Fascism Watch: Police and Military Lining Up Against Obama

Launched in March by Las Vegan Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers bills itself as a nonpartisan group of current and retired law enforcement and military personnel who vow to fulfill their oaths to the Constitution.

More specifically, the group’s members, which number in the thousands, pledge to disobey orders they deem unlawful, including directives to disarm the American people and to blockade American cities. By refusing the latter order, the Oath Keepers hope to prevent cities from becoming “giant concentration camps,” a scenario the 44-year-old Rhodes says he can envision happening in the coming years. […]

It’s the “cross-pollinating” of extremist groups — some racist, some not — that is of concern, Potok said. As evidence that the danger is real, he points to several recent murders committed by men with anti-government or racist views.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reached a similar conclusion in a report earlier this year about the rise of right-wing extremism. The report said the nation’s economic downturn and Obama’s race are “unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.”

The homeland security report added that “disgruntled military veterans” might be vulnerable to recruitment by right-wing extremist groups.

That warning was enough to make Rhodes feel paranoid.

“They’re accusing anybody who opposes Obama of being a racist or a potential terrorist,” he said. “What they’re saying is, ‘We’re coming after you.'”

Las Vegas Review: Ready To Revolt: Oath Keepers pledges to prevent dictatorship in United States

(via Nick P)

To their credit, the “Oath Keepers” acknowledge the Patriot Act’s erosion of civil liberties as well. But where were they during the 8 years that Bush was president? Obama gets 400% more death threats than Bush but still lets people carry assault rifles around him, and the Oathers think that they’re being persecuted? Bush had people hauled away for wearing the wrong t-shirts.

I have little good to say about Obama, but I can’t say that his administration is less tolerant of dissent than Bush’s.

From the Oather’s Declaration of Orders We Will NOT Obey: “We will NOT obey any order to conduct warrantless searches of the American people, their homes, vehicles, papers, or effects — such as warrantless house-to house searches for weapons or persons.”

I take this to mean they will start refusing to do warrantless searches for drugs? For 28 years the federal government has waged war on its people (a disproportionate number of them black), using militarized civilian law enforcement agents, and it’s only now that a not-right-wing-enough black president has been elected that they are worried?

Now, there have been militia movements before, and they got particularly scary during the Clinton years. But most of those fears were overblown. The Oklahoma City bombing was used to justify the proto-Patriot Act: the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. So it’s worth while to reiterate that this should not be a call for more repressive laws.

These latest developments – Oath Keepers, assault rifles at Obama rallies, violent attacks on pro-health care demonstrators – do seem particularly more frightening than those of the Clinton-era. And those Clinton-era movements did have a real result. Not the assassination of a president, or a legitimate insurrection by right-wing militias. The result was the sharp right-wing turn the country took during and after the Clinton administration.

And that’s what’s scariest now. Even if the current movements don’t end in, say, a Blackwater coup (and the chance that something like that would happen this time around does seem greater), we’re still probably in for darker days.

Update: Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes opines on the drug war and the Bush administration here (via Jesse Walker in the comments):

The Pentagon and its close allies, the defense contractors, turned to the “war on drugs” and “terrorism” as the new cash-crop reason for the bloated Pentagon budget. We even had shrill warnings about the grave dangers of “narco-terrorists” who actually combined those two horrid evils (shudder) and we were told that only the military could stop them! Thus a new mission was born for the U.S. military which has steadily pushed its way into law enforcement, starting out in support roles, just like in Vietnam, but getting closer and closer to in-your-face and hands-on direct action. There has also been a corresponding and complimentary steady militarization of law enforcement such that the two are now hard to tell apart.

Is Rhodes position the official position of the Oath Keepers? As of now (10am PST 10/25/09) there is no official position on the drug war recorded on their site by Google. The question is posed here in the comments and not answered.

Still, I’m impressed with Rhodes’s position and encouraged by the fact that he’s “writing a book on the dangers of applying the laws of war to the American people.” (See Radley Balko’s paper Overkill for more on this subject.)


  1. Very worthy.

    I cannot be as certain that those Clinton-era movements caused a turn to the right. Perhaps they followed that turn, or co-existed. ‘X caused Y is nearly as difficult to demonstrate as ‘X will cause Y.’ Worth trying, sometimes we get close, but I’m not as certain as your post seems to be.

  2. Trevor – you’re right. It wasn’t the militia movement, or whatever you want to call it, itself that directly caused the right-wing shift.

    I do think they were part of a feedback loop contributing to and affected by increasing right-wing sentiment in the populace, and that this sentiment lead directly to the electoral and political victories of the political right, starting in 1994 and culminating in 2000.

  3. I don’t see anything frightening or fascistic about this. They aren’t threatening a coup or anything violent. They’re pledging to refuse unconstitutional orders. That’s the exact opposite of your earlier Fascism Watch post.

  4. “I take this to mean they will start refusing to do warrantless searches for drugs?”

    Pose this question to the organisation please.

  5. Jesse – In my mind, the example of the pre-emptive arrests of anti-RNC activists is is an excellent example of what bothers me about the Oathers. They talk about paranoid hypothetical scenarios like concentration camps under Obama, but are nearly completely silent about actual events since the militarization of the drug war in 1981.

    The oathers are making a clear statement that they do not stand with the rule of law or with democratically elected leaders.

    killacelebrity is right, though, I should pose my questions directly to a representative of the organization.

  6. They…are nearly completely silent about actual events since the militarization of the drug war

    Are they? Here is the founder of the Oath Keepers, writing while Bush was still president, denouncing the militarization of the police and explicitly linking it to the drug war.

  7. Jesse – I stand mostly corrected. The Oath Keepers site still makes no official reference to the drug war, but they do have an official position on the right of states of secede from the union, and have run anti-vaccine commentary.

    However, Rhodes position is encouraging. I’ve added an update to the blog post above.

  8. (If I had to guess, I’d guess Rhodes is hesitant to push an anti-Drug War agenda on the Oathers web site for fear that it would be divisive in the law enforcement community)

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