Here we begin our annual review of the key events of 2001.
September 11 took everyone by surprise, but what has struck us
most forcefully is how quickly right-wing mainstream extremists
in the U.S. moved to capitalize on the World Trade Center
The day after the attacks, U.S. Representative Don Young (R-Alaska)
announced that there was a "strong possibility" that
"eco-terrorists" based in Seattle had hijacked the airplanes
that brought down the twin towers in New York. "If you watched
what happened in Genoa, in Italy, and even in Seattle, there's
some expertise in that field," Young told the ANCHORAGE DAILY
NEWS. "I'm not sure they're that dedicated but eco-terrorists --which
are really based in Seattle -- there's a strong
possibility that could be one of the groups," Congressman Young
The next day the Reverend Jerry Falwell, a Baptist minister and
White House adviser, blamed the Republican right's favorite
enemies. Speaking on Pat Robertson's TV show, "The 700 Club,"
Mr. Falwell said, "I really believe that the pagans, and the
abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who
are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the
A.C.L.U. [American Civil Liberties Union] , People for the
American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America,
I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this
happen.''' Mr. Robertson chimed in, "I totally concur." Mr.
Robertson is a Republican party fundraiser and strategist, and
the founder of the Christian Coalition.
Less than 3 weeks later, Congressman Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) and
six of his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives
insinuated a link between mainstream environmentalists and
terrorism. "Some people have turned a blind eye [to
ecoterrorism] because this destruction, this terrorism, is
being activated under the so-called cloak of protecting the
environment," Mr. McInnis said on the floor of the House October
3. Mr. McInnis subsequently wrote letters to the Sierra Club,
Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, the World
Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice
Defense, and Natural Resources Defense Council, giving them a
deadline of Dec. 1 to publicly "disavow ecoterrorism."
For a decade, hundreds of abortion clinics and offices of
Planned Parenthood have been receiving envelopes in the mail
containing white powder and a note identifying it as anthrax.
Recently the volume of these terrorist threats (none of them, so
far, real anthrax) has increased substantially. More than 200
medical clinics and Planned Parenthood offices have received
such threats by mail since Sept. 11, according to the LOS
ANGELES TIMES. A fundamentalist Christian group calling
itself the Army of God claims responsibility. Congressman
McInnis did not give Mr. Falwell or Mr. Robertson a deadline for
disavowing anthrax terrorism.
The Reverend Donald Spitz of Chesapeake, Virginia, claims
membership in, and maintains a web site for, the Army of God,
and he openly applauds sending anthrax threats by mail, calling
them a "good thing" and a "brilliant move."[5,6] The Army of
God was recently featured in a TV documentary in which various
members boasted how their group had murdered physicians,
fire-bombed medical clinics, and purchased truckloads of raw
materials for making explosives. The FBI has made no arrests
in any of these hundreds of anthrax-terrorism cases going back a
decade, and Congressman McInnis and his six Republican
colleagues have not given the Reverend Mr. Spitz a deadline for
These hooded Christians provide a dangerous -- and terrifying --side-
show, diverting attention away from the main event in
Washington, where the White House and corporate lobbyists have
used Sept. 11 to aggressively roll back environmental
protections and dole out billions of federal dollars to major
polluters, many of whom are major donors to the Republican
As the NEW YORK TIMES reported November 18, "Before the attacks,
environmentalists seemed to have political momentum in casting
President Bush as unfriendly to the environment and his
administration as beholden to the extractive industries. But in
the last two months, environmentalists have been stymied for
fear of appearing unpatriotic or even petty in the face of a
national crisis." Sensing hesitancy and confusion among
environmentalists, since 9/11 the President and his corporate
lieutenants have taken the offensive to:
** Abandon negotiations for a treaty to control global
** Shelve a plan to reduce air pollution from coal-burning power
plants because a nation engaged in a war-without-end against
terrorism can't risk power shortages;
** Reverse a Clinton administration policy that stopped
road-building, oil and gas leasing, and most new logging in 60
million acres of nearly-untouched national forests;[8,9]
** Reverse the phase-out of snowmobiles in national parks;
** Grease the skids for mining corporations to dig for gold,
copper, zinc and lead on public lands. Under rules set during
the Clinton administration, the government could stop new mines
"likely to cause substantial irreparable harm to water quality
and other natural resources." No longer.[8,10]
** Ease energy-conservation standards for air conditioners;
** Make it easier for home-builders and commercial developers to
** Prevent the re-introduction of grizzly bears in the
** Cut funding 50% for research and development into renewable
sources of energy, and provide $34 billion in additional
subsidies to the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear industries.
** Drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in
Mr. Bush's most far-reaching achievements, however, are these:
** The House of Representatives suspended its rules of debate on
Nov. 27 to rush through a reauthorization of the Price-Anderson
Act which severely limits the nuclear industry's liability for
radioactive errors, oversights, slips, goofs, flubs, blunders,
leaks, releases, discharges, mishaps, misadventures, accidents
or catastrophes (including "energetic disassemblies," the
nuclear industry's own term for explosions), placing most of the
liability for such human foibles on the taxpayer. Excusing the
nuclear corporations from liability for their own behavior would
"dramatically improve security at our Nation's nuclear power
plants in response to the widespread concerns over terrorist
threats," said Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex), a key Republican
strategist in the House. And so it passed.
** The President won a major "free trade" victory over labor and
environmentalist opposition Dec. 6, using anti-terrorist
arguments. By a vote of 215 to 214 the House of Representatives
gave the President the right to negotiate "free trade"
agreements around the globe without amendment or debate from
Congress. It's called "fast track authority" and President
Clinton twice failed to win it. President Bush won it "for
several reasons," the NEW YORK TIMES reported: "The first is
that his argument about trade as a weapon against terrorism,
while a stretch, actually worked."
