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The Oath-Keepers: Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists Waiting to Happen

If you aren't yet familiar with the Oath Keepers, here are a few graphs of background by Justine Sharrock, writing for MoJo:

Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both Georgia Republicans.

There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey "unconstitutional" orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government.

And they're prepared to commit acts of violence if need be. They're armed, trained, and hopped up on an outsized Glenn-Beckian sense of grievance. Scary people.

All terrorists are animated by a belief that they're serving a higher purpose, and the Oath Keepers no doubt think that their dedication to the Constitution makes them 'freedom fighters.' To understand why they're common terrorists waiting to happen, one needs only to grasp the single most important, bedrock principle upon which the whole Constitution was built: the separation of the powers. The founders understood that it was the most important wall against tyranny. One hopes that every school-kid gets the whole checks-and-balances thing.

Oath Keepers don't. They're not pledging to uphold the Constitution as interpreted by the judicial branch. Every cop and member of the military, including non-wing-nuts, are tasked with that enterprise, at least in theory. They are saying that they will violently uphold their own interpretations of what is and is not Constitutional, or the interpretations of Michelle Bachmann or Rush Limbaugh.

The Oath Keepers represent the executive branch. Michelle Bachmann represents the legislative branch. Rush Limbaugh is, most generously, an entertainer. So the moment one of these yahoos decides to put his or her oath into action based on any of their views of what's Constitutional, he or she will be committing a straightforward act of domestic terrorism, and it's really that simple.

Having said that, let me add that I don't think these people represent much of a threat. The Oath Keepers aren't a serious movement; it's all political theater designed to intimidate. It's meant to scare the middle away from supporting the "Obama agenda" and send a little thrill up the legs of the tea-baggers, who share equally wacky views of the Constitution. After all, these people know better than anyone that if the small minority of law enforcement and military personnel who are also die-hard wingnuts were to go up against the very large majority who take their oaths seriously, it'd result in a quick slaughter. It's one thing to talk tough and wave around your assault rifle at a tea party rally, but something altogether different to take on America's professional active-duty military.

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