Dog-paddling behind a bomber in Austin

Dog-paddling behind a bomber in Austin
Processing a scene in Austin. (Image: Screen grab of Austin Statesman video)

The police may well know more than they’re letting on, if they are as certain as they sound that the latest ka-blam-involved injury event in Austin is not related to the previous bomb attacks.

I put it in those silly terms for a reason.  The police haven’t said in plain English what the dang thing was that went blooey and hurt a “man in his 30s,” who apparently handled the blooey-going item at a Goodwill in southwest Austin.  The Austin police came out after the initial report of an explosion and said it wasn’t an explosion.  The man was injured by an “incendiary device.”

Later they updated that assessment with the following words:

This was [an] old, military-type ordnance…

Sure.  They must get those all the time at Goodwill.  What kind of old, military-type ordnance was it?  We can take hearing the exact nomenclature.  Really.

In fact, if we heard it, that would make it easier to accept the oddly immediate assessment from the police that “This incident is not related to any of the other incidents that we’ve had here in Austin.”

I take their on-the-ground conclusion seriously, of course.  But as far as we know, they haven’t solved the problem of the first five bomb attacks.  That would mean they really don’t know what new incidents may be related to them.

Maybe they’re closing in on a suspect.  A short time ago, this curious update came across Twitter.

Makes you wonder what’s going to be going down in Pflugerville tonight.  We did hear a few hours ago that law enforcement had picked up a clue from surveillance video at a FedEx facility.

But beyond that, there’s no indication that police know who mounted the previous attacks, or why, and they have identified no pattern that would have to rule out using a different kind of device.

It seems like the more accurate wording, after the sixth blooey event, would be: “There is no evidence right now to connect this to the other incidents we’ve had here in Austin.”

Unless the police do know more than they’ve said, and don’t want to tip their hand to the suspect(s).

I hope we find out that this incendiary military-type ordnance indeed had nothing to do with the previous bombs.  It isn’t hard, however, to think of a very feasible scenario in which it would have been connected.  Even if this is just one bomber we’re talking about, it would make whatever he’s trying to do easier to bring off, if he could use already-existing “ordnance” – things he didn’t have to manufacture himself – to widen the damage-and-confusion picture on an accelerating schedule.

It would also increase the variety of his methods and venues.  So far, he has left packages on porches (one on 2 March, two on 12 March), laid a tripwire to set off a bomb (when a biker hit the tripwire on 18 March), and sent at least two packages through FedEx, one of which exploded Tuesday morning, at a processing facility in Schertz (about 70 miles from Austin), and the other of which was fortunately identified (Tuesday) before it could explode.

The four bombs that went off, killing 2 people and injuring several more, from 2 to 18 March. Note: the “incendiary device” event the night of 20 March occurred near the site of the 18 March tripwire bomb. (Map credit: Fox News)
Map showing the 6 bombs (5 exploded, 1 unexploded) identified since 2 March in Austin. (Map credit: KVUE)

It has also been reported Tuesday evening that a separate suspicious device was found near the blooey event at the Goodwill.  If I see an update on that, I’ll add it.

We still don’t know enough to do more than speculate, mostly fruitlessly, as to what’s going on here.  Dan Bongino said on the Hannity broadcast this evening that he really thought this might be more than one person.  I’d be looking at that too.

A particular point about the possibility of a group is that you’d have to look for more than one person (although presumably traveling separately, one person per event) on surveillance cameras.  That does complicate the problem.  But it’s also a mindset you have to either acknowledge, or not, at the risk of missing important recurring patterns.

Terrorism?

While it’s certainly not wrong, from the standpoint of impact on the public, to call this “terrorism,” there’s a reason why law enforcement hasn’t jumped on that bandwagon so far.  It has nothing to do with the race or “religious” motives of either the victims or the perps.  It’s the tactical sequence we’re seeing, which does not fit a profile associated with the types of terrorism we have a handle on.

In Austin, we’ve seen a lot of small bombs crammed into a very short period.  (Six confirmed bombs in 18 days; six blooey events and six bombs — one caught before it exploded — if we count the “military-type ordnance” at Goodwill.)  That doesn’t fit any recent profile.  You have to go back to the “anarchists” of 100 to 110 years ago (or the operations of insurgencies in regions like South Asia and parts of Latin America) to see a similar pattern.

In one sense, the evolving picture in Austin reminds me of the attacks in Paris in January 2015, when the single big attack on Charlie Hebdo was followed by the jihadi attackers moving to different parts of the city and creating additional havoc with a quasi-military-style moving offensive.  That was a break-out development at the time: the first time we had seen Islamist attackers do such a thing in a Western city.

The bombings in different parts of Austin, and the use of different tactics from day to day, have a similar feel to them, like an attempt to maintain a moving offensive.

But Islamists aren’t the first suspects who come to my mind in such a case, especially when the method of attack is bombs rather than guns.  This looks more like – well, like the old radical anarchists.

This may be just one guy making a statement.  Someone has taken credit for the attacks at Reddit already.  The police are investigating.

It’s awfully elaborate and time-compressed though.  The possibility has to be considered that a group is starting an offensive against civil order in the United States.

What group?  Someone radical, obviously.  We haven’t seen anything like this, in the lifetimes of even our oldest citizens, from KKK-type racists.  (Or neo-Nazis either, for that matter, if we want to consider them separately.)

This with the moving bomb-planting has not been a pattern of Islamist radicals in Western cities.  It’s been more characteristic of such attackers in the Middle East and South Asia.  Going just with my gut, it doesn’t seem to me like we’d see that particular leap, out of the blue, from Islamist radicals right now.  (And, of course, I could be wrong about that.)

I wouldn’t have been sure Antifa-type radicals were ready to cross this threshold either, although their profile and heritage (which threads directly to the old anarchists, as well as the Communist bomb-throwers of Weimar Germany) would make them the most likely suspects.  And maybe they’re not ready, and we’ll find out that this is all being done by one guy, or maybe a couple-three of them, who just want attention.

But it’s not too early to acknowledge the possibility that this is something very, very serious that doesn’t fit our reflexive assumptions about who does what.  It is quite frustrating to see one group of people rushing to make this about race, immigration, etc. because that’s what they invariably do, while another group of people suggests that maybe the anti-gun activists are somehow connected with it because two of the packages were sent through FedEx, which recently refused to cut its ties with the NRA.  (Come on, people.)

We can’t afford to be stuck on stupid this way, back behind the starting line yapping at each other like enraged poodles, when a race to undermine our social cohesion and sense of order and safety has already started.

Maybe they’ll catch a bomber in Pflugerville (or somewhere else) tonight.  Hope so.

Semper vigilans.

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J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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