definitions of terrorism. He had violence in his heart.
So why then was this act labeled as a simple crime, and not terrorism?
According to the Director of the Center for Disaster Risk Policy and the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program at Florida State University, Dr. Audrey Heffron Casserleigh, one of the biggest problems we (the United States) face domestically “is that we seem to be reluctant to call white men terrorists. And I would say that there is an inherent bias, we are also weary of that; but we are also sometimes reluctant to call people domestic terrorists.”
The failure to label an American, and even more specifically, a Caucasian American, as a terrorist seems to be a major blight on US domestic policy.
Dr. Casserleigh remarks in a recent interview,
“The most recent terrorist case of course would be the Tsarnaev brothers case (the Boston bombers) but we saw them as others, as foreigners, and we had no problem framing them as foreigners or others. If you compare that case to the Oregon standoff on federal lands, then you really do not hear the term terrorism used very often in regards to militia members that are holding guns and occupying a piece of federal property. We do not call them terrorists. I guarantee you if their name was Tsarnaev and they were Muslim then we would have. To be really frank, we don’t like to call Americans terrorists because it is hard for us to acknowledge that we have terrorists in the US who are homegrown. The Army of God, where they are bombing abortion clinics, such as Eric Rudolph (a prominent leader of the Army of God) who we called a fugitive for a really long time; that’s because we see terrorists as foreigners. We see them as a different faith often and to be really frank, inside this country when it comes to who we define as a terrorist, we are still very racist.”
Who do we define as a terrorist?
The answer should be anyone who has malicious intent with the purpose of striking fear into others. How can we put labels on only certain people, such as radical Islamists, yet not on those who do not fit our narrow definition of what is foreign and thus evil?