By Robert Bridge
A Department of Defense training manual obtained by a conservative watchdog group pointed to the original American colonists as examples of an extremist movement, comments that have sparked fear of a broader crackdown on dissent in America.
The training manual provides information that describes, among other things, “common themes in extremist ideologies.”
Now, if the Department of Defense has its way, historical figures who risked their lives to free America from British colonial rule – names like Paul Revere, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams – will be rebranded as dangerous extremists, alongside the likes of skinheads and neo-Nazis.
The first paragraph of the section entitled ‘Extremist Ideologies’ opens with a statement that has drawn heated criticism: “In US history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”
In America’s early colonial period, many colonists served in state militias under the direction of the Continental Army in an effort to free the Thirteen Colonies from British rule. Indeed, the Second Amendment of the US Constitution clearly states: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The document, entitled Equal Opportunity and Treatment Incidents (EOTI), was obtained on Thursday by Judicial Watch, a watchdog group, through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The military manual defines extremism as a “term used to describe the actions or ideologies of individuals or groups who take a political idea to its limits, regardless of unfortunate repercussions, and show intolerance toward all views other than their own.”
Some would argue the military manual invokes a rather broad and loose definition that may be applied to any number of persons and organizations, including the Girl Scouts of America, for example, selling cookies door-to-door.
The manual warns military personnel that “the objectives of extremist organizations is [are] viewed as detrimental to the good order, discipline, or mission accomplishment of the unit and is [are], therefore, subject to appropriate disciplinary action.”
The manual goes on to discuss “Doomsday thinking” under “traits or behaviors that tend to represent the extremist style.”
Extremists often predict dire or catastrophic consequences from a situation or from a failure to follow a specific course, and they tend to exhibit a kind of crisis-mindedness. It can be a Communist takeover, a Nazi revival, nuclear war, earthquakes, floods, or the wrath of God. Whatever it is, it is just around the corner unless we follow their program and listen to their special insight and wisdom, to which only the truly enlightened have access.”
“Nowadays,” the manual continues, “instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
Many Americans and civil rights groups fear that in the event of another national emergency, perhaps on the scale of a 9/11, the US military will take over the role of ‘maintaining law and order’ inside of American communities. These fears were increased after US President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 31, 2011 the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which grants sweeping powers to the US military.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) came out with a harsh rebuke immediately following passage of the controversial legislation.
“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director.
“The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”
The signing of the NDAA nullifies the Posse Comitatus Act, which worked to prevent the US military from taking over police functions within local communities.
“The US Congress passed a bill (on Jan. 1, 2012, known as the National Defense Authorization Act) that repeals Posse Comitatus, which means that we have now institutionalized and codified martial law,” Congressman Ron Paul told a group of supporters in June 2012, as reported by Live Leaks. “Right now the battle against terrorism involves all of us. Everybody in this country is a potential terrorist.”
“If you happen to visit a website, or attend a meeting that contains a particular viewpoint…you can be accused of being a terrorist and the bill says you have no right to a lawyer,” Paul added.
In January 2012, a study funded by the Department of Homeland Security (“Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970 to 2008”) characterizes Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority,” and “reverent of individual liberty” as “extreme right-wing” terrorists.
Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which examines the dangerous consequences of extreme corporate power in the United States.