While the brave men and women of our armed forces struggle eight time zones away against a tyrant who thinks he can terrorize his fellow human beings with impunity, the extreme environmental and animal rights movements in our own hemisphere have been waging their own war of terror against America. And a strange nexus may be emerging between these lunatics and the violent wing of the anti-war protest movement.

On Friday, the “press office” of the North American Animal Liberation Front (ALF), operated by one David Barbarash (a convicted animal-rights felon who also sells bomb-making manuals through the mail), released its annual report for 2002. No kidding here — Barbarash happily brags about “100 illegal direct actions” committed by his cadre of violent thugs against North American businesses, government agencies, and universities.

Not surprisingly, the highest-profile target on the ALF’s terrorist hit list was McDonald’s, which suffered three attacks in 2002 — and four already this year. We’ve told you that ALF criminals recently attempted to burn down two different McDonald’s in Chico, California, and two others in Albuquerque just a week later. Oddly, the March 3 Chico attack was reported on that same day in an online extreme animal rights journal called No Compromise. The official claim of responsibility from the ALF came on March 18. We wouldn’t dream of speculating about how this web-zine “scooped” the ALF’s regular communications channels by more than two weeks, but it’s worth noting that No Compromise boasts financial support from, among others, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk.

McDonalds’ internationally recognizable logo and menu have also made it a surrogate target for anti-American sentiment overseas. In Pakistan, a coalition of anti-war groups is calling for an all-out boycott of McDonald’s and KFC (these same protesters declared Saddam Hussein “a hero” last Thursday). Friday’s Islam On-Line reported that a Norwegian McDonald’s was recently firebombed by an activist with a Molotov cocktail. And here at home, another group of protesters “smashed in three windows at a McDonald’s restaurant [and] set a flag on fire” on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

Law enforcement presumes that these violent attacks were anti-war statements rather than animal-rights crimes, but the line between the two is increasingly blurry. Take, for example, an attack on an Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Edison, New Jersey. One week ago, an underground group calling itself the “Direct Action Front” announced that it had vandalized the military office: “The front door was shattered and the inside was methodically destroyed. Front displays were damaged, propaganda was scattered, and marine recruitment pictures were smashed.”

We note that the “communique” issued by the perpetrators in this case was distributed by the “Frontline Information Service” — the same means of communication used by the ALF. It’s also telling that the attack happened in Edison, New Jersey — the very same town where violent radicals from the special-interest ALF subset known as SHAC gathered in November to hear speeches by criminals like British ALF ringleader Robin Webb and convicted arsonist Rodney Coronado. And Edison is less than 10 miles from the American headquarters of Huntingdon Life Sciences, the medical research firm that is SHAC’s primary target.

Anti-war attacks, or animal-rights crimes of opportunity? You be the judge. Meanwhile, activist attacks on American businesses continue, such as the arson fire that caused $10,000 in damage to a veal processing company in Petaluma, California on Saturday night. The slogan “stop the killing” — equally at home in animal-rights and anti-war circles — was also found spray-painted on the building’s exterior.

Members of the Animal Liberation Front apparently feel entitled to terrorize people with whom they disagree, and to use threats of death and destruction as a means of wielding power over their neighbors. Saddam Hussein has operated under this philosophy for decades. Let’s hope the ALF and its sympathizers soon attract the same sort of official attention.