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
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.