The Government and Domestic Terrorism
The militia movement, including various antigovernment groups with the radical ideology, poses a threat to the political stability of the USA. These well-trained, resourceful organizations seek to undermine the federal authority. They expressively oppose the idea of federal government’s supremacy and gun control, while committing acts of domestic terrorism.
The militia movement has a long history and includes armed groups with different ideological agendas. American scholars usually define the militia as structured, paramilitary organizations, engaged in anti-government activities (Domingue 15). The militia movement consists of the local militias, governed by aspiring leaders and supported by numerous adherents. Although they do not have centralized leadership, the local groups frequently interact with each other by exchanging messages and recruiting new members throughout the country (Freilich 11). Researches distinguish two categories of militia groups, namely, “talking militias” that refrain from promoting the idea of regime change and advocate the right of bearing arms, and “marching militias” that use force for achieving their goals and share radical views. The Viper Militia group, based in Phoenix, Arizona, is an example of the marching militia, since it has succeeded in obtaining the massive collection of guns and using explosives (Baysinger 7). The phenomenon of militia dates back to the American Revolution, when American colonists, such as Daniel Morgan’s sharpshooters, Francis Marion’s swamp fighters, and Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain boys, made a tangible contribution to the revolutionary cause by defeating the British forces at Lexington and Concord. In addition, the militia had a twofold purpose of protecting citizens and serving as a regular army in war times (Crothers 28). Remarkable accomplishments of the revolutionary militia become both an example and a symbol of the modern militia ideology.
Several events led to the rise of antigovernment rhetoric and stimulated the development of political radicalism. The exponential growth of modern militia groups started in 1992, as a result of the rising wave of critique towards government methods of dealing with extremists (Crothers 75). In August 1992, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) made an attempt to arrest Randy Weaver, accused of committing ten crimes against the U. S. government (Crothers 88). An eleven-day standoff with law enforcement officers resulted in deaths of his wife and son, and a federal agent in a crossfire (Crothers 86-88). The event led to numerous protests of citizens against the careless behavior of federal agencies that led to deaths of the innocent child and woman (Crothers 93). Two months later, the meeting of representatives of several notorious antigovernment organizations, including the Christian Identity, Ku Klux Klan, Arian Nations and the Gun Owners of America, led to the formation of the ideological core of the modern militia movement (Crothers 93). Radical convictions of these groups received great support among the U. S. population due to another episode of unsuccessful government intervention. In 1993, the FBI and ATF conducted a raid against a religious group Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh. They accused the spiritual leader of multiple gun violations and prohibited sexual practices (Crothers 104-105). In the aftermath of the standoff, seventy-five members of the Branch Davidians died in the result of fire or gun wounds (Crothers 110). These events considerably damaged the reputation of the FBI and ATF and sparked nationwide hostility against the federal government, urging the law enforcement authority to implement a new strategy of handling religious and ideological extremism. Moreover, the newly formed militia groups, such as Militias of Montana and Michigan, successfully exploited the pejorative image of the federal authority to call for armed resistance against the oppressor of citizens’ constitutional rights (Crothers 113). The provided examples of government’s misuse of power fueled political extremism and gave way for the rise of the militia movement across the country.
The militia ideology is a complex set of political, constitutional and conspiratorial convictions. Since the definition of militia has a long history praising collective efforts of ordinary men to protect the homeland from intruders, the image of a solitary soldier and the right to resist the oppression became central to the militia ideology. British historian Darren Mulloy argues that members of the modern militia consider themselves direct “inheritors of the task begun more than two centuries ago” (Mulloy 36). Moreover, they clearly advocate the idea of interpreting the Constitution according to the Founding Fathers’ design (Mulloy 45). The members of the militia movement vigorously object the term “democracy” in favor of republicanism, based on the principles of limited federal powers, constitutionalism, and the supremacy of individual rights, including bearing arms (Mulloy 99). Gun ownership is a particularly important issue. American political expert Lane Crothers explains that the possession of guns remained a symbol of equality in a rapidly industrialized state, when only an armed citizen could pursue his endeavors despite legal restrictions (33). Therefore, modern militias see the gun control legislation as a direct violation of personal rights and persistently try to prevent the adoption of any further restrictions related to this (Crothers 158-159). Distrust towards actions of the federal government inevitably raised suspicions among militia members. Notably, the lack of trust provoked the rise of conspiratorial theories, according to which “shadow” agents of the federal government had successfully expanded their power in the face of such issues as communism, civil rights, centralization of power and the development of national security (Crothers 51-52). Promoting a specific set of values, the military movement aims at discrediting the U. S. government and downplaying its role in maintaining political stability.
