This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What About that Other Terrorism Case?

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 2:54 PM

While we're racing around trying to learn all we can about Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the 19-year-old accused of plotting to bomb Pioneer Square, I want to point out that his case is the second politically-motivated bombing case in Oregon courts right now.

Father and son Bruce and Joshua Turnidge are facing aggravated murder charges for allegedly building a bomb and planting it at a bank in Woodburn Oregon. The blast killed two police officers and took the leg of another who responded to a phone call warning employees to get out of the bank. When FBI agents stopped by his house, devout Christian Bruce Turnidge struck up conversation about the importance of the right to bear arms (saying, "Every ballot should come with a bullet.") and called Obama a racial slur. His house was filled with weapons and friends testified as state witnesses at the trial that he had tried to organize an anti-government militia and cheered that the Oklahoma City bombings would "teach the government a lesson."

Like the Turnidges, Mohamud is accused of planning to kill civilians to teach the country a political lesson. Unlike the father and son, Mohamud did not build or actually detonate his device but is accused of the much more serious federal crime of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. According to the FBI, Mohamud told informants in detail about his plan to blow up Pioneer Square during the tree lighting ceremony—much like how a family friend said the Turnridges had more than 50 conversations about how to blow up a bank.

It's a lesson people repeat a lot, but I think this parallel hits it home: Terrorism isn't just a Muslim issue. The definition of “terrorism” under US law is "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

I don't see how the Turnidge's acts wouldn't qualify as terrorism—just like Mohamud's—if the things the FBI alleges are true. The only difference is they're white, they're Christian, and so the government and the populace doesn't fear them as much. Remember when the "tax protester" flew a plane into an IRS building? When a white, Christian guy kills people in a politically-motivated attack, he's a bad guy. When a Muslim immigrant expresses an interest in a politically-motivated attack, he's a terrorist. And according to the people who keep track of extremist people who want to kill normal people—the Southern Poverty Law Center—the fastest growing hate groups are anti-government "patriot" groups. I hope the FBI is planning to thwart the next "patriot" attack, as well.

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