The Oath Keepers are going operational.
An article posted to the group’s website Tuesday announced the formation of “Civilization Preservation” units, basely loosely on the organization of U.S. Special Forces teams, to provide “community security and support during crisis” – but also “to assist in forming and training town and county militias.”
These comically named 12-person teams would consist of two communications experts, two medics, two combat engineers, two weapons experts, two operations leaders, a commander and his assistant – positions that would be filled by the law enforcement officers and former military personnel who comprise the Oath Keepers. The Oath Keepers imagines that these units would be scattered across the country, working with other veterans organizations such as the VFW, American Legion and Marine Corps League, to lead communities “in resistance to oppressive regimes.”
“They can fight, of course,” the e-mail says. “But they are most dangerous as a force-multiplier by helping an entire community to fight.”
It’s the first time the Oath Keepers, part of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, has moved in the direction of actually establishing any sort of militia or fighting force of its own. While the group’s rallies are sure to bring a fair share of wild conspiracy theories and weapons, Oath founder Stewart Rhodes has heretofore dismissed criticisms of the group by saying the fears that are central to the group’s very identity – all centered around the idea that some sort of tyrannical “New World Order” is looming – are merely hypothetical worries.
With the formation of these units, it seems, Rhodes and his 30,000-plus Oath Keepers have dumped the theoretical in favor of practical preparation for some post-apocalyptic world when the fabric of American civilization begins to fray. The effort also seems to represent a more radical turn for the group.
Signs of the radicalization appeared earlier this year during the debate over gun control following several mass shootings. As the White House worked to enact new gun restrictions, the Oath Keepers responded to the “disarmament freaks” by announcing rallies at the nation's state houses to warn lawmakers that they would be “held accountable if they choose to dishonor” their oath to the Constitution. Even before that, in December, Rhodes drafted a manifesto entitled “My Personal Pledge of Resistance Against Any Attempt to Disarm Us by Means of an 'Assault Weapons Ban.'”
“It is the height of Orwellian perversion of language and logic to say that disarming you of the most effective arms for combat that you still have is somehow not really disarming you, because you still have hunting rifles and shotguns,” Rhodes wrote. “And you can bet that if you let them take away your military semi-autos, next on their list will be bolt action rifles, which they will call 'sniper rifles' (and by God, that is certainly what they are good for!).”
But that pales in comparison to what Rhodes has now endorsed.
“We will … be force multipliers to help prepare communities so they can preserve civilization by providing their own security, disaster relief, infrastructure preservation, emergency communications, strategic food reserve, and medical care,” the article continued.
What seems lost on the Oath Keepers, however, is that all of this preparation is already in place. It’s called the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Yes, the same FEMA that in the fevered imaginations of the Patriot movement’s most zealous followers is busily building concentration camps for political dissidents like Rhodes and his Oath Keepers.