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My Brother the Terrorist

This is a powerful letter written by the only one who really COULD write such a letter, by virtue of not only being a family member related to the convicted arsonist, but by virtue of being a former fire-fighter and obviously opposed (as am I) to arson. It says it all...this is NOT terrorism by any reasonable definition of the term.

[Los Angeles Times - opinion]

MY BROTHER IS considered one of the biggest domestic terrorists in the country. You probably haven't heard of him, and I think that's odd. After all, he's dangerous. He's trying to overthrow our country. He "doesn't like our freedoms," or so President Bush has said of terrorists in general, so I suppose that applies to my brother too.

Let me tell you a little bit about him. He likes the History Channel. He's a Trekkie. He cried (in secret) at the corny 1980s movie "Turtle Diary." He's good at fixing things. And, most important, he has devoted his life to stopping animals' suffering. To this end, he has broken the law. He crept into animal laboratories to free dogs. He dismantled corrals to release wild mustangs. He impersonated a fur buyer to film the treatment of minks. He put himself between whales and whalers despite warnings that his boat would be impounded and that he would be jailed. And nearly 10 years ago, he burned down a horse slaughterhouse in Redmond, Ore. It is for this final act that the U.S. government considers him among the ranks of Osama bin Laden, Eric Rudolph and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef.
...
My brother, Jonathan Paul, has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., to burning the Cavel West Slaughterhouse. He will find out on June 5 whether the judge considers his actions deserving of the "terrorism enhancement" to his sentence sought by the government. (Nine other members of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, who pleaded guilty to different charges, are being sentenced as well. The first, sentenced Wednesday, was deemed a terrorist.) If a terrorism enhancement is imposed, my brother's recommended sentence could go from less than three years to more than 14 years.

Don't let me give you the impression that I think arson is something to be taken lightly. I do not. The irony is rich in this case: I was a San Francisco firefighter for 13 years. I was angry and dismayed that my brother chose arson as a route to stop animal suffering. But "a classic case of terrorism"?

Federal laws define terrorism as one of a laundry list of offenses committed for the purpose of coercing the government to change its policies. It is a broad definition, designed to give judges wiggle room and adopted at a time when terrorism was a new concept. Congressional hearings in 1995 and 2001 make the original intent of the laws clearer. When House members and senators described acts of terrorism, every example (Pan Am Flight 103, Oklahoma City, the first World Trade Center bombing, the Tokyo subway attack) involved the killing of, or the intent to kill, human beings.

But recently the government has moved away from the idea of terrorist-as-murderer. The case involving my brother represents the first time that terrorism enhancements have been sought when all the evidence shows that the defendants took affirmative steps to make sure no one would be endangered.

...

How much safer do we feel now that ELF/ALF members, who have never hurt or intended to hurt a single human being, might be confined to a maximum-security prison? Could it really be true that the most powerful country in the world feels "coerced" by a bunch of bunny huggers? Is the confident "I am the decider" leader of this nation being bullied by vegans? Or is it possible that the government just wants to crow about convicting another "terrorist" while the main one is still at large?

...

Anyone who lives in Redmond will tell you how terrible the Cavel West Slaughterhouse was. The horses screamed all day. Their blood clogged the sewage system. The stench was unbearable. The killings, by many accounts, were slow and agonizing. My brother's sentiments were far from radical, and they had nothing to do with the government. His intention was simple: save the horses.

This does not mean arson was the right thing to do. If you call my brother a lawbreaker, I won't argue. But labeling him a terrorist dilutes the meaning of terrorism. And you demean all the Americans, and all those around the world, who have died in real terrorist acts.

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full story:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-paul24may24,0,482874.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

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