Sunday, October 11, 2009

A 'Sacred' Oath

About a month ago, the Los Angeles Times published an article on one of the newest militia groups, the Oath Keepers. I was offended by the article because it was clearly written to show that at least one of the group's leaders, Rand Cardwell, was no foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing nut, but rather just a "regular guy," one who had been recently laid off and whose wife was having a re-occurrence of lung cancer. A Marine, he claimed that he was no racist and that he had proudly served alongside African Americans during his tour as a Marine. He just didn't like what he was seeing happening to his country.

"Our goal," he said, "is to support and defend the Constitution, and that's where it begins and ends at. . . . We're not a hate group. We're not a racist group. We're not calling for armed revolt against the government." ...

He says his opposition is rooted in deeply American values -- the same ones Obama acknowledged in his recent speech to Congress, when he noted "our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government."

But as Cardwell watched federal power grow -- first under President George W. Bush -- that healthy skepticism has led him to conclude that now is the time to sound an alarm. ...

His concerns began massing toward the end of the Bush administration. There was warrantless wiretapping, the Patriot Act, and the 2005 Real ID Act -- the proposed law, currently in administrative limbo, that would establish national standards for driver's licenses.

But it was the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the multibillion-dollar bailout of the financial system launched under Bush in autumn 2008, that compelled him to act. Cardwell feared TARP would give government unprecedented sway over private sector companies.

"That was the spike going into my forehead," he said. "Because our nation was already in huge debt. The fact that you've got the federal government that's going to take our tax dollars and give them to financial institutions violates the very principles our nation was founded on."

I wondered when I first read the article (and continue to wonder today) just where Mr. Cardwell's concern was in the early days of the Bush administration, when the Patriot Act was rammed through and when the news of warrantless wire-tapping and email searches surfaced. Where was he when it became clear that the nation was lied into a war that had no rationale beyond the desire to corner the oil market? A lot of his comrades in the Marine Corps died and are dying because of that little extra-constitutional move. Why did he wait until the TARP vote (which, by the way, came after the November, 2008 elections) to voice his displeasure? And why did he think this latest iteration of the Patriot movement of the 1990s was for him?

The Oath Keepers is an interesting groups for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that they have a specific target audience: the military and public safety personnel, active and inactive, although all those sympathetic to the movement are welcome. The target audience is reminded that they have taken an oath to defend the Constitution and not the government, and members are asked to sign on to a list of promises in support of that oath.

I went to the organization's website to find the list of those promises. I'm just listing the promises here, but if you want to see the rationale for each one, click on over.

1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.

2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people

3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.

4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.

5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control.”

9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.

10.We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

Clearly some of these promises are just loopy, based on the delusional ravings of the Becks and Dobbs of the "mainstream" media. Some, on their face, are just cut and pasted from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The real tell, however, is the first promise, the one about disarming the public. The fact that keeping guns of all sorts, from S&W Model 41s for plinking to assault weapons and grenade launchers in the hands of everyone, especially those members who have been trained in their use is on top the list is chilling.

What is especially troubling is that the Oath Keepers is just one group among many militia style organizations which have resurfaced and which are gaining ground among a significant segment of the population. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented this rise in a report available on their website. I urge you to go read it. Here's what the SPLC had to say about the resurgence:

Almost a decade after largely disappearing from public view, right-wing militias, ideologically driven tax defiers and sovereign citizens are appearing in large numbers around the country. "Paper terrorism" — the use of property liens and citizens' "courts" to harass enemies — is on the rise. And once-popular militia conspiracy theories are making the rounds again, this time accompanied by nativist theories about secret Mexican plans to "reconquer" the American Southwest. One law enforcement agency has found 50 new militia training groups — one of them made up of present and former police officers and soldiers. Authorities around the country are reporting a worrying uptick in Patriot activities and propaganda. "This is the most significant growth we've seen in 10 to 12 years," says one. "All it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."

A key difference this time is that the federal government — the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy — is headed by a black man. That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate. One result has been a remarkable rash of domestic terror incidents since the presidential campaign, most of them related to anger over the election of Barack Obama. At the same time, ostensibly mainstream politicians and media pundits have helped to spread Patriot and related propaganda, from conspiracy theories about a secret network of U.S. concentration camps to wholly unsubstantiated claims about the president's country of birth.
[Emphasis added]

So that's why I deplore the Los Angeles Times's puff piece. While I agree that demonizing those who hold beliefs different than mine is unhealthy and unhelpful, granting those whose beliefs are dangerous to the entire nation the camouflage of "regular folks" is unconscionable. I have a great respect for all aspects of the creation. I like snakes. I would never, however, invite a rattler into my apartment to share food and water. The Times did us a great disservice by this one-sided, dishonest article. By its standard, the Times would have made Timothy McVeigh an Eagle Scout. Once again, our media has let us down.

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Blogger woodbutcher said...

I am not a militia member but i have met a few from differant groups through out the country. They are not What the media makes them out to be . Regardless of what we have been told by the SPLC. most of these groups are ex military who are concerned about the erosion of or rights and freedom. Particulary the 2cnd amendment. Thomas jefferson told us that the main reason for the right to bear arms is a last resort if the govt becomes to tyranical and trie's to do away with the consttution or any part of it.I really dont see what is bad about taking an oath not to deprive a fellow american of their right's 7 by the way these peopel are doing this to defend ALL OUR rights not just the rights of 1 group of american's but all of us.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Rex H. McTyeire said...

I am an Oath Keeper. We are not a militia and are nonpartisan. I am not a Republican, and have been registered to other parties or independent all my life. Without debating the nuances of your welcome exploration that trouble me, I have to take issue with an obvious trend in much media comment lately, that stands above the others: You suggest that if extreme is evil, and all right of you is extreme right wing, and if that defines us, as well as the Republican party this not just logic gymnastics to demonize the Republican party as evil? And get Oath Keepers misfiled in the same "extreme" box while you are at it? (Which you seem to have predetermined to be the best way to handle us?) I am sorry; but I see at least partisan bias and ideological prejudice driving any logic that might survive there, and it is obvious in the most conspicuous way. If you keep "extremizing" all political oppositionto anything in this manner; including all association that may produce a threat in your mind:then all roads lead to "minoritizng" and isolating yourself on a very lonely self defeating and shrinking enclave. You make your view the extreme one. Your logic suggests that if a drunk driver was a AAA member, then AAA and cars are the problem.

3:59 AM  

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