The Secret History of the Oath Keepers w/ James Scaminaci III & Recluse
Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, Gary North, Ron Paul, "North-Paul Strategy," 2008 Ron Paul Presidential campaign, fiat currency, financial collapse, Federal Reserve system, Minutemen, Jekyll Island, '90s militia movement, Mormonism, Mormon Constitutionalism, Cleon Skousen, Ezra Taft Benson, Edwin Vieira, 2007-2008 subprime mortgage crisis, Tea Party, patriot movement, Obama administration, Republican Party, home schooling, nullification, "continental congress," Chuck Baldwin, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Fed, Civilization Preservation Teams, Fourth Generation Warfare, "David vs Goliath" concept, Sagebrush Rebellion, Battle of Bunkerville, Bundy standoff, American Legislative Exchange Council, Ken Ivory, Utah, Koch Brothers, Council for National Policy, Mormonism in the patriot movement.
Below are James notes' for this discussion. This is not the actual transcript, just the notes James put together for the show.
Now, a major influence on the ideology of the Oath Keepers in your estimation was Gary North. Can you give us a bit of an overview of this guy and the world view he held?
Gary North is a major strategist of the Christian Reconstructionist religious movement founded by Rousas Rushdoony. North was Rushdoony’s son-in-law. Rushdoony was a religious forerunner of Fourth Generation Warfare. Rushdoony borrowed the idea of presuppositionism, that is, our beliefs are based on our presuppositions, and argued that Americans had two opposing choices: follow the laws of God or follow the laws of man. Following the laws of God meant building the Kingdom here-and-now earth and putting religious zealots in charge. It is a philosophy of theonomy and dominionism.
This is the entire idea of making the US once again a Christian nation and the foundation for Christian nationalism. Christian Reconstructionism is the guiding philosophy, the driving force, of the Christian Right—though most people in the movement may never have heard of Rushdoony. If Rushdoony is the Karl Marx of the movement, Gary North may be its Lenin.
North was both a political strategist—how to implement this religious philosophy—and an economist—how to bring the US economic system under biblical law, which, funny enough, was the gold standard, railing against fiat money of the Federal Reserve System, and an extreme libertarianism.
As a strategist, he believed like Paul Weyrich and William Lind, in a centralized strategy executed through decentralized networks, which is exactly as Weyrich did through his ad hoc Arlington Group and Lind described for the militia.
Alright, get into North's perception of the Federal Reserve system. This is crucial to so much of this stuff, so it warrants an in-depth explanation.
North's notations of a pending economic collapse sounded outlandish to many normal Americans for decades. But in recent years, they've become harder and harder to ignore. Even many leading mainstream economists have expressed concerns in recent years, correct?
The standard right-wing theory of how they will come to power is based on the Weimar model: catastrophically high rates of inflation and economic collapse. They have been pushing this idea since at least the 1980s, if not before. So, they believe in the Weimar model. And they push for a return to the gold standard, the abolition of the Federal Reserve System, and a balanced federal budget.
The difference between, for example, the economic collapse conspiracy theory pushed by Oath Keepers and its libertarian allies and mainstream liberal economists, is that the former believes the elites will engineer a collapse. Gary North, on the other hand, thinks the economic collapse will be God’s judgement for running an unbiblical and fraudulent fiat money system.
Mainstream, liberal economists with impeccable credentials believe this economic system is inherently unstable and, if it does suffer a catastrophic financial crash—because it keeps growing larger and larger, with more opaque financial instruments, and ever greater global connectivity—it could take the US government down with it.
For the mainstream, it is the system’s inherent instability that causes a crash rather than the evil intentions of financial elites.
You can find progressive analysts thinking a future economic collapse is possible.
Indeed, it is possible to argue that both right-wing populists and left-wing populists believe the economic system is rigged by the political-economic elites against much of the American people, even if both populist wings differ on the causes, consequences, and remedies.
But, whatever the cause of a future economic collapse or catastrophic financial crisis, the right-wing expects it and is prepared to exploit it to push their dominionist political agenda.
Now, how does the militia movement of the 1990s tie into these notions of economic collapse? And what were some of the characteristics and hotbeds of the movement back then?
New right-wing movements cannot be isolated from the dominant ideas of the conservative movement and Christian movements. These new movements may express the issues more starkly or in more extreme rhetoric, but they are not independent of these larger ideological schools of thought.
The innovation of the militia/patriot movement was the idea of the New World Order. But this is rehashed, rebranded John Birch Society rhetoric about “insiders.” When globalization is the buzzword, the insiders become globalists. But “insiders” and “globalists” are sanitized code words for Jews.
The Christian Identity movement believed the country was headed towards an economic collapse and racial civil war. They and the “patriot/militia” sphere trained in survivalism and borrowed from the “prepper” movement.
