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The Anthrax Attacks
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Atrios pushes a suggestion that I don't find very plausible...
Doesn't Anyone Remember Anthrax?

What I just learned from CNN:
6 years after 9/11 there have been no terror attacks here in the United States.
I've long been fascinated by the erasure of the anthrax attacks - which, in their own way, freaked out the country more than 9/11 did* - from our collective memory.
Terrorism: "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons."

What was the intention of the anthrax attacks? Nobody ever claimed credit, so we have no idea. Like the DC Sniper episode, it may simply have been misdirection or the irrational act of a lunatic.

Terrifying, certainly, but "terrifying" is not "terrorism". Barring new developments that indicate a social or political purpose behind the anthrax attack - and excluding domestic political agitators such as ALF - there have been no terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Terrifying, certainly, but "terrifying" is not "terrorism". Barring new developments that indicate a social or political purpose behind the anthrax attack
I get your point, McQ. But doesn’t the fact that the anthrax attacks were solely directed at Democrats and, as you yourself describe, the “liberal media” reasonably constitute “with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons."

My memory may be faulty, as I am on my third Blue Moon. But I remember the attacks being solely directed at Dems and the media.

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
3 Blue Moons? Fair enough. Then I’ll be gentle with my point.

Jon wrote the post Pogue, not me.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Dammit, Jon. Sneakin’ up on me like that.

Heh.

Make that four Blue Moon’s.

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
I remember that people who claimed expertise in profiling were saying that the attacks were likely to be the work of a lone individual who was frustrated that people did not seem to be taking the threat of such attacks seriously enough. According to this theory, the attacks were intended to "wake people up."

It would be an apples to oranges comparison to lump such a scenario in with jihadist terrorism and use it to score political points against the administration, as if they had somehow dropped the ball by not designing the system catch this guy.

In my opinion, the most serious threat to our country is not "terrorism," broadly defined to include any scary incident, but the specific war that is being waged against us by fanatical members of a certain international cult or religious/political ideology, often referred to as "Islamism." The success of this cult should be the metric that we use to measure the effectiveness of our counter-terrorism efforts.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
This is a pretty bizarre claim. The anthrax was sent to politicians and the media if you didn’t notice. I think those are reasonably likely to be political targets, don’t you think?

And if an attack doesn’t become terrorist until someone claims credit for it, then we should have waited quite a while after September 11 before concluding that those were terrorist attacks rather than just madmen, eh? And the dozens of weekly bombings in Iraq — how many have credit claimed?

For that matter, I don’t think the Oklahoma City bombers ever sent a letter or taped a video announcing their rationale — yet it was clear that it was the product of an anti-government ideology, and was intended to induce fear. I think the anthrax attacks fit that model reasonably well, no?

 
Written By: Mithras
URL: http://harnly.net
"the anthrax attacks were solely directed at Democrats"

weren’t there also a bunch of gossip rags in Florida targetted?
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
The DC Area Sniper probably had an even bigger affect. The story went dead quiet shortly after stuff about him being a radical Muslim started coming out. Then there was the guy with the SUV. The shooter in the Mall who was stopped by an off-duty police officer.

I’d say the claim is overly broad. It should be more like "no attacks from a internationally networked terrorist group". This is no small thing, but most people would switch to another channel before you finished saying it.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Was anyone actually killed in the anthrax attacks?
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
According to Wikipedia… Five people died.
What was the intention of the anthrax attacks? Nobody ever claimed credit, so we have no idea.
Good question. What was the intention anyway?
According to the letters found.
09-11-01
THIS IS NEXT
TAKE PENACILIN NOW
DEATH TO AMERICA
DEATH TO ISRAEL
ALLAH IS GREAT
And,
09-11-01
YOU CAN NOT STOP US.
WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX.
YOU DIE NOW.
ARE YOU AFRAID?
DEATH TO AMERICA.
DEATH TO ISRAEL.
ALLAH IS GREAT
“DEATH TO AMERICA” What does that mean, anyway? Since no one ever claimed credit, I have no idea.

Because if they mean, America the band, then I can totally get on board with that. That’s not terrorism, that’s just good musical taste.
You see Ive been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
cause there aint no one for to give you no pain
La, la ...
Make that five Blue Moon’s.

