| 31 December 1995
1995: Year in Review
by Leonard Zeskind
Searchlight Magazine January 1996
Until the trial of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols begins, current events will continue to be divided between those that occurred before the Oklahoma City bomb and those that occur after April 19. Before the bomb, the militia movement was growing quickly, moving from its origins in the most hardened centers of the white supremacist movement on to a position of influence on the fringes of the Republican Party. Increased public scrutiny since the bomb, however, has caused some fractures within the militias and has undermined--but not ended--their quest for public acceptance.
The two accused bombers have been a monkey on the fa rright's back. Nichols and his Michigan brother were both well known in militia circles, as well as by long-time cadres of the Posse Comitatus. For his part, McVeigh bought and sold the National Alliance's terror novel, Turner Diaries, as he traveled from Arkansas to Arizona attending gun shows. In addition, prosecutors have been attempting to determine the meaning of two calls McVeigh made to the Elohim City compound in Oklahoma. The Identity compound has been a center of armed survivalism since the early 1980s.
While Nichols and McVeigh's ties to the white supremacist movement are unmistakable, their supporters have been attempting to link the bombing to the federal government. Since April, page after lurid page of the Liberty Lobby's Spotlight and the Identity tabloid Jubilee have been devoted to demonstrating a possible government connection to the bomb. The FBI's failure to make further arrests, or identify "John Doe Number Two," has fueled speculation that they have something to hide.
Prosecutors plan for a trial to begin in May 1996, but McVeigh's attorney wants it postponed until after 1 September. A new judge from Colorado has been appointed to replace the Oklahoma City judge. The new judge once presided over a trial of four Order members accused of violating the civil rights of radio talker Alan Berg. Two were convicted and two acquitted. A Colorado state senator, Charles Duke, has been one of the most visible exponents of a government-involvement conspiracy theory. Duke also participated in a "citizens grand jury" which "indicted" fellow Colorado state legislators for "treason" and other high crimes.
In the USA, grand juries of oridinary citizens are often appointed by judges to hear prosecutorial evidence. If the grand jury decides that prosecutors have enough evidence to warrant a trial, then they issue an indictment--or formal presentation of charges. The far-right Posse Comitatus, as part of their drive to enforce "constitutional" governemnt in the 1980s, convened their own "grand juries" and issued indictments of law enforcement and government officials. While never having the force of law, such indictments were used to harrass everybody from the local police chief to the county tax assessor. Now Charles Duke & Co. are using the same tactic today. These secretive "grand juries" have continued since the bomb, even if open militia activity has not. Since April, in fact, the Michigan Militia, one of the largest and most public, has been wracked by splits and defections. Similarly, the militia in Kansas decided to disband completely, although some of its members joined a neighboring organization in Missouri. Other militias have become more secretive or started to emphasize open political campaigning at the expense of paramilitary training.
On the other hand, the Alabama militia scored a significant public relations victory against their nemisis--the Treasury Dept.'s Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms--when the militia exposed an annual "Good Ol' Boys Roundup." The annual outdoor party in Tennessee was attended by local cops as well as federal agents from around the southeast--some of whom were out-front racists. The exposure sparked a federal investigation of the events, which discovered, in part, that the Alabama militia may have cooked part of the "evidence" themselves.
Nevertheless, federal marshals, BATF and FBI continued to come under pressure from the right-wing for civil liberties violations in the 1993 Waco case and the 1992 Randy Weaver seige at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. After a lackluster look at the militias by Sen. Arlen Spector's Judiciary Sub-Committee last June, the House of Representatives held hearings on Waco last summer. The hearings were intended to press the case against President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno for possible wrongdoings at Waco, when 79 Branch Davidians died in a fire. Instead, the National Rifle Association's attempts to nose into the Congressional investigation became an issue and blunted the Republican effort.
The Ruby Ridge hearings in the Senate last September turned up no new evidence, and Randy Weaver's assent to a $3.1 million settlement in the case has taken the issue off the burner, at least until Weaver's attorneys decide to take further action in court. Prior to the bomb, the far right and the militias were using Waco and Ruby Ridge to gather public support outside their movement. After the bomb, they have used the government-did-it conspiracy theory to hold their own troops together, but have gained little new public support. Events are at a temporary stalemate.
Buchanan "Takeover" of Republican Party
Similarly, the advance of the Republican Party's far right, which seemed, after the 1994 congressional elections, as if it would crush all opposition within sight, has slowed. Both the Rev. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition and the National Rifle Association claimed credit for the Republican Party's takeover of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Their grassroots mobilization was assisted by the votes of a majority of southern white men for local Republican candidates for the first time since the civil war. Their victories launched the campaign for the 1996 presidential election almost a full year early. By last June, the Republican field of candidates had virtually been established.
What is interesting about the Republican primary campaign for <Searchlight> readers is the role of Pat Buchanan's candidacy. Buchanan is the former Nixon and Reagan White House aide turned journalist, who self-conciously adopted former Klansman David Duke's "issues" in 1992. He is widely regarded as a racist, and even conservative pundit William Buckley concluded that Buchanan "couldn't be defended" from charges that he is an anti-Semite. Nevertheless, Buchanan received over 30% of the Republican primary vote in some states in 1992 and mortally wounded Pres. George Bush's re-election bid.
This time around, Buchanan is justifiably claiming that <all> of the Republican candidates have moved further to the right, in order to attempt to win away his voters. The most aggressively right-wing has been Texas Senator Phil Gramm, who is now opposing Clinton's plans for Bosnia in an effort to win the right-wing isolationist vote. To date, however, Buchanan has kept Gramm at bay. The result has been that moderate Republicans, have been immobilized by their own extremist colleagues. Even Sen. Bob Dole, a hawkish, if traditional Republican, who leads in the polls, has starting acting as if he is a right-wing bible thumper.
Populist Party Disbands
The success of the far right in the Republican Party has squeezed electioneering by the far right <outside> the party. In the last few months the Populist Party--once a jewel in Willis Carto's crown--has died under the inept leadership of Don Wassall and other pretenders to Carto's marketing throne.
Although he lost control of the Holocaust denial Institute for Historical Review, Carto has successfully used Liberty Lobby attorney Mark Lane to tamp down any further damage. Lane used to be a regular among the left-wing lawyer set, but is now a Liberty Lobby fixture. He promoted his latest conspiracy theories at their convention last September. It is unlikely that Carto and his Liberty Lobby will try any independent electoral campaign next year.
The same fate awaits Ed Fields' America First Party, which has been overshadowed in the southeast by the Council of Conservative Citizens. Fields wants to imitate what he perceives to be the success of John Tyndall's British National Party. His room for manuever, however, has been trimmed by Buchananites on one side and the militia on the other. Above all, Fields lacks personnel skilled in the arts of electioneering. Field's glory days with J.B. Stoner in the National States Rights Party are behind him. Even long-time comrades such as Jerry Ray, brother of Martin Luther King's convicted assassin James Earl Ray, jumped ship ten years ago. James Earl Ray's belated attempts to claim the King assassination was a government job, instead of his own, falls into the same category as Tim McVeigh's effort to avoid blame in Oklahoma City.
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