A year ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) produced a memo outlining the growing threat posed to this country from right-wing extremists. It compared the situation to that of the early 1990s — which culminated in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168. (The threat did not end with that event: the DHS memo revealed that, for years later, law enforcement continued to disrupt “multiple terrorist plots linked to violent right-wing extremists.”)
The DHS assessment was restrained but clear in warning that economic conditions, combined with President Barack Obama’s election and other factors, were creating fertile recruiting ground for extremists. “Lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” the report concluded.
Although not stated, the timing of the report — dated April 7 — was almost certainly no accident, according to those who follow right-wing extremism. It was meant, they speculate, to heighten law-enforcement awareness ahead of the April 19 anniversary of the Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco, Texas — a common target date for extremist acts, including the Murrah bombing.
Now, a year later, as we approach the same dangerous date, things have only grown worse. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a rise in militia and “patriot” groups. Mother Jones and the Progressive have described well-armed, conspiracy-soaked extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, which exist on the edges of the conservative movement. The FBI last month arrested nine members of the religious Hutaree militia in Michigan, accused of plotting mass murder of law-enforcement personnel. And passage last month of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act triggered people to throw bricks through Democratic office windows and send death threats to elected officials, prompting extra security measures for not only members of Congress, but even the nonpartisan Senate Parliamentarian.
The April 15 Tax Day Tea Parties will undoubtedly ratchet the anti-government rhetoric even higher — followed, incredibly, by large pro-gun demonstrations on the hyper-charged 19th itself. (Organizers say they are commemorating the Battle of Lexington.) One of those events, near the nation’s capital, features among its speakers an Alabama militia member who called for the brick-throwing, and who later explained it as a warning to Democrats about the likelihood of greater violent resistance — “a thousand little Wacos,” as he put it.
Given all this, it would almost be surprising if there are not any “lone wolves” or “small terrorist cells” preparing to strike.
The fact is, there are millions of Americans who genuinely believe — based on information they receive every day from television and radio, and from elected officials and “respectable” organizations — that we have an illegitimate (by virtue of his foreign birth) presidential usurper, installed to power through a fraudulent election, who, with his Marxist allies in Congress, are running an unconstitutional government and pushing our nation irreversibly on a path to a secular, despotic regime.
Refusing to distinguish
When the DHS memo was leaked last spring, conservative and GOP leaders did not take it as a cautionary warning to tone down their rhetoric and distance themselves from extremists. Instead, they reacted with outrage, claiming that the government was painting all conservatives as potential threats.