Saturday, December 11, 2010

False Patriotism Jeopardizes Democracy in America

By Ernest Corea

WASHINGTON DC (IDN) – Home-grown terrorism – even if only in the alleged planning stages – turns up in the most unexpected places. Michigan, for instance.

Here’s a state that’s better known for its array of lakes, its auto industry, and its Canadian-born governor. It was in Michigan, nevertheless, that a Grand Jury recently issued an indictment against nine members of the Hutaree, a supposedly “Christian” militia who were allegedly planning to “levy war on the U.S.

The main thrust of the indictment was that from around August 2008, the defendants:
“did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to levy war against the U.S., to oppose by force the authority of the Government of the U.S. and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any U.S. law.”


The Hutaree’s planned operations, as outlined in the indictment, were to “commit some violent act to draw the attention of law enforcement or government officials and which would prompt a response by law enforcement.”

The acts that were considered included “killing a member of law enforcement (i.e. police) after a traffic stop, killing a member of law enforcement and his or her family at home, ambushing a member of law enforcement in rural communities, luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her, and killing a member of law enforcement and then attacking the funeral procession motorcade with weapons of mass destruction.”

These acts were expected to “intimidate and demoralize law enforcement diminishing their ranks and rendering them ineffective.”

The “general concept of operations”, the indictment alleges, also provided for Hutaree members, once such action was taken, to “retreat to one of several ‘rally points’ where the Hutaree would wage war against the government and be prepared to defend in depth with trip-wired and command detonated anti-personnel Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), ambushes, and prepared fighting positions.

“It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the Government.”

(IEDs, it might be noted, have been used against U.S. forces with devastating effect in the Middle East.)


The indictment itself, let alone what else will be made known through “due process,” is a reminder that violence-prone groups have grown recently, posing a continued threat to orderly governance, and good sense.

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) points out that “the number of hate groups in America has been going up for years, rising 54 percent between 2000 and 2008 and driven largely by an angry backlash against non-white immigration and, starting in the last year of that period, the economic meltdown and the climb to power of an African American president.”

Mark Potok, drawing from SPLC figures, writes that “these groups rose again slightly in 2009 – from 926 in 2008 to 932 last year – despite the demise of a key neo-Nazi group.”

“At the same time,” says Potok, “the number of what the SPLC designates as ‘nativist extremist’ groups – organizations that go beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants – jumped from 173 groups in 2008 to 309 last year.”


“But the most dramatic story by far has been with the anti-government Patriots.
“The militias and the larger Patriot movement first came to Americans’ attention in the mid-1990s, when they appeared as an angry reaction to what was seen as a tyrannical government bent on crushing all dissent.

“Sparked most dramatically by the death of 76 Branch Davidians during a 1993 law enforcement siege in Waco, Texas, those who joined the militias also railed against the Democratic Clinton Administration and initiatives like gun control and environmental regulation. “

“Although the Patriot movement included people formerly associated with racially based hate groups, it was above all animated by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along with a fondness for antigovernment conspiracy theories. By early this decade, the groups had largely disappeared from public view.”

Last year, however, Potok adds, “a dramatic resurgence in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing, the militias, began. Now, the latest SPLC count finds that an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) – a 244 percent jump.”

Sadly, some of the vituperative and bilious prose that sometimes passes for “legitimate political comment” only fuels the anger and hatred on which false patriotism thrives.


Winston Churchill’s definition of democracy is almost a cliché now, but is worth repeating at times like this. He said: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Despite its imperfections, whose existence Churchill conceded, democracy provides space for dissenting voices to be heard; for the force of argument, and not the argument of force, to prevail; and for consensus to emerge through negotiations, mutual respect, and compromise.

Within the parameters of parliament, there has always been room for the irreverent and the unusual. Fairly recently in India, the entire Opposition walked out, as a sign of protest against the budget presented by the finance minister. That unorthodox action secured the publicity that the Opposition craved and, with that done, Opposition members of parliament were back, and the budget debate continued.

The British House of Commons is particularly well known for the barbs that fly across the floor. Churchill was an expert at this game, as he showed when he described Prime Minister Clement Atlee as a “modest man who has much to be modest about.”

On another occasion, Churchill had just walked into the House when a Labour parliamentarian, a woman, said to him: “Winston, you are drunk.” He responded: “Yes, and you are ugly. Tomorrow, I will be sober, and you will still be ugly.”

Sharp, on occasion cutting, but how different, from the cruel taunts that filled the chamber during the recent health care debate in the U.S. House of Representatives. One of the nastiest of them, directed at Congressman Bart Stupak (of Michigan), a confirmed opponent of abortion, was “baby killer.” Stupak has since decided to withdraw from politics at the end of this year.


Several trends appear to be coalescing in a way that can enliven political discourse but at the same time is fraught with ominous possibility.

The first of these is concern bordering on wrenching anxiety that President Barack Obama is committed to lurching so much to the left that much of the country’s economic strengths will be eroded. The trend is based on entrenched beliefs.

The second is a considered attempt by the Republican establishment as represented in the Senate and House of Representatives to thwart Obama by opposing almost every proposal he makes, or action he takes. The purpose of this exercise is to keep the party’s rightwing base contented and, over the longer term, to so weaken Obama that he will not be re-elected.

The third is an attempt to undo what was achieved by fellow-voters at the presidential election by intimidating Obama’s supporters into silence and, eventually, inertia. These are people who have questions about the Obama Administration’s policies but do not wish to listen to answers and, if they do listen, reject the answers.

Fairly close to them are the Obama haters who are energized by ingrained prejudice. They will not allow facts to get in the way of their misconceptions; will probably never believe that Obama is an American, and who actually have persuaded themselves that state-funded Medicare from which they benefit is a private sector initiative.

The combination of all elements can turn out to be an explosive mix, particularly because so much of what motivates the noisiest and most virulently active among them is the factor of race.


That race is a critically important issue to the alleged populists was, in effect, acknowledged during a recent blunder by the newly-elected Governor of the state of Virginia, Bob McDonnell.

Under pressure from a section of his supporters, he did what some of his predecessors refused to do; he issued a “proclamation” of Confederate History Month i.e. celebrating the confederate movement that opposed the emancipation of slaves.

Nowhere in his proclamation was there the slightest reference to slavery, thus implying that the proclamation supported the anti-emancipation movement. Had he only forgotten, or did he not believe that, as Frederick Douglas said in1878: “There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war, which no sentiment ought to consider us to forget?”

Criticised from all over, the governor issued an addendum to his proclamation, acknowledging the part that slavery played in the civil war. And that’s what provided the opportunity for the racist motivation of nay-sayers to be clarified.

So, consider this: The first lieutenant commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which had in the first place pushed Governor McDonnell into making his proclamation, said of the anti-emancipation confederates in the civil war: “They were fighting for the same things that people in the ‘tea party’ are fighting for now.”

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