There is no degree of mental strain too taxing for liberals to employ if it means linking Charles and David Koch to some tragedy in the world. Nevada Senator Harry Reid has blamed the Koch brothers for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Benghazi scandal, global warming, the Veterans Affairs scandal — even the proliferation of hospitals across America (how horrible!). Now, liberals are tying their favorite bugbears to terrorism.
“The Kochs have worked hard to keep … potentially deadly materials available to people including Tim McVeigh and Ahmad Khan Rahami,” the suspect tied to the bombs in New York City and New Jersey last week. This quotation isn’t from Harry Reid — not yet — but I wouldn’t exactly be surprised if it was. The argument comes from Jud Lounsbury of progressive.com in an article he entitled “How Kochs Played a Role in Easy Access to NYC Bomb Making Materials.”
The logic is shoddy — no surprise there — but Lounsbury’s argument is stronger than you might think, for such a daft conspiracy theory. The connection is ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in the bombs used by Timothy McVeigh for his truck bomb in 1995 and by Rahami in his foiled attacks this month. The Koch connection to the substance is a little more forced.
It is possible to make ammonium nitrate using natural gas and steam, and the substance is used in some fertilizers. Naturally, Lounsbury emphasizes the Kochs’ support for the fracking boom — which has decreased gas prices for everyone, what’s not to like? — and notes that Koch Industries has a fertilizer subsidiary. As the liberal writer emphasizes, “Cheap natural gas = cheap production of nitrogen-based fertilizer … especially when you own the natural gas.” Wait — why does the price matter if you already own it? Never mind, let the Koch conspiracy theories proceed.
Ammonium nitrate is also mixed with fuel oil (as McVeigh did) to make an industrial explosive, used in coal mining, quarrying, metal mining, and civil construction. Indeed, it was not hard to find a link to Koch Industries in Koch Carbon, a subsidiary which sells bulk commodities, many of which come from mining.
So Charles and David Koch, as owners of a successful business with subsidiaries in fertilizing and mining, are connected to a substance used in fertilizer and explosives — which also happened to be used by McVeigh and Rahami. Lounsbury then takes a jump, however, arguing that the Kochs’ nefarious benefitting from ammonium nitrate somehow ties them to the terrorism which used the same substance to make explosives.
Then the liberal writer argues that the Kochs’ supposedly all-powerful political influence is to blame for the lack of regulations on ammonium nitrate. Although a 2007 law signed by President Bush would allow the Department of Homeland Security to crack-down on sales of ammonium nitrate, no rules have been promulgated. In 2011, the department presented proposed rules, but pushback from the fertilizer and mining industries (which heavily use the substance, not surprising), stopped the rule-making process.
That’s the problem with trying to regulate a substance used in so many ways, it’s not really feasible to control it without serious economic costs that might outweigh the safety benefits involved.
In 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion ravaged the tiny town of West, Texas. The blast damaged 500 homes. While regulators in Texas tried to clamp down on the substance then, an investigation in May of this year concluded that the fires were intentionally set.
The Dallas Morning News attacked then-Attorney General Greg Abbott for having taken donations from Koch Industries employees. Abbott, whose word as attorney general carries the force of law unless challenged by a court or lawmakers, decided against making information about large chemical inventories public, but allowed homeowners to ask companies in their neighborhoods what they store.
Abbott’s opponents attacked this decision as politically motivated, but he argued that terrorists would be able to target or steal such compounds if their locations were made public. This seems to fit with the investigation from this year, which pointed to an intentional attack. Ammonium nitrate itself does not just explode — it requires a process to turn it into an explosive.
Next Page: If the Koch brothers aren’t to blame, who is?
Without the Abbott link, Lounsbury’s case falls particularly thin. Even he admits that “the lion’s share of the blame for the federal inaction should lay at the feet of President Obama.” But, of course, he also blames Congress, and pinpoints Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee.
Johnson has not mentioned this issue, but he has created the “Victims of Government,” a chronicle of businesses and citizens having been hurt by “all the rules, all the regulations, and all the government intrusion into our lives.” Lounsbury cannot consider this a legitimate concern, so he immediately notes that Johnson has received support from millions of dollars in campaign ads from the Kochs’ expansive network of non-profits. Surely, no one would care about victims of government unless they were paid off by the Kochs, right?
At the end of the day, Rahami and McVeigh are the ones responsible for their acts of terrorism. You cannot blame the mining industry or the fertilizer industry for using a substance that Rahami and McVeigh employed in their terrorism. You certainly cannot blame Charles and David Koch for somehow causing Ron Johnson to not act on Bush administration regulations when he seems to believe that regulations themselves cause problems for thousands of Americans.
But there is a place where blame can be placed, and it’s not on the Koch brothers. Somehow, Rahami was able to carry out his attacks after the FBI had been alerted of potential terrorist activity. That’s right — Rahami was what PJ Media’s Patrick Poole calls a “known wolf.” His own father alerted the FBI that he was a terrorist — TWO YEARS AGO.
Maybe Jud Lounsbury should have thought about that before he tried blaming the Koch brothers. And to Harry Reid — if you’re reading this, don’t attack Charles and David Koch. Look at the FBI.