The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Oath Keepers Say They’re on Patrol in Iraq

By Rob Waters on October 21, 2009 - 8:59 am, Posted in Militias

Oath Keepers, the militia/“Patriot” extremist group made up of law enforcement officers, military personnel and veterans, has posted a photo on its site showing (it says) “an active duty Oath Keeper in Mosul, Iraq” wearing two Velcro-attached “tabs” or patches, one saying “Oath Keeper” and the other “Three percent.” The flag patch beneath them is also an insignia of the “Three Percenters,” an informal alliance of hard-line gun owners.

The Oath Keepers figured prominently in a recent special report by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the resurgence of the antigovernment militia movement. The report described the group as “a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival.” Oath Keepers is fully on board with all the standard right-wing conspiracy theories, as evidenced by its official list of 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey,” in which it vows to resist any government efforts to “disarm the American people” or turn cities into “giant concentration camps.”

In July, the SPLC also presented Congress with growing evidence that extremists are infiltrating the U.S. military and urged Congress and the military to take steps to ensure that the armed forces are not inadvertently training future domestic terrorists.

A spokesman for the Defense Department, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, confirmed that the uniform shown in the photo is an Army combat uniform, the kind worn by soldiers in Iraq. Army regulations stipulate that any uniform item not expressly authorized for wear is prohibited. But Melnyk noted that a Velcro-attached tab can be put on quickly for a photo-op and just as quickly removed. We’re guessing that not many soldiers are really parading around Mosul or anywhere else with these things on display.

Oath Keepers has scheduled a national conference this weekend in Las Vegas, hometown of the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes. The Las Vegas Review-Journal profiled Rhodes and the organization in a story on Sunday. The story included this quote from the SPLC’s Mark Potok: “I’m not accusing Stewart Rhodes or any member of his group of being Timothy McVeigh or a future Timothy McVeigh. But these kinds of conspiracy theories are what drive a small number of people to criminal violence. … What’s troubling about Oath Keepers is the idea that men and women armed and ordered to protect the public in this country are clearly being drawn into a world of false conspiracy theory.”

Rhodes and Potok also faced off last night on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

And how does the Pentagon feel about Oath Keepers? “I don’t have a formal assessment of Oath Keepers for you,” Melnyk, the Pentagon spokesman, said in an E-mail. He noted that it is “a fairly new group” and said the Defense Department would defer to the judgment of the Department of Justice and the FBI. “Certainly if they were on an FBI list of gangs or groups espousing hate, DoD would find this a compelling reason for prohibiting membership.”

Melnyk provided the specific Defense Department regulation regarding prohibited extremist groups, and it clearly is aimed more at groups that discriminate based on such things as race, ethnicity or religion. Simple conspiracy theorists, for now, might get a free pass. The regulation reads as follows:

“Prohibited Activities. Military personnel must reject participation in organizations that espouse supremacist causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, or national origin; advocate the use of force or violence; or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights. Active participation, such as publicly demonstrating or rallying, fund raising, recruiting and training members, organizing or leading such organizations, or otherwise engaging in activities in relation to such organizations or in furtherance of the objectives of such organizations that are viewed by command to be detrimental to the good order, discipline, or mission accomplishment of the unit, is incompatible with Military Service, and is, therefore, prohibited.”

As the SPLC noted in its July report, however, the military services’ track record when it comes to disciplining or purging extremists in their ranks has been spotty. Here’s a story from Stars and Stripes, the independent military paper, based on the SPLC report.

  • Endif

    The Oathkeepers claim to exist to uphold the excellent principles outlined in their ‘Ten Orders we won’t Obey’.
    Seems logical and even noble, if you just skim the headers and don’t bother to look any closer.

    But in reality their entire motivation derives from the false notion that they’ll ever be asked to do these things, and particularly that those orders are going to come from the current administration, or any other non-right administration.

    The backstory behind this is easily obtained by listening to people like Glenn Beck or Alex Jones, who take old John Birch Society conspiracy theories and dress them up in modern drag.

    It’s clear from not only their own words but those of their followers, including those that have posted comments here, that OK is purely a front group for organizing an armed right wing revolution in the US.