The religious foundations of many right-wing movements are apocalyptic—they believe they are in the End Times or the end of the world. They then look for secular signs of the economic collapse. When the militias began resurging in 2004, one of their main ideas was that foreign or domestic terrorism could lead to an economic collapse.
Let's talk Mormon Constitutionalism for a moment. What is it, and how did it serve as a bridge between the Christian right and the later patriot movement?
I want to address this question in a broader context. I want to leave your audience with the idea that there are at least three religious movements on the right that have their differences and yet they also have some commonalities. And unless you put an individual or a group in its proper religious context, you may make some wrong inferences.
Mormon Constitutionalism, according to sociologist James Aho, who published a foundational book on “Idaho Christian Patriotism” in 1990, noted that these “Christian patriots” believe in the organic Constitution—the original 1787 articles and the Bill of Rights that were ratified in December 1791.
That the Constitution and the United States of America is part of God’s plan and America is God’s chosen country. Hence Americans, especially white Americans, are God’s chosen people, not the Jews.
That Americans must choose to obey and follow God or obey and follow Satan. And it follows that the Great Conspiracy is the Battle of God vs Satan on earth through their respective human agents.
And those beliefs are consistent with the views of the Christian Reconstructionists, the Christian Right, the John Birch Society, and Christian Identity. Even if these religious movements put different emphases on the villains, they do share a common narrative structure that allows them to understand each other and cooperate.
The Christian Right and John Birch Society tone done their anti-Semitism. They do not go for overt promotion of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But their promotion of “Cultural Marxism” as a conspiracy theory is rooted in the Protocols and Pat Robertson’s book The New World Order borrowed from anti-Semitic sources.
They can signal to the hard right that they are on-board with the anti-Semitism without alerting watchdog organizations that they are anti-Semitic. They may get a wrist slap from these watchdogs, but that amounts to a nominal reprimand while the main show continues.
Now, let us take a simple concept to show how one simple concept can serve as a bridge between four movement. That concept is “county supremacy” or sometimes expressed as the supremacy of the constitutional sheriff or simply as a constitutional sheriff.
Mormon prophet Ezra Taft Benson believed there were three levels of legitimate government in the United States: the county, state, and federal government. Both Benson’s and fellow Mormon constitutionalist W. Cleon Skousen placed great emphasis on the significant role and importance of the county sheriff. Skousen, collaborated closely with the John Birch Society, which in the 1960s, had a “Support Your Local Sheriff” campaign. Skousen founded the Freemen Institute which later became the National Center for Constitutional Studies. The latter organization became, through Glenn Beck’s boosterism, the leading source of constitutional theory for the Tea Party movement.
The Christian Reconstructionists also placed a great emphasis on county or local officials. In 1983, Gary North published an edited book, The Theology of Christian Resistance, which included a chapter on the “lesser magistrates” which was derived from John Calvin. Indeed, North also included Calvin’s brief writing on the topic.
According to the Christian Reconstructionists, individuals should not resist tyranny on their own. Instead, resistance to tyranny was the responsibility of “lesser magistrates” or local officials.
“Lesser magistrates” could be the governor, a board of county supervisors, or the county sheriff.
Some analysts suggest that the reduction of the Christian Right’s “lesser magistrates” to the exclusive focus on the county sheriff is the product of Christian Identity and its related Posse Comitatus movement. That would give the concept a racist and anti-Semitic lineage.
But prophet Benson wrote that in the “‘lawless West’” settlers came together to “hire a sheriff” and at “this precise moment, government is born.” The settlers “delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves.” Thus Benson gives primacy to the county sheriff “who now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves—nothing more.” Moreover, Benson viewed “defense against bodily harm, theft, and involuntary servitude” as the only “proper function of government.” Logically, then, the county sheriff is responsible for community defense against tyranny.
Thus, when we hear about “constitutional sheriffs” or “county supremacy,” the person or organization expressing those views may or may not have derived those terms from the anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus. If that person lives in the West, in an area dominated by the Church of Latter-Day Saints, his or her views may be from Mormon sources, or even John Birch Society sources.
The fact that there is consistency across three religious movements—Church of the Latter-Day Saints, Christian Reconstructionism, and Christian Identity—does not mean that the expression of a common term makes the speaker a racist or anti-Semite, especially an overt racist or anti-Semite like the Christian Identity and Posse Comitatus were.
Okay, let's talk some Edwin Vieira for a moment. He had a considerable influence on the post-9/11 militia movement. Can you break his views down for us?
Edwin Vieira wrote many papers on how the militias were to be properly organized under the Constitution. But he viewed all the unorganized, disorganized, and current militias as constitutionally suspect.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, however, called him the “architect of the militias” for the central role he played in the 2009 meeting on Jekyll Island that led to the revitalization of the patriot/militia movement.
