We’ve all heard the Republican Party tell us over and over that the biggest threat to our national security is Islamic terrorism. To listen to them, you would believe that we are all in constant danger of being blown up by Muslims two continents away who “hate America” and spend every waking moment plotting death to America. However, multiple government and private agencies have disputed the severity of those claims and instead warn that domestic terrorism by anti-government extremists is a bigger threat to our nation. In fact, once upon a time, there was an entire branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that was charged with studying homegrown terrorists, specifically anti-government groups, to provide the federal government with analysis about the groups — until Republicans decided it was unnecessary.
Daryl Johnson is a former federal analyst for the Extremism and Radicalization Branch (ERB) of the DHS. In 2009, the branch released a report, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, that warned federal authorities that right-wing extremists had capitalized on the election of the first African-American president to fuel new recruitment. It also found:
The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.
This mention of returning veterans caused the Republican Party to lash out and condemn the report. According to Johnson, the analysis of the groups was retracted after GOP lawmakers and right-wing media called it unfair while applauding the anti-Obama conspiracy theories that circulate among the paranoid militia groups, including their belief that the military’s Jade Helm 15 exercises was actually an attempt to impose martial law upon Texas.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was forced to respond to the backlash by dismantling the ERB and apologizing to veterans, whom conservatives said were targeted in the report, while it is common knowledge that veterans make up a large population of the militiamen. Johnson said that in the years after his job was yanked away from him by Republicans, there has been no replacement for the branch; instead, the right has focused all their money and resources on fighting Muslims.
“The D.H.S. is scoffing at the mission of doing domestic counterterrorism,” Mr. Johnson said. “The same patterns that led to the growth of the antigovernment groups in the 1990s is being played out today. D.H.S should be doing more.”
Since President Obama’s 2008 election, right-wing extremism has exploded. Before Obama took office, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that there were just forty-two anti-government groups but by 2011, that had mushroomed to 334.
One of those groups, the Sovereign Citizen Movement — which Cliven Bundy and his sons belong to — was deemed America’s biggest terrorist threat by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism. In 2014, 364 law enforcement were surveyed and eighty-six percent of them agreed that the movement is a tremendous threat to law enforcement and citizen alike. Last year, the elder Bundy and a bunch of his radical friends pointed automatic weapons at federal officers during a standoff at his Nevada ranch. Republican politicians heavily supported these actions and blamed law enforcement for the stand-off. A year later, his sons, emboldened by their father’s success at forcing the Fed’s to retreat, have taken over a federal wildlife sanctuary. While this is happening in Oregon, GOP lawmakers are pouring money into efforts to fight ISIS and resist resettling Syrian refugees.
Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined fifteen lawmakers and signed a letter asking President Obama to reopen the branch of the DHS that analyzes and watches these dangerous groups. Ellison said:
“The Department of Homeland Security needs to deal with Muslim extremists, but don’t ignore every other kind of threat…Right-wing extremists have launched an average of 330 attacks a year and killed about 250 people between 2002 and 2011. These are dangerous people.”
In spite of the overwhelming evidence, Republicans refuse to acknowledge that right-wing terrorists are a threat to the safety of our country. Instead, they roll out their usual inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, the president, women, minorities, et cetera, in order to appeal to the base and appease their supporters. The fact is, it is no surprise that there has been an explosion of violent attacks from the right when the GOP actively fans the flames of hate for the government. Their party has been hijacked over by Tea Party nutjobs who literally hate the federal branch and want to do everything they possibly can to destroy it. In 2013, Teahadists shut the government down and proved exactly how much they loathe our democracy.
President Obama and Democrats are called “tyrants” every single time they attempt to pass any law to make the country better. Obama has been accused of all kinds of outlandish thing, conservative voters regularly threaten to kill the president while groups like the Bundy militia idly talk about overthrowing the government by force and the GOP encourages this behavior with their vile, anti-American talking points and their assertions that the president wants to hurt their families. They’d rather spend taxpayer dollars on the mythical Syrian refugee terrorists, disguised as widows and children, than focusing on the real threat to this country: their voters.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.