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Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - Page updated at 09:29 AM


Readers share their thoughts: Is ecosabotage terrorism?

Readers e-mailed their thoughts about labeling ecosabotage "terrorism." Below are a selection of those we received the day the story was posted on our Web site.

A friend of my family, Joe Deluca, was killed by political fanatics some years ago, along with many other innocent folks who meant no harm to anyone. That, people, is terrorism. These other things people do, which threaten mere property instead of human life, are called "arson" and "vandalism." It's a pity to see so many people unable to distinguish mere property from life and limb.
— Eric Rachner, Seattle, WA

"Terrorism" to most people means actions causing death or serious injury. Lumping reckless property destruction with horrendous events such as 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing may help prosecutors in the ELF cases, but disrespects victims of real terrorism.
— Joe Piglet, Philadelphia, PA

It's terrorism in that it is an act of political intimidation outside accepted channels for political resolution. And whether or not it's "terror," it is certainly crime deserving of punishment.
— Dave Skinner, Whitefish, MT

If you define terrorism as the act of using violence and property damage to support the need for change in a free society, then I believe that the people who have used arson to support their beliefs regarding animal rights and evironmental concerns are terrorists. Rational discussion about their beliefs and positions on these issues, "facts and data" to support their arguments are the appropriate way to attempt to make societal changes. "Vigilante actions", where under the guise of protecting the public good or saving the environment are just plain wrong. While the right to dissent is guaranteed, the right to force ones beliefs on others through through violent means is not. It's just that simple.
— Jerry Laskody, Ignatius, MT

They are certainly inciting terror through acts of sabotage and violence. It's a defferent type of terrorism, nevertheless, it's terrorism.
— Matthew McCleary, Edmonds, WA

I don't at all condone these thugs who destroy property, but unless you expand "terrorism" to include similar crimes like gang activity, abortion-clinic bombings etc., it seems too random to use a loaded word like terrorism for just this one group of criminals.
— Anna Collins, Seattle

"Terrorism" is a loaded term, and those with the most power shape its meaning through the mass media. It's very easy, when both governments and corporations call acts of sabotage "terrorism", to jump on that bandwagon. However, the standards that are applied to individuals (for instance, Jeffrey Luers being sentenced to 22 years in prison for destroying three SUVs) are not even applied to individuals who have been found guilty of rape or murder, let alone what could arguably be called institutional terrorism committed by corporations who plunder the earth for profit, or governments who waste our collective energies in pointless wars. There are names and faces behind these institutions. Perhaps we ought to start taking responsibility for bring these individuals to justice rather than going on a witch hunt for scapegoats.
— Roger Weaver, Seattle

The irony of it all is that is it ok to bomb, burn and destroy property and call it ok? Does this not place human lives are risk in the actions of trying to protect that same property (fire fighting, acreage burnt and threatening homes/people). Violence or threats of it for political purposes is terrorism. Classifying the action(s) as 'eco' or acceptable while clearly for a political purpose is the excuse to place lives in peril. There is no different than trying to burn a school down because you don't like a book that might be in the library. It is ok just as long as no one is hurt? While there are more beliefs, the extremes of religion or politics always have tried to justify actions to harm other people directly or indirectly as acceptable, highly rewarded and a way of life. I tend to view it as an action that can be terrorism one the line is crossed where the target is property to human risk/target. I view is similar to the difference o f protesting a Planned Parenthood and bombing a Planned Parenthood — there is a line that is crossed at some point where the actions take on a more significant effect.
— Dick, Bremerton, WA

In the coming years, as the world begins to truly suffer widespread and devastating consequences for our government's environmental policies, we will all have reason to think differently about the people who have been trying for so long to create public awareness and effect change. Anyone who acts against an established authority will be labelled a criminal or a terrorist, by the authority they are challenging, in an effort to silence and discredit. To say the motives behind the actions don't matter, as Mr. Mueller does, is to label every act of rebellion or civil unrest in history that has cause property damage as an act of terrorism. So, by all means, call environmental activists terrorists. They're in good company.
— Allison Barrett, Seattle

Nonviolent acts are not terrorism under any reasonable definition. The government is trying to create a climate of fear against militant activists. How far can language be dumbed down before people start to balk at the absurdity? Are sit-ins "economic terrorism"? Pretty soon they'll be saying running against an incumbent is "electoral terrorism."
— Eliot Rosen, Brooklyn, NY

Of course it is terrorism. It is absolutely astounding that there are people that do not get it.
— Ron McKean, Deltona, FL

Shall we also apply the label of terrorist for individuals who use their wealth and power to destroy our air and water for personal short-term gain? Apply terrorism to the Bush administration that refuses to act on global warming, thereby endangering low lying populations with inundation and more powerful storms, including our own, because such measures would cost too much. Contrast such inaction with groups that destroy property to draw attention to far greater dangers before you label them as terrorists.
— Bruce J. Brod, Olympia, WA

No it is not "terrorism". The aim is not to instill terror in a populace, but bring out a social/political viewpoint. The damage inflicted is still a crime, but it is not terrorism. The use of anti-terror laws to prosecute such acts is a purely a political move.
— Ron Lawton, Woodinville, WA

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Terrorism or not?
Environmental militants have set arsons in the name of protecting animals and the earth. Is that terrorism? Share your thoughts.

