Civil Liberties

Are the Malheur Militants Really 'Terrorists'?

Not by the reasonable definitions of the word


I have an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today about the occupation in Oregon. Here's an excerpt:

Don't drone me, bro.

"Heavily armed domestic terrorists have occupied a wildlife preserve in Oregon," military historian Tom Mockaitis wrote in the Huffington Post. In the Daily Beast, columnist Sally Kohn complained about "the federal government's hyper-passive response to such flagrant acts of menacing and threats of domestic terrorism." Former Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem, now the host of a podcast called Security Mom, declared on CNN's website that the occupation in Oregon is terrorism "by any definition."

Really? By "any" definition?

The question of what qualifies as terrorism is hotly contested, but the most compelling definitions hinge on whether the perpetrators target civilians. The political philosopher Tony Coady, for example, says that terrorism involves "intentionally targeting noncombatants with lethal or severe violence for political purposes," while Peter Simpson, another academic, refers to "acts of indiscriminate violence directed at civilians or nonhostile personnel."

That framework would certainly include Islamic State's slaughter of 130 people in Paris in November. It would also include the racist massacre of nine worshipers at a Charleston, S.C., church last summer. But breaking into an unoccupied building?

The occupiers do have guns, and they have said they're willing to use them if the cops come storming in. Yet they have no hostages, they haven't fired at anyone, and if they do fire they will almost certainly not aim at a civilian but at someone professionally charged with removing them from the premises. You can call that a lot of things, but it's absurd to call it terrorism.

To read the rest, go here.