But even these major opportunistic accomplishments pale in
comparison to the strategic vision that right-wing mainstream
extremists are developing now. They see Sept. 11 as an
opportunity to attack the entire civil sector of American
society and paint citizen participation in democratic
decision-making as wasteful, inefficient, misguided, deceitful,
destructive, unpatriotic, and a danger to the civilized world.
The Washington Legal Foundation -- a mainstream extremist think
tank -- let this snarling little cat out of the bag Nov. 26 in
an ad on the Op-Ed page of the NEW YORK TIMES, titled, "Wanted:
Public Interest Reality." In it, they said that, prior to
September 11, "ideological lawyers" have "wasted decades"
"treating our military and America's business community with
contempt as if they were the enemy." And, "We are now paying the
price for those years of frivolous activism," as if citizen
activism had somehow led to the atrocities of Sept. 11. The ad
contains a simple agenda for the post-9/11 world:
1. Get rid of "right to know" laws because they provide "a road
map for terrorists." Strategic message: Limit citizens' access
to information to curb citizen activism.
2. The reason we don't have vaccines against smallpox is not
because smallpox was eradicated world-wide in 1971 but
because "inefficient FDA bureaucrats" have brought the
production of life-saving vaccines to a standstill, the ad says.
Strategic message: Get government off our backs, unleash
3. Why are we dependent upon Middle Eastern oil? Not because the
vast majority of the world's oil resides there and we've
neglected alternatives, but because "wave after wave of laws,
regulations, and novel lawsuits" have enabled "radicals" to
prevent oil drilling in "a remote area of frozen Alaskan
wasteland," the ad says. Strategic message: Get government off
our backs, end citizen lawsuits, end citizen activism.
4. The "Naderite food police" slowed the licensing of food
irradiation, which is now "nearly unavailable" to kill anthrax
being sent through the mail. Strategic message: End citizen
activism, get government off our backs, unleash corporations.
5. The Endangered Species Act has allowed "uncompromising
elites" to "obsess" over "plant and insect subspecies" and thus
block housing construction and economic development, thereby
endangering "jobs, prosperity, investments, and consumer
welfare." Strategic message: End citizen lawsuits, get
government off our backs.
6. "Self-indulgent activists spent the frivolous 90's [sic]
squandering our resources and opportunities chasing phantom
risks, ridiculous 'public interest' causes, and bogus consumer
scares" like electromagnetic radiation and genetically
engineered foods. Strategic message: End citizen activism.
7. "In the post-September 11 world, we can no longer afford to
put the narrow agendas of a 'public interest' elite ahead of our
own national interests." Strategic message: End citizen activism
because it's now unpatriotic.
So there you have it: Active citizens who want their government
to protect the natural assets of their communities against
corporate plunder are unpatriotic elitists squandering valuable
resources for silly purposes, endangering our entire
civilization by keeping us enslaved to Middle Eastern oil,
slowing the introduction of civilization-saving technologies
like food irradiation, placing the needs of endangered species
like the San Diego fairy shrimp ahead of the needs of prosperous
investors and important men of means.
"As a united America labors to rebuild our wounded economy, the
silly muddle of 'public interest' advocacy now seems
irrelevant.... Can the professional activists understand that
free enterprise is the very heart and soul of America?" the ad
No, actually, they probably can't. If there's any one thing that
September 11 taught us, it is that the heart and soul of America
is not mean-spirited, small-minded opportunists who twist the
truth for private gain. The heart and soul of America is
ordinary people sacrificing for the public interest, rolling up
their sleeves and pitching in to help.
Happy New Year!
--Peter Montague (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
 "Liz Ruskin, "Stevens, Murkowski and Young vow retribution,"
ANCHORAGE (Alaska) DAILY NEWS Sept. 12, 2001; available at
 Laurie Goodstein, "Did God allow the terrorist attacks?,"
NEW YORK TIMES Sept. 15, 2001, pg. unknown.
 Pat Robertson, "Pat Robertson Resigns From Christian
Coalition"Dec. 5, 2001, available at
 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD Oct. 3, 2001, pg. H6238. And see Paul
Tolme, "Real Patriots Don't Go on Witch Hunts," PROGRESSIVE
POPULIST Vol. 7, No. 22 (Dec. 15, 2001), E-mail edition, pg.
unknown. And see "McInnis Challenges Environmental Groups to
Disavow Ecoterrorism," Nov. 2, 2001, available at
 See, for example, David G. Savage, "Response to Terror; The
Anthrax Threat; Anthrax Threats Common at Clinics," LOS ANGELES
TIMES Oct. 20, 2001, pg. unknown.
 Katherine Q. Seelye, "Bush Team Is Reversing Environmental
Policies," NEW YORK TIMES November 18, 2001, pg. A18.
 Katherine Q. Seelye, "U.S. Holds Gathering on Renewable
Energy," NEW YORK TIMES November 29, 2001, pg. A20.
 "More Environmental Rollbacks [editorial] ," NEW YORK TIMES
October 29, 2001, pg. unknown.
 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD Nov. 27, 2001, pg. H8360.
 David E. Sanger, "Using Battle of Terrorism for Victory on
Trade," NEW YORK TIMES Dec. 7, 2001, pg. unknown.
 Washington Legal Foundation, "Wanted: Public Interest
Reality [advertisement] ," NEW YORK TIMES November 26, 2001, pg.
 Lawrence K. Altman, November 4, 2001, "A Nation Challenged:
The Precautions; U.S. Sets Up Plan to Fight Smallpox in Case of
Attack," NEW YORK TIMES November 4, 2001, pg. unknown.