Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 25th, 2015

Age of Treason: Why demand to keep your Oath?

Coming home to roost?

THE .50 CALIBER Bushmaster bolt action rifle is a serious weapon. The model that Pvt. 1st Class Lee Pray is saving up for has a 2,500-yard range and comes with a Mark IV scope and an easy-load magazine. When the 25-year-old drove me to a mall in Watertown, New York, near the Fort Drum Army base, he brought me to see it in its glass case—he visits it periodically, like a kid coveting something at the toy store.

It’ll take plenty of military paychecks to cover the $5,600 price tag, but he considers the Bushmaster essential in his preparations to take on the US government when it declares martial law.

His belief that that day is imminent has led Pray to a group called Oath Keepers, one of the fastest-growing “patriot” organizations on the right.

Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both Georgia Republicans.

There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans.

At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey “unconstitutional” orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government.

Pray (who asked me to use his middle name rather than his first) and five fellow soldiers based at Fort Drum take this directive very seriously.

In the belief that the government is already turning on its citizens, they are recruiting military buddies, stashing weapons, running drills, and outlining a plan of action. For years, they say, police and military have trained side by side in local anti-terrorism exercises around the nation.

In September 2008, the Army began training the 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team to provide humanitarian aid following a domestic disaster or terror attack—and to help with crowd control and civil unrest if need be. (The ACLU has expressed concern about this deployment.) And some of Pray’s comrades were guinea pigs for military-grade sonic weapons, only to see them used by Pittsburgh police against protesters last fall.

Most of the men’s gripes revolve around policies that began under President Bush but didn’t scare them so much at the time.

“Too many conservatives relied on Bush’s character and didn’t pay attention,” founder Rhodes told me. “Only now, with Obama, do they worry and see what has been done. Maybe you said, I trusted Bush to only go after the terrorists.* But what do you think can happen down the road when they say, ‘I think you are a threat to the nation?'”

In Pray’s estimate, it might not be long (months, perhaps a year) before President Obama finds some pretext—a pandemic, a natural disaster, a terror attack—to impose martial law, ban interstate travel, and begin detaining citizens en masse.

One of his fellow Oath Keepers, a former infantryman, advised me to prepare a “bug out” bag with 39 items including gas masks, ammo, and water purification tablets, so that I’d be ready to go “when the shit hits the fan.”

When it does, Pray and his buddies plan to go AWOL and make their way to their “fortified bunker”—the home of one comrade’s parents in rural Idaho—where they’ve stocked survival gear, generators, food, and weapons. If it becomes necessary, they say, they will turn those guns against their fellow soldiers.


PRAY AND I DRIVE through a bleak landscape of fallow winter fields and strip malls in his blue Dodge Stratus as Drowning Pool’s “Bodies”—a heavy metal song once used to torment Abu Ghraib detainees—plays on the stereo.

Clad in an oversize black hoodie that hides his military physique, Pray sports an Army-issue buzz cut and is seriously inked (skulls, smoke, an eagle). His father kicked him out of the house at age 14.

Two years later, after working jobs from construction to plumbing—”If it’s blue collar, I’ve done it”—he tried to enlist. It wasn’t long after 9/11, and he was hell-bent on revenge. The Army turned him down. Blaming the “THOR” tattooed across his fist, Pray tried to burn it off. On September 11, 2006, he approached the Army again and was accepted.

Now Pray is both a Birther and a Truther.

He believes he is following an illegitimate, foreign-born president in a war on terror launched by a government plot—9/11.

He admires soldiers like Army reservist Major Stefan Frederick Cook, who volunteered for a deployment last May and then sued to avoid it—claiming that Obama is not a natural-born citizen and is thus unfit for command.

Pray himself had been eager to go to Iraq when his own unit deployed last June, but he smashed both knees falling from a crane rig and the injuries kept him stateside.

In September, he was demoted from specialist to private first class—he’d been written up for bullshit infractions, he claims, after seeking help for a drinking problem. His job on base involves operating and maintaining heavy machinery; the day before we met, he and his fellow “undeployables” had attached a snowplow to a Humvee, their biggest assignment in a while.

He spends idle hours at the now-quiet base researching the New World Order and conspiracies about swine flu quarantine camps—and doing his best to “wake up” other soldiers.

Pray isn’t sure how to do this and still cover his ass. He talks to me on the record and agrees to be photographed, even as he hints that the CIA may be listening in on his phone.

Although I met him through contacts from the group’s Facebook page, Pray, fearing retribution, keeps his Oath Keepers ties unofficial. (Rhodes encourages active-duty soldiers to remain anonymous, noting that a group with large numbers of anonymous members can instill in its adversaries the fear of the unknown—a “great force multiplier.”)

For a time, Pray insisted we communicate via Facebook (safer than regular email, he claims). Driving me from the mall back to my motel, he takes a new route. He says unmarked black cars sometimes trail him. It sounds paranoid. Then again, when you’re an active-duty soldier contemplating treason, some level of paranoia is probably sensible.

The next afternoon we join Brandon, one of Pray’s Army buddies, for steaks. Sitting in a pleather booth at Texas Roadhouse, the young men talk boastfully about their military capabilities and weapons caches.

Role-playing the enemy in military exercises, Brandon says, has prepared him to evade and fight back against US troops. “I know their tactics,” brags Pray. “I know how they do room sweeps, work their convoys—if we attack this vehicle, what the others will do.”

A strapping Idahoan, Brandon (who doesn’t want his full name used) enlisted as a teenager when he got his girlfriend pregnant and needed a stable job, stat. (She lost the baby and they split, but he’s still glad he signed up.) Unlike his friend, he doesn’t think the United Nations must be dismantled, although he does agree that it represents the New World Order, and he suspects that concentration camps are being readied in the off-limits section of Fort Drum. He sends 500 rounds of ammunition home to Idaho each month.

EVERY YEAR ON April 19, history buffs gather on the village green in Lexington, Massachusetts, to reenact the first battle of the Revolutionary War. For Stewart Rhodes, it was the ideal setting to unveil the organization his followers consider the embodiment of a second American Revolution.

