Long Before the Tiller Assassination
I had to dip back into 2008 for the story I want to tell about the asassination of Dr. George Tiller last summer, as my final post for 2009. The ideology and culture of rightwing violence often exists side-by-side with mainstream conservatism -- and there is hardly a better example than the story that surfaced during the 2008 presidential campaign, about how Shelly Shannon, the woman convicted of the 1993 attempted murder of Dr. Tiller was in effect, celebrated by the then-Vice-Chair of the Oregon GOP while John McCain stood by.
Raw Story reports that John McCain, against the advice of wiser heads, addressed a conference of the far right Oregon Citizens Alliance in the early 90s. He should have listened.
The speaker just prior to McCain publicly expressed sympathy for Shelly Shannon, who then stood accused (and was eventually convicted) of the attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas -- as well as carrying out a multi-state spree of clinic arsons across the West.
Shelly Shannon also considered herself a soldier in the underground terror organization, Army of God, which views Shannon as a "hero of the faith" and a "Warrior Soldier in the Army of God." The group devotes a section of its web site to celebrating her exploits and her martyrdom.
Raw Story's Nick Juliano writes:
Blogger Jed Lewison highlighted McCain's opposition to a 1994 law that made it a federal crime to bomb or blockade abortion clinics or to attack abortion doctors. McCain's vote against the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act put him in league with the Senate's most radical anti-abortion advocates, who split with more than two dozen anti-abortion senators who voted to crack down on clinic bombers as a matter of preserving law & order.
His [McCain's] speech was preceded by some kind words for an anti-abortion activist accused of shooting a doctor.
McCain quickly got a first-hand flavor for the OCA. Marylin Shannon, the vice chairwoman of the Oregon GOP, had a spot on the program to give an opening prayer. In short order, she praised the Grants Pass woman accused of shooting an abortion doctor in Wichita and thanked the Lord ``for Lon Mabon and the vision you put in his heart.''
Shannon, the GOP chairwoman, referred to the accused shooter of the abortion doctor as a "fine lady," who shouldn't be judged solely based on the single act of violence, according to a letter she wrote to The Oregonian, which was accessed via Lexis Nexis.
While she did not endorse violence against abortion providers, she wrote, she recognized the "debate stirring within the anti-abortion movement" over whether killing abortion providers was a "just cause."
My kind comments about Shelley Shannon, the Grants Pass woman accused of wounding abortion provider George Tiller, ("I'm not related to Shelley Shannon, but I think she's a fine lady,") reflected what I had learned about her from people who have known her for many years. They say she has led a responsible life as a wife, mother and concerned citizen and don't want her judged by this one action.
Acknowledging this side of her does not meant that I approve of others doing what she did. I do not. However, since that night I have learned much about the current debate stirring within the anti-abortion movement: Is killing abortion providers a "just cause"?
There's no indication that McCain took issue with Shannon's comments, and it's unclear whether any group members lobbied him regarding the abortion clinic protection bill. A search of the Congressional Record in 1993 and 1994 indicates McCain did not speak during debate over the bill, and McCain's campaign did not immediately return RAW STORY's request for comment.
The Army of God's web site features an account of Shelly Shannon's transformation into a domestic terrorist. Here is a short exerpt:
Shelley Shannon participated in her last blockade on November 17, 1992. Although she was a wife and the mother of teenagers, she committed herself to stop the killing of the innocent any way she could. The following year, she engaged in a holy war of arson and butyric acid (liquid) rescues across three states.
"If I was going to spend what's left of my life in prison or die in an explosion, I was at least going to do so in the will of God!"
The transformation of Shelley Shannon began as early as the summer of 1991 when the late term abortion mill operated by George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas, was being exposed by Operation Rescue, and many other anti-abortionists. She was sick at heart over the extermination of the unborn.
Shelley told a journalist at that time, she was convinced that the use of force was the way to save unborn children from being murdered. According to her sentencing report, Shannon had "the will, but not the way" until she read two books: When Bricks Bleed, I'll Cry by [convicted clinic bomber] Rev. Michael Bray of Maryland, and an early version of the "Army of God" manual.
The so called Army of God manual was passed around and added to over the years and desccribes how to wage a terror campaign against clinics. The first copy to fall into the hands of federal law enforcement was dug up in Shelly Shannon's back yard.
Some months later, abortionist David Gunn was shot by Michael Griffin as he attempted to enter the building where he was scheduled to murder approximately 30 pre-born babies.
Shelley commented on Michael Griffin's action in her computer diary:
He didn't shoot Mother Teresa, he shot a mass murderer such as Saddam Hussien or Hitler. I don't even think it is accurately termed 'murder.'
God is the only one who knows whether Gunn would ever have repented or if he would have killed another 5,000 babies and probably 3 or 4 more women who probably weren't Christians either.
Although Michael Griffin was condemned by many Christians, Shelley Shannon stood by him. She wrote:
I'm not convinced that God didn't require it of Michael to do this.
It is possible. I'm praying God will push more of us 'off the deep end...'
"He is definitely a Christian."
The Army of God has posted most of the Army of God manual on its web site. Here is how it opens:
This is a manual for those who have come to understand that the battle against abortion is a battle not against flesh and blood, but against the devil and all the evil he can muster among flesh and blood to fight at his side.
It is a How-To Manual of means to disrupt and ultimately destroy Satan's power to kill our children, God's Children.
Thus it is worth considering the disingenuous euphemisms of Marilyn Shannon (no relation to Shelly) who was not only public apologist for a notorious domestic terrorist, but served as vice chair of the Oregon GOP and as a McCain delegate to the Republican National Convention this year.
Resources: I have written extensively about the AOG for Salon.com, (among other places) (notably Our Own Terror Cells, and in my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. See also my commentary from Women's eNews: Anti-Abortion Terrorism Threatens All Americans.