In the United States, the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King is celebrated. Like many holidays, it floats and is always held on the third Monday in January. This year in Spokane, Wash., on the day and route of the parade three men employed by a private company under contract to the Spokane Public Facilities District found a backpack on the sidewalk. They looked inside, saw wires and called the police. They were hailed as heroes by the city, and promptly fired because they weren’t trained to deal with explosives.
This bomb was designed to cause considerable damage and panic among spectators.
A bomb maker mixed chemicals with shrapnel in what law enforcement officials say was a weapon designed to inflict maximum injuries during last week’s Martin Luther King Jr. march in downtown Spokane.
Tests are being conducted to determine the type of chemical and whether it made the bomb potentially more deadly, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Tuesday….
Knezovich said early talks indicated the chemical could have been a compound used in common rat poison. Rat poison has been added to bombs in the Middle East for the stated purpose of acting as an anti-coagulant – which inhibits the ability of bleeding wounds to clot.
Recently, Kevin W. Harpham has been arrested for planting the bomb
Officials have just identified the suspect arrested in connection with the attempted Martin Luther King Jr. Day bombing in Spokane, Wash., as 36-year-old Kevin William Harpham. Harpham was charged federally with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and receiving and possessing an improvised explosive device.
Harpham was a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance in late 2004. It was not known when Harpham joined or if he was still a member. The National Alliance was one of the most prominent hate groups in America for decades, but has fallen on hard times since the 2002 death of its founder, William Pierce. Pierce is the author of The Turner Diaries, a race war novel often referred to as the Bible of the radical right.
It has been found that he posted over 1,000 comments on a White Supremacist site calling for a race war both under his own name and a pseudonym.
Despite the potential damage, and the pure luck of finding the device before Halpern could detonate it, the incident did not receive worldwide, or even nationwide attention. The lack of reporting of this atempted terrorist attack has been blamed on the race of the bomber.
Despite all that, the Spokane bomb has drawn little sustained coverage from the national media, let alone attention on Capitol Hill. One reason for the lack of coverage, no doubt, is that the incident does not fit into the reigning narrative of Muslim terrorism.
Take the example of the fake bomb plot by a Somali-born Muslim man in Portland, Ore., in November. This was one of several recent FBI stings in which an informant coaxed the suspect into launching an attack and even provided a fake bomb. A search for the Portland plot on the Nexis news archive, a blunt but fairly effective instrument for measuring the volume of media coverage, came up with 420 hits in the week after the incident. A similar search for the Spokane bomb plot came up with just 139 hits — even though the bomb in Spokane was real and the device in Portland was fake.
While this is happening, Republican Peter King is launching a McCarthyite probe of American Muslims.
The Homeland Security Committee hearings that King has convened are billed as an inquiry into “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.” In other words, King suspects that the Muslim community is somehow complicit. Individuals of one faith are implicated; individuals of another faith are not….
In his pugnacious opening statement, King noted that his plan to hold these hearings had been criticized by “special interest groups and the media,” which he said had gone into “paroxysms of rage and hysteria” at the prospect. “To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness,” he said. In case someone missed the point, King later said it was our duty to “put aside political correctness and define who our enemy truly is.”
As one would expect, some of the expert witnesses he called didn’t exactly agree with him
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca testified in opposition to King’s premise, citing figures demonstrating that radical, extremist acts of crime are committed by non-Muslims as well and saying that seven of the last 10 known terrorist plots involving al-Qaida had been foiled in part by information provided by Muslim Americans. Baca said his officers have good, productive relationships with Muslim leaders and citizens. Law enforcement officials from other jurisdictions where there are large Muslim communities could have given similar testimony, had they been invited.
And of course, the attempted bombing of a mostly black crowd by a Neo-Nazi wouldn’t fit into his bigoted view of who the enemy within actually is. There is no question that a radicalized group of Muslims are behind a number of terrorist attacks, but it is extremely dangerous to our concept of an orderly society to focus on perceived threats based upon racism rather than focusing on real threats from the radicals of all stripes. In fact, most of the White Supremacists identify with conservative Christianity.
It also points to the need for law enforcement agencies to act within the law and ensure positive relationships with all communities and segments of society. Inducing fear into citizens will drive them away from officials and lead to more attacks like the one in Spokane.