La, la…laa… la ,la ,la ,la ,laa… la, la, la, laaaa … la

Yeah, thanks a lot, Jon. Now I have that song stuck in my head.

Cheers.


 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
This is a pretty bizarre claim. The anthrax was sent to politicians and the media if you didn’t notice. I think those are reasonably likely to be political targets, don’t you think?
[...]
For that matter, I don’t think the Oklahoma City bombers ever sent a letter or taped a video announcing their rationale — yet it was clear that it was the product of an anti-government ideology, and was intended to induce fear. I think the anthrax attacks fit that model reasonably well, no?

I think the difference is that it is and was clear that the other events were intended to inspire terror for clear political purposes. It’s not clear that the anthrax attacks were intended for that purpose. They targeted two Democrats and some media outlets...but the New York Post is a rightwing paper. The Enquirer and the Sun are...well, tabloids. And the letters to Democrats were sent later, after the initial run. Does that mean something? Was it a misdirection? Or were the initial outlets the misdirection?

Plus, the letters to the Democrats and the Post said "Death to American Death to Israel Allah is Great.". Does that mean it was Islamic terrorism? Or was it opportunistic misdirection? And what about the couple people who died, yet had no apparent connection to any of the other organizations that received letters?

There’s just no clear pattern to the recipients.

One doesn’t have to acknowledge a car bomb in Iraq for people to know the reason, but there was no possible message to draw out of the anthrax attacks. Absent some direction they’re pushing, this is no more "terrorism" than is any unexplained murder.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Who says terrorism has to make sense, Jon?

In fact, most terrorism goes beyond my idea of rational thought.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Who says terrorism has to make sense, Jon?
I don’t think that’s his argument. He’s pointing out that per the definition, it usually has a political purpose.

What was the political purpose of the anthrax attacks? What did they intimidate or coerce the government or society (or attempt to intimidate or coerce the government) into doing?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I don’t think that’s his argument. He’s pointing out that per the definition, it usually has a political purpose.
Indeed.
It’s clear via the letters that the attacks had a political purpose. Although it may have been poorly executed in order to give us a clear view of the intent, the underlying generality of the attacks was clearly political.

It may have been an ineffective and vague terrorism attack, but it was terrorism nonetheless.

Nobody says that terrorists have to be good at what they do.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
"The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons."
I see nothing in this definition that requires the use of force to be acknowledged or credited to any group or person.

Obviously a person committed the anthrax attacks, unless it was an angry heifer or something, but identifying the responsible party is not a requirement for something to be terrorism.

As stated above, AQ and OBL were not directly proven to have committed the 9/11 attacks until months and months after the attack when OBL, in a weasel worded statement, took responsibility, but from the moment that second aircraft struck the WTC, was anyone reluctant to call it terrorism?

Frankly, if the intention is simply to encourage us to give up our civil liberties, thereby destroying what we are, then no purpose, group, or political intentions need ever be given, and would in fact be counterproductive.

 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
It’s clear via the letters that the attacks had a political purpose.
I’m not sure that’s clear at all.

What is clear is the writer knew what buttons to push, but tell me what the political purpose was with those two letters?

For all we know they were written by a Methodist accountant in Atlanta. No follow up, no demands, no identification.

Other that raising a little dust (no pun intended) what were their purpose in light of the definition? Who were they seeking to intimidate or coerce and why?

There is a difference between terrorizing and terrorism.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
In the desert, you can’t remember your name....
This song almost got stuck in my head, but I traded it out for...
I’ve been to Hollywood
I’ve been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean
for a heart of gold
I’ve been in my mind,
it’s such a fine line
That keeps me searching
for a heart of gold
And I’m getting old....
Why get a carbon copy stuck in your head when you can have the original
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
I see nothing in this definition that requires the use of force to be acknowledged or credited to any group or person.
I not arguing that credit was necessarily required. Instead I asked:

What was the political purpose of the anthrax attacks? What did they intimidate or coerce the government or society (or attempt to intimidate or coerce the government) into doing?

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ asks about the anthrax letters:
What is clear is the writer knew what buttons to push, but tell me what the political purpose was with those two letters?
That whole business had more the touch of a Unabomber or Zodiac killer than a terror outfit.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
What was the political purpose of the anthrax attacks? What did they intimidate or coerce the government or society (or attempt to intimidate or coerce the government) into doing?
It is not even necessary that we know the intent, and may not even be necessary that there was any societal or political intent.