Rhodes, 44, is a constitutional lawyer—his 2004 Yale Law School paper, “Solving the Puzzle of Enemy Combatant Status,” won the school’s award for best paper on the Bill of Rights.

He’s now working on a book tentatively titled We the Enemy: How Applying the Laws of War to the American People in the War on Terror Threatens to Destroy Our Constitutional Republic.

Raised in the Southwest, Rhodes enlisted in the Army after high school, receiving an honorable discharge after he injured his spine during a night parachute jump. He enrolled at the University of Nevada and in 1998, after graduating, landed a job supervising interns for Congressman Ron Paul.

Rhodes has also worked as a firearms instructor and a sculptor—for Vegas’ MGM Grand hotel, he produced a fiberglass Minuteman statue—and has practiced law in small-town Montana (“Ivy League quality without Ivy League expense”). He writes a gun-rights column for SWAT magazine. He’s a libertarian, staunch constitutionalist, and devout Christian.

It was while volunteering for Ron Paul’s doomed presidential bid that Rhodes decided to abandon electoral politics in favor of grassroots organizing. As an undergrad, he had been fascinated by the notion that if German soldiers and police had refused to follow orders, Hitler could have been stopped. Then, in early 2008, SWAT received a letter from a retired colonel declaring that “the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are gravely endangered” and that service members, veterans, and police “is where they will be saved, if they are to be saved at all!”

Rhodes responded with a breathless column starring a despotic president, “Hitlery” Clinton, in her “Chairman Mao signature pantsuit.” Would readers, he asked, obey orders from this “dominatrix-in-chief” to hold militia members as enemy combatants, disarm citizens, and shoot all resisters? If “a police state comes to America, it will ultimately be by your hands,” he warned. You had better “resolve to not let it happen on your watch.”

He set up an Oath Keepers blog, asking soldiers and veterans to post testimonials. Word spread. Military officers offered assistance. A Marine Corps veteran invited Rhodes to speak at a local Tea Party event. Paul campaigners provided strategic advice. And by the time Rhodes arrived in Lexington to speak at a rally staged by a pro-militia group, a movement was afoot.

Rhodes stood on the common that day before a crowd of about 400 die-hard patriot types. He spoke their language. “You need to be alert and aware to the reality of how close we are to having our constitutional republic destroyed,” he said. “Every dictatorship in the history of mankind, whether it is fascist, communist, or whatever, has always set aside normal procedures of due process under times of emergency…We can’t let that happen here. We need to wake up!”

He laid out 10 orders an Oath Keeper should not obey, including conducting warrantless searches, holding American citizens as enemy combatants or subjecting them to military tribunals (a true Oath Keeper would have refused to hold José Padilla in a military brig), imposing martial law, blockading US cities, forcing citizens into detention camps (“tyrannical governments eventually and invariably put people in camps”), and cooperating with foreign troops should the government ask them to intervene on US soil.

In Rhodes’ view, each individual Oath Keeper must determine where to draw the line.

The crowd was full of familiar faces from patriot rallies and town hall meetings, with an impressive showing by luminaries of the rising patriot movement. There was Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who had refused to enforce the Brady Law in the mid-’90s.

Also present was Mike Vanderboegh, whose Three Percenter movement styles itself after the legendary 3 percent of American colonists who took up arms against the British. Rhodes singled out Marine Charles Dyer, a.k.a. July4Patriot—whose YouTube videos advocate armed resistance—as a “man of like minds.”

When Rhodes finished, Captain Larry Bailey, a retired Navy SEAL, Swift Boater, and founder of the anti-antiwar group Gathering of Eagles, asked the crowd to raise their right hands and retake their oath—not to the president, but to the Constitution.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted “Maybe you said.” We have corrected the error.

RHODES’ TIMING WAS impeccable.

Twelve days earlier, the Department of Homeland Security had issued a report warning that a black president, weak economy, and high unemployment rate had created a “fertile recruiting environment” for right-wing extremists—”disgruntled” vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, the report noted, could bring combat know-how to domestic terrorist groups.

Predictably, veterans groups went ballistic, and the report itself became a potent Oath Keepers recruiting tool. “The No. 1 focus of DHS is not Islamic terrorists—it is me and you,” Rhodes told followers. “They will unleash the government against you, silence you and suppress you!”

Lee Pray and his pal Brandon were left behind with injuries when their unit shipped off to Iraq. They spend their idle hours preparing for the day the government goes too far.Oath Keepers collaborates regularly with like-minded citizens groups; last Fourth of July, Rhodes dispatched speakers to administer the oath at more than 30 Tea Party rallies across America.

At last fall’s 9/12 march on Washington, he led a contingent of Oath Keepers from the Capitol steps down to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Afterward, Oath Keepers cohosted a banquet with the hawkish Gathering of Eagles. This February, a member of the group organized a Florida Freedom Rally featuring Joe the Plumber and conservative singer Lloyd Marcus.

(Sample lyrics: Mr. President! Your stimulus is sure to bust / it’s just a socialistic scheme / The only thing it will do / is kill the American Dream.)

Rhodes has become a darling of right-wing pundits. In a column last October, Pat Buchanan predicted that “Brother Rhodes is headed for cable stardom.” Glenn Beck has cited the group as a “phenomenal” example of the “patriot revival movement,” while Lou Dobbs declared that its platform “should give solace and comfort to the left in this country.”

Conspiracy-radio king Alex Jones even put an Oath Keepers segment, including footage of the Lexington speech, on his hit DVD Fall of the Republic. “I can’t stress enough how much your organization is scaring the globalists,” he told Rhodes on his show.

All this attention has put Oath Keepers on the radar of anti-hate groups. Last year, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center both name-checked the group in their reports on rising anti-government extremism. “They think the word ‘patriot’ is a smear,” Rhodes countered during his Dobbs segment. SPLC’s Mark Potok “wants to lump us in with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and of course make the insinuation that we’re the next McVeigh.” But such attacks have only raised Oath Keepers’ profile.