He may have been, though I could be wrong, the first who linked the need to have gold and silver currencies for individual states as an alternative to fiat money and constitutionally organized militias as necessary to have to prevail during a catastrophic financial crisis. He believed it necessary to complete both actions—gold and silver currencies and constitutionally-organized militias—before the crisis occurs.
Gary North, on the other hand, argued against the Federal Reserve System and expressed his sort-of biblically based proposals on the post-collapse reconstruction period. In North’s 1986 book, Honest Money, he called for the elimination of the Federal Reserve System and “all central banking.”
Vieira’s “Purse and Sword” view linked Federal Reserve System collapse and Department of Homeland Security suppression. An economic collapse would require the political-economic elites to use DHS to remain in power. That was a major innovation on the right-wing. Thus, all gun control measures were not only unconstitutional in his view but served the larger purpose of tilting the battlefield in favor of DHS over the militias.
Vieira also wrote that there was a right way and wrong way for a state to secede from the United States or the Union. Because he believed so many people were doing things wrong, he may not have been the most popular strategist. But he believed that the national security state was going to suffer a financial collapse. He advocated NOT for the return to the gold standard, but for individual states to have gold and silver currencies that would allow them to secede before or during a severe financial crisis. He was an ardent supporter of Ron Paul.
Popular or not, Vieira was the deepest thinker on these issues, and he did have a direct influence on the Oath Keepers who promoted him vigorously starting in 2011 and up to at least 2014 when Vieira featured in two Ron Paul and Oath Keepers-linked videos.
Prior to that Oath Keepers’ promotion, Vieira’s ideas were the foundation for the 2009 “continental congress” organized by Ron Paul’s collaborator Bob Schulz.
Vieira's ideas started to gain traction around 2008, as the subprime mortgage crisis began to unfold. There were two right wing movements that emerged around then as well, the Tea Party and the patriot movement. Do you want to go over those briefly?
Progressives always miss a chunk of history. Starting in late 2004 and roaring to life in early 2005 was a strong nativist movement centered on John Tanton’s white nationalist anti-immigration movement and the surge in border militias that went to our southern and northern borders to “stop the invasion” of immigrants. This movement picked up significant support in small cities and suburbs. This movement sunk President Bush’s immigration policy in 2005 and by 2009 immigration reform in the GOP is on life support. It is now pretty much dead.
Then comes the financial crash of 2008. Bush and the GOP elite are already ideologically suspect.
The Tea Party movement, effectively a subsidiary of the Christian Right, jettisons the culture war issues of abortion and gay rights, and concentrates the extreme libertarian message of the Christian Reconstructionists, the Christian Right, and the libertarian strains of Ron Paul and the Koch brothers.
The Tea Party movement attacks the mainstream Republican Party and the new Obama administration on taxes, spending, and deficits. Their large, nation-wide protests attract white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the white nationalist anti-immigration movement who all begin to network and try to influence this new batch of conservative, Christian activists.
Organizationally, there is a centralized strategy—through the Council for National Policy and its various front groups in Washington, D.C.—and decentralized execution in the states. The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and the Forbes-funded FreedomWorks give the Tea Party movement its organizational coherence.
The John Birch Society and Skousen’s National Center for Constitutional Studies begin the process of indoctrinating these new members on their interpretation of the Constitution.
The Oath Keepers, as part of a resurgent militia/patriot movement also began to network and indoctrinate Tea Party members on the importance of resisting tyranny the proper way at the local level, as well helping spread conspiracy theories into this movement.
Both the Tea Party movement and the patriot/militia movement are the product of more than a decade of right-wing organizing through annual conferences. For example, Ron Paul participated in the Freedom21 conferences held annually between 2000 and 2009. This coalition of 17 groups were fighting the United Nations’ Agenda 21 program for sustainable economic development.
In May 2009, Vieira was a founding member of the “Jekyll Island Project Freedom.” Eric Cunningham, an Oath Keeper, was also a founding participant. The SPLC suggested this meeting “appears to have played a key role in launching the current resurgence of militias and the larger anti-government ‘Patriot’ movement.” The Jekyll Island conference led to the November 2009 “continental congress,” held in Illinois. The organizing group, Bob Schulz’s We The People, had been collaborating with Oath Keepers since at least October 2009.
Among the “articles of freedom” published by the so-called “continental congress,” “asks [that] Americans treat county sheriffs as the highest legitimate police authority,” according to an SPLC summary.