    Know then, Threepers, that you are far from being the only armed citizens in this nation. You won’t just be fighting the non-OK (ie, the vast majority of) police and military, you’ll be against your own neighbors, many of whom will rise to help stop you, either directly or indirectly. If that’s what you crave, continue down your chosen path. You will find all of us there.

  • http://msn Byron Wilkins

    Our constitution was writen to protect us,but it is being changed to hurt us. If this is ok with you your not a real american and I bet your not worried about martial law,chemtrails ,morgellens disease,102,000 trains with shackles,detention camps all over the us, several security clearences higher than the presidents. To challange a group that protects your rights without violence as a means makes you the real problem . WAKEUP Oath Keepers is your real friend. God please help the uninformed and those too lazy to be. Byron

  • Kris in Colorado

    Ruslan Amirkhanov said, “…realistically, the Constitution is nothing but an old piece of paper, and ultimately governments do pretty much whatever they want because they have a monopoly on the use of force.”
    And that’s OK with you? You find it preferable to sit quietly, while the federal government (and it’s not just Bush or Obama, or even just the existing Congress that are stepping on the Constitution, and bringing in a totalitarian government) takes away your rights, one or two at a time, in the middle of the night, until they’ve stripped you of everything, including your self-respect? And now you claim that’s your only objection to Oathkeepers? That the government has the advantage of force? Don’t you understand, that’s what Oathkeepers is working to PREVENT???

  • Mike Areno

    I think you have this a bit wrong….These Men are merely affirming they will not obey unlawful orders. they aren’t SUPPOSED to obey unlawful orders…Hello?

  • Dakotahgeo

    John Stone….hmmmmm.
    Are you a Washington Times blogger wannabe? You’re scary! I have more faith in SPLC every day but like all blogs, we get our share of right wing nutsos that pose as patriots.
    Let’s move on and rid ourselves of these fearmongers. They don’t seem to scare themselves… why should we let them scare us! MMmmm…I don’t think so. Thanks, SPLC for all the good you do.

  • Scott Gordon

    John Stone

    Are you for real?

    I fail to see any hate speech whatever in the person’s post to the Oath-Keepers site (and it doesn’t necessarily mean it is an “Oath-Keeper” who is posting either!)

    Do you want to share with us your inside knowledge of how the revelation of Federal Reserve system owners equals anti-semitism (I assume you are referring to this list, since there is nothing else in that post except for “Jewish-sounding” names that appear on the list)

    Are you trying to equate the disapproval of a world banking system and the publication of the names of its interested parties, with “anti-semitism”? Because there is no logic to it.

    Listen, I’ve been an SPLC contributor and supporter for a long time, and I trust we’ll get over this mistake eventually, but this attack on “Oath-Keepers” is way over the top.

    Yours is another in a series of poor efforts to position Oath-Keepers with something “bad” with no evidence.

    Your “evidence” is a post by someone on an Oath-Keepers site by someone who is obviously opposed to the Federal Reserve banking system, revealing that it is a privately-owned system, and exactly who the owners are. He doesn’t advocate violence, now does he? He seeks support of a law which would reveal more of the secretive inner workings of the Fed and maybe even set these conspiracy theories to rest.

    If the information was false then many book authors especially, and bloggers would have been sued a long time ago. If the families mentioned have “jewish-sounding” names (I gather that is what you are alluding to) and they are owners of the Federal Reserve banking system, then that’s the way it is – or no? you have evidence to the contrary?

    I know of many instances of Jews speaking out against this kind of muzzling of criticism, allowing these same prominent banking families to hide behind charges of “anti-semitism”. Harry Makow comes to mind, for one.

    And as for muzzling criticism, David Icke has been a target of “anti-semitism” charges despite having enrolled thousands of Jewish supporters in his crusade which is not “hate-based” but more correctly, “love-based” and decidedly non-violent!

    Fritz Springmeier, an author of books revealing links between blood-line ruling families (some Jewish, most not – but never, never disparaging Jews) was set up and wrongly convicted of “federal crimes” and despite never having advocated violence or expressing hate, appears unjustly on the SPLC list recently published of “dangerous individuals and groups”. I have politely asked SPLC to conduct further investigation since his wife has developed quite a defense of his innocence (google for it) and Fritz (now serving hard time) has NEVER advocated hate or violence.

    Compare that to about 90+% of convicted haters continuing their campaigns from prisons.

