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Right Wing Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Motives, Strategies and Movements

NCJ Number
Paul de Armond
Date Published
13 pages
This paper assesses the threat of right-wing domestic terrorism regarding the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and suggests counter-terrorist policies based on the public health model.
Domestic terrorists of the American far right are driven by zeal for heretical distortions of Christian theology. These include millenialism, which envisions the imminent end of the age and the advent of a new dispensation; post-millenialism, which holds that Christ's return will not come until after the battle of Armageddon ushers in a 1,000-year global dominion by victorious "true Christians;" and antinomianism, under which believers follow a "higher law" and intentionally violate societal norms. These zealots view themselves as actors in God's plan for a cataclysmic overturning of the current order. At the deepest level, these are actors who deploy weapons of mass destruction in a sacrificial ritual of mass murder and suicide, a magical act intended to alter the relationship between God and mankind. This paper profiles some of the groups and sects that adhere to these beliefs, as well as the movement networks that include Klan/neo-nazi groups, anti-abortion groups, the "Patriot" group, and the "Wise Use" sect. These terrorist actors are well-informed about policy initiatives, responsive to new policy, organized as flexible decentralized networks, able to respond faster than institutions, and creative and effective propagandists. The most likely forms of WMD threats from these groups are conventional explosives, toxins, industrial chemicals, nuclear materials as radiation sources and toxins, and crude biological weapons. The most promising counter-terrorist initiatives will be based on the public health model, as they will be analogous to successful programs that have reduced harm due to epidemics of contagious disease, drug use, and domestic violence. Specific goals will be to eliminate underlying structural and environmental factors that enable, promote, and spread terrorist behavior; to educate the public about the threat and the policies to counter it; to track current events to anticipate future developments and identify new outbreaks; interventions that inhibit terrorists from acting or benefiting from actions; and immediate actions to counter outbreaks when they occur. 20 references