There seems to be some confusion about who are the real terrorists these days. Allow me to shed some light on the issue.

John Patrick Bedell was angry at the totalitarian federal government that had devastated public education, private property rights and monetary policy, so he shot two security guards at the Pentagon. He was not a terrorist.

Andrew Joseph Stack flew a small plane into a building housing an office of the Internal Revenue Service in Austin, Texas, killing one IRS worker and injuring 13 people in the structure. Earlier that day, Stack wrote a diatribe on his Web page against the IRS and the federal government. “Violence not only is the answer,” he wrote, “it is the only answer.” Stack was not a terrorist.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist of Palestinian origin, opened fire on fellow soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 29. He strongly opposed U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a terrorist.

At first there may be some confusion about these designations, but there are clear differences among the three cases. The first two violent attacks were carried out as political protests by white conservatives angry at the federal government for taking over their rights. The third was carried out by an Arab-American Muslim angry at the federal government for taking over other people’s rights.

America’s major media understand this distinction. They quickly explained that the first two cases were deranged individuals not part of any wider conspiracy. Three days after the Pentagon attack, The New York Times wrote that Bedell had been living with his parents and “seemed to slide into a deep paranoia.” The paper reassured us that “federal authorities said there was no indication that Mr. Bedell had a connection to any domestic or international terrorist group.”

On the day of the attack against the IRS, The Wall Street Journal conveyed the comforting news that federal workers had not been victims of terrorism. “I consider this a criminal act by a lone individual,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.

The major media offered a split opinion on Maj. Hasan. Some went with the “deranged loner” theory. Thank God that Fox News kept up the pressure on President Barack Obama and the liberal media to label it a terrorist attack. As Sen. Joe Lieberman pointed out on Fox, “There are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and therefore that this was a terrorist act.”

Lieberman correctly understands that extremism comes only from the Muslim world, not right-wing white people with persecution complexes and semiautomatic weapons.

There seems to be similar confusion about international extremists. The extremists of al-Qaida intentionally kill civilians in an effort to win political goals. They are terrorists.

The U.S.-funded Afghan mujahedeen fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s intentionally targeted university professors, movie theaters and cultural events. The U.S.-trained Nicaraguan Contras intentionally killed teachers and health workers in order to overthrow the Sandinista government in the 1980s. Both these groups were freedom fighters.

America is besieged by enemies and we should be afraid. For decades this country faced the communist menace. I remember as an elementary school student hiding under my desk to protect myself against a Soviet nuclear attack and invasion. Today we face a far greater threat from Muslim terrorists. Thank goodness today’s children have much larger desks.

I hope this clears up the confusion about exactly who is a terrorist. Remember, consistency is the core principle of American national security policy.

Freelance foreign correspondent Reese Erlich is author of the forthcoming book “Conversations With Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire.”

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