was the promise Bob Fletcher of the Militia of Montana gave to the press following the 1995 explosion at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
It was a statement intended to inflict fear into the hearts of already vulnerable Americans who watched the 169 bodies be carried away from the rubble. And it worked - at least as long as the images stayed in front of the public eye.
But now, even as Timothy McVeigh, a member of two patriot groups, awaits trial for allegedly setting the bomb, the average person seldom thinks of the potential for terror that awaits them in their own backyard. Perhaps that is as it should be. Most people already have too many worries in their lives. Fearing what may, or may not, lurk in the shadows can lead to feelings of helplessness.
Yet, to ignore this growing phenomena of patriot groups in the United States is not an answer either, says the Southern Poverty Law Center, a monitoring agency in Montgomery, Alabama. To know the threat is the first step in any battle.
Estimates of the number of "patriots" nationwide range in the mainstream media from an astonishing 12 million to fewer than 100,000. The disparity in the number reflects the varied definitions given to 'patriots.'
hese groups have no single national organization or leadership. But they are united in their individuality by a common distrust of government, a bitter disappointment in what America has become and an urge to fight back. Most say they are Christian. Almost all, are white.
Most are also "armchair patriots," who lament the injustices done to them by the "faceless system." They rail against the government to friends and family and sometimes develop elaborate conspiracy theories.
But the Southern Poverty Law Center's Militia Task Force has also identified 441 armed militias in all 50 states. The hatred, fervor and sense of patriotism that fuels many of these groups alarms some observers.
However, longtime militia-movement observer John Nutter, Ph.D, formerly of Michigan State University and now a private consultant to law enforcement agencies, thinks the number of armed militia members willing to commit murder and mayhem is actually very small.
He said he had tried in vain to interest the mainstream media and government in militia groups prior to the commission of the recent high-profile crimes attributed to them.
"When the media did discover them they portrayed the militia movement as a bunch of screaming revolutionaries," Nutter says. "There are some of those people. But I think many people in the media went somewhat overboard in tarring all the militia folks with the Oklahoma City brush." Most members, he said, are simply disgruntled and angry with the government. But ballots, not bullets, are their weapons of choice.
he computer is also a weapons in the arsenal of such groups. In January 1996, there were at least 50 Internet newsgroups and more than 70 World Wide Web pages catering to anti-government extremists, white supremacists, militiamen and would-be terrorists. One typical message, at a Web site called Sniper Country, boasts the motto: "Happiness is a confirmed kill."
However, Nutter cautioned, the Internet tends to be "a tool for agitation rather than organization or planning.
"They're leery about getting caught," said Nutter. "They may hate the FBI but they fear them, too. Any communication is dangerous in an age where it's possible to get a DNA (profile) from saliva on a postage stamp."
Fear, however, doesn't keep militia members from training in the woods, a flagrant violation of the anti-militia or anti-paramilitary training laws now in place in 42 states.
"The laws aren't enforced, they can't be," Nutter explained. "Law enforcement in rural counties often consists of just a sheriff and a deputy. Outside forces would be needed to confront 20 to 50 heavily armed men. Calling in federal authorities just strengthens their persecution theories."
For those in the mainstream faith communities who brush up against the militia mind set, the interwoven and essential theology that drives them can be confusing, said Nutter.
"They start with the standard position that the country was founded by Christians, was based on Judeo-Christian principles.. From there they go one step further to say there is a necessary connection between church and state, and an inextricable linkage between a shared moral consensus and democracy and freedom."
ccording to a 1996 Southern Poverty Law Center report entitled "False Patriots," many in the militia movement believe they are following a divine mandate and that God is on their side as they fight in a "final battle" for Yahweh against Satan.
One such believer preached to his flock shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing. The False Patriots report recorded his words as he told them: "You go look in the Old Testament. God didn't mind killing a bunch of women and kids. God talks about slaughter. Don't leave one suckling. Don't leave no babies. Don't leave nothing. Kill them. Destroy them."
With such sentiments being claimed in God's name, it's little wonder that some observers are concerned about the growth of militia groups. The question remains, how will we, as a society, choose to disarm them?
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