After a combative Hardball interview in October—host Chris Matthews asked Rhodes whether Oath Keepers had the “firepower to stand up against the federal government”—the group says it gained 2,000 members in three days.

As of mid-January, according to Rhodes, Oath Keepers had at least one chapter in every state and was adding dozens of members daily.

Some 14,000 people had signed up as members on the Oath Keepers website while more than 15,000, including dozens of military recruiters, had done so on Facebook. And that doesn’t include those who, fearing reprisal, do their networking offline. Volunteers are in the process of sending out some 1,000 “constitutional care packages” complete with Oath Keepers patches to soldiers serving overseas.

IT IS EASY ENOUGH to dismiss the Oath Keepers as (in the words of Britain’s Independent) “right-wing crackpots” or “extremist nimrods” (Huffington Post). CNN stressed the group’s conspiracy theories in its series on militias. But beyond the predictable stereotypes, “the reality is a lot of them are fairly intelligent, well-educated people who have complex worldviews that are thoroughly thought out,” says author David Neiwert, who has been following the patriot movement closely since the ’90s.

Rhodes’ vision is simple—”It’s the Constitution, stupid.”

He views the founding blueprint the way fundamentalist Christians view the Bible. In Rhodes’ America, sovereign states—”like little labs of freedom”—would have their own militias and zero gun restrictions. He would limit federal power to what’s stated explicitly in the Constitution and Bill of Rights; any new federal law affecting the states would require a constitutional amendment.

“If your state goes retarded,” he says, “you can move to another state and vote with your feet.”

The president would be stripped of emergency powers that allow him to seize property, restrict travel, institute martial law, and otherwise (as the Congressional Research Service has put it) “control the lives of United States citizens.” The Constitution, Rhodes explains, “was created to check us in times of emergency when we are freaking out.”

Much of this is familiar rhetoric, part of a continuous strain in American politics that reemerged most recently during the 1990s. Back then, a similar combination of recession and Democratic rule led to the rise of citizen militias, the Posse Comitatus movement, and Oath Keepers-type groups like Police & Military Against the New World Order. But those groups had little reach.

Nowadays, through the power of YouTube and social networking, and with a boost from the cable punditry, Oath Keepers can reach millions and make its message part of the national conversation—furthering the notion that citizens can simply disregard a government they loathe. “The underlying sentiment is an attack on government dating back to the New Deal and before,” says author Neiwert. “Ron Paul has been a significant conduit in recent years, but nothing like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin—all of whom share that innate animus.”

Oath Keepers’ strength derives from what Rhodes calls “a very powerful common bond” (the vow of service) as well as the uniform—”a powerful source of credibility and respect” that allows members to “throw their weight into any movement…and tip any election.” Rhodes is wary of “old-party asshole RINOs” (Republicans in name only)—he mentions Dick Armey, the former House majority leader turned Tea Party sponsor—who in his view are merely out to hijack the grassroots.

Most Oath Keepers may intend to disobey their commanders only in the instances the group highlights. But the group’s ideas also appeal to extremists like Daniel Knight Hayden, whose inflammatory tweets last April (“START THE KILLING NOW!”) signaled his intent to wreak havoc at a Tax Day protest.

On the morning of April 15 he sent out a tweet touting Oath Keepers, followed by “Locked AND loaded for the Oklahoma State Capitol. Let’s see what happens.” (The FBI arrested him at home a few hours later; he was eventually convicted for transmitting interstate threats.)

Rhodes vigorously denounced Hayden, but the episode hinted at the power of the group’s language. Rhetoric like Rhodes’ (“Do you want them to kick down your door in body armor?”) can have “an unhinging effect” on people inclined toward violent action, Neiwert explains. “It puts them in a state of mind of fearfulness and paranoia, creating so much anger and hatred that eventually that stuff boils over.”

In the months I’ve spent getting to know the Oath Keepers, I’ve toggled between viewing them either as potentially dangerous conspiracy theorists or as crafty intellectuals with the savvy to rally politicians to their side. The answer, I came to realize, is that they cover the whole spectrum.

ON A CLEAR September evening, I found myself in suite 610 at the Texas Station casino in North Las Vegas mingling with two dozen Oath Keepers state leaders, directors, and hardcore devotees. It was past midnight, but the place—down to the American flag wallpaper in the bathroom—was awake with the sense of a movement primed to burst into the national consciousness.

Mississippi director Chris Evans, who sports a long beard and cowboy hat, declared in his pronounced drawl that this gathering was so important to him that for the first time since 9/11 he’d succumbed to the “invasive breach of privacy” required to fly here.

Rand Cardwell, who organized multiple chapters in Tennessee, only woke up, he told me, when the government began bailing out big companies and left ordinary people in the cold: “Pain causes action,” he said. For others here, the aha moment came with the Patriot Act or when federal troops and contractors confiscated weapons in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As techies swarmed around laptops discussing website tweaks, two shy Midwesterners who hoped to become state directors told me they were eager to learn recruiting tips. An energetic young veteran griped that hate-crime bills aim to police people’s thoughts, and that the “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper stickers popular with constitutionalists raise enough suspicion these days to get a person pulled over by the authorities.

Over bottled water and microbrews, they swapped tips on how to involve members in state militias, spread viral YouTube videos of soldiers reaffirming their oaths, and reach out to other patriots. They boasted of recruiting at gun shows, approaching politicians and cops, and stuffing leaflets into magazines in veterans hospital waiting rooms.

The three-day conference was called posthaste after Rhodes realized that his group was growing beyond his control. On the first night, over a casino buffet of barbecue, goopy Chinese food, and key lime pie, core members scrutinized printouts of potential organizational structures before heading upstairs to sign legal documents, pick a board of directors, and start nominating state representatives.