In a long, round-about way, we have the Christian Reconstructionists with their doctrine of the “lesser magistrates” leading the resistance to tyranny, William Lind’s advocacy of militia units as local defense forces (aka “neighborhood watches”), and Edwin Vieira’s “militias of the several states” all coming together to put Oath Keepers and the militias under the control of the local constitutional sheriff to contest the legitimacy and territorial claims of the United States government during a period of secession or severe economic crisis.
The “continental congress” signaled that the broad right-wing as early as 2009 was preparing for revolution. This is a full-blown Fourth Generation War, particularly when you add in the Disinformation and Propaganda Machine of the right-wing.
When did these movements start embracing Vieira's ideas?
It is hard to answer this question. Vieira participated in the Jekyll Island Project Freedom and his writings informed a good deal of the discussions at the “continental congress.” From 2011 to 2014, Oath Keepers made promotion of Edwin Vieira’s voluminous writings, his own videos, and videos promoted by Oath Keepers a centerpiece of their outreach.
Alright, let's get into Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign and the "North-Paul strategy."
Before we get into the Oath Keepers proper, take us through some of the other militant groups that came out of the Paul campaign.
There are four groups that come out of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.
First, a homeschooling project in association with nullification advocate and secessionist proponent Thomas Woods.
Second, the National Precinct Alliance to capture the Republican Party at the level of precinct captain.
Third, were Richard Mack’s Save Our Sheriff and The Sheriff Project that eventually became the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), which was aligned with Oath Keepers and is the vehicle for putting militias under the rubric of “sheriff’s posses.”
Fourth and last, was Oath Keepers itself.
Now, there were some other movements, such as those dedicated to homeschooling and nullification, that came out of the Paul campaign. What were their relations to these more militant groups?
Ron Paul is a bridge figure between the Christian Reconstructionists and Christian Right via Gary North and to the neo-Confederates and secessionists through Thomas Woods. The neo-Nazis saw him as a “friendly.” David Duke and Stormfront raised money for his campaign. The idea of nullification is widespread across the right-wing. It is not advocated just by the neo-Confederates. The Catholic journal First Things advocated nullification of Supreme Court decisions to provoke a constitutional crisis in 1996.
What we are witnessing now is not the fringe with extremist ideas attacking the center. No, we are seeing fringe ideas promoted by the Republican Party and the Christian Right attacking the legitimacy of a secular constitution and an economically shaky neoliberal economic regime.
Let's briefly touch on this coalition's efforts to remake the Republican Party and drive out the "RINOs."
Political scientists have known that the Republican Party and the conservative movement have been organized around the principle of orthodoxy.
Sam Tanenhaus in his 2010 book The Death of Conservatism argued that the “modern liberal worldview is premised on consensus. Movement conservatism emphasizes orthodoxy.” Tanenhaus further argued that the “primary dynamic of American politics…[is] a competition between the liberal idea of consensus and the conservative idea of orthodoxy.”
Numerous political scientists since 2010 have published articles on the Republican Party rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government, the legitimacy of the Democratic Party, the use of constitutional hardball tactics, and the winking toleration of political violence. I am not talking about mass murder events. The GOP for decades has done nothing and said nothing about anti-abortion violence. They gave a winking tsk-tsk.
It therefore stands to reason that a political party driven by orthodoxy, appealing to authoritarian Christians with an apocalyptic worldview, and viewing its political opponents as either “traitors” or “satanic agents” would not tolerate dissenters, heretics, and apostates.
The Tea Party used secular economic issues. But right-wing movement activists have used immigration issues. They have used abortion and gay rights issues. They have used church-state separation issues. They have used the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in public schools.
For decades, the Republican Party has been transforming itself into a Leninist combat party or a fascist combat party—pick your favorite model.
Alright, let's start getting into the Oath Keepers. So first off, let's go over Stewart Rhodes' background. Can you get into his military career and pre-2008 activities?
He graduated from Airborne school in 1983. He completed the first phase of the Special Forces course. In 1985, he was medically discharged from the Army after having been injured making a night jump with the 9th Infantry Division as a long-range reconnaissance scout.
After the Army, in May 1998 he graduated from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas with a BA in Political Science. He graduated from Yale Law School in June 2004. He held a variety of jobs in public and private law offices. From May 2007 to January 2008, he was “counsel for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians.” He lectured at Stanford and Yale. He does not seem to have stayed in any position for very long. In April 2007 he began writing for SWAT magazine.
So, how did Rhodes become involved with the Ron Paul campaign?
Stewart Rhodes was a staffer in Ron Paul’s House office from June 1998 to February 1999. In November 2007, Rhodes made his first donation to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. Gary North had been a Ron Paul staffer in 1976—so that relationship goes back decades.
Rhodes’ most complete biography is taken from his personal website. He claimed that he of “Hispanic decent [sic]” and “part American-Indian.” He claimed that his “great grandfather…rode with Pancho Villa.” On his mother’s side of his family were “migrant farm workers.”
