Back in my business-suit days I subscribed to a publication called INTELLIGENCE DIGEST (Ed, J.K.C. De Courcy). The publication looked all around the world and paid special attention to emerging hotspots and a wide range of issues. The newsletter dealt with international matters with the specificity and depth that only major newspapers could mount. De Courcy and his people were often ahead of the rest of the media and often ahead of the government too. Here’s a story from 2 August 1996, almost 21 years ago. This is after the Atlanta bombing and after Oklahoma City.
Headline: Taming the Terrorists
Once it became clear that the Atlanta bombing was not the work of international terrorists, the finger of suspicion turned automatically to American right-wing malcontents. Even if proved innocent of this particular incident, there is little doubt that significant parts of white conservative America are now sufficiently resentful of central government as to be capable of throwing up occasional individuals prepared to resort to violence as an expression of their resentments. Given that America is the world’s most advanced democracy this needs some explaining to non-Americans.
The first thing to point out when considering what motivates such extreme action is that it is not the least bit relevant whether the fears and resentments are justified. People are motivated by what they believe to be true, not by what is actually true, and in backwoods America there is a widespread resentment against a central government system that is seen to be overbearing, particularly through the actions of such agencies as the IRS, BATF, and the FBI.
This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that minority groups that are considered less-deserving are seen to be pampered by the system.
The resentment of the conservative outsiders is further fueled by the proliferation of conspiracy theories (at the heart of which there is always more than a germ of truth) about the manipulation of American foreign and domestic policy by powerful but shadowy groups of Establishment insiders.
It is felt that administrators of all colours, certainly since Ronald Reagan gave way to George Bush, are manipulated by these interests and that the normal political process is no longer able to rectify what is wrong with America.
The Clinton Record
To all this is added the widely circulated reports about the misconduct — and worse — of President Clinton.
It is generally believed in conservative circles in the United States that President Clinton and his entourage are up to everything from drug-running to murder, including killing White House aide Vicne Foster (who is officially said to have committed suicide) and Commerce Secretary Ron Brown (whose plane crashed in Croatia) in order to prevent the exposure of past crimes.
Against such a background it is not difficult to see how the outsider or misfit is able to justify himself the taking of unlawful action – even to the extent of shedding innocent blood.
The Wider Issues
But motive is not everything. Opportunity plays its part and never have the opportunities for terrorism been better. Importantly, this point applies throughout the industrial world and not just in the United States.
Provided the target is a soft one, terrorism requires neither a great deal of money nor great expertise – and the returns in terms of damage created and publicity received can be enormous. (The last IRA bomb in London caused more than $150m worth of damage – and it would be almost impossible to calculate how much a commercial operation would have had to spend in advertising to get the amount of media coverage that the Atlanta bomb received.)
Furthermore the downside risk is seen to be outweighed by the potential rewards. Anyone misguided enough to believe their cause justifies the indiscriminate taking of innocent lives would not have trouble in persuading themselves that one day they might join the long list of former terrorists now feted in the White House and Buckingham Palace.
The ambivalence of successive American administrations to the outrages of the IRA has played its part.
So what can be done? Our security sources admit that there is little that the U.S. or any other state can do to make terrorism a less easy option to follow. The access to the necessary materials and knowledge cannot be reversed. And, it is admitted, even increasing security has its downside.
As with football hooliganism in the U.K. where the suppression of violence in football grounds has simply moved the fighting to surrounding areas, so the thwarted terrorist can always move on to a less-well protected target.
Nor, say our security contacts, would draconian new anti-terrorist laws in the United
States do much to solve the problem of domestic malcontents taking violent action in the first place.
The Real Threat
However, taking hard action against the sophisticated international terror groups is an entirely different matter.
The security experts we have consulted say that not only is such action urgent but it would also in all probability have the added benefit of frightening into quiescence the sort of amateur terrorist who is thought to have been behind the Atlanta bomb.
The need to move against the sophisticated international terror groups ahs considerable urgency because these are the groups that within a very short period will have the motivation, skills and materials (over 10 of the former USSR nuclear inventory is unaccounted for) to detonate a nuclear device.
In other words, our security contacts say, a concerted Western effort to destroy the major international terror groups is a matter of survival.
With the political will and modern methods, this can be done, but not without reversing current appeasement policy toward such supporters of terrorism as President Assad of Syria, and Gerry Adams of the Sinn Fein/IRA. (JdeC)
This was two decades ago. Now consider the observations on rural America in light of our most recent election. The U.P. is decidedly rural, and once upon a time a Democratic stronghold it has (except for Marquette County) become solid Republican and this time around vociferous Trump country. When Lonnie and I drove south to Portage to spend last winter, we saw a grand total of two Clinton signs over 500 miles. The rest were for Trump and many of them were in places previously occupied by Ron Paul signs.
People up here are great. Doors don’t have to be locked. If you have a roadside problem the chances are those who stop will be locals, not downstate or outstate tourists. Trust here is given until shown otherwise and this is clearly not Mayberry (nothing ever was), it is a place where things are slower paced. It is also a place with a dark underbelly.
I’ll continue this and examine life up here in the next blog installment later this week. Meanwhile, Over.