ALTHOUGH MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY’s recent report insulting veterans and conservatives, it overlooks the victim of the paper’s most obvious insult: its reader’s intelligence. The DHS report not only assumes veterans are a violence-prone group readily influenced by “rightwing” extremism but misdiagnoses the most likely source of terrorism and misconstrues the forces that lead to “anti-government” attacks, actually stoking the fears that fuel them.
Most pundits have focused on the report’s statements about veterans. Many have quoted the sentence in the section “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” that states “extremism” may “include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.” DHS chief Janet Napolitano told Fox and Friends‘ Steve Doocy, “If there’s one part of that report I would rewrite, in the word-smithing, Washington-ese that goes on after the fact, it would be that footnote.” Like Jane Fonda’s various non-apologies, Napolitano’s words do little to atone for the most significant errors in the report.
That is unfortunate, because Napolitano has much for which to apologize.
The most alarming part in this author’s mind is not so much the statements about veterans or conservatives — offensive as they are — but the report’s conclusion: “DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”
The last eight years have proven there is a far more dangerous religio-political worldview than white supremacy. This report overlooks such homegrown examples as the Lackawanna Six, Miami’s Liberty City Seven, the Fort Dix jihadists, John Walker Lindh, al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, etc.
The most recent “war veteran” involved in terror was D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad, a convert to the Nation of Islam who attended the Million Man March. The media universally reported merely that he was “a Gulf War veteran,” leaving his Muslim beliefs virtually unexplored. His co-conspirator, Lee Boyd Malvo, has testified that Muhammad planned the sniping as part of a vast campaign to recruit homeless black orphans for a continent-wide snipers’ jihad. Significantly, Malvo has displayed his own pattern of Islamist aggression.
Indeed, Napolitano will not need to keep tabs on Capt. Christopher Seifert, who was murdered in Kuwait by Sgt. Asan Akbar, a black convert to Islam who waged jihad against his fellow Americans overseas.
Two months ago, JihadWatch Director Robert Spencer noted the existence of 35 jihad training centers on U.S. soil. Even European bombings showed the domestic character of “native” domestic terrorists.
Yet the Obama administration’s DHS has turned its focus inward. Having banished the use of terms like “terrorism” and “jihad,” it now shifts the department’s focus from Islam to white supremacists — the last logical step in PC counterterrorism.
This would be somewhat less galling if it demonstrated any understanding of what leads white supremacists to attack. Although the Left encourages us to ponder why Muslims hate us around the world, it seems less introspective about its own citizens. Its feckless analysis of “anti-government” terrorism claims “rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues” including “abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage.” Of course, same sex “marriage” played no role whatsoever in Oklahoma City, the Minuteman standoff, the formation of any militia, or any “rightwing” (that is, national socialist) recruitment. In fact, same-sex marriage was hardly a political issue until the last few years — and then after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom violated the law. When the issue came up at all during the 1990s, it was to brand traditionalists as paranoid bumpkins for thinking such a thing would ever take place.
The report shows its greatest oversight in sweeping under the rug the galvanizing effect the government’s misdeeds had in creating the militia movement — especially the BATF’s assault on Ruby Ridge and the standoff at Waco. The DHS’s historical fiction ignores the stated motivation of the deadliest domestic terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, calling him an example of the “small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war.” The report did not specify the psychological effects he or other veterans may have encountered during the 100-hour Gulf war. (The thrill of victory?)
Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building on the second anniversary of the Waco standoff — which ended exactly 16 years ago yesterday. McVeigh traveled to Waco during the siege, and made pilgrimage to the remains of Ruby Ridge long after its bloody resolution.
The latter had more to do with making militias palatable than former military service, immigration, abortion, or all other social issues combined. No less a self-appointed authority on “rightwing terrorism” than Morris Dees wrote, “Ruby Ridge ignited the militia movement.”
BATF agents arrived — by the Weavers’ account, unannounced — in the middle of the night of August 21, 1992, and in short order killed Randy Weaver’s 14-year-old son Sammy, by shooting him in the back. Sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi later shot and killed Vicki Weaver as she cradled her infant daughter in her arms. (His intended targets, Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, were fleeing to their cabin; he apparently intended to shoot them in the back, as well. Horiuchi would later be dispatched to the Branch Davidian standoff.) The Weaver family later won a multimillion dollar settlement.
The standoff supercharged the paranoia of the militia movement. Dees and others claim a meeting of white supremacists called two months later in Estes Park, Colorado, as a response to the Weaver shootings gave birth to the militia movement. Whether this meeting proved as formative as Dees claims, Ruby Ridge proved a boon for radicals. The 1992 extremist presidential candidacy of Lt. Col. James “Bo” Gritz, who helped negotiate Weaver’s peaceful surrender, received more than 10,000 votes in Idaho, five times as many votes as in Gritz’s native Nevada. Ruby Ridge and the tragedy of Waco helped create an environment in which people came to believe the federal government was out-of-control — and led some to believe joining a militia was an act of self-defense. Those events stoked extant paranoia and led directly to Timothy McVeigh’s “act of war” against the United States 14 years ago yesterday.
All this is curiously missing from the government’s report. It makes only one, clipped reference to Ruby Ridge and Waco at the end of page five, at the end of a list of “rightwing” grievances, while spending far more time casting aspersions on honorable military service and traditional morality.
Those tragic federal interventions (at least one of them, criminal) exacerbated distrust of the feds, lending credence to extremist rhetoric.
With this report, history may be repeating itself.
A poster on Stormfront.org, the internet’s premier white supremacist website, greeted the news by writing, “I’m actually kind of glad they did release that report the way they did. Along with the media dismissing and calling the tea party protesters racists, it’s bound to piss a lot of people off, and maybe they will start to realize what’s happening in our Country.” (The following post referred to the Thomas More Law Center as “hippy jew law goons.”)
Napolitano played into the fringe’s hands. When a government agency claims everyone who opposes abortion or gay marriage is a potential terrorist, it lends credibility to radical ravings that the government is at war with its people, or at a minimum regards the majority of its citizens, which reject leftism, as suspect. That makes mainstream Americans more susceptible to anarchist recruitment and potential radicalization.
The threat of white supremacists is a real concern which deserves careful analysis. Unfortunately, this DHS report not only overlooks the real source of domestic terrorism but, through broad-brush painting, makes a domestic anarchist attack more likely.
1. Morris Dees. Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat. (NY: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 69.
This article originally appeared as the lead story on Monday, April 20, 2009, on FrontPage Magazine.