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Terrorism or not, it doesn't work


Arsonists did their cause no good by using destruction to make a point

Terrorism or sabotage? Criminal destruction or legitimate protest?

Call it what you like. Burning down other people's property is wrong, it's extremely dangerous and it doesn't work.

In October, 11 people will go on trial for a string of arsons stretching across the Western United States from 1996 through 2001. They may all be found guilty; some or all may be acquitted. That is for the courts to decide.

What is certain is that the fires that caused an estimated &

36;27.8 million in damage were criminal acts. The radical groups Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for them.

Apologists for ELF and ALF say the arsonists were motivated by frustration at their inability to effect change through more conventional protests or legislative action. Arson didn't work either.

Superior Lumber Co., whose office in Glendale was firebombed in 2001, employed 400 people at the time. Now called Swanson Group, today it employs more than 1,000 people and operates in Eugene, Roseburg, Glide, Grants Pass and Medford.

— Clearly Swanson was not intimidated by the destruction of its office. But just as clearly, that was the arsonists' intent. What happened to (Superior Lumber) should shock no one, a statement from ELF said.

An Earth First! organizer in California objected to the term terrorism in reference to the arson attacks, and wondered how civil disobedience would be treated in the future by federal authorities.

Blocking logging roads and camping in trees is civil disobedience. Torching buildings is a major felony.

If the arsonists were indeed motivated by frustration at the difficulty of working through the system, all they succeeded in doing was to make it even more difficult to achieve their goals by legitimate means.

A key component of legislative change is public opinion. Voters elect legislators, and when enough voters put enough pressure on those legislators, change occurs.

By destroying property, the arsonists took a step guaranteed to turn public opinion against their cause, not rally support.

A grim reminder From Klamath Falls it is just a short scenic drive to visit the Lava Beds National Monument where American Indian Captain Jack took a stand against governmental prejudice. If you keep going until you cross the California border, you will come to Tule Lake, where another minority group, Japanese Americans, experienced forced governmental segregation at the Tule Lake Japanese internment camp.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, concern grew about the loyalty of Japanese American citizens. More than 120,000 people of Japanese descent were rounded up and placed in 10 relocation camps. The camp at Tule Lake had the dubious distinction of being the largest, with a peak population of 18,789.

Though some of these citizens had lived their entire lives in the U.S., they were removed from their jobs and their homes and stripped of personal property. Some did not survive the harsh conditions in the overcrowded camps. When internment ended, their property was not returned, forcing them to rebuild their lives.

The Tule Lake camp has now been named a National Historical Landmark. This piece of history deserves to be remembered for the misplaced fear and destruction of lives that it represents. Today, with terrorism in the news, we need reminders to help keep cool heads. There may be people on American soil plotting destruction, but it is unacceptable to generalize by picking a profile for discrimination. The next suspicious group could be your own.