Today, we mark the fifteenth anniversary of worst act of domestic terrorism in American history, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by a racist, anti-government fanatic named Timothy McVeigh. The death toll was 168 men, women and children with hundreds more maimed and wounded.
Is there a New Mexico connection?
Hold that thought for a moment. We’ll get back to it.
But first here’s quick pop quiz. Which one of these icons of the tea party movement — Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann – was responsible for the following urgent call to action:
Our nation has reached a point of no return… Today the chains of slavery lay lightly on our people but with every passing day the chains become stronger and the American people are more tightly bound. We must either break these chains soon while they are yet weak or else we must face an uncertain future, frightful to behold.
…the legal government of the United States has been taken over by the foreign ideology of a socialist bureaucracy. The enemies of liberty have preferred to describe this as ‘political change.’
If we are to win this desperate battle in the short time available we must use every possible weapon at our disposal.
It’s a trick question. The answer is “none of the above.” Of course, if you substitute “hopey- changey thing” for “political change” then it veers toward Palinism, if not Palinspeak.
DePugh was the founder of a right-wing paramilitary organization in the 1960s that is regarded as the forerunner of the patriot and militia movements of the ‘90s and today — the groups with which McVeigh was associated and drew the inspiration for his attack on the federal government building.
DePugh’s organization was called “the Minutemen.”
The statements above are from DePugh’s Minuteman organizational manual, Blueprint for Victory”, published in 1966.
The picture above is of DePugh and his posse of superpatriots on a training exercise.
Long before Sarah Palin put members of Congress in the crosshairs and Michele Bachmann accused them of being “un-American, DePugh was doing it in his monthly publication, On Target, in which he listed the names of twenty Congressmen who had criticized the then-active House Committee on Un-American Activities. Accompanying the list was this warning:
“Traitors beware! Even now the cross hairs are on the back of your necks.”
The crosshairs plus the warning became recognized as the Minuteman logo.
And so what’s the New Mexico connection?
In July 1969, the FBI arrested DePugh near Truth or Consequences on warrants issued in connection with his involvement in a conspiracy to rob four banks in Seattle to finance Minuteman activities. A search of DePugh’s hideout and the surrounding area near Williamsburg, New Mexico found bombs, hand grenades, 600 pounds of dynamite, and 48 firearms. DePugh was ultimately convicted and served four years in prison.
After his early release in 1973, DePugh joined forces with American Holocaust denier and godfather of the radical right, Willis Carto and his organization, Liberty Lobby.
Albuquerque old timers might remember the Liberty Lobby report that aired daily in the 1970s on New Mexico’s pioneering radio station in the early days of right-wing talk , the now defunct KZIA-AM.
But we digress. What of America’s “point of no return” about which DePugh warned in 1966?
The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. A year later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, guaranteeing the franchise to African-Americans and dealing a major blow to the Jim Crow system of racial apartheid that had prevailed in much of the country for a century.
DePugh was afraid of losing his America.
1965 also witnessed the enactment of the health insurance program for Americans aged 65 and older — Medicare. And New Mexico’s Senator Clinton P. Anderson, not to be mistaken for a socialist, was a key leader in that fight.
Of the achievement, Anderson recalled this in his memoir, Outsider in the Senate:
“On July 30, 1965, I joined President Johnson aboard the presidential jet, Air Force One, for a flight to Independence, Missouri, where the bill was to be signed. In the presence of Harry S. Truman, under whose leadership I had first begun to think of a national health insurance program almost two decades before, the bill became law. We beamed – President Truman, President Johnson, and I – as our concept became reality and our faith in ultimate victory was redeemed.”
It’s déjà vu all over again
“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.” — Ann Coulter, frequent guest on the Fox News Channel
The militia movement that spawned Timothy McVeigh is roaring back, feeding on the apocalyptic and conspiracy theory rhetoric of the Tea Party and its political allies who can’t resist an opportunity to demagogue the crowd and posture on Fox. They are playing with fire.
Over the past year, right-wing extremists were responsible for the fatal shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the ambush of three Pittsburgh police officers.
There’s the recent arrest of nine members of the Hutaree Militia who were plotting to kill hundreds of law enforcement officers and their families in Michigan.
Last week the story broke about Oklahoma Tea Party leaders working to pass legislation that would have the state recognize “a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.”
The state sovereignty argument goes hand-in-hand with an upsurge in neo-confederate and neo-secessionist talk. Texas Governor Rick Perry started flirting with the secessionists last year.
More recently, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell called for a celebration of Confederate history, sans any mention of what he considered a wholly insignificant factor in the Civil War – an economic system based on a system of chattel slavery that held 3.4 million Americans of African descent in bondage, and a mere 31% of Virginia’s population at the time.
What are the implications of these developments — this resurgence of militias, hate groups and extremist rhetoric, alongside the fact of elected leaders reviving the doctrines of nullification and secession?
It’s time to call them what they are. They’re the Civil War Pre-Enactors. There will be more on this in a later post.
NOTE: Tonight be sure not to miss the two-hour documentary hosted by Rachel Maddow, The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist. Featuring never before aired interviews with McVeigh, it promises to offer tremendous insight into the anti-government extremism of today.