If groups of people began committing suicide in spectacular ways, like hijacking planes and running them into buildings, but with no political purpose whatsoever, it might have the identical effect as if it did have a political purpose, and would essentially be terrorism.

We would be in the position of being terrorized by people who’s intent may not have been terrorism, but the effect would be. Indistinguishible, except that there would appear no manner of appeasing these kinds of psycho’s... who the hell wants to appease people who do stuff like this?
What did they intimidate or coerce the government or society (or attempt to intimidate or coerce the government) into doing?
According to Wikipedia:
Political effects

The anthrax attacks, as well as the September 11, 2001 attacks, have spurred significant increases in U.S. government funding for biological warfare research and preparedness. For example, biowarfare-related funding at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) increased by US$1.5 billion in 2003. In 2004, Congress passed the Project Bioshield Act, which provides US$5.6 billion over ten years for the purchase of new vaccines and drugs.[34]

A theory that Iraq was behind the attacks, based upon the evidence that the powder was weaponized and some reports of alleged meetings between 9/11 conspirators and Iraqi officials, may have been a contributing pretext used by the United States government to justify war with that country.[35]
Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
It is not even necessary that we know the intent, and may not even be necessary that there was any societal or political intent.
According to the definition, terrorism has a purpose. And that purpose is is to coerce and intimidate either society or government into doing something the terrorist demands.

I’m asking what the purpose of those acts was. You’re right, we may never know their intent, but to qualify as terrorism, it must have a purpose.

What was that?
If groups of people began committing suicide in spectacular ways, like hijacking planes and running them into buildings, but with no political purpose whatsoever, it might have the identical effect as if it did have a political purpose, and would essentially be terrorism.
Uh, no, that would be terrorizing activity, but again, if we agree the act of terrorism has the purpose of coercing or intimidating us into doing something, then random acts which terrorize us but demand no ideological or political change, then it isn’t ’essentially terrorism’.

Just like the DC sniper, they were random acts of criminals, but until the end when they made demands, it wasn’t terrorism.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
What was the political purpose of the September 11 attacks? What did they intend to coerce or intimidate us to do? I believe that much of the post-September 11 discussion focused precisely on the fact that the attacks did not seem to be "terrorism" in the usual political sense, but rather cultural warfare — with the primary intent simply being causing the deaths of Westerners.

What was the political purpose of the Oklahoma City bombing? Were demands ever published? Was it terrorism?

 
Written By: Mithras
URL: http://harnly.net
How would you distinguish the anthrax attacks from the DC Sniper case? Or from the incident where the fellow ran into LAX and shot an airline worker? Or from the Virginia Tech shooting? Or from other incidents of senseless, unattributed violence?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
What was the political purpose of the September 11 attacks? What did they intend to coerce or intimidate us to do?
Well one of the purposes I recall was to have our troops get out of the Middle East (Islamic countries) and specifically Saudi Arabia.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I think we should probably distinguish between terrorism as a tactic, and terrorism as an effect.

As a tactic, then there would obviously need to be a strategy and intent of which the tactic of terrorism helped advance.

As an effect, there need be no intent, only that there is violence or the threat of violence, and an effect that would be essentially identical to the effect of of a terrorist attack with intent.
How would you distinguish the anthrax attacks from the DC Sniper case? Or from the incident where the fellow ran into LAX and shot an airline worker? Or from the Virginia Tech shooting? Or from other incidents of senseless, unattributed violence?
Terrorism as a tactic - 9/11, Cole Bombing, Khobar Towers Bombing, 1993 WTC Bombing.

Terrorism as an effect - DC Snipers, Virginia Tech shooting

Certainly effect, possibly tactic - LAX shooting, Anthrax attacks.

Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
I think we should probably distinguish between terrorism as a tactic, and terrorism as an effect.
Almost ... it would seem to me that terror as a tactic should have terror as an effect as its goal.

Otherwise it’s just a crime.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
There is a difference between terrorizing and terrorism.


This may be able to be summed up as,
You say potato, and I say potato… Okay, so maybe that doesn’t come off quite so well in print, but you get the idea.

Actually, I think Cap did this discussion a favor,
I think we should probably distinguish between terrorism as a tactic, and terrorism as an effect.
Is it terrorism when it is used as a tactic, and is it also terrorism when it may be defined as simply an act of insanity?