Now, the Oath Keepers made good use of pre-existing networks to build up their membership circa 2009. What were some of these networks and how did the Oath Keepers hitch their cart?
The first thing to recognize about the movement conservatives and the Christian Right movement is that despite its belligerent rhetoric and policies, very few of the elite and rank-and-file in Washington, D.C. have ever served in the military. In fact, very few Americans have served in the military. For example, when veterans stand up and salute for the “Star Spangled Banner” at Blue Wahoos games in Pensacola, very few people stand up. So they are in awe of military people.
Since the Oath Keepers came out of the Ron Paul presidential campaign, Stewart Rhodes had access to various movements supportive of Ron Paul. The fact that Oath Keepers came out of the semi-secret Paul-North strategy meant that Rhodes had access to the Christian Right and the Council for National Policy. I do not know how much access he had or how much support he was given, but while Rhodes may have been a political nobody in 2009, he was connected to a few political somebodies. Rhodes connected with Richard Mack which opens the militia/patriot movement. Gary North could connect him with the Christian Right. Ron Paul could connect him with the neo-Confederate movement.
The Oath Keepers distinguished themselves in two ways. One, Rhodes claimed that Oath Keepers was not a militia. Two, Rhodes was recruiting active and retired military and law enforcement. Hidden in their scrambled ten orders they will not obey was the obvious, which Chris Matthews nailed Stewart Rhodes on: defending a state’s right to secede from the United States.
There are other movements that Oath Keepers could connect with. There was the anti-environmental movement or the Wise Use movement. They could connect with the Reagan-era county supremacy movement that existed among Western county commissioners. They could connect with Larry Pratt and Gun Owners of America and the absolutist gun rights movement. They could connect with the nascent Three Percent movement. They could connect with the white nationalist anti-immigration movement.
When did the Oath Keepers first discover Vieira?
The first promotion of Vieira on the Oath Keepers’ blog came in January 2011. They promoted his 8-hour video The Purse and the Sword. The same article also promoted two other books that make up the trilogy of right-strategy: The County Sheriff by Richard Mack and Nullification by Thomas E. Woods.
By trilogy of the strategy you can see how in an economic collapse, or, now in a highly contentious dispute over the validity of an election outcome (h/t Bruce Wilson), you have the idea of resistance by lesser magistrates, constitutional sheriffs imbued with a sense of county supremacy, and the sheriff’s posse consisting of Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, the militias of various flavors, and other right-wing street fighters.
In May 2011, they promoted a Vieira article on the twin dangers of a financial collapse and the suppression of rebellion by the Department of Homeland Security. Vieira argued for the creation of an alternative currency based on gold and silver, not simply backed by gold and silver. They pushed Vieira’s articles on the formation of properly constituted militias. They also promoted Vieira’s view that all gun control laws constituted “treason.”
What are the ties between the Oath Keepers and Ron Paul's "continental congress"?
The most obvious physical tie between Oath Keepers and the “continental congress” is the fact that Eric Cunningham, represented Oath Keepers at the meeting. Cunningham and the other “Project Freedom Keepers” described by the group as “leaders of the growing freedom movement.”
William Taylor Reil from Pennsylvania and David Helms from Arizona were Oath Keepers and delegates at the “continental congress.” Helms was on the national board of Oath Keepers. Reil was pushing the Sheriffs program in the civic actions to be approved.
But the “continental congress” was put on by Bob Schulz and his We The People foundation. Schulz has long-standing ties to Ron Paul.
Edwin Vieira’s documents were part of the foundation of ideas considered and voted upon by the “continental congress.” The fact that two years later Oath Keepers is the most important proponent of Vieira’s ideas I think ties the Oath Keepers tightly to the “continental congress.”
How about the connections between the Oath Keepers and Pastor Chuck Baldwin?
In 2008, Ron Paul endorsed Chuck Baldwin for president running on the “openly theocratic Constitution Party” ticket. In 2004 Baldwin was the Constitution Party’s vice-presidential candidate. In the 1990s, Baldwin had been pastor at Pensacola’s Crossroads Baptist Church, a radio talk show host, a militia proponent, an ardent anti-abortionist. Baldwin was also connected to the racist Council of Conservative Citizens, a prominent neo-Confederate group.
In 2013, Baldwin became the national chaplain of Oath Keepers. But between 2007 and 2013, Baldwin was involved in the “Black Regiment” organization that recruited pastors to support an upcoming American revolution. In late 2013 Baldwin preached and asked if “secession time is coming again?”
How did the Oath Keepers approach Occupy Wall Street?
