If you thought the capture of Saddam Hussein might help in the war on terrorism, you should think again. The terrorists in Iraq aren’t the real problem, according to Daniel Levitas writing in the New York Timesrecently. The real problem is right here in River City, and it’s not Muslims or Arabs or Iraqis. It’s the “Far Right.”
Ever since 9/11, there has been an almost compulsive effort on the part of the left to “link” the right of one kind or another to that atrocity in particular and to international terrorism in general, for the purpose of demonizing virtually any right-of-center activism, bringing it under federal and local police surveillance and perhaps eventually outlawing it altogether.
That’s precisely the direction Mr. Levitas is trying to drive.
Mr. Levitas, author of a recent book on “the militia movement and the radical right,” starts off with the tale of a chap named William Krar, who recently pled guilty to the very real crime of possessing a chemical weapon. Mr. Krar, he says, is “a right-wing extremist,” and for all I know he may be. Mr. Krar, it seems, possessed “neo-Nazi and antigovernment literature,” as well as a stockpile of illegal weapons, ammunitions and explosives.
No “isolated incident,” Mr. Levitas assures us. Why, “federal authorities served more than 150 subpoenas in the case, and are still searching for others who may have been involved.”Therefore, it must not be isolated.
They also rounded up Mr. Krar’s female companion and one of his buddies, a member of a “paramilitary group called the New Jersey Militia.”
From this and similar cases Mr. Levitas deduces that the “far right” in this country is out of control, reading “antigovernment literature”and who knows what else, and he demands that “Americans should question whether the Justice Department is making America’s far-right fanatics a serious priority.”[Our Enemies at Home, By Daniel Levitas, New York Times, December 13, 2003]
What he doesn’t tell us is that when Mr. Krar and his pals were arrested, local news sources quoted federal authorities as saying they “don’t believe Krar was planning to commit terrorism.” “I have no specifics of a plot,” the FBI special agent who made the arrest said.
Nor was there any further evidence of a plot. Mr. Krar was a gun manufacturer and arms dealer, and much of his arsenal and associations may have been related to his business, as federal agents acknowledged.
But in the No Isolated Incident Department, Mr. Levitas rounds up several other of the usual suspects: Eric Rudolph, accused of bombing abortion clinics and the 1996 Olympics, and a few others, one of whom actually seems to have murdered somebody and all of whom have “links to” or “associations with” “far-right” groups—“white supremacists,” “anti-abortion extremists,” and anti-Semites.
But nowhere does Mr. Levitas show that—or even consider the question of whether—these individuals are part of organized conspiracies to commit terrorism.
The issue is important because if they are simply lone nuts, having the Justice Department launch more intensive scrutiny of right-wing groups would do nothing to stop potential violence.
The fact is that not since the early 1980s has there been any serious terrorism from the “far right” in the United States, and none of the “incidents” in recent years involving violence by far-right individuals was the work of an organized group—unlike the violence routinely committed by such movements as animal rights nuts, eco-terrorists and Jewish nationalists.
But what Mr. Levitas and a good many others like him are demanding has less to do with what such groups do than with what they think.
It’s not violent groups or groups that advocate or cultivate violence they want under surveillance.
His standard is political pure and simple.
Most of the people he wants the Justice Department to make a “priority” may actually need to be under investigation, but the problem is that distinctions between violent types on the right and law-abiding right-wing or conservative dissenters get lost.
Professional witch hunting groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League don’t hesitate to “link” all of the above, and most law enforcement people don’t know the difference.
That, of course is exactly what the witch hunters want: To round up the usual suspects.
The truth is that the usual suspects have done very little that merits being rounded up or even investigated. But what some on the left really want is simply a crackdown against their political adversaries on the right.
With the new state powers the Bush administration already has and the hysteria about the “far right fringe” cranked up by people like Mr. Levitas, that may be starting to happen.