Rhodes caught wind of my presence during the introductory meet and greet. Taking me aside, he told me he’d decided reporters weren’t welcome. After I protested that the Oath Keepers website had described the conference as open to the public, he offered to refund my $300 entrance fee. Then I told him I’d read his Yale paper and shared many of his concerns about executive power; I really wanted to hear what Oath Keepers had to say. In the end, he agreed to let me stay and eventually invited me to hang out with the inner circle.

The next morning, in a casino ballroom, a hundred or so Oath Keepers exchanged business cards and schmoozed in between speeches about constitutional law, American Revolutionary history, and a soldier’s obligation to disobey illegal orders—Nuremberg references on full display.

Clad in suits, or slacks with button-downs, most of them could have been attending an insurance convention. One Oath Keeper handed out Gadsden-flag bumper stickers, while others sold T-shirts, baseball caps, and polo shirts featuring the group’s minuteman logo and motto: “Not on our watch.” There was a raffle, and James Sugra, one of the masterminds behind Ron Paul’s fundraising “money bombs,” scored a huge framed replica of the Constitution.

To enthusiastic applause, a driver in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (a hot new cross between NASCAR and monster truck rallies) announced that the Oath Keepers would get free ad space on his car. Their logo would be seen on television sets across America. During the talks, I sat between a libertarian who had biked across America, stopping at police stations to hand out recruiting materials, and a first-generation Chinese American stay-at-home dad from San Francisco who invited me to my local chapter’s winter survivalist training and rifle practice—extracurriculars, he assured me.

Oath Keepers is officially nonpartisan, in part to make it easier for active-duty soldiers to participate, but its rightward bent is undeniable, and liberals are viewed with suspicion. At lunch, when I questioned my tablemates about the Obama-Hitler comparisons I’d heard at the conference, I got a step-by-step tutorial on how the president’s socialized medicine agenda would beget a Nazi-style regime.

I learned that bringing guns to Tea Party protests was a reminder of our constitutional rights, was introduced to the notion that the founding fathers modeled their governing documents on the Bible, and debated whether being Muslim meant an inability to believe in and abide by—and thus be protected by—the Constitution. I was schooled on the treachery of the Federal Reserve and why America needs a gold standard, and at dinner one night, Nighta Davis, national organizer for the National 912 Project, explained how abortion-rights advocates are part of a eugenics program targeting Christians. I also met Lt. Commander Guy Cunningham, a retired Navy officer and Oath Keeper who in 1994 took it upon himself to survey personnel at the 29 Palms Marine Corps base about their willingness to accept domestic missions and serve with foreign troops.

A quarter of the Marines he polled said that they would be willing to fire on Americans who refused to disarm in the face of a federal order—a finding routinely cited by militia and patriot groups worried about excessive government powers.

From the podium, ex-sheriff Mack told the crowd that he wished he’d been the officer ordered to escort Rosa Parks off the bus, because not only would he have refused, he would have helped her home and stood guard there. These days, he said, it’s not African Americans who are under attack, but Christians, constitutionalists, and people who uphold family values: This time “it’s going to be Rosa Parks the gun owner, Rosa Parks the tax evader, or Rosa Parks the home-schooler.”

Mack runs the “No Sheriff Left Behind” campaign encouraging state and local authorities to disregard federal laws that they believe violate states’ rights. During the 1990s, he successfully eviscerated a Brady Law provision requiring sheriffs to run background checks on handgun purchasers. Another sheriff who spoke, Mark Gower of Iron County, Utah, uses Mack’s precedent to refuse to act against property owners who violate the Endangered Species Act. The conference’s lifetime achievement award went to Army Specialist Michael New, discharged in 1996 for refusing to wear a United Nations helmet and patch while serving in Germany.

Oath Keepers steers clear of certain issues. Personally, Rhodes would prefer the list of objectionable orders to include detaining foreigners indefinitely at facilities like Guantanamo. And while he argues that torture should never be legal, the group takes no official stance on America’s war on terror or overseas engagements. After an Oath Keeper who is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War touted IVAW repeatedly on Oath Keepers’ Web forum, Rhodes deleted the guy’s online testimonial. “The IVAW have their own totalitarian mindset,” he told me. “I don’t like communists any more than I like Nazis.”

On the conference’s final day, National 912 Project chairman Patrick Jenkins stepped up to talk about the National Liberty Unity Summits his group was organizing in cooperation with Oath Keepers. They would provide a chance, he said, for patriots to forge a common agenda and a plan to carry it out. At the first summit, in December, attendees included representatives of groups from FairTax Nation to the Constitution Party to Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.

On hand were Ralph Reed Jr. (former director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition and recent founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition), Larry Pratt (head of Gun Owners of America), and Tim Cox (founder of Get Out of Our House, an organization praised on Fox News for its goal of replacing business-as-usual incumbents with “ordinary folks”). Most notable were representatives Broun and Gingrey, who according to summit organizer Nighta Davis have expressed willingness to introduce legislation crafted by summit attendees. (So, Davis says, have Steve King [R-Iowa] and Michele Bachmann [R-Minn.]. None of the representatives agreed to comment for this story.)

The December gathering was merely a windup. In mid-April, another summit is planned to coincide with a huge gun-rights march and a Tax Day Tea Party rally in Washington organized by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks PAC and the American Liberty Alliance—whose home page touts Oath Keepers as a key part of “the Movement.” Organizers expect hundreds of thousands to turn out. The Oath Keepers will be there en masse.


IN VEGAS, Rhodes took me aside repeatedly to explain that many of those in attendance—including featured speakers like “Patriot Pastor” Garrett Lear (“When a government doesn’t obey God, we must reform it”)—might not represent Oath Keepers’ official message. He and his Web staff have been overwhelmed, he told me, by the amount of policing required to keep people from posting “off message” commentary encouraging violence or racism.

Last December, they shut down one forum because too many posters were using it to recruit for militias. The Constitution, of course, allows citizens to form militias so long as their intent is to defend and not overthrow the government, but active-duty soldiers can lose security clearances or get demoted for associating with them. Rhodes advises members to go ahead and join—just not in Oath Keepers’ name. “As a matter of strategy, it is best to keep the two separate,” he wrote in a post.