The Oath Keepers put on a false front regarding Occupy Wall Street. Initially, it endorsed the idea of the 99 percent against the 1 percent. But sociologist Spencer Sunshine, who studied the infiltration of Occupy by right-wing groups noted that Oath Keepers was among 20 right-wing groups, some like the LaRouche movement, white supremacist groups, as well as Ron Paul supporters and Alex Jones. That is not to say that Oath Keepers operated in concert with these white supremacist groups. What Oath Keepers did underhandedly was push the Ron Paul idea to “End The Fed.”
But given that Rhodes and Paul and North are all extreme libertarians, they do not actually advocate for helping the American people on economic issues. It is hard to figure how cutting taxes on billionaires, cutting environmental and other regulations on corporations, and working to transfer hundreds of millions of acres of public lands to billionaires and energy/mining corporations helps the ordinary American.
Okay, let's get into their concept of Civilization Preservation Teams. This was kind of their sneaky way of getting around being labeled a militia. So, what of them James?
In October 2013, Oath Keepers launched their “Civilization Preservation Teams” based on the premise that the Great Collapse was coming. These CPT were based on a Special Forces “A-Team” or Detachment Alpha concept. Twelve Oath Keepers would link up with existing veteran’s groups and organize a local resistance to an “oppressive regime” in addition to disaster preparation—the kind FEMA already does.
The SPLC commented that it was “the first time the Oath Keepers… has moved in the direction of actually establishing any sort of militia or fighting force of its own.”
US News & World Report reported that local Oath Keepers “preservation teams” will “‘draft and introduce militia bills, posse bills, and nullification bills, among other items to support liberty.’” In fact, that Oath Keepers statement is exactly what the semi-secret North-Paul strategy called for.
In January 2008, Gary North explained the semi-secret part of the strategy. The homeschooling of children would prepare future Christian libertarian radicals. The National Precinct Alliance would produce local GOP organizations controlled by Christian libertarian radicals. The constitutional sheriffs would command and operate the local militias as part of his or her posse. And Oath Keepers teams would be the glue holding this local resistance together.
North explained this openly: “When checks from Washington no longer buy much, there will be a monumental political transformation…. The primary goal is to get positioned locally with numerous officials to present a united front against the Federal government when it begins to falter. When the Feds’ money buys nothing, the hard corps needs to be influential locally to block all attempts of the Feds to impose controls over the local economy. This has been known historically as the doctrine of interposition.”
Inevitably, the Oath Keepers follow Fourth Generation Warfare. They have an interesting concept in regards to conflict, which is dubbed David and Goliath. Can you get into that a bit and how it plays into the Civilization Preservation Teams?
Let me start with Gary North explaining the Fourth Generation Warfare strategy that was embedded inside the semi-secret North-Paul strategy that informs Oath Keepers’ overall strategy. Keep in mind that Gary North as early as 2004 was using William Lind’s writings on Fourth Generation Warfare to explain Osama bin Laden’s strategy. Middle East scholar Michael Ryan noted that Abu Ubayd al-Qurashi, a highly probable advisor to Osama bin Laden, “might have been influential on the topic of fourth-generation warfare” because his second article in Al-Ansar, the online military strategy journal of al Qaeda, was “Fourth Generation Warfare” which cited Lind and other 4GW strategists.
North wrote in January 2008, before Oath Keepers was established: “The central issue is legitimacy. The supreme goal is to undermine the legitimacy enjoyed by the prevailing central state. This task is doable. We have the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve System working for us: a debt disaster to be funded by fiat money. When the dollar dies, political legitimacy dies with it. This is the central premise of my recommended strategy.”
The David and Goliath example is easy to understand. We understand that David represents a weaker opponent, but a highly moral opponent. Goliath was large, a brute, and on the side of the enemy of the Israelites (and God). William Lind used this concept to explain why US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq a small footprint should have, use nimble infantry forces, use force sparingly, and not become a Goliath—thus depriving the insurgents of a strategic level moral victory.
A Goliath is inherently illegitimate. What Oath Keepers wants to do, borrowing from Lind and North, is label the federal government as a tyrannical, illegitimate government like a Goliath.
Alright, I want to start getting into the centerpiece of this discussion, the Battle of Bunkerville. This event has a very deep background. In fact, it's considered to be the third Sagebrush Rebellion. The second one is most relevant to our discussion. So, how about that, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the so-called "Cowboy Caucus" of the 1990s?
Paul Weyrich founded The American Legislative Exchange Council. Weyrich is the same Christian Right leader who helped formed the Christian Right by the mid-1980s; he founded the Heritage Foundation; he co-founded the Council for National Policy; and he was instrumental in forming the Moral Majority. He was a key strategist.
ALEC takes the needs of the Christian Right, the GOP, and Big Business and translates them into pieces of model legislation. These legislation models are then transmitted to state legislatures for passage and signing into law by the governor.