    SPLC and its supporters should take more care in separating genuine, sincere and specific criticsm, from the real and hateful generalities that have guided the formation of hate groups since long before the first publication of Mein Kampf.

    I also know that SPLC is up to their necks in genuine hate-groups and criminals who ARE targetting Jews and synagogues and it does their valuable task no service whatever to pull them into a patently “leftist” paranoid “watch” of a new group that is NOT hate-based or violent.

    Those of us who support or are skeptical about this tasteless “witch-hunt” are still waiting for the first shred of evidence that this “Oath-Keepers” group is actually involved in “hate” and is likely to become a problem. SPLC must not be used as a forum for politically correct character assasination by shouting “conspiracy-theorist” as if that really does equal “right-wing racist hater”.

    And finally, please, I would like more SPLC members and supporters to do their own research and help guide this organization back to its stated purposes. Any other approach will make enemies where there are none.

  • John Stone

    If this post from the Oathkeepers’ forum does not stink of anti-semitism, what does?

    Comment by Tom Rankin on October 26, 2009 at 10:59am
    Hello All,

    I am a new member from Morgan City,
    LA. I am not sure which region I am in.

    I have recently sent the following email to every one I know:

    Friends of Liberty,

    Is there anyone here that does not understand the agenda of the “powers that be”?
    New World Order (UN) with one World Money (IMF)

    Audit the Fed = End the Fed
    Hr-1207 and S-604 should not be added to any other bill or watered down in any way. Hr-1207 & S-604 should stand alone.

    End the Fed = End NWO (New World Order)

    Below is the list of the owners of the 12 Central USA Banks that run the Federal Reserve System:

    – Rothschild Bank of London
    – Rothschild Bank of Berlin
    – Lazard Brothers of Paris
    – Israel Moses Seif Banks of Italy
    – Warburg Bank of Amsterdam
    – Warburg Bank of Hamburg
    – Lehman Brothers of New York
    – Kuhn Loeb Bank of New York
    – Goldman, Schs of New York
    – Chase Manhattan Bank of New York

    In all, there are about 300 VERY POWERFUL, partly foreign individuals that own the 12 Central Banks of USA.
    Their Agenda is:
    New World Order
    One World Money

    Lets all get on the same page. The root of our problem is the Banking Cartel. It has an agenda to control the world and its money. When you have an unlimited supply of money that cost you nothing but space on a hard drive you can buy all the government you want.

  • Patrick

    Attn: Snorlax

    I am sorry, but I can not take the opinion of someone named after a Pokemon seriously; after all, that makes it seem like someone is in his teens.


    Patrick M. Fahey
    Honorably Discharged Lance Corporal

  • VAPA

    I’m not sure I follow your logic.

    What the group says it stands for and what it does may be different. True. It also may be the same. Do you have evidence for the former?

    Groups “like this” turn off the road they started on. I imagine this is true of many groups. What evidence do you have that this group has a propensity to do this any more than any other group? And if it does turn from the road it’s on, don’t you think people who joined for the original road would leave it?

    Joining makes you a spy for one? I don’t understand what you’re talking about. So as an ACLU member am I a spy for one? How do you possibly come to that conclusion?

    Is there anybody on this website that has any concrete evidence to suggest this organization is bad? Anybody?

  • trav

    The problem with oath keepers to me is summarized by a persons inability to grasp that what Nazis called their party and what they actually did. What the oath keepers say they stand for and what they actually do may be the same in their own minds but that don’t make it so. The reason groups like this make people nervous is that they often take turns off of the roads they start down. If you want to join the military then join. if you want to join the oathkeepers then join. But joining both makes you a spy for one.

  • VAPA

    So that’s it? I was hoping for some real evidence.

    Happy Veterans Day to all who have served and to their families.

  • Dakotahgeo

    Retired Soldier, Whatever! I base my opinions on the many examples of some officers who come out of their military experience and cannot let go of their past power over people. You are worthy of mention in that respect.

    On the other hand, read and digest thoroughly the above posts of Rob and especially VAPA!!! I could follow these
    men in a New York second! I may disagree with some of their opinions but I see nothing of arrogance or a “I can fix everything” attitude.
    I am thankful for the good posts on this thread. I am beginning to change my mind also regarding the Oathkeepers but at least rob and VAPA are giving me the opportunity to listen to a calm and reasonable response. Thank you to you both.
    Dakotahgeo, M.Div. Pastor/Chaplain

  • VAPA

    Greetings all.

