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January 19, 2003
Gathering Storm (Dees)

Gathering Storm

I just finished Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat (by Morris Dees, with James Corcoran).

Note: This was intended to be a review. It turned into a rant, so let me add, up front, that the book was interesting, even absorbing, and frightening in what it says about the growing militia threat in this country. There. Now you don't have to read the rest of this, right?)

A disturbing book, not the least because it was published in 1996 and I found myself repeatedly wondering, as I read, what the violent and extremist militia organizations Rees wrote about have been doing in the last five or six years.

In its way, this is a fairly comprehensive picture of what the unofficial militia in the USofA looked like at the time the book was published, including the recent roots of the militia movement.

I don't blame Rees for not digging back further and tracing the foundation of these extremist groups before 1980. However they got here, they're here now and it's the task of Rees and others at the Southern Poverty Law Center to track the groups down and assess their potential for violence.

Rees's credentials are impeccable, as they would be for a man who has been targeted for death by these groups many times, and his knowledge of his subject is comprehensive and he manages to put most of the actions of these groups into perspective, including some of the consequences of their preaching of hate and intolerance.

"After our March conference on the militias, we turned our attention to planning for April. The influential Militia of Montana [MOM] was attempting to make April 19 a red-letter date for the militia movement. It devoted almost the entire March issue of its newsletter, Taking Aim, to the case of Richard Wayne Snell, an Arkansas white supremacist convicted of two murders, who was scheduled to be executed on April 19, 1995.

Calling Snell a "Patriot to be Executed by The Beast," MOM linked his execution date to the April 19, 1993, burning of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and, erroneously, to the governments attempt to arrest white separatist Randy Weaver (the showdown at Ruby Ridge actually began on August 21, 1192), and to the burning of Lexington by British troops in 1772 (actually, the British burned military supplies in Concord on another April day of that year).

MOM claimed that April 19 was "the first day of a week-long sacrificial preparation for the GRAND CLIMAX ceremony celebrated by those who follow the Luciferian religion." It would join with others to call for the day to be nationally recognized as Militia Day.

Snell's pending execution, the incineration of the Branch Davidians, and the killing of Vicki and Samuel Weaver had become battle cries against the federal government that were sounded repeatedly at patriot and militia meetings, and in their faxes, flyers, newsletters, and Internet postings. At Snell's hearing before the Arkansas clemency board, one of his supporters warned board members and the governor that the "wrath of God" would fall upon them if Snell was executed as scheduled on April 19.

We didn't know what would happen on April 19 but we felt certain that something significant would occur. We learned that a group called the Veterans Against the New World Order with strong Identity leanings was planning an event to commemorate Waco and to protest Snell's execution at a Confederate memorial park in western Arkansas on April 19.

That morning, Mike Reynolds, one of our Militia Task Force investigators, boarded a plane to go there. It was 7:00 a.m. In Oklahoma City, parents were already dropping their children off at the day care center in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Because of the timing of the publication of the book, Rees's warnings about the potential for violence of these militia groups ended after the arrest of McVeigh and Nichols but before the two went to trial, but there are other examples of militia members tracked down and brought into court for their behavior.

There were things in here that I new or suspected, without ever having put them into words. Guns, for instance. As I think I've mentioned in the past, I don't really hold an all-out "no guns for citizens" position, in spite of my abhorrence of people whose children get hold of their guns and use them to kill themselves or others. Rees quotes from James Gibson's Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America:

In a world where most men have no real power or control over their lives, mastering weapon is a kind of grand "compensation" price. I'm not rich, I'm not politically powerful. The news media doesn't call me up and ask me what I think about things. I don't have scores of beautiful women after me. But, by God, I can kill anything that moves within 35 yards of me and have a good time doing it. I have that much power, anyhow. I may never use it, but I know I've got the power if anyone ever tries to mess with me.
I think I always sort of knew that. There's not, quite frankly, much space left in this world for the "pioneering spirit" that tamed this country or, indeed, the rest of the world. I'm digressing, I know, but the point I was trying to make is that this country was settled by felons and other dispossessed people and if you take a close look, you might see that the same kind of dispossessed people are joining today's militia groups.

People who feel they have no power over their own lives. People who feel that an oppressive ruling class is using them like pawns. People who want some space to live their own lives, their own ways. This is what they say, again and again.

Big government has gotten too big. Corporations own the politicians body and soul and the peoples' "votes" no longer count for anything since there's little difference in profit-mongering between the two major parties. The militia members believe that there's an organized plot to bring the world under one system of government from which no citizen will be able to get recourse for wrongs. The "little guy" counts for nothing and if we donít start paying attention and fighting back, the government is going to disarm and oppress us, turning us into production-minded robots whose only function is to consume and then consume some more to keep the multi-national companies rich.

And there's a lot of truth in what they say.

Big corporations do pride themselves on being "multi-national" today. They're proud of the fact that they owe no allegiance or loyalty to any country or any form of government.