In the 1980s, personnel formerly with the Reagan Administration and Coors money help launch the Second Sagebrush Rebellion. ALEC is involved. The Heartland Institute is involved. Both would remain highly active in the 1990s and to the current day. ALEC is helping attack environmental regulations and the Endangered Species Act, one the most prominent federal laws used by environmentalists to halt mining and energy drilling, as well as ranchers misusing federal lands.
During the 1990s, the Christian Right formed the Wise Use movement to oppose the environmental movement. The militia/patriot movement’s opposition to the New World Order aligns itself with the Wise Use movement, the county supremacy movement, and the Sagebrush Rebellion. The goal is to transfer about 750 million acres of public lands in the Western states to energy and mining corporations, and billionaire landowners.
Alright, let's get into the Council for National Policy's role in the Second Sagebrush Rebellion.
What were the moves made by ALEC and the CNP in the run up to the Third Sagebrush Rebellion?
The Council for National Policy operates at the strategic level of the movement. It brings together operational planners, communication companies, and funders. Once they decide on a strategy or a campaign, that campaign is executed through other networks or movements. Recently, the CNP has begun forming an action group that attracts other action groups from different movements, like bringing together the Tea Party movement, the anti-immigration movement, Americans for Prosperity, and a major border militia group.
The CNP’s influence is indirect, though not always so. But the fact that the Koch brothers have a representative seat on the CNP’s executive board demonstrates how influence works.
In the 2010s, ALEC and the overall Sagebrush Rebellion are pushing for local control of public lands. The Koch brothers become more involved. The aim is also to rollback environmental regulations and defund the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Bureau of Land Management is the central object of attack. It has one of the most difficult jobs in the federal government: managing and balancing the competing economic, political, and environmental interests trying to maximize their use of public lands while conforming to federal law and being subject to intense political pressure by conservative politicians operating at the county, state, and federal levels. And periodically subjected to violence by militias and lone wolf terrorists.
The Council for National Policy is not directly involved. What the Christian Right had formed is another anti-environmental movement, the Cornwall Alliance, which sought to delegitimize the environmental movement as socialist and satanic.
These operations are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.
Let's talk some Ken Ivory for a moment, a onetime rising star in Utah's state legislature. This guy has a lot of interesting ties.
Ken Ivory does not become a state representative in Utah until 2010. He is a Mormon. In 2011, he is pushing Edwin Vieira’s gold and silver legislation in the Utah legislature. Utah became the first state to authorize gold and silver as a legal currency. That was a civic action recommended by the “continental congress.”
From there he moves into the Koch-funded speaking circuit of Americans for Prosperity. He then becomes a proponent of transferring public lands to the states. By 2014, the national Republican Party is supporting the transfer of public lands to billionaires. Also in 2014, state-level representatives from several Western states are starting to coordinate their political demands and actions regarding such transfers and concocting false histories to back their claims.
By 2014, Ken Ivory and Americans for Prosperity are making connections with Oath Keepers, the constitutional sheriffs head Richard Mack, and the opponents of the Agenda21 movement.
He eventually becomes director of the Koch-funded Americans Land Council. That organization is instrumental in bringing together elected state officials to push for public land privatization or county control of public lands.
Now, let's talk about the role of Mormonism in all of this for a moment. The bulk of the support for ALEC came from Western states, many with large Mormon populations. The first formal effort to seize federal lands came from Utah. The Oath Keepers featured a lot of support from the same states, and featured more than a few Mormons in their ranks. Cliven Bundy was a Mormon, as were many of his supporters at the standoff. Is this an element that's been overlooked?
The Mormon background of these participants tends to be glossed over or not given very much weight. What missed by many is that the Church of the Latter-Day Saints is one of the largest landowners in the West. I am not saying that the LDS supports Cliven Bundy and various rebellions. They did not. But they certainly have an economic interest at stake or in play.
If we can return to our previous segment about Posse Comitatus. There is no doubt that in the West over a period of decades you have the Silver Shirts; the Klan was active in the West; Posse Comitatus was active. So the white supremacists have influenced political discourse in the West.
But the Mormons were also active. While the LDS was not officially aligned with the John Birch Society, leading members of the LDS were. And the Mormons had their own take on county supremacy, their own interpretation of the divine nature of the Constitution and America. Mormons see themselves as saving America at a time of dire need.
So you cannot omit the religion or the religious ideas of participants from the analysis. As James Aho wrote in the 1990s, the Christian patriots came in different flavors and not all were racist anti-Semites. That is not to say they had great positions on race or Jews, but they were not overt racists like the Christian Identity movement which gets far more credit than it deserves.
