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GOP Candidates Must Denounce Anti-Abortion Terrorism

November 30, 2015

In the wake of the slaughter in Paris, the 2016 Republican White House hopeful and their conservative allies have done a stellar job whipping up hysteria about the terrorist threat from ISIS. But when it comes to domestic terrorism from right-wing extremists, that dangerous amalgam of anti-government, anti-abortion and anti-tax radicals whose body count has far exceeded that of Islamic jihadists here in America since 9/11, the GOP's best and brightest have nothing to say. Denouncing marriage equality, Florida's Marco Rubio explained that when the Bible and civil authorities come into conflict, "God's rules always win." While rejecting Syrian refugees, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared just two weeks ago, "There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror."
Now that yet another anti-abortion terrorist has apparently struck, this time shooting several people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, the time is long past due for Republicans to finally call that evil by its name. With the distance between right-wing rhetoric and right-wing terror getting shorter still, the would-be GOP presidents must do what the likes of Sarah Palin would not.
During an October 2008 interview with NBC's Brian Williams Palin refused to brand violent right-wing radicals as terrorists:

WILLIAMS: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition, governor?
PALIN: (Sigh). There's no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was one who sought to destroy our U.S. Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There's no question there. Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there.

Sadly for Governor Palin, under President Bush the FBI did. Consider, for example, the Bureau's report issued during the Bush administration, "Terrorism: 2002 to 2005":

The terrorism preventions for 2002 through 2005 present a more diverse threat picture. Eight of the 14 recorded terrorism preventions stemmed from right-wing extremism, and included disruptions to plotting by individuals involved with the militia, white supremacist, constitutionalist and tax protestor, and anti-abortion movements.

Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft similarly showed no hesitation. "Terrorist" was the exact word to Ashcroft used in reference to Eric Rudolph when he was finally captured in 2003. That May, Ashcroft had this to say about the man who bombed the Atlanta Olympics Centennial Park in 1996, a gay nightclub and abortion clinic the next year and detonated another device at a Birmingham clinic in 1998:

"Today, Eric Robert Rudolph, the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's 'Most Wanted' list has been captured and will face American justice. American law enforcement's unyielding efforts to capture Eric Robert Rudolph have been rewarded. Working with law enforcement nationwide, the FBI always gets their man. This sends a clear message that we will never cease in our efforts to hunt down all terrorists, foreign or domestic, and stop them from harming the innocent...
The American people, most importantly the victims of these terrorist attacks, can rest easier knowing that another alleged killer is no longer a threat."

And to be sure, Eric Rudolph was a deadly threat. After pleading guilty to the bombings in Georgia and Alabama in April 2005, Rudolph in his rambling 11-page manifesto released in 2005, Rudolph explained that the motivation behind his crusade of carnage was legalized abortion and "aberrant sexual behavior":

"Abortion is murder. And when the regime in Washington legalized, sanctioned and legitimized this practice, they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern."

As CNN noted at the time, Rudolph said he had "nothing personal" against victims like off-duty policeman Robert Sanderson (killed in the Birmingham blast) and nurse Emily Lyons (who lost an eye and suffered other injuries). But he also had no remorse.

In his statement Wednesday, he said that while homosexuality does not pose a threat when kept in private, the "attempt to force society to accept and recognize this behavior" should be met with "force if necessary."
Rudolph also shed light on his intentions regarding the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He called it an opportunity to shame the United States for its legalization of abortion. He said his goal was to knock out Atlanta's power grid and shut down the Olympics.

As it turns out, the "radicalization" of Eric Rudolph started early. Just days after his capture, Time summed up his evolution on June 9, 2003:

Rudolph did epitomize the modern militiaman. After his father died in 1981, his mother moved the family from Florida to rural Nantahala, N.C. When she enrolled Eric and his siblings in school, she refused to give their Social Security numbers, fearing the government could track them. She introduced them to several churches that followed "Christian Identity," a rabidly anti-Semitic philosophy; in ninth grade, Eric wrote an essay denying that the Holocaust took place.
After his terror attacks, "runaway Christian" Eric Rudolph was able to remain at large with the support of his friends and neighbors. He eluded a five-year federal manhunt despite the $1 million bounty offered for his capture. As Time noted, that may not have been just because the survivalist skills he mastered in the forests of North Carolina:
Since he didn't look as if he had stumbled out of a cave, investigators believe Rudolph must have received help over the years. "If he's been living in a mobile home, you'd assume quite a few people knew he was there," says Ronald Baughn, a retired federal law-enforcement agent who helped investigate the Atlanta and Birmingham bombings. Indeed, Rudolph had become a local folk hero. In Murphy, T shirts and coffee mugs appeared saying RUN RUDOLPH, RUN.

Of course, Eric Rudolph has had plenty of company among the extremist ranks of the violent anti-abortion movement. In 2003, Presbyterian minister Paul Hill was executed for his 1994 murders of a Florida abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994. Would-be Texas clinic bomber Paul Ross Evans and James Kopp, the killer of Buffalo physician Barnett Slepian, were also American terrorists apparently devoted to killing in the name of Jesus. And among those the Army of God calls "Prisoners for Christ" is Shelley Shannon. In 1993, Shannon was sentenced to 10 years in a Kansas prison for shooting Dr. Tiller in both arms outside his clinic. Two years later, Shannon pled guilty to setting fires to abortion clinics in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and California. And as the New York Times recounted in 1995, Shannon was quite clear as to whether she considered her crimes terrorism:

Handcuffed and nondescript in jailhouse blues, Shelley Shannon, a housewife from rural Oregon, stood before a Federal judge here on June 7 and admitted waging a terrorism campaign against abortion clinics and doctors.

As it turns out, Shelley Shannon had a big fan in Scott Roeder, the man who assassinated Dr. George Tiller in 2009. Roeder, who used to visit Shannon in prison, now has jailhouse well-wishers of his own. They include the Rev. Donald Spitz, the director of Pro-Life Virginia, who calls Roeder an "American hero."
In that dark netherworld where anti-abortion zealots and right-wing propaganda meet, Scott Roeder is many things. Just not a terrorist. Previewing Cruz's recent comments, Brian Kilmeade of Fox News proclaimed five years ago that "not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims." And when President Obama used the National Prayer Breakfast in February to note that the history of the Crusades and American slavery were obvious examples of those who "committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal offered this snide response:

"We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today."

As the carnage in Colorado Springs reminds us, the threat from Jindal's "runaway Christians" is not under control. And it won't be, until Republican leaders call anti-abortion terrorism by its name.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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