Posted 10 September 2011, by Bill Rife, Continental Divide, continentaldivide.us
Eco-terrorism (wanton destruction in the name of protecting the environment and/or animals) is relatively new. Although ample precedent for radical protest has long existed in America, the FBI pegs the rampage of organized “direct action” arson, theft, vandalism, harassment and violent physical attacks allegedly to save the environment or hype animal rights, as beginning only in 1977. Regardless of when a blastoff date is pinpointed, the insurrection took off running. Over the past two decades, eco- terrorists have inflicted more than $100 million worth of damage in the U.S. alone.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s publication, The Intelligence Project, reported in its fall 2002 issue that “employees of various companies have had their homes vandalized, have faced death threats, firebombs and physical assaults. In 2002, animal rights protesters stormed the offices of Arkansas –based Stephens Inc. and attacked workers, kicking them and breaking office equipment. Huntingdon Life Sciences, an international company which tests pharmaceuticals on animals, has in recent years witnessed an ongoing campaign of terror and violence-employees have been beaten with clubs, sprayed in the face with acid, and subjected to death threats directed at their children. When a British journalist created a documentary critical of the animal rights movement, members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) kidnapped him and branded the letters ALF on his back.”
Animal and environmental preservation are noble causes of long standing. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals dates from 1824 in England and the Sierra Club in the US from 1892. Today’s eco-terrorists, however, bear scant resemblance to the respected 19th Century conservationists, animal welfare advocates, or mainstream environmental groups which came along later. Many eco-radicals emanate from activist groups like the Wilderness Society, Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). These organizations have aggressively pressured legislatures and corporations to protect animals and the environment but without resorting to terror.
Far from menacing, some prominent environment and animal rightists come across as downright silly. Actor Michael J. Fox in a 1990 book maintained that “the life of an ant and my child should be granted equal consideration.” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk goes a step farther holding that “humans have grown like cancer. We’re the biggest blight the face of the earth.”
So how did we get from there to vandalizing meat packing plants and animal testing facilities, spiking roads, torching SUV dealerships, research facilities, fast-food restaurants, building sites, milk farms and physically attacking people?
Dave Foreman, an ex-lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, and several other activists, founded Earth First! in 1980 “in response to the lethargic, compromising and increasingly corporate environmental community.” In1992, Earth First! militants, frustrated by perceived inertia, formed the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). ELF’s modus operandi , borrowed from its flame throwing anti-war brethren of the 60’s, became direct, violent action. The movement aimed to “inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment” and “to reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the earth and all the people who populate it.” ELF soon became the most recognizable eco-terrorist group in the U.S. In 1997, ELF claimed sole responsibility for burning down a Bureau of Land Management horse corral in Oregon. It made big news in 1998 for torching (the preferred agent of destruction) a ski resort in Vail, Colorado causing $12 million in damages –the costliest Eco-terrorist act to that time. The attack destroyed three buildings and damaged four chairlifts. ELF boasted “We will be back if this greedy corporation continues to trespass into wild and unroaded [sic] areas.”
The Eco-terror movement has spawned some real beauts.
The aforementioned Dave Foreman’s 1985 sabotage instruction manual “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching” details how to disable equipment, burn billboards and spike trees (pounding a long nail into a tree to prevent it from being cut down which can severely injure lumberjacks).
Donald R. Liddick, writes in his Eco-terrorism: Radical Earth and Animal Liberation Movements: “An Earth First! splinter group called EMETIC (the Evan Mecham Eco-Terrorist International Conspiracy), sarcastically named after a former governor of Arizona) perpetrated a number of major attacks in the late 1980s. Consisting of five members inspired by Earth First! Cofounder Dave Foreman, EMETIC caused $20,000 in damage to the bolts that anchored power lines on the Fairfield Snowbowl ski resort in Arizona in1987. A year later the group destroyed power lines feeding uranium mines near the Grand Canyon, costing Energy Fuels Nuclear $200,000. In October 1988 they hit the Fairfield Snowbowl a second time, cutting through a pole supporting the chair lift with an acetylene torch.”
Foreman and three other members of Earth First! were arrested on conspiracy to sabotage nuclear facilities charges in 1989. He pleaded guilty to reduced charges and served no time.
Compared to other Saul Alinsky wannabes , Dave Foreman is small beer. In 1975 Edward Abbey wrote “The Monkeywrench Gang” (coining “monkeywrenching” later used by Foreman and whomever) which became a bible for radical environmentalists. The fictional account extoled four eco-terrorists who destroy machinery and billboards, and plan to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam. Abbey said, “I think we are morally justified to resort to whatever means necessary in order to defend our land from destruction, from invasion.”