There may also be serious downsides for a soldier who follows through on his Oath Keepers pledge. Disobeying orders can mean discharge or imprisonment. “You have every right to disobey an order if you think it is illegal,” says Army spokesman Nathan Banks. “But you will face court-martial, and so help you God if you are wrong. Saying something isn’t constitutional isn’t going to fly.”

A soldier like Charles Dyer, who in his July4Patriot persona advocated armed resistance against the government, could risk charges of treason. As a Marine sergeant based out of Camp Pendleton, Dyer posted videos to YouTube last year, his face half-covered with a skull bandana. “With the DHS blatantly calling patriots, veterans, and constitutionalists a threat, all that I have to say is, you’re damn right we’re a threat,” he said in one.

“We’re a threat to anyone that endangers our rights and the Constitution of this republic…We’re gathering in defense of our way of life.” For a while, he ran a training compound in San Diego, teaching civilians his Marine combat skills.

Dyer, who with Rhodes’ blessing represented Oath Keepers at an Oklahoma Tea Party rally on July 4, was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with uttering “disloyal” statements. He ultimately beat the charge, left the Marines, and reappeared unmasked on YouTube encouraging viewers to join him at his makeshift training area in Duncan, Oklahoma—”I’m sure the DHS will call it a terrorist training camp.”

In January, Dyer was arrested on charges of raping a seven-year-old girl. When sheriff’s deputies raided his home, they found a Colt M-203 grenade launcher believed to have been stolen from a California military base. He now faces federal weapons charges and is being hailed by fringe militia groups like the American Resistance Movement as “the first POW of the second American Revolution.”

Shortly after I asked Rhodes about Dyer—before his arrest hit the news—his testimonial vanished from the group’s website­. Rhodes once endorsed Dyer in glowing terms, but now claims he was never a member because he hasn’t paid dues. Yet Dyer publicly referred to himself as an Oath Keeper, and Rhodes had previously insisted—to Lou Dobbs and anyone else who would listen—that you didn’t need to pay dues to be a member.

In an interview prior to Dyer’s arrest, Andrew Sexton, another uniformed YouTube star who argues the need for armed resistance, criticized Dyer for making himself a target. Sexton, an Army reservist who served in Afghanistan with US Special Operations Command, also keeps his Oath Keepers ties under the radar. Most soldiers, he told me, don’t talk openly about such things, but it’s easy enough to tell which ones have been woken up.

The Department of Defense, Sexton added, will be shocked by the number of service members willing to turn against their commanders when the time comes. “It’s an absolute reality,” he says. He views last April’s DHS report on right-wing extremists as a “preemptive attack because they know it’s coming.”

Rhodes isn’t calling for violence—indeed, he insists that his group is about laying down arms rather than turning them on citizens. Yet when he writes that “the oath is like kryptonite to tyrants, as the Founders intended. The time has come for us to use it to its full effect,” some followers take that as a call for drastic action.

Chip Berlet, of the watchdog group Political Research Associates, who has studied right-wing populist movements for 25 years, equates Rhodes’ rhetoric to yelling fire in a crowded theater. “Promoting these conspiracy theories is very dangerous right now because there are people who will assume that a hero will stop at nothing.” What will happen, he adds, “is not just disobeying orders but harming and killing.”

Rhodes acknowledges that there are certain risks. Freedom “is not neat or tidy,” he says. “It’s messy.” For example, he concedes that “there may be a downside” to police refusing to engage during a riot situation. “Someone could be beaten or raped, but the potential risks involved are far less dangerous than having soldiers or police always do whatever they are told.”


LEE PRAY thinks Rhodes downplays the threat Oath Keepers represents to a rogue administration. “They have to be careful because otherwise they will be labeled as terrorists,” he says. “You have to read between the lines, but I wish they were more up-front with their members.”

It’s not hard to see the appeal of Oath Keepers for guys like Pray and Brandon, frustrated young men nervous about their future prospects. They signed up to defend the greatest country in the world, only to be cast aside. Even their injuries were suffered ingloriously. Brandon can’t sit for long after being flung from a pickup truck; Pray now walks with a cane, possibly for good.

The men sincerely believe their country is headed for disaster, but as broken warriors they are powerless to do anything about it. They have tried writing to Congress, signing petitions, and voting, all to no avail. Oath Keepers offers a new sense of pride and comradeship—of being part of something momentous.

And when the time comes, Pray insists he is battle ready. “If the government continues to ignore us, and forces us to engage,” Pray says, “I’m willing to fight to the death.” Brandon, for his part, is resigned about their odds fighting the US military. “If we take up arms, realistically we would lose, and they would label us as terrorists,” he says. Pray nods sadly in agreement. But they’ll take their chances. They consider it their duty.

Andrew Bossone shared and commented on Jackson Allers

Oath Keepers are anti-racist – according to Sam Andrews of the Missouri Oath Keepers chapter!

And they want to protect the protestors from the police? Game changer?

Ferguson Oath Keepers are planning an open-carry march with armed, black, non-members of the group in a show of support and solidarity.
Andrew Bossone shared this link

Not at all surprised this is a movement in the US. Send them to fight wars and they come home to roost.

Glenn Beck loves them. Tea Partiers court them. Congressmen listen to them. Meet the fast-growing “patriot” group that’s recruiting soldiers to resist the…

Only two options? Take a stand or let it go? How to decide?

This summer I was back in Ohio for a family wedding, and when I was there, there was a meet and greet with Anna and Elsa from “Frozen.”

Not the Anna and Elsa from “Frozen,” as this was not a Disney-sanctioned event. These two entrepreneurs had a business of running princess parties.

Your kid is turning five? They’ll come sing some songs, sprinkle some fairy dust, it’s great. And they were not about to miss out on the opportunity that was the phenomenon and that was “Frozen.”

0:46 So they get hired by a local toy store, kids come in on a Saturday morning, buy some Disney swag, get their picture taken with the princesses, call it a day. It’s like Santa Claus without the seasonal restrictions.

