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IRA: The Belfast Connection

MONEY AND MUNITIONS FROM NEW YORK ARE HELPING THE IRA LAY SIEGE TO LONDON. THE NEW TRIANGLE TRADE.

BELFAST — In the head­quarters of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the deputy chief constable is concluding a briefing on the situation in Northern Ireland. The briefing is, of course, granted on condi­tion of anonymity. Neat in appearance, a trifle wan, diffident, the constable sits in a chair in a corner of the room clearly wishing he were someplace else. Not at all like John LeCarre’s Smiley, the exquisite spy­master modeled after Sir Maurice Oldfield, the British intelligence boss who once oversaw the local securi­ty situation. Nodding off at the constable’s side is his press aide.

The constable speaks positively about how well things are going, the excellent cooperation with the FBI in the United States, and the remarkable efforts of the British Embassy in Washington in setting the record straight about the ongoing war with the Irish Republican Army. Asked about the IRA’s “ingenu­ity” in concocting an arsenal of homemade weapon­ry, his mouth tightens. “Deviousness, I should say,” he corrects. He gestures with a pointer to a map of Northern Ireland on the desk before him. Little col­ored pins mark hot spots. Above the desk on a file cabinet a television screen flashes the comforting mes­sage: “All Quiet.”

That’s before lunch. By midafternoon, an unarmed female British soldier on patrol in the New Lodge section of Belfast has been shot in the face by an IRA sniper. A squad of British soldiers rushes the house where they think the sniper is hidden; a time-delayed bomb goes off, blowing it up. As night and a light rain fall, choppers hover overhead. Across the city, patrols of British soldiers, guns at the ready, inch down the streets. In a pub frequented by pro-IRA nationalists, everyone sits watching the door, uncon­sciously tensing every time it opens for fear a loyal­ist gunman is coming in. Late that night, in the mid­dle of Belfast, reporters hail a passerby to ask directions. The man halts, his eyes turning wide with fright. Fearing that these three men in a car are about to shoot him, he jackknifes away, running like a startled deer down the street.

The war in Northern Ireland is one of the longest-running and most intensive guerril­la insurgencies in the history of modern warfare. On one side, the forces of the Brit­ish union: 20,000 regular British soldiers, including a special homegrown regiment of Royal Irish Rangers, another 12,000 po­lice — Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Spe­cial Air Services, the elite British Special Forces unit. Then there are MIS, the British equivalent of the FBI, and MI6, the Brit’s CIA. There are Ulster Special Branch de­tectives, local detectives, and a myriad of competing intelligence units running agents and informers, and organizing surveillance. And amidst the loyalist, heavily Protestant community — the Brits’ allies — are paramil­itary units, Salvadoran-style death squads.

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Heavily fortified police stations and army barracks are spread across the coun­tryside — Fire Post Charlies amidst a sea of insurgents. There is a camera on every main road, hooked to a centralized intelli­gence-gathering computer. Tall, reinforced watch posts dot the countryside. Every de­cent-sized town has at least one heavily fortified checkpoint, and some as many as three. The license plate of every car is en­tered on a central computer, the location of every house, the number of inhabitants in the house, the color of the wallpaper. And in the sky hovering all day and all night, the ubiquitous choppers.

Against the massed forces of Her Majesty are the members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The IRA. The Terror­ists. The scum. The “wee fucking provies.” Five hundred of them at the very most in operations, and 350 more functioning as an active unit inside the Maze at Long Kesh, Europe’s most modern maximum security prison. Behind the fighters, a network of supporters, farmers, townspeople, and teen­agers, who stand ready when called upon to make their homes over into safe houses, to surrender their autos, to hide the fighters, and most of all to watch the Brits. These are the dickers, the lookouts in every town, out of every window, in the gas station, at the post office, in the cafe. Beyond them, another network of supporters 3000 miles away in the United States: money men meeting in the clubs of Wall Street, gunrun­ners, sympathizers offering IRA fighters safe jobs, new identities, new lives.

Since the early 1970s the Brits have tried everything to break the IRA. They have rolled through the streets of West Belfast with armored personnel carriers, sent squads of troops against the populace, shot civilians on sight, ambushed the IRA with shoot-to-kill SAS units, penetrated and ma­nipulated the Protestant paramilitary death squads. They have interned the populace, using statements obtained through torture to convict suspected IRA members in jury-less trials.