Ron Coronado, a high-profile animal rights advocate, was convicted for a fire bombing of an animal research laboratory at Michigan State University in 1992 and served three and a half years behind bars. Coronado had been active in the Sea Shepard Conservation Society, a group founded to protect marine animals through “direct action,” including sinking whaling ships. He offered no apology, telling a Michigan State newspaper, “ I wish I could do it again. I have absolutely no regrets and hope the same thing continues to happen at MSU and every other college campus which does animal research.”
David Barbarash’s eco-terrorist credentials date from 1992 when he served four months for releasing cats from a University of Alberta laboratory. In 1998, he and another activist were charged with sending razor blade booby traps to 22 hunting guides. Those charges were later dropped because the prosecution did not want to jeopardize related cases with a list of investigations. He released a “Direct Action Report” for 2001 containing a list of “illegal actions for animal as well as earth liberators.” The document listed 137 actions and identified businesses targeted and statistics on liberations and property damage.
This abominable roster includes EFL spokesman Leslie James Pickering “We’re not gonna stop at what the system tells us to stop;” Joshua Harper, self-described anarchist; Ronnie Lee, Oxford animal laboratory firebomber; Kevin Kjonaas, $700,000 University of Minnesota vandalizer; Jeffrey “Free” Luers and Craig “Critter” Marshall, rotting in jail for destroying 36 SUVs. The list of destroyers grows, ad nauseam.
One of the biggest enchiladas of all eco-terrorists might just be Craig Rosebraugh, who declared war on America. By 2003 he had become the public face of ELF which had already destroyed property worth millions of dollars. Rosebraugh authored a manifesto calling for anti-war protestors to carry out “direct actions” against the US Government, military installations, urban centers, financial institutions and television networks. He had no time for peaceful protests, considering them “pointless, even counterproductive.” Straight out of the 1960’s anti-war radical playbook, his seven point plan (reported by consumerfreedom.com) says it all:
- Attack financial centers of the country…physically shut down financial centers which regulate and assist the functioning of the economy.
- Large scale urban rioting [so that] the U.S. Government will be forced to send troops into the domestic arena thereby taking resources and political focus away from the war…..Rioting should be focused on government agencies and corporations.
- Attack the media centers of the country….using any means necessary, shut down the national networks of NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, etc. Not just occupations but actually engage in strategies and tactics which knock the networks off the air. (emphasis added)
- Spread the battle to the …very heads of government and US corporations…hit them in their personal lives, visit their homes.
- Make it known publically that this movement DOES NOT support US troops…..Create an atmosphere lacking of support to assist US troops at home and abroad and losing their morale and will to fight.
- Actively target US military establishments within the United States….use any means necessary to slow down the functioning of [US military]. (emphasis added)
- Strike hard and fast and retreat in anonymity. Select another location, strike again hard and fast…Do not get caught. DO NOT GET CAUGHT. Stay alert, active and keep on fighting.
The “Do not get caught” exhortation was (and is) a key to eco-terror’s survival. ELF, for example, consists of autonomous groups of people” who are “autonomous not only to the public but to each other.” There is neither central leadership nor hierarchical structure. They operate in small cells. Gary Perlstein, Professor of Criminology at Portland State University, says “the cell structure is characteristic of Mao Zedong, who wrote about setting up groups of three to five people, and keeping them autonomous and unconnected: “That way, if someone gets caught they can’t give too much information. The ELF is that type of organization, because they don’t really have an organization. “
The Mao cellular format is also Al Qaeda’s modus operandi .
Eco-terrorists are slippery bastards but they can be nailed. A huge arrest came in 2006 following an eight-year investigation called “Operation Backfire” when the FBI shut down ELF cells collectively known as “The Family” which had started fires in five states and caused more than $40 million in damage. Investigators say “The Family” was adept at making firebombs and avoiding detection. True to Mao doctrine, they would communicate about upcoming attacks through codes buried in books.
Justice has been dogged but slow. One success occurred just two months ago. On July 27 “Family” member Justin Solondz was in federal court in Tacoma, Washington, facing charges of firebombing the Horticulture building at the University of Washington in 2001. Fox News says he is the last person to be tried in the case and the evidence is overwhelming. Fourteen people have been prosecuted and Solondz is number fifteen. But three “Family” members are still at large and believed to be in foreign countries.
Although overshadowed by radical Islamist threats since September 11, eco-terrorism remains one of America’s greatest domestic challenges. Violence has tapered off recently, but true believers are still out there. Eco-terrorist sympathizer writer John Zerzan rages, “civilization is pathological, and needs to be dismantled.”
As for Eco-terror he adds ominously, “It hasn’t gone, it’s gonna come back in a serious way.”