Alright, take us through the onset of the Battle of Bunkerville and how Rhodes became involved.
The Battle of Bunkerville is really about the Bureau of Land Management trying to enforce three court orders that Cliven Bundy, a Mormon rancher using federal lands, requiring Bundy to pay his grazing fees to the BLM.
At the outset I want to remind your listeners that in 2018 a federal judge dismissed all the charges against Cliven Bundy due to the DOJ withholding evidence and other misconduct. And in 2020, the 9th Court of Appeals dismissed the case with prejudice. The Department of Justice, the FBI, and the BLM made the Bundy clan heroes in the West and the right-wing in general.
To enforce the last court order, the BLM decided it was going to seize Bundy’s cattle. Bundy put out a call for help and hundreds of militia personnel and other supporters turned up at his ranch in Nevada.
The Oath Keepers and Rhodes personally are part of a gaggle of unorganized militia that show up to protect Bundy and prevent “another Waco.” Security at the Bundy ranch is a three-ring circus. Bundy hired his own personal protection as the inner ring. The ad hoc militia is the second ring. They were more a danger to themselves than the federal law enforcement that showed up. The outer ring was the Oath Keepers who patrolled the perimeter. The Oath Keepers thought the ad hoc militia in the second ring were nutjobs. When Rhodes thinks you are crazy, you must be out there.
Eventually there is an armed standoff. The BLM backs down. The cattle were released. And then starts the long legal fiasco of the DOJ, FBI, and BLM becoming the Keystone Kops of federal prosecutions.
How about the Oath Keepers departure? That ruffled some feathers, right?
Rhodes loves to portray the Oath Keepers as active, retired, and former military who are professionals. He touts that some members are Delta, Special Forces, Rangers, or Marines. Rhodes himself was only an E-4, an airborne qualified specialist.
So during the Battle of Bunkerville, Rhodes claimed that the Obama administration is planning a drone strike on the entire Bundy Ranch compound. He claims there is a source inside the Pentagon. This source in the Pentagon comes via a source in Texas who called Rhodes. Rhodes took this “intel” to the head of security for Bundy. The Texas source and the security chief talked. Then Rhodes claimed that he had an Oath Keeper in Texas who had the same background as the Texas caller: ex-CIA, ex-Delta.
The Texas Oath Keeper confirmed that the Texas caller had a verifiable background in Delta and the CIA, but the information could not be corroborated and could be disinformation. Rhodes then claimed that he had a second source in the Nevada governor’s office who had previously given them “intel” that had been deemed to be true.
And so with that inconclusive reporting that shades towards at best an unfounded rumor and at worst disinformation, Rhodes pulls out of the Battle of Bunkerville and becomes the laughingstock of the right-wing. His reputation is saved by Three Percent founder Mike Vanderboegh who concluded in his after-action review: “Their failure was not one of cowardice as has been alleged…. The failure was one of lack of hard-headed analysis and an equal lack of hard-hearted decision taking.”
Looking back, what do you see as the long term legacy of the Battle of Bunkerville?
I think it has only emboldened the right-wing. After Bunkerville, the Bundy clan then seized the Malheur nature preserve. The DOJ and FBI prosecution was again bungled, and Ammon Bundy walked out a hero. He is now leading his own militia against any sensible COVID policies to end this pandemic.
Of course, the strategic position of the United States has changed since the Battle of Bunkerville. The West is being ravaged by massive forest fires, life-threatening heat domes, and growing droughts. The idea that climate change is not responsible is growing less tenuous by the day.
There is much less urgency to transfer public lands to billionaires, but much sharper, fiercer battles out West are coming. People in the West are facing an existential crisis. I lived and traveled in the West. Water is the most precious resource. People kill for water. And water resources are shrinking.
In 1982, the RJR Tobacco company commissioned a strategic report on the nine nations of the United States. Much of the West was called “The Empty Quarter.” Ironic that Big Business would call a large portion of the West the “Empty Quarter” while right-wing groups are fighting against the mythical Agenda21 they believe will empty the West of people.
The strategic report warned that “Enormous conflict is anticipated over water supplies, electric power, pollution and physical destruction of national wilderness areas. Most of the U.S. portion of the Empty Quarter is controlled by the federal government.”
It concluded that the major battle over water would pit the cities against the oil companies.
In that regard I do not think much has changed.
But there is one other legacy of Bunkerville relevant today. Bunkerville and Malheur demonstrated that the Department of Justice and the FBI are very capable of blowing slam dunk prosecutions through their misconduct and incompetence.
The Oath Keepers and Proud Boys conspiracy cases related to the January 6 insurrection are going to be fascinating. This will be the probable end of Stewart Rhodes and the Oath Keepers. Let us hope that the DOJ and FBI do their jobs properly.
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