In return, the IRA has become the world’s most sophisticated guerrilla force. It has at times displayed a tendency to inflict damage on itself and its supporters by engaging in reckless and brutal adven­tures that have resulted in civilian casual­ties both in Northern Ireland and in Brit­ain. It has also displayed an ability, albeit erratically, to learn from its mistakes. To­day, the IRA controls large sections of this tiny portion of the world, which runs just 100 miles from the Irish Sea to the Atlantic. It has de facto control of the nationalist ghettos of the North’s two cities and large towns. From its secret and mobile com­mand posts in the South. the IRA is strong enough to keep up a constantly varied level of attacks against British targets across the North, as well as carrying its campaign of bombing to the very heart of London.

The siege of London has thrown the Brit­ish government onto the defensive and, in the view of many observers, driven the Tory government into a new initiative to settle the conflict. The hierarchy of the Tory party began quietly to push Prime Minister John Major into taking a more active role on Ireland, and despite the fact that he needs the 10 votes from Protestant Ulster to hang onto his majority for unifi­cation with Europe, Major set about open­ing secret channels with the IRA. For three years now the IRA through its political arm, Sinn Fein, has been engaged in on­-again off-again talks with the British, seek­ing some political solution to the war. Be­fore Christmas, the Republic of Ireland joined in attempting to broker a deal. But unlike Hong Kong, where the British clear­ly have announced their plans to retire, in the Union’s first colony, settled in the 12th century, they are staying.

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There may be no logistical or economic interest left, but emotions run deep, and to the Tory establishment the loss of Ulster is the loss of Britain, a Dunkirk too humiliat­ing to reckon. The IRA leadership may be eager to end the war, but it faces a potential revolt in its own ranks, among the grass­roots in the prisons, the ghettos of West Belfast, and the rural hinterlands, deter­mined to give no quarter to the British. So talk of peace goes on amidst a general sense that, for the time being, so too will the war. On Tuesday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Ad­ams attended a conference on Northern Ire­land in New York, the first time in 20 years that a Sinn Fein leader has openly been in the United States. The visit, needless to say, is being interpreted as another move — ­this time by the U.S. — to nudge the peace process forward.

Adams’s 48-hour visa, agreed to by the Clinton administration after two weeks of negotiations, is a blow to the British, who had lobbied against it, mainly through the offices of House Speaker Tom Foley, a well-established Anglophile Irishman. Ar­rayed against him were Ted Kennedy, Dan­iel Patrick Moynihan, and, in the White House, Mark Gearan, director of the Office of Communications. Anthony Lake, the president’s national security adviser, spent much of last week on the phone, quelling the FBl’s nervousness over having a terror­ist openly visiting New York and splitting hairs over Adams’s views on violence. American diplomats in Belfast said Adams’s statements to them about wanting to halt the war met the American precondi­tion that he renounce violence before being allowed into this country. But there were plenty of signs before he left Belfast that Adams’s line toward the British had, if any­thing, hardened.

In early January, we set out to make our own assessment of the war in Northern Ireland, with visits and interviews at the three key points of the triangle: here in New York, center of the American network pro­viding money and still some of the key arms to the nationalists, as well as an over­all support system; Belfast and the rural North — the so-called cockpit of the war, where the fighting grinds on and where strategy is laid; and London, where the IRA recently has transformed the City, the his­toric financial district, into a veritable bun­ker. We talked to fighters in the field in the North and those hiding in New York; to the political leaders of Sinn Fein; and to the major counselors of the IRA. We even spoke with a senior official at General Headquarters, the IRA’s secret command post from the which the campaign against London is being carried out.

NEW YORK

IRISH REPUBLICANISM was born among Irish émigrés in Europe, formed by the in­fluence of French revolutionary Jacobin­ism. Its first uprising, in 1798, was aided by the navy of revolutionary France. But its modern day counterpart, the Irish Republi­can Army, has its origins in the teeming Irish ghettos on the Eastern seaboard of mid-19th-century America. It was there, amongst the economic and political refu­gees of Famine Ireland, that the so-called Fenian movement and the secret Irish Re­publican Brotherhood and Clan Na Gael organizations were formed with the aim of violently overthrowing British rule in Ireland.

Since that time, every important uprising in Ireland has been financed with money from the Irish community in the U.S. When the nationalist ghettos in Northern Ireland came under attack from loyalist mobs and the police in 1969 and 1970, it was to the Irish emigrant network in the U.S. that the Catholics looked for relief aid and munitions. The first weapons for the revived IRA campaign against the Brit­ish — 12 M1s — were smuggled from the United States into Northern Ireland in 1970.

Beginning in October of that year, Joe Cahill, the senior IRA official charged with overseeing the pipeline to America, made a series of trips to the U.S. to raise money and arrange for the purchase of weapons. Here he hooked up with old republican activists like Michael Flannery and George Harrison and set up arms-importation net­works that included, ironically, the QE2 luxury liner. One of the first clear indica­tions of the IRA’s reliance on this source was the emergence of the American AR-I5, or Armalite, as the IRA’s weapon of choice in the 1970s.