And my three-and-a-half-year-old niece Samantha was in the thick of it. She could care less that these two women were signing posters and coloring books as Snow Queen and Princess Ana with one N to avoid copyright lawsuits. (Laughter)

According to my niece and the 200-plus kids in the parking lot that day, this was the Anna and Elsa from “Frozen.”

 It is a blazing hot Saturday morning in August in Ohio. We get there at 10 o’clock, the scheduled start time, and we are handed number 59.

By 11 o’clock they had called numbers 21 through 25; this was going to be a while, and there is no amount of free face painting or temporary tattoos that could prevent the meltdowns that were occurring outside of the store. (Laughter)

By 12:30 we get called: “56 to 63, please.” And as we walk in, it is a scene I can only describe you as saying it looked like Norway threw up.

There were cardboard cut-out snowflakes covering the floor, glitter on every flat surface, and icicles all over the walls.

And as we stood in line in an attempt to give my niece a better vantage point than the backside of the mother of number 58, I put her up on my shoulders, and she was instantly riveted by the sight of the princesses.

And as we moved forward, her excitement only grew, and as we finally got to the front of the line, and number 58 unfurled her poster to be signed by the princesses, I could literally feel the excitement running through her body. And let’s be honest, at that point, I was pretty excited too.  I mean, the Scandinavian decadence was mesmerizing. (Laughter)

We get to the front of the line, and the haggard clerk turns to my niece and says, “Hi, honey. You’re next! Do you want to get down, or you’re going to stay on your dad’s shoulders for the picture?’ And I was, for a lack of a better word, frozen. (Laughter)

3:09 It’s amazing that in an unexpected instant we are faced with the question, who am I?

Am I an aunt? Or am I an advocate? Millions of people have seen my video about how to have a hard conversation, and there one was, right in front of me.

At the same time, there’s nothing more important to me than the kids in my life, so I found myself in a situation that we so often find ourselves in, torn between two things, two impossible choices. Would I be an advocate? Would I take my niece off my shoulders and turn to the clerk and explain to her that I was in fact her aunt, not her father, and that she should be more careful and not to jump to gender conclusions based on haircuts and shoulder rides — (Laughter) — and while doing that, miss out on what was, to this point, the greatest moment of my niece’s life.

Or would I be an aunt? Would I brush off that comment, take a million pictures, and not be distracted for an instant from the pure joy of that moment, and by doing that, walk out with the shame that comes up for not standing up for myself, especially in front of my niece.

Who was I? Which one was more important? Which role was more worth it? Was I an aunt? Or was I an advocate? And I had a split second to decide.

4:33 We are taught right now that we are living in a world of constant and increasing polarity. It’s so black and white, so us and them, so right and wrong.

There is no middle, there is no gray, just polarity.

Polarity is a state in which two ideas or opinions are completely opposite from each other; a diametrical opposition. Which side are you on?

Are you unequivocally and without question antiwar, pro-choice, anti-death penalty, pro-gun regulation, proponent of open borders and pro-union? Or, are you absolutely and uncompromisingly pro-war, pro-life, pro-death penalty, a believer that the Second Amendment is absolute, anti-immigrant and pro-business?

It’s all or none, you’re with us or against us. That is polarity.

5:23 The problem with polarity and absolutes is that it eliminates the individuality of our human experience and that makes it contradictory to our human nature. But if we are pulled in these two directions, but it’s not really where we exist — polarity is not our actual reality — where do we go from there? What’s at the other end of that spectrum?

5:49 I don’t think it’s an unattainable, harmonious utopia, I think the opposite of polarity is duality.

Duality is a state of having two parts, but not in diametrical opposition, in simultaneous existence. Don’t think it’s possible? Here are the people I know:

I know Catholics who are pro-choice, and feminists who wear hijabs, and veterans who are antiwar, and NRA members who think I should be able to get married.

Those are the people I know, those are my friends and family, that is the majority of our society, that is you, that is me. (Applause) Duality is the ability to hold both things. But the question is: Can we own our duality? Can we have the courage to hold both things?

6:45 I work at a restaurant in town, I became really good friends with the busser. I was a server and we had a great relationship, we had a really great time together. Her Spanish was great because she was from Mexico. That line actually went the other way. Her English was limited, but significantly better than my Spanish.

But we were united by our similarities, not separated by our differences. And we were close, even though we came from very different worlds. She was from Mexico, she left her family behind so she could come here and afford them a better life back home. She was a devout conservative Catholic, a believer in traditional family values, stereotypical roles of men and women, and I was, well, me.

But the things that bonded us were when she asked about my girlfriend, or she shared pictures that she had from her family back home. Those were the things that brought us together. So one day, we were in the back, scarfing down food as quickly as we could, gathered around a small table, during a very rare lull, and a new guy from the kitchen came over — who happened to be her cousin — and sat down with all the bravado and machismo that his 20-year-old body could hold.

And he said to her, [in Spanish] “Does Ash have a boyfriend?” And she said, [in Spanish] “No, she has a girlfriend.” And he said, [in Spanish] “A girlfriend?!?” And she set down her fork, and locked eyes with him, and said, [in Spanish] “Yes, a girlfriend. That is all.” And his smug smile quickly dropped to one of maternal respect, grabbed his plate, walked off, went back to work. She never made eye contact with me. She left, did the same thing — it was a 10-second conversation, such a short interaction.

On paper, she had so much more in common with him: language, culture, history, family, her community was her lifeline here, but her moral compass trumped all of that. And a little bit later, they were joking around in the kitchen in Spanish, that had nothing to do with me, and that is duality. She didn’t have to choose some P.C. stance on gayness over her heritage. She didn’t have to choose her family over our friendship. It wasn’t Jesus or Ash. 

Her individual morality was so strongly rooted that she had the courage to hold both things. Our moral integrity is our responsibility and we must be prepared to defend it even when it’s not convenient. That’s what it means to be an ally, and if you’re going to be an ally, you have to be an active ally: Ask questions, act when you hear something inappropriate, actually engage.