    I recently formed a group called Veterans Against Police Abuse and soon after was made aware of the Oath Keepers by a friend. I am still researching the Oath Keepers and haven’t yet decided if I would like to join or not. I am truly undecided.

    I am a military officer who has spent a little over two years in Iraq and Afghanistan since those conflicts started. I am passionate about the Constitution and liberty and I am alarmed by what I see as the subtle erosion of our freedoms here at home. I absolutely agree with the stated goals of the Oath Keepers and passionately believe our armed forces, military and civilian, and elected officials must treat their oaths as more than traditional words to be muttered on the way to a paycheck. There is a fine line between “citizens” and “subjects” and it’s not a conspiracy theory that educated and concerned citizens must keep their government in check if they are to maintain freedoms. Look around the world as see how “freedom” flourishes. It is not something to be taken for granted and is only purchased and maintained by the very best among us and at a very costly price.

    I have come to this website seeking legitimate verifiable evidence that the Oath Keepers have illegal, immoral, or unspecified goals. I watched the Hard Ball program and saw no evidence offered. I have reviewed their website. I do not want to put my support behind a group with bad intentions. If somebody here has actual evidence and a good argument why I should not join this group, please post it here. If you do not, please don’t muddy the waters with your reply.

    A little about me. I consider myself libertarian but have voted Democrat my entire adult life (I’m in my mid thirties). I not only voted for Obama but traveled to attend his inauguration. While he hasn’t achieved all I wished he would and I disagree with some of his decisions, I am very glad he is in office. I am not at all religious and I am certainly not racist or homophobic. Many consider me “liberal” while I consider myself “conservative.”

    My guess is the Oath Keepers attract a lot of right wing people who I would not personally like. I see some of their posts on that website and I’m sure I would disagree with many of them on a wide range of issues. BUT, I am not concerned with defending the rights of people who think like me on everything. I am interested in working with people who defend the liberties that allow us all to think differently and disagree with one another. That’s the point of our liberties. As long as the group has a live and let live attitude and will defend my freedom to believe in God, or not, and to be liberal or conservative and to partake in the democratic process without using the machinery of the government against me…then I support this group.

    If anybody here has evidence to suggest the group wishes not to preserve liberty for all people but rather to enforce their own views upon me, please post that information here.

    At this juncture, the fact they very rightly admonish the previous President for his many failures does not convince me they are anti-Obama. Their quotes of Jefferson (a non-Christian “liberal” by most standards) also makes me think they may be narrowly focused on liberty; it is interesting to invoke Jefferson as he was a non-Christian who worked with Christians like Roger Williams for the freedom to precisely be different and disagree on important matters.

    Again I’m here to ask anti-Oath Keepers who have something worthwhile to contribute to please do so. I haven’t made up my mind but I find nothing in this thread to suggest they don’t deserve my full support. Thanks for your time.

  • Retired Soldier

    Dakotahgeo thank you for the correction. I have taken that refresher course.
    Sorry, you don’t like military. However to refer to me as arrogant is “The pot calling the kettle black”

  • Rob

    Oath Keepers exist for the protection of the citizens. The mission is quite simple reach, teach, and inspire those in uniform whether Law enforcement or Military to nonviolently stand down in the face of an unlawful order.
    What is an unlawful order?

    The obvious answer is violating civil rights protected under the Constitution and Bill of Rights, violating the Rules of Engagement during War time, and violating the Articles of the Geneva Convention.

    Until the constitution is completely shredded (not quite there yet) as some are trying so hard to do the it still remains the supreme law of this Republic.

    Master Sergeant, USAF, (ret)

  • Dakotahgeo

    I love the way Retired Soldier admonishes Left Wing Patriot on his spelling, yet does not know the difference on how to use the word, “there” vs. “their.” Thou dost protest too much.
    Please introduce yourself to a refresher course in english, grammar, spelling, and grammar usage, and we MAY give you some credit for YOUR intellectual abilities.
    Or were you recruited or enlisted when they started lowering their educational/intellectual standards in the military.
    I do not tolerate military blowhards well, especially arrogant ones!