Today in the traditional Irish neighbor­hoods in New York — Norwood in the North Bronx, Woodside and Sunnyside in Queens, and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn — the old gunrunning and fundraising network based on bars and construction companies has been supplemented by the influx of new Irish immigrants, many of them fleeing un­employment and political repression in Northern Ireland.

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People travel back and forth to Ireland two or three times a year, send money home, make room for visiting relatives. The local bars are places where new immi­grants cash their pay checks, find jobs, lo­cate apartments. Just as in Belfast, locals watching out for the FBI’s antiterrorist squad agents cruise the neighborhood. In the bars along 204th Street in the Bain­bridge section of the northern Bronx, post­ers advertising IRA fundraising socials for organizations like Clan Na Gael, are com­mon. The serious fundraising goes on at invitation-only private gatherings, where the latest courier from Belfast makes a pitch and the attendees make out checks in the thousands.

The FBI has had some notable successes in arresting leading IRA members who’ve fled to the U.S. to avoid the heat in North­ern Ireland. Joe Doherty was arrested in New York in 1983 and Jimmy Smyth, Ke­vin Arrt, and Pol Brennan were picked up in California nearly 10 years after they took part in a mass escape from the Maze prison in Northern Ireland. Smyth and Arrt were carrying U.S. passports in the names of twins who had died from a rare blood dis­order in the early 1970s.

The IRA has its own structure here, with an OC or Officer-in-Command who coordi­nates activities on behalf of the leadership in Belfast and Dublin. One OC, Liam Ryan, moved back to his native Tyrone in 1987 only to be assassinated by a loyalist gang in the family bar that he managed. Ryan, who was himself charged in an arms-­dealing case in 1985, ran a courier trail with contacts in Kennedy Airport and a smuggling operation that carried people and money into the U.S. through Buffalo from Canada.

What began as gunrunning has now evolved into a complicated network helping to provide the IRA with high-tech improve­ments in its homegrown arsenal. New York is also a sort of r&r spot for men and women coming off active duty, some of whom are too hot to remain in Northern Ireland or the republic, and who are sent to America to get lost, to find new identities that cannot be traced. Others come here for a break, often finding employment as ille­gals in the construction business. And there is the constant flow of funds to keep the struggle going, ranging from money sent home to individuals to funds raised by legal entities such as Irish Northern Aid to help prisoners and their families.

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The Irish American community “is very important because the British think it is very important,” Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader said during an interview in Bel­fast. “There is a huge part of the U.S. —­ people who claim, or want, or are of Irish extraction; there is no language difficulty. Most American Irish are in the states be­cause of the relationship between Ireland and Britain. All of this has the British a bit paranoid, and I think it is the duty of freedom lovers to make the British very paranoid.”

The British commonly attempt to turn immigrants from Northern Ireland into spies. In at least one instance, American FBI and British intelligence agents engaged in a covert operation in New York to turn an Irish construction worker from Northern Ireland.

Kevin Corrigan, 31, had come to the U.S. with his wife and baby in 1989 from the small farm village of Cappagh in County Tyrone. Cappagh has been a center of at­tack and counterattack over the last 15 years.

On arriving in New York the Corrigans took up residence in a one-bedroom apart­ment in the Bronx, and Kevin got work in the construction industry around New York. Like many Irish immigrants, he did not have a green card. One evening in Au­gust 1990, Corrigan says, FBI agents ap­peared outside his Bronx apartment flash­ing their badges. They told him that he was in breach of the immigration laws. One of the agents proceeded to rattle off details of Kevin’s life, incidental facts such as where his son had been born, where he had been christened, and where the party was held afterward. Then the FBI agent threatened him with deportation.

When Corrigan said he was ready to go back to Ireland, the agent said, “You don’t have to go back, in fact you can stay here as long as you want. If you help us out we can help you.” And he said, “I’ll show you a number of photographs of men who drink in bars around here. All you have to do is tell me who they’re with and the times they come and go. That’s all I want.” Corrigan refused. The agent persisted, renewing the offer, and threatening him with the same fate as Liam Ryan. After 20 minutes or so, the FBI men left, promising to get back in touch.

