The history of terrorism is as old as humans. Terrorism is best thought of as a modern phenomenon. Its success depends on the existence of a mass media to create an aura of terror among many people.
Religiously motivated terrorism is considered the most alarming terrorist threat today. Groups that justify their violence on Islamic grounds- Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah—come to mind first. But Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and other religions have given rise to their own forms of militant extremism.
Domestic terrorism in the United States can often be explained as a violent claim over what or who is authentically American. Although the Boston Tea Party does not necessarily come to mind as an act of terrorism, the staged rebellion by colonists was meant to threaten the British into changing its policy of taxing colonist tea importers' imports, while offering a tariff-free trade to its East India Tea Company. Putting the Boston Tea Party in the category of terrorism can be a useful exercise for comparing the goals and tactics of different national liberation groups, which is what the Americans--once upon a time--were.
The first and arguably most entrenched terrorist in the United States is based in an ideology called "white supremacy," which holds that white Protestant Christians are superior to other ethnicities and races and that public life should reflect this purported hierarchy. In the period before the Civil War, American social organization did in fact reflect a presumed white supremacy, since slavery was legal. It was only after the Civil War, when Congress and the Union military began to enforce equality between the races that white supremacy emerged. The Ku Klux Klan grew out of this period, using a variety of means to terrorize and harm African-Americans and sympathetic whites. In 1871, they were outlawed by Congress as a terrorist group, but they have had several violent incarnations since then.
The 1920s were also a period of upsurge in KKK violence, carried out not only against African-Americans but also against Jews, Catholics and immigrants. The "roaring twenties," a period of tremendous wealth building by American "robber barons" provided a useful background for agitators against inequality. One of the first cases of terrorism to be investigated by the FBI was the 1920 bombing on Wall Street by suspected anarchists. At noon on September 16, 1920, a horse drawn buggy loaded with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of cast- iron slugs exploded across the street from the J.P. Morgan bank headquarters in downtown Manhattan, New York. The explosion blew out windows for blocks around, killed 30 immediately, injured hundreds of others and completely destroyed the interior of the Morgan building. Those responsible were never found, but evidence—in the form of a warning note received at a nearby office building—suggested anarchists.
One of the most affluent all-black communities in America, a mini Beverly Hills, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious whites. The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering. The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. The impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan.
Dozens of unsolved bombings and police killings terrorized the black community since World War II.
James Meredith tried to become the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi. His fight marked the beginning of the fight for civil rights.
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks called “the first lady of civil rights,” and “the mother of the freedom movement.” On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F Blake’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Parks' act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement.
In the spring of 1963, stores in downtown Birmingham had been desegregated and schools in Birmingham had been ordered by a federal court to integrate. Many Klansmen would not accept this decision nor would they accept the successes the civil rights cause seemed to be making. The influence of the KKK was such that children’s books that showed black and white rabbits together were banned from sale in book shops in the city. On September 15th, 1963, a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama killing 4 young girls and injuring many others.
In the 70’s terrorism in the United States also emerged. Groups such as the Weathermen grew out of the non-violent group Students for a Democratic Society. They turned to violent tactics, from rioting to setting off bombs, to protest the Vietnam War.
In the 1980s, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups such as Aryan Nation saw a resurgence - often among working class white males, who perceived themselves as displaced by women, African Americans, Jews, and immigrants who benefited from new civil rights legislation. Radical groups and individuals committed to violent action to stop abortion were among the most visible. Michael Bray, head of a group called the Army of God spent four years in prison for his abortion clinic bombings in the 1980s.
Rodney Glen King was an African-American construction worker who became well known after being beaten harshly on March 3, 1991. Four police officers from the LAPD took part in the incident. Three of the police officers were acquitted, and the jury failed to reach a verdict regarding the fourth police officer. The acquittals are generally considered to have triggered the 1992 Los Angeles riots, in which 53 people were killed, and over two thousand were injured .
On April 19, 1993, the standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidian cult (led by David Koresh) at the Davidian compound in Waco, Texas ended in a fiery tragedy. When the FBI tried to end the standoff by gassing the complex, the entire compound went up in fire, claiming the lives of 75 followers, including many young children. The death toll was high and many people blamed the U.S. government for the tragedy. One such person was Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh, angered by the Waco tragedy, decided to enact retribution to those he felt responsible -- the federal government, especially the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). In downtown Oklahoma City, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building held numerous federal agency offices, including those of the ATF.
In 1999, the most lethal act of domestic violence to date occurred when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Those responsible for what became known as the Oklahoma City Bombing were home-grown terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh's stated motivation--revenge against a federal government that he viewed as intrusive and oppressive, was an extreme version of more mainstream desire among many for a smaller government.
Dean Harvey Hicks, a citizen angry over his taxes, for example, created the one-man terrorist group "Up the IRS, Inc." and tried to bomb IRS locations.
Tim McVeigh was a Christian. Do we start hating all Christians? Disgruntled people in America respond the same as those in Egypt when they “feel” violated.