15 Oct 2013
The “Oath Keepers” and Credibility
While reading an article in the Daily Beast about the “Oath Keepers” group, I saw something that kind of surprised me:
These members vow to protect the constitution but also to disobey any governmental orders that they deem “unconstitutional.” Recently, the Oath Keepers adopted NSA leaker Edward Snowden as a symbol of this oath, and bought a billboard in the White House station of the D.C. Metro that reads: “Snowden Honored His Oath, Honor Yours! Stop Big Brother!” [emphasis mine]
So the Oath Keepers consider Snowden a patriotic whistleblower who did the right thing. Well, readers, you know what? I think that’s swell, and I agree wholeheartedly.
But here’s the thing: I can’t help but feel pretty sure that they would consider Snowden a cowardly traitor, and they’d be calling for him to be rendered to a CIA “black site,” tortured, then brought back to America and executed for treason, if there happened to be a Republican, instead of a Democrat, in the White House. What they’re so upset about isn’t how much power the government has, it’s how much power the Democrats have.
The right-wing “Patriot” militia movements were active during the years when Bill Clinton was in the White House. They were very concerned about “freedom,” and anxious to stockpile weapons and play “Red Dawn” war-games in the forest, because America’s freedoms and its Constitution were “under threat.”
Then, in 2001, George W. Bush took office, and the “Patriot” militias all yawned, stretched out, and lay down for a nice long nap. After 9/11, America lost its mind and decided the Constitution was much less important than Keeping America Safe from The Terrorists. We passed the execrable USA PATRIOT Act. The Bush administration put forth, and began acting on, a radical doctrine of supreme Executive-Branch power: basically, the President could do anything he liked in the name of National Security, without let or hindrance, without oversight or even input from other branches of government.
Here was a genuine threat to freedom and to the Constitution, and what did the militias and the rest of the right-wingers do? They either continued their refreshing nap, or they got up and actively cheered for it. I kept wondering how comfortable these people were going to be with an all-powerful Executive Branch in charge of an authoritarian security state once the Republicans were no longer in control of the White House, and guess what? As soon as Barack Obama took office, the militias and the rest of the right-wingers immediately started screaming about Tyranny, waving Gadsden flags around, and stockpiling ammunition in preparation for the day they’d have to defend themselves against Government Stormtroopers.
That, readers, is why I am unable to take these people’s protestations of concern for Freedom and the Constitution seriously. If they’d said a word about it when the Bush administration was laying the groundwork for the all-powerful Executive Branch, while we Americans were turning into a bunch of power-worshipping cowards and embracing the authoritarian security state, I might be able to take them seriously today when they express their deep concerns about government power.
But I don’t buy it for a New York minute, readers. The Oath Keepers worship power, they just don’t want it in the hands of anyone they disagree with. The minute there’s a Republican in the White House again, even if it’s some milquetoast plutocrat like Mitt Romney, the militias and the Oath Keepers will all go back to sleep. Some of them will even go back into cheerleading mode, lavishing praises on an all-powerful security state again.
And before you write an angry comment accusing me of being “partisan,” let me repeat what I keep saying here over and over again: Obama’s record on civil liberties and the “War on Terror” has been even worse than Bush’s. The Bush administration laid the framework and set the precedents, but the Obama administration picked up that ball eagerly and ran with it.
Libs and Dems mostly revealed themselves to be power-worshipping authoritarians as well. Far too many Dems were very concerned about the Bush administration’s arrogation of power to the Executive Branch in the name of National Security, then suddenly decided it was all just fine when the Obama administration did the same things and more. I’m very disappointed about this, and even surprised I wasn’t cynical enough to foresee it happening. What’s wrong is wrong, no matter who happens to be doing it.
Right-wing militias are right to be concerned about the government having too much power, and they’re right to be concerned about our all-encompassing surveillance state. “National Security” and “Fighting Terrorism” should not be blanket excuses for our government to do whatever it wants, without oversight and with total impunity. That’s something I think all Americans ought to agree on. No government should ever have that much power — it’s fundamentally un-American. No government should ever have that much power, no matter which party is in the White House.
But I’ll start taking right-wing militias’ supposed love of “freedom” more seriously the day I see them screaming about tyranny and calling for the impeachment of a REPUBLICAN president, readers. Until then, these “Oath Keepers” and their ilk have zero credibility, as far as I’m concerned. No matter how many anti-Obama bumper stickers, NRA T-shirts, and Gadsden Flags they can muster, they haven’t actually proven themselves to be anything but power-worshipping authoritarian cowards, just like the rest of us in this brave new America.