I had a family friend who for years used to call my girlfriend my lover. Really? Lover? So overly sexual, so ’70s gay porn. (Laughter) But she was trying, and she asked. She could have called her my friend, or my “friend,” or my “special friend” or even worse, just not asked at all. Believe me, we would rather have you ask. I would rather have her say lover, than say nothing at all.

People often say to me, “Well, Ash, I don’t care. I don’t see race or religion or sexuality. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t see it.” But I think the opposite of homophobia and racism and xenophobia is not love, it’s apathy. If you don’t see my gayness, then you don’t see me. If it doesn’t matter to you who I sleep with, then you cannot imagine what it feels like when I walk down the street late at night holding her hand, and approach a group of people and have to make the decision if I should hang on to it or if I should I drop it when all I want to do is squeeze it tighter.

And the small victory I feel when I make it by and don’t have to let go. And the incredible cowardice and disappointment I feel when I drop it. If you do not see that struggle that is unique to my human experience because I am gay, then you don’t see me. If you are going to be an ally, I need you to see me.

As individuals, as allies, as humans, we need to be able to hold both things: both the good and the bad, the easy and the hard. You don’t learn how to hold two things just from the fluff, you learn it from the grit. And what if duality is just the first step?

What if through compassion and empathy and human interaction we are able to learn to hold two things? And if we can hold two things, we can hold four, and if we can hold four, we can hold eight, and if we can hold eight, we can hold hundreds.

12:09 We are complex individuals, swirls of contradiction. You are all holding so many things right now. What can you do to hold just a few more?

12:21 So, back to Toledo, Ohio. I’m at the front of the line, niece on my shoulders, the frazzled clerk calls me Dad. Have you ever been mistaken for the wrong gender? Not even that. Have you ever been called something you are not? Here’s what it feels like for me: I am instantly an internal storm of contrasting emotions. I break out into a sweat that is a combination of rage and humiliation, I feel like the entire store is staring at me, and I simultaneously feel invisible. I want to explode in a tirade of fury, and I want to crawl under a rock. And top all of that off with the frustration that I’m wearing an out-of-character tight-fitting purple t-shirt, so this whole store can see my boobs, to make sure this exact same thing doesn’t happen. (Laughter) But, despite my best efforts to be seen as the gender I am, it still happens. And I hope with every ounce of my body that no one heard — not my sister, not my girlfriend, and certainly not my niece. I am accustomed to this familiar hurt, but I will do whatever I need to do to protect the people I love from it.

13:42 But then I take my niece off my shoulders, and she runs to Elsa and Anna — the thing she’s been waiting so long for — and all that stuff goes away. All that matters is the smile on her face. And as the 30 seconds we waited two and a half hours for comes to a close we gather up our things, and I lock eyes with the clerk again; and she gives me an apologetic smile and mouths, “I am so sorry!” (Laughter) And her humanity, her willingness to admit her mistake disarms me immediately, then I give her a: “It’s okay, it happens. But thanks.”

14:25 And I realize in that moment that I don’t have to be either an aunt or an advocate, I can be both. I can live in duality, and I can hold two things. And if I can hold two things in that environment, I can hold so many more things. As my girlfriend and my niece hold hands and skip out the front of the door, I turn to my sister and say, “Was it worth it?” And she said, “Are you kidding me? Did you see the look on her face? This was the greatest day of her life!” (Laughter) “It was worth the two and a half hours in the heat, it was worth the overpriced coloring book that we already had a copy of.” (Laughter) “It was even worth you getting called Dad.” (Laughter) And for the first time ever in my life, it actually was.

Each of us feels this struggle sometimes: When to take a stand and be an advocate? And when to let it go and save the situation?
In this first ‪#‎TEDTalk‬ screened at ‪#‎TEDxSKE‬ salon from TEDxBoulder, Ash Beckham offers bold suggestions for how to stand up for your moral integrity when it isn’t convenient.…/ash_beckham_when_to_take_a_stand_and_w…

Ash Beckham recently found herself in a situation that made her ask: who am I?
She felt pulled between two roles — as an aunt and as an advocate.
Each of us feels this struggle sometimes, she says — and offers bold suggestions for how to…|By Ash Beckham

Mondassin? Trouble demonstrators who infiltrated Peaceful rallies?

How about jobless, famished and lost all hopes youth?

Before I delve into the latest violent marches and rallies of the Lebanese people against the mountains of garbage littering the streets all over Lebanon, it is important to set in context a few facts.

There is this trend in rallies, marches and sit-in…:

Factor One: The day is mostly peaceful. At dusk, violent acts set in

Factor Two: During the day, the people are locked in and caged by the police forces and barbed wires. By the end of the day, the people are restless, fatigued, and ready for actions. The police force wait for this moment to start confrontations, knowing that likewise reactions will be ignited.

Factor Three: By day, women, children, babies and elder people join the rally. By the end of the day, mothers, children, husbands and elder people have to go home for many reasons. By the end of the day, only youth remain to guard the land. The police force feel confident that tear gas and other means are safer to use since the media is not going to howl for casualties among children, mothers and elderly people.

Factor Four: The power-to-be wait for late afternoon to infiltrate troubling demonstrators: They are more inclined to react violently to police activities and are selected to be catalysts for events going out of hand. Law and Security is threatened and the police force is legally bound to protect properties and…

Factor Five: In Peaceful demonstrations, the protestors are mostly highly educated students, teachers…and they have this sense of “Not making a fool of myself” and to behave according to community standards. This is more acute when media are covering direct the event.

The trouble is that live media coverage are Not hot about boring peaceful demonstrations and the protestors feel ignored by everyone, particularly the political institutions who fail to dispatch someone to negotiate or listen to their demands and recriminations.

Qui a lâché ses chiens parmi les manifestants?

(Who released these dogs?)

Photo AFP

Lebanon witnessed scores of peaceful demonstrations and sit-in in the last decades and they were inconsequential in pulling off any reforms or change.

