Facing a skeptical panel of the U.S. Senate, five militia leaders portrayed themselves Thursday as ordinary, patriotic Americans who just happen to be burdened with a terrible knowledge:
“Lesbians” and “sex perverts” run the FBI and the IRS. The U.S. military is building “civilian prison camps” on Army bases. And the United Nations is manipulating our weather.
“I know that seems kind of like Space Rangers kind of talk,” said Bob Fletcher, a former puppetmaker and a founder of the Militia of Montana. “Unfortunately, we’ve got all the proof.”
Their testimony came during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee panel on terrorism. Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., convened the hearing “to examine the militia movement … and determine whether they pose a threat to public safety” in the wake of the April 19 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building.
The only suspects in custody, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, reportedly associated with members of the Michigan Militia.
The five militia members from Michigan, Montana and Ohio, four wearing conservative suits with ties and one in camouflage uniform, did their best to allay the Senate’s fears.
“We are certainly totally against violence … We do not believe in hatred; we do not believe in racism,” said Ken Adams, a marketing consultant and a member of the Michigan Militia. “We are law-abiding, Godfearing Americans … who are very, very concerned with what’s going on in our country.”
What is going on in our country, according to the militiamen?
For one thing, the Japanese set off the bomb that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City, according to Norm Olson, a Baptist minister and the former commander of the Michigan Militia. They did it because we gassed their subways, he said.
Olson, who wore his omnipresent camouflage outfit in the vast Capitol Hill hearing room, was voted out of the militia leadership in part for this unorthodox view.
There’s also the weather-tampering equipment the United Nations uses to switch electrical charges in the ionosphere and damage American crops, Fletcher said.
That idea seemed to strike Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., as a little farfetched.
“You’re saying the government has created weather-tampering techniques so the ‘New World Order’ will be able to starve millions of Americans and control the rest?” Kohl asked.
“Yes, sir. That’s my belief,” Fletcher responded. “If you think that 85 tornadoes take place in the middle of our growing area by simultaneous accident - I’m sorry, as bizarre as that is, it is proven and documented.”
But the most important issue for the militia is a growing tyranny in Washington that threatens to enslave the people and take their guns, among other things.
“Some of the legislation coming out of Washington, these are the things that got the Revolution started 200 years ago,” said James Johnson, a a leader in the Ohio Unorganized Militia.
“What the militia is, it’s a mindset. It’s the civil rights issue of the ‘90s,” Johnson said. “We’re not baby killers; we’re baby boomers … We’re not extremists; we’re just extremely ticked off.”
Other witnesses, however, were inclined to disagree. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., described how militiamen in Michigan have been caught “stalking” employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Particularly compelling in his con demnation of the militias was John Bohlman, a prosecutor in Musselshell County, Mont., where the Freemen - a white, Christian militia of tax protesters - harass residents.
Bohlman said he received 40 death threats after arresting John Trochmann, founder of the Militia of Montana, who also testified.
“The community in which I live is under an unusual strain,” Bohlman said. “It is particularly frustrating to see some people continue to not pay taxes for many years with what appears to be impunity because those people threaten violence.
“If this trend continues, more and more people will believe that the Freeman interpretation of law is correct. And even if they don’t believe that, they will at least see the obvious: that guns are cheaper than taxes.”