Big money is buying the country right out from beneath our feet. When was the last time you watched a college sports event without getting distracted by the dozens of sponsor logos plastered all over every free inch of space in the arena and on the monitors? Corporations sponsor entire college sports programs these days, "donating" clothing and equipment in return for massive amounts of free advertising space, promises that coaches and officials will preach the benefits of their products to team members, and prohibition of competitor merchandise.

Primary schools aren't exempt. I remember the murmuring and disapproval with it was announced that Apple was donating huge numbers of computer to schools across the country but how naÔve can you be to think that this was somehow an original idea? Cash-strapped schools are frequently delighted to accept money from corporate "donors." And in return? Those same corporations get a chance to advertise to and win over the most valuable demographic of allÖthe consumer with another 70 years of buying time ahead of them.

And does anyone's vote count these days? Well, I donít know. I guess a lot depends on whether or not you're voting in Florida, doesn't it? But while we're on the subject, just exactly how sure are you that the people counting the votes in your district are actually counting the actual votes? If the Republicans, the Democrats, or some third-party is supplying refreshments, drinks, transportation, and other goodies, might not a few of those "dimpled chads" somehow wind up as votes for that party?

I'm not saying it happens a lot. In fact, I have a naÔve and stubborn faith in that army of retirees who make up the bulk of vote-counters in communities across the country. But it could happen and I'm not the only one who suspects that, based on the scrutiny Florida's re-counters were getting.

Take a look at the "machine" the Republicans put into action during the last two major elections, including reported attempts to mislead of encourage minority voters, and ask yourself if you think they're above tampering with that smiling, little, old lady who watches you drop your ballot in the box.

(Don't even get me started on the potential for fraud that those electronic voting systems allow.)


Back to the militia.

There are a couple of minor differences of course, between these "freedom fighters" and the people who settled this country and determined the shape of our government.

Most "pioneers," before they left Europe, weren't brandishing AK-47s.

They weren't collecting hand grenades and dynamite and Stinger missiles and deciding that it's okay to kill innocent bystanders and women and children for your cause, since God did it a lot in the Old Testament.

They didn't think that aliens colonized our planet or that the "government manipulated the weather, causing tornadoes" to disrupt the lives of ordinary people.

The people who wrote and ratified our Constitution and the Bill of Rights weren't attempting to limit the freedom of others (except as that freedom might cause harm or death to other citizens).

Except in France, there weren't any groups in the "Old World" who were advocating wholesale slaughter of their rulers and, indeed, anyone who didn't fit the profile of a "citizen" by the definition of the Revolution.

(Later, of course, there was that group in Germany not only advocating but implementing wholesale slaughter of their "enemies." Today's militia groups have a lot in common with those guys. Nor surprising since the Klan and neo-Nazi ties of the militia groups are very obvious.)

The Founding Fathers didn't want to set up a priestly, ruling elite" who would institute a paternalistic totalitarian form of rule designed to keep everyone in lockstep with a narrow-minded, bigoted, "I hate everyone who isn't just like me mentality.

And the people who settled this country didn't leave their homelands because they didn't agree with their representatives but working within the system for change wasn't as exciting as killing someone. The original settlers didn't feel more manly brandishing an assault rifle than casting a vote.

And, for the most part, the pioneers didn't bring their problems upon themselves.

In the end, these militia members are the dispossessed, yes, but they're in that condition largely because they choose to be.

No one is forcing them outside the system. No one is denying them the right to organize and protest against government actions they disagree with. Whether at the county, state, or national level, there's nothing preventing these tens of thousands of people from standing up and demanding change. Nothing is stopping them from stating their case publicly.

Well, okay, there's one thing.

Their racist, misogynistic beliefs aren't shared by enough people in this country to give them any real hope of reinstituting segregation and killing off "career women" who refuse to stay in the kitchen. So, you know, they could organize, but odds of creating any real change where these malcontents and conspiracy nuts are going to wind up at the top of the heap is vanishingly small. I guess that's why they buy guns and plan to load dissenters into railroad cars and "double-time them" into mine shafts.

Don't let my mockery fool you. These are dangerous people who are backed by other dangerous people who have money.

There comes a time, as Rees has pointed out in his book, when sneaking around behind trees and shooting at paper targets isn't fun any more, and then these guys are going to turn to real targets. It has already happened, not only in Oklahoma City but in isolated deaths across the country.

The militia is a real and growing problem. Rees says:

Economic uncertainty, job insecurity, corporate downsizing, declining real wages, changing technology, and competition from cheap foreign labor are scaring people to death. Corporations report higher earnings, executives earn huge salaries, stock markets hit new highs, but the average worker feels abandoned and betrayed. The nation that was so confident after coming home victorious from World War II is not sure of nothing. We are, many feel, a nation in decline.

That was in 1996. Now we've had the added benefit of a stock-market crash, 9/11, two years of Bushleaguer warmongering where "the people" have watched the rich get richer (with government help), watched their savings disappear in the insanity of a constantly falling stock market, watched the government open the door to spending tax dollars with corporations who have moved off-shore to avoid being a paying part of our economy, and are still watching the slow dissolution of an extremist right-wing Administration who stole an office and then didn't know what to do with it.

I wonder how those militia groups feel now?

Posted by AnneZook at 02:43 PM