US extremists conflicted over war on terror
Right-wing radicals fret over 'homeland security,' as American anti-Semitism rises.
The war on terrorism is conflicting for antigovernment radicals in the United States. Paradoxically, it has the potential for both dampening their sentiments and making them more dangerous rhetorically, if nothing else.Skip to next paragraph
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Extreme militia and "patriot" types (especially white supremacists of the Christian Identity movement) are likely to want to defend against attack by non-European foreigners and in fact see this as justification for their existence as independent militias.
But there is the possibility that "lone wolves" (such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh) might be lured into supporting foreign terrorists perhaps to precipitate the kind of race war envisioned in "The Turner Diaries," the anti-Semitic, racist, and apocalyptic novel many on the extreme right see as prophetic.
Experts tracking antigovernment radicals also note their shared interest with Muslim extremists in opposing what they see as this country's pro-Israel foreign policy. This is often voiced as opposition to, as the most militant call it, "ZOG" the "Zionist-Occupied Government" of the US.
At the same time, the new push for federal "homeland security" is firing up the camouflaged crowd in ways that have some militia-watchers worried.
Internet discussion sites frequented by conspiracy promoters and far-right adherents are boiling with alarm. "Isn't it time to take the republic back?" asks one e-mailer.
To some antigovernment and millennialist types, the Pentagon's new "Northern Command" covering the US, along with the FBI's expanded powers to spy on Americans, is highly suspicious.
It's a move they see as a precursor to the dreaded "black helicopters" and "jack booted" agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms those blamed for the attacks at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.
And the most passionate opponents are already voicing this view faster than you can say "New World Order" or "Trilateral Commission."
"Look for a major hit in the coming weeks to justify this last cog in the wheel of tyranny," predicts one member of the "underground patriot" Internet discussion group.
Such attitudes are spreading, according to experts who have tracked such groups for years.
"The homeland security proposals have already been seen by a number of right-wing extremists as proof of their conspiracy beliefs," says Mark Pitcavage, a historian of extremist movements and advisor to law-enforcement agencies.
"Many antigovernment extremists have come to believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy by the government in order for it to get dictatorial powers, or that 9/11 really was a terrorist event, but the government is nevertheless using it as a pretext to get more and more power," says Dr. Pitcavage, who also works for the Anti-Defamation League.
"Right-wing extremist 'patriots' opposed the USA Patriot Act, and they surely oppose this," he continues. "They think they know who the 'real' targets would be."
Will antigovernment and millenialist types see the new reach of federal intelligence as yet more proof of conspiracies?
"It's already happening, but should really take off in the next week or so," says Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates, an organization in Somerville, Mass., studying right-wing and paramilitary movements.
"Take a look at apocalyptic Christians ..., patriots such as the John Birch Society, anti-Semitic conspiracists blaming it all on Mossad [Israel's intelligence agency] and the Jews, neo-Nazis who combine anti-Semitism with revolutionary-right goals," says Berlet.
Extreme anti-Semitism along with the view that people of color are "subhuman" or "mud people" is the ideological basis of such groups as the Aryan Nations and other adherents of Christian Identity. But it's not just extremist militias, hate groups, and neo-Nazi skinheads who are influenced by such prejudice.
A poll reported last week by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League found an increase in anti-Semitism among Americans over a similar survey four years ago. According to the report, 17 percent hold "strongly anti-Semitic" views; another 35 percent are "not completely prejudice-free in their attitudes toward Jews."
The war on terrorism, and in particular its connection to a US foreign policy that most Americans in the survey see as favoring Israel, could well be tied to this increasing anti-Semitism.
"For the first time," the ADL reports, "negative attitudes toward Israel and concern that American Jews have too much influence over US Middle East policy are helping to foster anti-Semitic beliefs."
"Anti-Israel sentiments are used in this country to fuel, legitimize, and rationalize anti-Semitism," says Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director.
Observers see this attitude (particularly among antigovernment radicals) brought into sharper focus by recent events in New York City.
There, an organization called the Jewish Defense Group announced that it would send out armed patrols to guard against threatened terrorist attacks on American Jews.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of a Seattle-based group called Toward Tradition (which advocates "practical Torah solutions to modern American problems"), last week said, "Jews around the country [should] give serious thought to the issue of free access to firearms...."
There is irony in one aspect of this development: American Jews arming themselves now share a strong interest with antigovernment radicals opposed to the "Zionist-Occupied Government": the right to keep and bear arms.