This time around, the mountains of garbage piling up on each street in the last 5 weeks simply hurt the sensibility of the educated youth.

The eyes and noses sent a strong message to their ideals and principles: “How the external world would view us under these conditions?”

For 30 years, the Lebanese citizens have been suffering from and greatly ignored and humiliated by this post militia rotten political system and they refrained to act according to the level of indignity.

The current educated youth were removing themselves from political engagement and ignoring the names of their representatives and even the President of the Republic.

As long as their parents were paying their tuition, paying twice the bills for electricity, water and every other facility that should be provided by the State… then there were no terrible problems.

And then the garbage catastrophe hit the sensibility of this educated youth and got them into questioning

What’s happening? How did we got to this shameful conditions? How come the waste collector Sukleen was pocketing $150 per wet ton of garbage when Ireland pay $40 for the dry garbage? How the money is distributed among the former militia leaders who are running the country?…”

Suddenly, the garbage piled up and the political leaders refused to reach a resolution.

The youth finally learned that the feudal Druze militia leader Walid Jumblat was Not financially satisfied with the garbage collection deal with Sukleen, run and managed by former Prime Minister Seniora for over 20 years, and who is actually representing the Hariri political movement and financial deals in Lebanon. Actually, Seniora is an Israeli spy since 1974 (read the Israeli Filka file) and became the USA fromt man after the assassination of his boss Rafic Hariri.

The waste land in Na3ema used for dumping the garbage was in Jumblat’s fiefdom and he wanted $25 per ton to his personal account.

Jumblat dispatched his militia members to shut access to the dump until a “reasonable” deal is negotiated after the contract expired. (A contract that has been automatically renewed in the last 25 years with higher costs without any formal bidding process)

And the garbage piled up for 5 weeks.

The morning of the first day of the youth rally was very peaceful and degenerated in the evening: The power-to-be hated to see the youth united against the will of the political parties and wanted to vacate the place by any means available. When water canon failed to disperse the gathering then tear gas canisters were thrown among the women and children. And rubber bullets were shot at will, including live ammunition fired at a slight angle in the air.

The use of bullets galvanized the demonstrators and people converged from all Lebanon to show their horror while two dozens of soldiers have been taken hostage by the extremist Islamic factions for more than a year and the political system refused to give the military the order  to take any action to free them.

And the demonstrators returned and brought tents and slept in Riad El Solh Quarter. (Ironically, the government erected a prefab wall of shame around the Serai after the rally was disbanded)

The next day was also very peaceful and the gathering increased in number and families flocked in with their kids, and singers and famous artists joined in.

By late afternoon, it was reported that trouble makers have been infiltrating the rank, and rumors wanted it that the appointed Maestro of the militia leaders Nabih Berry is effectively in charge of disbanding the peaceful gathering. It was a terrible horror scenes that night.

But claiming that most of the trouble-making infiltrators were injected and dispatched by Nabih Berry is not doing justice to the brave and heavy hearted demonstrators who converged from the 4 corners of Lebanon to take a stand. The government blocked the highway access from the north and the south to slow down the convergence of citizens from other regions in Lebanon

These dispatched infiltrators were few and had their faces covered and they were meant to act as catalysts and TV commentators lamely explained: the police force got its order toclear the place” with tear gas in profusion.

The so-called infiltrators (Mondassin) are the youth out of jobs (50% unemployment rate), famished, living in crowded family quarters, lacking health coverage and political cover for misdemeanours.

These disinherited youth gave the live coverage scenes of courage, determination and stubbornness that the Wild West could not match.

The story will not stop and reforms and changes will take place.

Note 1: This hapless Minister of the Environment divulged today the 5 winners in the bidding for waste management. Each main political party (read leader) got his share in the district he mostly represent. Ironically, every deal is far more expensive than Sukleen and the stench is increasing exponentially, politically and health risks

In context: After the end of the civil war in Lebanon, then Syria, Saudi Arabia and the USA agreed on a triumvirate to  be the Godfathers of the new political system, a system of cantons representing the civil militia aspect of a de-facto divided Lebanon among its various religious sects.
Two of the triumviri leaders were let militia leaders:  Nabih Berry (main man of Syria and current chairman of Parliament for the last 35 years and leader of Amal shiaa militia) and Walid Jumblat (Druze militia leader) and the rich real estate developer Rafic Hariri, parachuted by Saudi Arabia to be their main man and Prime Minister. (The militia leaders were tacitly allowed to keep their weapons hidden from the searches and collection by the Lebanese army).
All the other political figures in this theater, even the new comers of billionnaires to the scene, were the front.
The Maronite Christian militia leader Samir Jaagea was put in prison for 13 years.
General Michel Aoun, designated  Prime minister by the leaving President Amin Gemmayel, was remove by force by the Syrian and sent to exile in France. (Current leader of the Tayyar movement)
After Rafik Hariri was assassinated in 2005, the two militia leaders had a field day to rule Lebanon in every political, social and financial aspects
When all the parties agreed on a law or a project the political figures shared in the looting of the public funds and each one had his own financial Black Box and shares in the numbers of ministers, public services, the army and police forces. Accumulating the national debt to reach $70 billion was meant to compensate for the greedy cheese partakers in the system of post militia control under the semblance of a civil State.
Berry was appointed as the maestro of this system of systematic and blatant looting of the wealth of the nation.
When they disagreed, the Lebanese citizens had to suffer in many ways that is conceivable in any sensible State. (No electricity, no potable water, no health insurance…)
Then they disagreed on the ratio of splitting the garbage collection and treatment deals.
And for more than a month, the wastes have been accumulating in every street all over Lebanon and no resolution in sight.
The educated youth decided to rally against this garbage crisis under the slogan: “You stink. Get out of the way”
When the demonstrators gathered in  Sa7at Nejmeh (Star square where the Parliament is located), Nabih Berry ordered the guards to open fire with live bullets.
This order backfired and the people know who is the real gangster in this militia system of government.





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