Tomato, tomato.

Well, you still get the idea.

Cheers
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Is it terrorism when it is used as a tactic, and is it also terrorism when it may be defined as simply an act of insanity?
Tactics have a purpose as well, Pogue.

So as I said to Cap, to be tactical terror it would seem necessary for it to support the desired effect (or purpose) of terrorism or else it’s just criminal activity.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Of course, it was terrorism, but there was a determination that no foreign elements be traced to it. Instead there was another pressure driven by friends
and like minded associates of Mr. Duncan Black.Sadly the investigation was derailed by the insinuations of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Dr. Meryl Nass who through Nick Kristof of the New York Timeand Laura Rozen; fingered a Mr. X which they alleged was Dr. Stephen Hatfill for the crime
 
Written By: narciso
URL: http://
What was the political purpose of the September 11 attacks?
To convince us to convert to islam and shroud our women with an ugly black tent.
 
Written By: jows
URL: http://
This is a pretty bizarre claim. The anthrax was sent to politicians and the media if you didn’t notice. I think those are reasonably likely to be political targets, don’t you think?

Politicians, yep. Media shouldn’t be. If media weren’t so politicized, those attacks would be viewed as terror-enhancing to bolster the climate of fear created by the political attacks.
 
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
I think we should probably distinguish between terrorism as a tactic, and terrorism as an effect.

Yeah, that’s definitely what’s missing from the news and political conversations. .. more hair splitting and word parsing that doesn’t actually illuminate anything.

Look, Sarcastic, if you keep working around you’ll eventually get back to saying the exact same thing Jon already said: "terrifying" is not "terrorism". If something is terrifying - even purposely terrifying - but we don’t know why it was perpetrated, it simply doesn’t fit the definition of "terrorism" and it doesn’t actually advance my life to try to shoehorn it into that definition. To assume there was a political motivation is to assume there was a political motivation, but we don’t actually know. Period.

You can try to make this sound silly and overly subjective if you like, but words still do mean things. The sloppy use of them to mean other things that are approximate or vaguely nearby is not actually helpful.

 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
And there were the fake anthrax letters from radical Christians targeting Planned Parenthood offices. My roomie happened to open one of those, actually, when she worked at PP.
 
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
How does the FBI classify these attacks and why? They’re supposed to be the experts.

And does anyone think that a lot of attacks have been portrayed as "not terrorism" by both the media and the administration just to keep the hysteria down? I’m thinking of the various driving while Islamic, muslim attack on Jewish center, etc.?

Or maybe what people mean is mass casualty attacks?



 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Sorry its not driving while Islamic, but sudden jihad syndrome.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
After more thinking, I think that mass casualty attacks are now the new standard of terrorism, i.e. one guy on a gun spree will not be thought of as such by and large. This is probably due to events in the middle east, starting back with the suicide bomb campaign in Israel when they became very common occurrences. Now with Iraq, any bomb attack under 20 rarely makes the headline.

Therefore people will say the Anthrax letters were not "terrorism" by this new conventional wisdom. I’d say it was and so was the unabomber and probably even the sniper attacks. The fact that sometimes the motivations are unclear or seem crazy at the time of the attacks doesn’t matter.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
You can try to make this sound silly and overly subjective if you like, but words still do mean things.
Words do mean things, but rarely is the meaning as precise as we would like. This is my point. If you want to say that terrorism is exclusively and precisely confined to the threats or acts of violence for the purpose of an intended political or social effect, and that we are precisely aware of the intent, that’s fine.

The problem is that although intent is technically part of the definition, knowing what the intent is not part of the definition.

So we could have terrorist attacks that we don’t know are terrorist attacks.
The sloppy use of them to mean other things that are approximate or vaguely nearby is not actually helpful.
I believe it is a sloppy use of language to use single words to describe what cannot be described by single words and assume that everyone agrees with the users intended meaning.

Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
8gbuBk diyqangnfrjv, [url=http://tazfgztozlpp.com/]tazfgztozlpp[/url], [link=http://etwzbpgsetyx.com/]etwzbpgsetyx[/link], http://tzzfkxtyxsmb.com/
 
Written By: jcuzjls
URL: http://wzpkxwqkjwyf.com/
Who profited? Who gained?
 
Written By: truthseeker
URL: http://www.deadinthewoods.com
 
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