Terrorism in the U.S.
Terrorism in the U.S.
Although Terrorism in the U.S. has not reached critical proportion
(yet), there have been a number of events which indicate that were
an enemy of the U.S. determined enough, they could create a truly
frigthtening atmosphere in this country.
This section will deal with both domestic and externally sourced
U.S. terrorism as well as those acts of hostage taking and execution
of hostages related more to a "pedestrian" criminal act. But whether
the taking of hostages and the burden of terror on those hostages as
well as all of us who read about it or see it on television is done by
a political or criminal terrorist, the effects are quite similar. And
while the criminal element is probably less severe in numbers of
deaths or wounded, they are sometimes worse in terms of fear
generation than a political terrorist act. For the political terrorist
acts incites anger and a desire for revenge, thus seems to make the
resolution of the trauma easier to deal with. A criminal act resulting
in hostage taking and especially the murder of the victims is
especially troublesome because of the poplace's knowlege that
criminal behavior is widespread in our cities. Thus traumatic
violence that breeds similar feelings of helplessness and outrage to
those emotions created by Terrorism are magnified by the sheer
increase in possibility.
But all forms of domestic terrorism serve to remind us of how
effective a truly large scale political terrorist act could be. So far,
the kinds of terrorism seen in Paris, London, and Munich have not
reached into the American life. As you will see, this cannot remain
We should note, before we begin, that because of the low number
of external terrorist influences in the U.S., that occasionally a
violent action will cause the press to jump to the conclusion that a
terrorist attack has been mounted by some insidious group from
outside the U.S. A prime example is a domestic bombing of the van
of Naval Capt. Will Rogers III, the former Captain of the U.S.S.
Vincennes. The Vincennes is an Aegis equipped U.S. Navy warship
that mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner during the Iran-Iraq
war. The press jumped to the conclusion that this was a terrorist
bombing in reprisal for the Vincennes action over a year earlier.
When facts surfaced to clearly dispute the terrorist story, the press
screamed of a cover up and that the government didn't want to alarm
the families of U.S. servicemen. No other reprisals or attacks
against U.S. serviceman at home occurred during that troublesome
A similar error in the press was promulgated in the early days of
investigation of the Oklahoma City Federal Building
bombing...reports surfaced that the events were a direct attack by
some terrorist organization outside the U.S. But within several
months, it was pretty clear the explosion was the act of internal
terrorists, perhaps part of an anti- government "militia" organization
or at a minimum, a fanatic with similar grievances against the U.S.
The conviction of Terry McVey for this crime and the facts
surrounding the creation of the bomb, the knowlege used, and the
effectiveness of the blast are all frightening indicators of the
potential for domestic terrorism in the U.S.
The U.S. hasn't seen as much political violence as her European
Allies. But we have had our share. From the Symbonese Liberation
Front, the Weatherman to others like ACT in Philadelphia. But
these domestic terrorist acts haven't been as random and terror
inciting as say the IRA, whose wholesale salughter of innocent
children is untouched by any other terrorist group in world history.
But the U.S. will not continue to be immune to larger scale and
more identifiable terrorist acts.
Witness the World Trade Center explosion, as perhaps the first in a
series of external terrorist activities gaining widespread visibility in
the U.S., a politically motivated attack on random victims, intended
to incite fear as well as add an external terrorist signature to an act
of violence as well as proclaim a political message.
But terrorism in the U.S. is not limited to terrorists with external
agendas. Witness the attack on the federal building in Oklahoma
City, Oklahoma. The terrorists in this case appear to be
paramilitary survivalist from Michigan, angry with the U.S.
government over the "Waco Massacre" (David Koresh).
The page will deal with terror tactics by criminal and political
terrorists in two ways. First to chronicle the major cases of either
criminal or terrorist acts in the U.S. in the form of a chronology, as
well as to give details of some of these cases where these facts
illustrate the effectiveness and incidious nature of the act of
Violence Begats Terror
The United States has not escaped the terror of extreme violence.
Anyone who lived during prohibition will tell you about the effects
of the gangs and mobsters upon society. Gruesome and bloody
deaths traumitize all who witness them, either directly in person or
vicariously via our incredibly timely and accurate media coverage of
today. Witness the events at the University Bar in Berkeley, CA.,
where a deranged gunman held Berkely students hostage forcing
sexual acts between male and female students as well as with
himself before killing several and wounding still others. A whole
community watched the deaths of very identifiable victims on their
Such was the community trauma that the local television stations,
which were part of the traumatic events themselves, publicly
apologized for their lack of sensitivity, as well as broadcast phone
numbers for those in the community who needed counseling
following the unprecedented news coverage.
The single, seemingly random killer has been extraordinary in his
or her ability to strike terror into communities. Perhaps the cause is
due to the unpredictability and the randomness itself. "It could have
been anyone I know" seems to incite the fear of the community in
strangers, minorities or just people who are a little different. From
killings at a McDonalds restaurant, to the University Bar, to Asian
gang violence in Sacramento, California, it is clear that all forms of
violence are becomming more and more terror inciting.
Cultism Continues To Grow
People thought Jim Jones and his followers had made cults very
unpopular. This may be true. But several instances from Oregon to
Texas, have made the cult a very visible violent event generator in
the last few years of the twentieth century. It seems that some cults,
while preaching non-secular means for finding their own peace,
also tend to arm themselves against the legal authorities. In both the
Oregon and Texas cases, this armament consisted of high power,
automatic or semi- automatic weapons. In Waco, Texas, the Koresh
followers opened fire through doors and covered windows to kill
agents of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agency. After
counting their wounded the ATF admitted they had simply been
Note: The text on this page was originally written in 1985, and
updated as U.S. terrorist incidents occurred. The original premise
was based upon few terrorist events to speak of. By the early
1990s, this was no longer the case as domestic AND foreign based
terrorists have indeed made our predictions come true. So much so,
that we have witnessed at least two very visible terrorist trials, one
for the terrorists responsible for the World Trade Center and the
terrorist McVey for the Oklahoma City federal building bombing.