"I’m a minority. I’m an Arab, I’m Palestinian. I’m a Muslim. That’s not a popular thing to be these days. Do I have rights, or don't I have rights?” – Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, on his arrest on charges of being a terrorist.
"Hundreds of poor laboring men and women are being thrown into jails and police stations because of their political beliefs. In fact, an attempt is being made to deport an entire political party." - Jane Addams, 1919.
Many have noted the Left's affinity for violent anti-American terrorists and equal affinity for regarding themselves as the victims of an American fascism that no one else can quite detect. This is hardly a new pattern in left-wing behavior; it is more like a paradigm of the Progressive outlook, and in fact a refined version of the Lizzie Borden defense. Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one… Then she pleaded to the court she was an orphan. And was acquitted.
No period exemplifies as vibrantly the progressive manipulation of history in support of this paradigm as what is universally referred to as the “Red Scare” of the 1920s. Modern historians portray the era as an exercise in government repression, a precursor of McCarthyism (which actually has a similar moral and cast). An out-of-control Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, is alleged to have rounded up an enemies list and deported them, by the thousands, because they were immigrants and had unpopular anarchist ideas.
The reality, then as now, is that an ideology-based wave of terrorism carried out by resident aliens forced the government to take stern but necessary (and Constitutional) measures to protect its citizens and to preserve the normal flow of American life. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 which led to the measures known as the Patriot Act which the left regards not as protection for citizens against Islamist terrorists but as an assault on civil liberties and “critics” of government policy like itself has historical precedents in the “Palmer Raids” which were an effort to meet a parallel threat. Following the 1917 revolution in Russia, American anarchists launched a campaign of bombing and assassination against American officials, judges, and prominent citizens.
It was on August 20, 1918, almost 75 years before Osama bin Laden launched his jihad against the Western democracies, that Bolshevik leader Vladimir I. Lenin issued his version of a fatwa against the same “Great Satan,” the United States of America. In his “Letter to American Workers,” Lenin called on his acolytes to “play an exceptionally important role as uncompromising enemies of American imperialism” by joining the “civil war against the bourgeoisie.” Most Americans ignored the rant, but within immigrant anarchist communities it resonated with significant force.
April 28, 1919, saw the first fruits of the Bolshevik incitement, when a bomb was dismantled at the home of Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson. The next day, a Bolshevik bomb ripped the hands off of an employee of Georgia Senator Thomas Hardwick as he opened the deadly package; it also severely burned the senator’s wife. A few days later, on May Day, 34 bombs were intercepted before reaching their intended targets which included such leading figures as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, North Carolina Senator Lee S. Overman, Utah Senator William H. King, Postmaster General Albert Berlson, and John D. Rockefeller. On the same May Day, coordinated, violent, seditious riots were launched in several cities, most notably in Boston, and a bomb wrecked a municipal building in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, on May 2.
On June 2, 1919, at virtually the same time of the day, eight American cities were bombed by anarchists who had already softened up the country a month earlier with a series of violent and coordinated riots unleashed on May Day, 1919.
One month later, June 2, 1919, bombs were simultaneously set to blow up in eight American cities. On that day, bombs exploded at the homes of Boston Judge A. F. Hayden and at the Newton, Massachusetts, home of State Representative Leland Powers. A bomb was intercepted and defused at the office of Cleveland Mayor Harry L. Davis and two bombs exploded in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, one next to the home of Federal Judge J. Thomson and the other next to the home of immigration official W.W. Sibray. In New York City, the home of Judge Charles C. Nott was bombed. Night patrolman William Goshner was killed by what the New York Times referred to as an “infernal killing machine”; so, too, was an unidentified man trying to defuse the bomb intended for Judge Nott.
In Philadelphia, the Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church and the Frankfort Arsenal were bombed. Bombs also exploded at the homes of prominent citizens in Patterson and East Orange, New Jersey.
Most significantly, from a political standpoint, a huge bomb ripped off the front of the Georgetown home of President Woodrow Wilson’s Quaker pacifist U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. The terrorist planting the bomb at Palmer’s door was killed when he tripped trying to flee the scene. Palmer and his young family were not hurt in the assassination attempt. The massive explosion caused windows to shatter at the neighboring home of Palmer’s close friend and political associate, Under Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Palmer acted swiftly by establishing a special unit of the FBI to investigate the terrorists putting 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover in charge. The FBI proceeded to round up more than 10,000 suspected alien terrorists over the next seven months. By January 1920, 247 alien terrorists had been deported. Those who could not be deported, partially due to insufficient evidence, were freed.
Nine months later, September 1920, anarchists detonated a bomb on Wall Street. This act of terror occured in the neighborhood of the future World Trade Center. The Wall Street bomb killed 40 innocent commuters and injured more than 400. The street was littered with dismembered corpses and puddles of blood. The jihadists were secular radicals, most of whom had recently emigrated from Europe, who were trying to destabilize America with a new kind of warfare. They called their terrorist acts the “propaganda of the deed,” and the garden of Allah, which was their goal, “socialism” or “anarchy.”
The administration of Woodrow Wilson eventually was able to break the back of the terrorist infrastructure. In doing it secured a large measure of peace for several generations. Contrary to the propaganda of the terrorists themselves -- inscribed in the historical record by their academic sympathizers -- this was accomplished with an impressive degree of restraint. Terrorists were deported, the threat was suppressed, and civil liberties were preserved.
The Wilson administration response to the emergency went a long way toward sparing this country from the type of chaos and violence that was plaguing Europe at the time. President Wilson articulated his counterterrorism policy in his December 1919 message to Congress: “Let us be frank about this solemn matter, the evidences of the world-wide unrest which manifest themselves in violence throughout the world bid us pause and consider the means to be found to stop the spread of this contagious thing before it saps the very vitality of the nation itself.”
There are other ways to sap the vitality of a nation: for example, by rewriting history to erase the distinctions between aggressor and victim, and thus between right and wrong. In regards to the terrorist threats against this nation, this effort is well-advanced. Now we remember the terrorists of the 1920s as victims of American injustice, and the heroes who defended America as the enemies of freedom. And this is the way the Left wants us to think of the terrorists who threaten us and the heroes of America’s homeland security like John Ashcroft who is, in a way, Mitchell Palmer’s heir.
It is both striking and illuminating that the same “liberals” who were apologists for the 1919-1920 assassins and defenders of murderers like the famed anarchist pair -- Sacco and Vanzetti -- are venting same anti-American froth today. They accuse our government of trampling on the Constitution and engaging in a witch-hunt, but they fall over themselves in extending compassion to our terrorist enemies and giving captured Islamist operatives the benefit of the doubt.
Lenin aptly called the terrorist sympathizers of his day “useful idiots.” The irony is that had the Bolsheviks been successful in their program to undermine America -- had the views of the Progressives prevailed -- all rights and civil liberties would ultimately have been abolished.
No doubt there were examples of governmental over-reach in the 1919-1920 crackdown, as the FBI labored to protect our nation from suspected alien terrorists. The same could be said of the FBI’s crackdown on the Ku Klux Klan and organized crime. But no one would conclude from this that the effort to deal with the Klan should be called “The Klan Scare” or the tracking of the Mafia “The Crime Scare.” That is because the academics who keep the historical record, and the intellectuals who write about the history of Klansmen and criminals, have no sympathy for those segments of society or their causes. But apparently they do for anti-American radicals with a violent agenda.
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