Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing. I know that you have been personally touched by terrorism – as have I. Your state was the site of the deadly bombing of the federal building that killed 168 people and wounded more than 500. No American will ever forget the images of the innocent children who were killed or injured in that blast.
Nor will any American forget September 11, 2001. From northern New Jersey, people could see the smoke rising from the attack on the World Trade Center that killed 700 of my fellow New Jerseyans.
I mention these horrible events to provide some background and perspective to the issues we will be discussing today. In our country we are blessed to have a political system where we are free to disagree with one another – and with our government.
When we want to change things, we must work for change within the law – not break the law. So I condemn any violence for political or ideological purposes. And I am concerned that people in my state have been victimized by individuals or groups that want to change policies regarding the treatment of animals, or the environment.
Having said that, we need to keep things in perspective. As I mentioned, the Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people. The attacks of 9/11 killed 3,000.
Since 1993, there have been at least five fatal attacks on doctors who performed legal abortions. Eric Rudolph recently pleaded guilty to placing a bomb in a public area during the Olympic Games in 1996, as well as bombing a Birmingham women’s clinic and a gay nightclub.
All of these cases involved the loss of human life. To date, not a single incident of so-called environmental terrorism has killed anyone. It’s wrong to destroy property and intimidate people who are doing their jobs – and those who commit these crimes must be brought to justice.
But let us not allow ourselves to be blinded to the more serious threats posed by those who have taken innocent lives. We also must be careful not to proclaim guilt by association.
The acts of one individual do not mean that an entire organization can be labeled a terrorist group. Timothy McVeigh was a member of the National Rifle Association. That doesn’t make the NRA a terrorist group.
The National Right to Life Committee is opposed to legal abortion. Eric Rudolph bombed a Birmingham abortion clinic, and he was involved with several anti-abortion groups. That doesn’t mean that the members of the National Right to Life Committee are terrorists.
Terror is a tactic. We must condemn that tactic whenever it raises its ugly head – regardless of the ideology of those who would employ it. But we must take care not to lump legitimate groups with terrorists. To do so would only minimize the very real threats against our society.