The ideology of the militia movement frequently calls for using force against government oppressors. The language of antigovernment rhetoric clearly reflects political convictions of the militia movement. For instance, such groups as the Militia of Montana and the North American Militia repeatedly threaten to use violence in order to achieve their goals by arming the population (Mulloy 70). Moreover, the political extremists resort to applying revolutionary rhetoric, calling for a rebellious uprising. In Constitution in Peril, Jon Roland of the Texas Constitutional Militia claims, “The Tree of Liberty needed to be occasionally watered with the blood of patriots” (qtd. in Mulloy 73). According to Darren Mulloy, revolutionary calls aim at both attracting attention of the state and federal officials, as well as potential supporters of the movement (75). Overall, the hostile propaganda is rather intimidating, applied for rising panic and fear among state officials in the face of possible armed attacks.
Nevertheless, marching militias are rather committed to proving their dedication by executing fatal attacks on the American territory. However, the United States became acutely aware of the dangerous reality only after the Oklahoma City bombing. On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh explicitly manifested the scope of his hatred for the corrupted government by planting a bomb at the Murrah Building. It killed 168 people and caused the rise of fear among ordinary citizens (Crothers 131). Later on, the FBI arrested two members of the Minnesota Patriots, accused of planning to poison government employers with ricin in 1996 (Domingue 19). Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the country was horrified by the deaths caused by the lethal dose of anthrax (Crothers 181). These actions could not stay ignored. The FBI effectively implemented a new strategy of dealing with political extremists by means of hard police work, measured approach to confrontation, and use of informants, monitoring gun and munition sales and collaborating with the militia for preventing lethal incidents during arrests (Crothers 151). Federal agencies closely cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense in joint efforts to offer professional training in detecting the suspicious activity and identifying members of militia groups (Mueller). The threat of domestic terrorism took a solid place on the national agenda and led to accumulating a great amount of government’s efforts in order to tackle the problem.
The current U. S. government is likely to encounter the second wave of extremist rhetoric due to the increasing number of radical “patriot” groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the latter advocate racism, prompted by the election of Barack Obama (Keller). Oath Keepers, a military and police organization, is the most straightforward in denying the presidential authority, considering the first Afro-American President a symbol of growing multiculturalism (Keller). Notably, the fear of disarmament is also one of the driving forces of the militia movement. “Patriot” groups expressively defend their constitutional right to have a guns, echoing one of the postulates of the militia ideology (Keller). The issue of gun control remains one of the most debatable in the country. The proponents of free access to weapons indicate that the Second Amendment provides militias with the means for struggle with the government tyranny (Mullay 119). Therefore, they consider it an individual right of every citizen (Mullay 123). The supporters of the militia movement managed to prevent the adoption of gun bans by giving financial support to candidates that promoted gun rights (Crothers 161). The evidence above suggests that the Obama Administration is likely to deal with a new rise of radical groups that threaten the political stability of the USA in the near future.
In conclusion, the reality of reemerging radical groups is both troubling and intimidating. For the last 25 years, various militia groups have sought to change the regime and threatened to use force in order to accomplish their goals. Along with the antigovernment rhetoric, the militia movement strongly advocates the rights of bearing arms for self-defense against government oppression and resorts to acts of domestic terrorism.
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