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I would term it terrorism of the domestic variety. The property and psychic damage are astronomical, the politics are trivial and simple-minded. It is definitely indicative of a Pacific Northwest mindset.
— Eric Carter, Renton, WA

It is not fair to call property destruction terrorism. To do so is to mangle the term "terrorist" and weaken its importance. The American people have done a lot and given up a lot (money, civil liberties) in the name of fighting terrorists. To use this American sacrifice to help corporations protect themselves from property damage is a disgusting manipulation of the American people. Property destruction is crime and our country has plenty of ways to deal with such crimes. We gain nothing by labeling such crimes "terrorism."
— Gloria, New York, NY

It's quite obvious that many people don't understand the word. Terrorism is the product of intimidation and fear by violence to a group of people for their own agenda. It's not strictly a group of people trying to stand against a government. Even before 9/11, these guys were considered eco-terrorists. With that said, it's obvious this is terrorism. There are other ways to show your agenda, but destroying property undermines the agenda.
— Robert, Kent, WA

Yes, it is terrorism. No damage to our fellow citizens can be condoned.
— Linn V. Johnson, Kirkland, WA

Ecosabotage is NOT Terrorism!
— Judy Luers, Downey, CA

Violence toward civilians or their property for political purposes is terrorism, no matter the intended political result. No rationalization by the perpetrators or their supporters justifies the violence. By resorting to violence, the terrorists show that they have no convincing intellectual arguments.
— Thomas Damiani, Newport Beach, CA

Saying that these crimes do not target people is to be ignorant of the effects of the crime. Though it was a car that was set on fire it was a person's job that was lost when that car was burned. A business owner who now cannot afford insurance and must go out of business and cannot feed their family. It is a disservice to hard working citizens to excuse the behavior of a few radicals, to trivialize the loss and pain in their lives, by excusing the behavior of eco-terrorists because they don't target people's lives, only their livelihood.
— Jacob, Marysville, WA

Without a doubt! The tactics used by these terrorists are the same being used by other terrorists throughout the rest of the world. They cover and conceal their activities under the cloak of darkness, target the innocent, destroy property and lives, and have extremely radical ideas of the world. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
— William Brooks, Olympia, WA

I am a psychologist in training. Our ethical code requires us to report any indication that some plans to harm themselves, harm others, or damage property. The idea is, if I damage your property, I also harm someone. This is terrorism.
— Michael Tandy, Seattle

Terrorists are the new communists. "Terrorist" is simply a politically charged word that is given to any person or group of persons that are in opposition to the government. We need to use extreme caution in using the word terrorist. I don't believe arson is an acceptable way to protest an industry or government action that you disagree with. But the intention is not to harm people or animals, but to make a statement. This is not terrorism.
— Amanda Thompson, Covington, WA

It is illegal behavior designed to influence someone not based upon rational arguments but instead out of fear. That seems to me to be terrorism.
— Mike Klein, Lynnwood, WA

To willfully destroy in the name of providing protection is inherently an act of violence. Therefore, it can be considered terrorism.
— Charles Raguse, Woodland, CA

If the act disrupts, destroys, causes fear on a large scale — how is that not terrorism?
— L DeVere, Los Angeles

Must we jump on the "let's just call it terrorism" bandwagon about this, too? Does that solve anything? Does it even begin to address the desperation that motivates such acts? Whether we're engaged in labeling acts that target a few for the behavior of many (ELF/ALF) or acts that target many for the behavior of a few (9/11, Iraq War), we successfully only rationalize our continued violent reactions to it, but we solve absolutely nothing. Instead of name-calling, could the media please encourage discussion about how humans now enmeshed (whether they like it or not) in a global economy can use their waking hours to look for ways to mesh their deeply-held and opposing convictions without pushing the other side to acts of violent desperation?
— Michelle Twohig, North Bend, WA

Making animal rights activists a top anti-terrorism priority is insane. Most of them go out of their way to not harm human beings, and those who don't aren't the ones currently under indictment. It's ironic, to say the least, that while the FBI and the Bush Administration did not consider Al Qaeda operatives important enough to keep track of in 2001, they now consider people whose political agenda differs from theirs worthy of careful monitoring even though they do not fit the commonly accepted definition of "terrorist".
— Craig Orsinger, Federal Way, WA

A disticntion must be made between acts of property destruction and acts of violence against people. I cannot classify as "terrorist" actions which do not carry the threat of harm against human beings.
— Sarah Lippek, Brooklyn, NY

It has become increasingly clear that today the word "terrorist" is being politically manipulated like the label "communist" in the 50s. Especially in the post 9-11 world, the label terrorist generates enough fear in order to allow the government to label an enemy and use whatever means they deem necessary to "deal" with them. In the case of militant environmental actions, there is a stark contrast between arsons (where no life, human or nonhuman, is harmed) and the actions of the government. Not only are militant actions not terrorist actions, they call to attention the violence of the status quo that has become so normalized it is almost invisible. The arsons make clear that defending life on this planet is called "illegal," while the laws uphold the value of property over life, of state violence over healthy human communities and healthy ecosystems.
— Julian Drix, Providence, RI

Enviromental militants are not terrorists. They are only trying to save the Earth, so how can that be terrorism?
— Carolyn, New Haven, CT

If the federal officials are correct in their definitions, than the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism.
— John Thompson, Brooklyn, NY

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