[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
It's emblematic of just how cowed our federal authorities have been by the right-wing blowback against calling right-wing domestic terrorists what they actually are that the prosecutors in Georgia who recently charged a group of far-right militiamen with plotting carry out a series of attacks in Washington state and to assassinate President Obama took to calling them, in their press announcements, "anarchists" -- which meant, of course, that the media promptly followed suit.
Let's be perfectly clear: The only thing in the profiles of these men that suggests anything remotely "anarchist" in their politics is the fact that, according to the AP, they "aggressively recruited" other members of the military with a symbol that resembled the classic anarchist symbol, an "A" inside a circle (even though there are a number of far-right symbols that could fit this description as well).
In every other regard, however, these men were indisputably classic right-wing extremists:
-- One of the leaders of the plot, Joseph Aguigui, was a page at the Republican National Convention in 2008.
-- All of the plotters were members of the military and espoused a far-right philosophy, including targeting President Obama for assassination. "I did think that the government needed to change, and I thought that we were the people to be able to change it," one of the plotters told the judge in pleading guilty.
-- The targets of their terrorist acts were generally "liberal" government entities -- poisoning the Washington apple crop, for instance, likely targeted the liberal Seattle consumer market, the main consumers of those crops -- although no one can quite figure out why they targeted Savannah's Forsyth Park.
What's most disturbing about this case is that these men were obtaining their arms and combat training from the U.S. military and were aggressively recruiting other members from within their ranks.
As it happens, this sort of thing -- as well as last month's murderous rampage by an ex-soldier/white supremacist at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin -- is exactly what that Department of Homeland Security bulletin on right-wing domestic terrorism of 2009 warned about:
U//FOUO) Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.Of course, the DHS wasn't alone in sounding this warning. The year before, in 2008, the FBI issued a similar warning:
Military experience—ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces—is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.But then, we remember what happened next: right-wing hysterics took to the airwaves and the blogosphere to denounce the report as somehow a kind of "smear" of mainstream conservatives, which really was only a kind of unconscious self-indictment. Nonetheless, the Beltway media played along willingly, the result being that the DHS ultimately apologized for the report, and then proceeded to completely gut its unit devoted to monitoring right-wing extremist terrorism.
... The prestige which the extremist movement bestows upon members with military experience grants them the potential for influence beyond their numbers. Most extremist groups have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.
... Military experience—often regardless of its length or type—distinguishes one within the extremist movement. While those with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, FBI investigations indicate they frequently have higher profiles within the movement, including recruitment and leadership roles.
... New groups led or significantly populated by military veterans could very likely pursue more operationally minded agendas with greater tactical confidence. In addition, the military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement’s fringes.
We've been paying for it ever since, most notably with the lives of law-enforcement officers killed by these nutcases. We've also been paying for it in the form of a sharp increase in right-wing domestic terrorism across the country (I'll have a lot more on that soon, I hope).
Meanwhile, even though the report's prescience and accuracy was almost immediately manifested, and has been substantiated multiple times since -- most notably by the two cases of military-trained terrorist plots in August -- the deniers on the right keep denying that they were wrong.
As James Raimey in the LA Times observed:
There has been no mass outcry for more preventive measures in the face of a gruesome display of domestic terrorism. But the 3-year-old backlash that prevented tracking of home-grown crackpots has gradually quieted and there is room for reasonable vigilance again.Yet there was Michelle Malkin penning an entire column in response, insisting (in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that she was still right.
The shouting and hysterics worked then, and they're still affecting how we talk about this. Time for that to come to an end.
UPDATE: I meant to include this article about the problem the military is facing with racists lurking within their own ranks. There's a lot of denial still going on, and not just in the wingnutosphere.