Accusations fly after bombs target Democrats

A new tone: “Do you see how nice I’m behaving?” Trump asked at a rally on Wednesday. © Getty

Is President Donald Trump’s rhetoric to blame? All week, suspected pipe bombs have been sent to some of the president’s most prominent critics, including the Obamas, Clintons and CNN.

It began on Monday with a suspicious package found tucked inside the mailbox of wealthy philanthropist George Soros. It turned out to contain a pipe bomb filled with explosive powder. The FBI arrived and detonated it.

On Wednesday, a series of similar packages were sent to other well-known political figures including Barack Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and former CIA Director John Brennan. This last package was sent to Brennan at CNN’s offices in New York City, causing the staff to be evacuated while live on air. New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, described the attempted bombing as an act of terror.

Yesterday, it continued: suspicious packages were found addressed to actor Robert De Niro and former Vice-President Joe Biden. The FBI warned that there could be more.

No one has been hurt by the devices.

So far, no one knows who is behind the bombs or what their motivation is. However, the targets all have one thing in common: they are critics of President Donald Trump or have been criticised by him.

At the White House on Wednesday, Trump condemned acts of political violence and called on America to “unify”. He promised that law enforcement would “get to the bottom of it”.

However, his comments were followed the next morning by a tweet blaming the country’s anger on “the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the mainstream media”.

Meanwhile, some have blamed Trump’s own rhetoric for stoking an atmosphere of violence. Brennan himself said Trump’s words had “helped to incite some of these feelings of anger, if not violence,” particularly against journalists. Last week, Trump praised a congressman who assaulted a journalist in 2017, calling him “my kind of guy”.

“President Trump’s words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Is it fair to blame Trump?

Divided states

Yes, say some. He may not have wanted bombs, but he has repeatedly encouraged violence against reporters at his rallies. He has called the media “the enemy of the people”. On Monday he told crowds that “the Democrats have launched an assault on… the safety of every single American.” It is not surprising that someone seems to have taken matters into their own hands.

You cannot blame Trump for the actions of one individual (or group of individuals), argue others. Anger has spilled over into violence on both sides of the political divide: last year, a congressman was shot by someone who, according to the Virginia attorney general, was “fueled by rage against Republican legislators.” If America is really going to unify, it must happen across the political spectrum.

You Decide

  1. Are Trump’s words partially to blame for the attempted bombings?
  2. Can America overcome its current divisions?

Activities

  1. Imagine you work for the FBI. Write down all of the questions you would want answered if you were investigating these attempted bombings.
  2. Research a terror attack in America’s history which happened under a different president. Write a paragraph comparing that president’s response to Trump’s this week.

Some People Say...

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

Rudyard Kipling

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
As of last night, 10 devices had been found by the authorities. Some were hand-delivered, while others had been sent by post. There have been no injuries, as none of the packages exploded before being found. Each listed Debbie Wasserman Schultz (former chair of the Democratic National Committee) as the sender, and so one of them was discovered after being sent back to her offices.
What do we not know?
Who is sending the pipe bombs, or why. Although it appears to be political, it is important to stress that no one will know the reasons for the attempted bombings until the sender confesses, or is caught by law enforcement. We also do not know whether this will have an effect on America’s upcoming midterm elections, which take place on November 6.

Word Watch

Philanthropist
George Soros is a Hungarian-American billionaire. He has donated $18 billion to his philanthropic foundation, Open Society Foundations. As the name suggests, his efforts focus on liberal causes. He is also a major donor to the Democratic Party. He has become a figure of anger, some of it anti-Semitic, for far-right groups around the world.
Pipe bomb
A homemade bomb, using a pipe and explosive materials. US law enforcement believes that the bombs were all made by the same person or group.
Terror
The US defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”
Assaulted
Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to assaulting Ben Jacobs, a journalist from The Guardian. It was, as Trump put it, a “body slam”.
Congressman
Steve Scalise is House majority whip for the Republican Party in Congress. He was shot while playing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia, on June 14 last year. A police officer and two other political workers were also shot in the incident.

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