  • Retired Soldier

    NOTE TO “The Left Wing Patriot” Learn how to spell.

    Not only is your spelling a telltale sign of your lack of intelligence, your statement confirms it.

    Do not fight with a pig, if you do you both get muddy and the pig enjoys it.

    For the rest of you keep putting in the facts. And thanks for your service.

  • Retired Soldier

    To reply to report. It is stated.

    “Prohibited Activities. Military personnel must
    reject participation in organizations that espouse
    supremacist causes; attempt to create illegal
    discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex,
    religion, or national origin; advocate the use of
    force or violence; or otherwise engage in
    efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights….”

    With careful examination i do not see anything on Oath Keepers that rule out anyone because of race, creed, color or religion. As a mater of fact their oath to defend the constitution of the US also insures to guarantee every ones civil rights. SPLS conflict with the oath on the basis that it is based in conspiracy theories is a rise for concern, let me say TO SPLC put your fears aside and practice some Faith. Follow my reasoning, “If the conspiracy theories are untrue than they will not have to violate any orders, But if they are true then sleep safe tonight in the knowledge that their are Military Service men that will not violate the constitution resulting in our civil rights and liberties are protected.

    On another note In the military their are Blacks, Whites Hispanics, Women, Men, Gays. Their are also arian brothers, KKK, Blood’s, Crips, Latin Brothers, and the list can go on for all sorts of gang members that are in the military. THIS rule as well as may others only leave the Chain of command to say and think “Their Are No Gangs in The Military” Just like their are no alcoholics or drug addicts. Why? because the regulations make no acknowledgement of Addition…. It is a control/discipline issue. The military is a totalitarian society. It has very little room for sociology.
    These are the facts.

  • Joe

    “The problem with Oathkeepers is that people that re in law enforcement and the military shoukd not be able to decide IN THEIR OWN MIND what constitutes a lawful order.”

    This was the excuse offered by all the Nazi’s at Nuremberg and you guys did not accept it then.

    Why would you accept it now?

    Consistency, thou art a gem.

  • Jay Stang

    “The Nazis were national SOCIALISTS, hence they too were/are left wing.”

    This reich wingnut talking point has been completely debunked by finer minds than mine.

    The Nazis were not lefties. They sent a lot of lefties to the gas chambers.

    The reich wingnuts do not have any facts on their side, so they must resort to baldfaced lies such as this one.

    So, the official name for the Nazis, the NSDAP, or in English, “German National Socialist Workers Party”, doesn’t mean they are leftists? Or Socialists?

  • Snorlax

    “The Nazis were national SOCIALISTS, hence they too were/are left wing.”

    This reich wingnut talking point has been completely debunked by finer minds than mine.

    The Nazis were not lefties. They sent a lot of lefties to the gas chambers.

    The reich wingnuts do not have any facts on their side, so they must resort to baldfaced lies such as this one.

  • Retired Soldier

    Let me just say that I am a member of SPLC. I believe the center needs to realize most soldiers and most law enforcement officers have spent their entire life defending the Constitution of the US. If they are worried about it being undermined lets listen to how that is so. I see nothing wrong with the oath, it just strengthens the an individuals awareness of what is unconstitutional. But the concentration camps for americans is more perinea.
    With that said if a group has sworn war on the US or threatens a person or public official they are crossing the line from be a Patriot or constitution supporter to an outlaw.
    A Terrorist refers to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for an ideological goal, and deliberately targets or disregards the safety of non-combatants.
    So when we condemn a group or label them terrorist and they do not fit into the given definition of terrorist were is our tolerance for that group.

  • Jay Stang

    The problem with Oathkeepers is that people that re in law enforcement and the military shoukd not be able to decide IN THEIR OWN MIND what constitutes a lawful order.

    Left Wing Patriot,

    The problem with your statement is that you leave the door open for an atrocity like My Lai or the Holocaust. Taking your statement to its logical conclusion, a la reductio ad absurdum, a platoon commander could order his platoon to rape all the women in a town, or herd everyone in a small town to the town square in the summer and keep them there with no supplies or sanitation for as long as the platoon commander wanted (That actually happened in the Civil War).

    Using your statement neither of these actions could be disobeyed, because the individual soldier would not be able to say “NO”.