Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 3 Num. 71

("Quid coniuratio est?")

"American movement" -- of arms and ideology [From USA Today, Jan. 30, 1995, p. 7A]

(Spurred on by the fiery disaster in Waco, America's militia movement is growing, armed and -- some say -- dangerous.)

Militias stepping out from shadows

By Mark Potok

(Dallas) -- Men train in the pre-dawn darkness of a field north of here, dummy weapons in hand.

Others study military medicine west of Fort Worth or practice shooting skills and survival exercises outside San Antonio.

A movement is growing in this state and the nation -- a rising of thousands of people inflamed by often-bizarre ideologies that call for forming armed volunteer militias to save the United States from fascism.

"The militia movement," says Texas organizer Jon Roland, "is a good-government movement with guns."

And that's the theme that increasingly is alarming state and federal law enforcement officials, who, after years of dismissing them, are beginning to take militias seriously.

In the past six months, militias -- many called to arms by the government's deadly standoff two years ago with Branch Davidians near Waco -- have appeared in at least 24 states, drawing up to 50,000 members.

-+- Grim warnings of a showdown -+-

Claiming that criminal elements have taken over much of the federal government, most militia leaders have avoided calls for an armed uprising but darkly warn they may one day have to shoot.

"There is one last hope to avoid armed confrontation, and that's if our state governments rise up and tell our federal government to back off," says Ray Southwell, chief of staff for the commander of the Northern Michigan Regional Militia. "If the state does not rise up... the American people will."

Talk like that -- along with the boasts of many militia leaders of secret units of police and military -- deeply concerns observers.

Although federal officials will not publicly discuss any investigations, a 10-page intelligence brief by federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms recently was circulated to several police departments. It warned that militiamen are "extremely paramilitary, anti-ATF and literal interpreters of the Constitution" who may be breaking gun laws. {1}.

That would not come as a surprise to Michigan officials.

"We've got such an insurgency here," says Fowlerville, Mich., Police Chief Gary Krause after the arrest of three camouflaged militia members in a car full of semiautomatic weapons, gas masks, night-vision devices and 700 rounds of ammunition, some of it armor-piercing. "There's a very high potential of something disastrous happening."

-+- A wake-up call in Waco -+-

The idea of militias, drawn from earlier groups like Posse Comitatus and Aryan Nations {2}, took root again in 1992 when an FBI sniper killed the wife of an Idaho separatist.

But it was Waco that really got the movement going. Many militia members saw the 52-day standoff and fiery disaster that ended it as proof that the federal government would stop at nothing to crush resistance.

"We see Waco as a centralization of power; the federal government coming into all areas of our lives," says Norm Olson, commander of the Northern Michigan Regional Militia. "The militia movement in America is the biggest thing since the Revolution."

"Waco was the second shot heard 'round the world," {3} says Russell Smith, Dallas commander of the Texas Constitutional Militia, now organized in almost 20 counties. "It woke us up to a very corrupt beast."

-+- An "internationalist" conspiracy -+-

The ideologies driving the militias are complicated, often incredible, sometimes racist and almost always paranoid. {4}. Among a host of conspiracy theories is this scenario:

"Fantasies," says Faith Elliot of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose members are supposed to be part of the plot.

And Mark Briskman, Dallas director for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, dismisses that kind of talk as so much recycled anti-Semitic vitriol.

So it has been, in the past, difficult for many people to take this sort of thing too seriously. But given the almost fanatical devotion of some militia members -- and because they are well- armed -- disbelief is now tempered by concern.

"People are genuinely arming themselves and getting ready for combat," warns Fred Clarkson of Planned Parenthood of America's Public Policy Institute. "So it's inevitable some combat will actually take place." {5}.

-+- This is an American movement -+-

Critics say that in addition to arms, many militias are well- stocked with leaders known to be white supremacists.

Mike Reynolds, editorial director for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Klanwatch publication, says he and many in law enforcement believe a national militia strategy was laid out at an October 1992 meeting in Estes Park, Colo.

About 150 members of the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Posse Comitatus and Christian Identity met to discuss militias.

Such accusations infuriate many militiamen and their leaders, who deny any racism and insist their movement will remain legal.

"The majority are absolutely opposed to any racial hate groups," says Ann Utterback, Comal County commander for the Texas Constitutional Militia, which recently held a "muster" of 500 people at the Alamo. "We totally reject Nazis, KKK, Aryan Nations. This is an American movement."

National militia leader Linda Thompson, founder of the Unorganized Militia of the United States, denies being racist, anti-Semitic or "right wing." If there are such elements in the movement, she says, they are "government plants" wrecking the work she started.

Then she accuses many of her fellow militia leaders, along with the reporter interviewing her, of being agents for the ADL [Anti- Defamation League] -- which battles anti-Semitism.

Chip Berlet, analyst with Political Research Associates of Cambridge, Mass., which monitors far-right movements, says it is "intellectually dishonest" to label the entire movement racist. Rather, he says, the underlying themes are anti-government, anti- gun control and conspiratorial.

"There are more people in the movement uncomfortable with anti- Semitism and white supremacy," he says. "But that may change."

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

[CN -- This is one of several related articles. See USA Today for the other articles.]

[CN -- I have been informed that Bo Gritz will be featured on the ABC show "Day One" this Thursday, Feb. 2, 1995.]

-------------------------<< Notes >>----------------------------- {1} "...literal interpreters of the Constitution..." Is there some other way to interpret the Constitution? {2} "The idea of militias, drawn from earlier groups like Posse Comitatus and Aryan Nations..." Drawn from the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land.
{3} "Waco was the second shot heard 'round the world..." The original "shot heard round the world" occurred at (I believe) Lexington, New Hampshire in 1775 and marked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War (a.k.a. the American War for Independence).
{4} "...sometimes racist and almost always paranoid." Everything I have heard indicates that all races, creeds, and religions are welcome to join the various militias. Is there any of the militias that excludes members based on race, creed or religion? I haven't heard of any. As to "...almost always paranoid..." -- "Paranoid", a.k.a. "crazy" a.k.a. "non-approved thought". {5} " it's inevitable some combat will actually take place." I find that statement ominous. Whether or not combat takes place depends on the feds. The militias are in a purely defensive posture.

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Brian Francis Redman "The Big C"

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