The Challenge of Eric Rudolph
Eric Rudolph sees himself, perhaps, as being as significant a figure in American history as abolitionist John Brown. I hope, if he does, he isn't right. For he is definitely quite intelligent and he might well be right. As Cohen points out, the government's plea bargain which spared his life is, abstractly, quite puzzling. It is particularly so since our current President has probably allowed more people to go to the death chamber than any American alive and has openly defended his support of the death penalty as a response to "evil".
Moreover, according to the President, we are supposed to be standing firm in the face of Terrorism, waging a War on it, in fact. A War on Terrorism itself, and, ostensibly, not a war on any variety of Islam. By any definition, and by his own tactics, Rudolph was unquestionably a terrorist, and, as Cohen points out, the plea bargain accomplished no more for the government than trying Rudolph for the death penalty would have. A life sentence was as certain as any trial can be, in any case.
Rudolph's own explanation of why the government did this merits very close attention:
The problem that they had was that a significant minority of the population, especially here in Northern Alabama, regarded what happened these at the abortion facility on that day of January 29, 1998, as morally justified. It is my opinion some of these people were likely to vote not guilty no matter what evidence was presented to them. Their jury questionnaire centered on efforts to discover and exclude those potential jurors who held strong antiabortion beliefs. This is why they approached us they were afraid that in at least one jurisdiction they were going to run into this recalcitrant profile juror who would hang the jury and deliver a political defeat and embarrassment to Washington's efforts to make an example out of the person who assaulted their specially protected policy of child murder. The evidence was sufficiently weak enough for us to talk to this juror, and they were afraid of this, so they offered the deal.
Is he right? He may very well be. And if he is, the implications for our country are disastrous. The decision of Roe v. Wade is not judicially set in stone. The Supreme Court has reversed its own decisions before, but the weight of precedent it sets accumulates every year, and past a certain point even the most conservative court of jurists will not be able to easily undo it.
Yet there is no movement afoot to overturn the decision in the time tested way that other judicial decisions have been overturned: by Constitutional amendment. It could be proposed at any time and would almost certainly make it on the ballot in any state. But no one dares to do this because they are afraid that it would lose.
They are afraid to invoke the only true and sure legal solution to the moral injustice which they condemn. So what, really, is left? Rudolph nails it: covert support of extralegal violence and outlawry--just like in "Bleeding Kansas" immediately before the Civil War. Just like John Brown.
Rudolph has much to say to those who oppose abortion, but will not face that choice, preferring instead to make a constant legal and political guerilla war against the clinics, against the decision, and against the Federal Judiciary itself, while the precedents cementing the decision ever more firmly into case law accumulate:
I ask these peaceful Christian law abiding ProLife citizens, is there any point at which all of the legal remedies will not suffice and you would fight to end the massacre of children? How many decades have to pass, how many millions have to die? 1s there any point when the cries of the children will not go unanswered? I think that your inaction after three decades of slaughter is a sufficient answer to all of these questions.....
No politician in Washington will ever seriously threaten abortion on demand And the fools who listen to them, in their hearts, know this but do not care. You so called "ProLife good Christian people" who point your plastic fingers at me saying that I am a "murderer," that "two wrongs don't make a right," that even though "abortion is murder, those who would use force to stop the murder are morally the same," I say to you that your lies are transparent.
Tell me plastic people, are you not the ones waving the flag in support of the coward Bush's operation in Iraq? Do you not say that Washington's cause justifies the bombing arid shooting of thousands of people? Answer me, is the causes belli of promoting democracy in the Middle East more weighty for waging war than the systematic murder of millions of your own citizens? After all, the unborn are citizens they not? Is not that the basis of your argument for a fight to "life" last guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Bill of Rights?
He has a point.
And the logic of his position leads only to one place: domestic terrorism. Because, for all the talk of Red & Blue states, the liberal Northeast or West Coast, and the conservative South and West, our politics and our overheated partisanship are completely amalgamated from sea to shining sea. "Secession" is no longer possible. From an unalterable position of moral absolutism, on either side of the issue, the only alternatives are the guerilla war from inside the government against the judges and the courts, or the outlawry of homemade bombs and a covert network of hiding places.
The first we already have, and, if Eric Rudolph is in any way correct in his assessment of his deeds, and of the current government's response to them, we have the strong and growing potential for the second. Kansas, after all, was left to bleed by Senator Stephen Douglas and President James Buchanan between them.