How Is This NOT Terrorism?

In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

In Austin, Texas today, a man deliberately crashed his plane into a complex of government buildings, apparently as an attempt to attack the IRS. In a lengthy screed posted on the internet, the alleged attacker – software engineer Joseph Stack – railed against the government in general and the IRS in particular. He wrote, “Nothing changes unless there is a body count.” He also wrote that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer,” and “Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”

Early this morning, Stack allegedly set his own house on fire, and he then drove to an airport and took off in a plane he owned. He flew that plane into the Echelon Building in Austin, causing a huge explosion and blowing out windows in the building and vehicles traveling on a nearby highway. Stack is presumed to have died in the crash, and two other people were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

How is this not an act of terrorism? How is this not an act of domestic suicide terrorism?

“No, no, no,” I am told. “He has a grudge against the government, that’s all.” Police Chief Art Acevedo said, “I consider this a criminal act by a lone individual.” Not terrorism.

That is interesting, because, this is how the USA PATRIOT Act defines terrorism as an act that: “appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

Doesn’t this act precisely fit the definition of terrorism? Apparently Joseph Stack was so angry at the IRS for its actions against him – for auditing him for not paying taxes, etc.- that he sought out to “influence” the IRS by blowing up its offices. He wrote it himself: “Nothing changes unless there is a body count,” and “Violence…is the only answer.” Isn’t this attempting to “influence the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping”?

Sounds like it to me.

Thankfully, at least one member of Congress agrees with me: “Like the larger-scale tragedy in Oklahoma City,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, “this was a cowardly act of domestic terrorism.”

Yet, most other people do not think this was an act of terrorism, but the act of a “lone criminal.”

Joseph Stack flew a plane into a government building because of his anger against the government. But, he is not a terrorist. By using his plane to become a suicide bomber, Joseph Stack sought to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” But, he is not a terrorist. Joseph Stack used a plane as a suicide vest to “affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.” But, he is not a terrorist. He is just a crazy criminal.

That being said, take Joseph Stack and keep the exact same circumstances, but change his name to Yusuf Stack-Muhammad. What would happen then?

Psst: He would have been called a terrorist!


4 thoughts on “How Is This NOT Terrorism?

  1. Terrorists use fear of, or reaction to, violent incidents to attempt to change the behaviour of governments. This man simply expressed his anger by commiting suicide and lashing out at the perceived source of his troubles. He had no plan to change anything. Therefore, it was not terrorism, even though a simliar act with a different motive would have been.

  2. Very good post. I am frankly amazed to read that anyone could imagine this was anything other than a terrorist attack. One of the first thoughts I had when I read about it was that this is just one among many proofs that 'Muslims' (so called) are not the only source of terrorism. In fact I've seen evidence that people calling themselves 'Muslim' are only a small percentage of terrorists.I've been enjoying reading your posts over the past few weeks. I particularly enjoy the positive emphasis on what's RIGHT with Islam, rather than just attacking opponents ('Islamophobes'). I was raised fundamentalist Christian, but moved away from that over 20 years ago. I now call myself Unitarian and Deist; perhaps liberal Unitarian Christian. A few weeks ago I started reading from Muslim sites online, and checked out some books on Islam from the library (including an English edition of the Quran). I'm finding it fascinating, though I'm not ready to call myself a Muslim. I do believe that God is One, having no 'companions'; and I believe Muhammad (on whom be peace) was as much a 'prophet' of the One God as anyone preceding him. I'm not at all sure that I believe that he is the greatest or last of God's prophets, though. I don't believe in the infallibility of the Quran (at least if literally interpreted); for instance I don't accept the 'virgin birth' of Jesus as a literal historical reality, and I don't believe in future torment for those who don't have the 'right' beliefs. (I believe in reincarnation, and I'm not sure that's consistent with the Quran). Nevertheless, I have found Islam to be a very admirable faith, and I plan to continue 'investigating', including reading through the Quran.Thanks for your excellent articles, and please keep it up.

  3. Pingback: Kudos to the Chicago Sun Times « God, Faith, and a Pen: Living in the Light of His Love

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