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Two days later, as Corrigan approached the subway station on 204th Street on his way to work, the agents turned up again. One of them sat opposite him as he rode the D train into Manhattan to his job at a construction site near Herald Square. At the end of his workday Corrigan was ap­proached by two FBI agents who hand­cuffed him and marched him off the con­struction site. They put him in a car and drove a few blocks to 32nd Street and Fifth Avenue, where they took the cuffs off him and got out. Moments later another man got into the back of the car with Corrigan. He recognized the man as “Alex,” the Roy­al Ulster Constabulary Special Branch offi­cer who had interrogated him back home in County Tyrone. “Alex” repeated the FBI deportation threat. Pulling a cigarette in his mouth, the RUC man said, “When this cigarette is finished I’m getting out of this car, and there is nothing more I can do for you … If you were cooperative we could be sitting in a bar — any bar you like — ­having a friendly conversation, chatting about old times and I’d be telling you what was going on in the North and what all the boys are doing. Nobody need know any­thing about it.”

Corrigan refused. The cigarette burned down, and the man ordered Corrigan to get out of the car. Corrigan got out and walked away. Later that night the phone rang. It was “Alex.” Corrigan unplugged the phone. Later, he went back to his native Tyrone, where he still lives today. Apart from his unwillingness to betray his own people, Corrigan’s refusal was motivated by a sec­ond fact: he knew that the IRA’s way of dealing with informers was to kill them.

IN THE 1980s, the IRA’s weaponry needs shifted from guns to surface-to-air missiles with which to shoot down British Army helicopters, in many rural areas the only reliable form of surveillance and troop transportation. IRA engineers put together a team to devise their own system. The project was led by Richard Johnson, a Mas­sachusetts-based scientist with top U.S. se­curity clearance, and Martin Quigley, an IRA engineer. Backing them up was Chris­tina Reid, a Bay Area engineering student, and Peter Maguire, a technician with Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline. For seven years, from 1982 to 1989, the FBI set up an elaborate surveillance operation against the IRA team. By 1989, when the feds moved in, the prototype of a radio-signal con­trolled missile system had been developed.

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Parallel to the efforts to develop its own system, the IRA also made various efforts to buy Stinger surface-to-air missiles in the U.S. In one case, a group in Florida led by IRA member Kevin McKinley made ar­rangements with a group of arms dealers to purchase Stingers. To raise the needed $50,000, according to a federal indictment, an IRA member made a “charity fund run” to New York, hitting bars — including the Kilarney Rose and the Spinning Wheel­ — the Bank of Ireland, Chemical Bank, and several residences. After the cash was hand­ed over, the arms dealers revealed them­selves as undercover FBI agents and four men, including McKinley, were arrested.

In a follow-up operation, a total of 14 men, including those convicted in Florida, were indicted last year in Tucson, Arizona, charged with the purchasing and shipment to the IRA of 2900 detonators, which they claimed would be used for mining. From Tucson, the detonators were put on a Grey­hound Bus and shipped to New York and then sent on to Northern Ireland, where, according to the feds, they were used in explosive devices from January 1991 to June 1992. According to the indictment, another IRA member slipped into the Unit­ed States from Canada with a munitions shopping list that included night vision glasses for a Ruger mini-14, 2000 nonelec­tric detonators, 200 electric ignitors, bullet molds for 9mms, and conversion kits for various rifles. Those arrested in New York included a Bronx bar-owner, a building su­perintendent, a carpenter, and a Toronto-based bank executive.

When some of the defendants in the Tuc­son case were released on multimillion-dol­lar bail, they appeared at a welcome-home rally at Gaelic Park in the northern Bronx. The party was a standing-room-only affair packed with young Irish immigrants, repre­sentatives of Irish organizations from across the tristate area, labor union offi­cials, and Irish sports organizations. Speak­er after speaker told the cheering crowd that, while the defendants were innocent victims of FBI collusion with the British security forces, only armed resistance could drive the British out of Ireland. The high­light of the night was a speech from Gerry McGeough, an IRA figure who was himself on trial for trying to buy a Stinger missile.

Another boisterous victory party was thrown after a group of admitted IRA gun­runners was acquitted by a Brooklyn jury in 1982. Much to the annoyance of federal prosecutors, says one man who attended, some of the jurors showed up and music was provided by the NYPD Emerald Soci­ety Pipe band.

NORTHERN IRELAND 

CARVED OUT OF the historic Irish prov­ince of Ulster after the IRA’s War of Inde­pendence brought the British to the negoti­ating table in 1921, and constructed to ensure a loyalist/Protestant majority, Northern Ireland became, in the words of one of its founders, a “Protestant State for a Protestant People.” The island was turned into two underdeveloped units, both dominated by backward, religious-based ideologies, the “carnivals of reaction” James Connolly, the Socialist republican leader executed by the British in the 1916, predicted partition would create.

The early years of Northern Ireland saw large-scale pogroms against Catholic ghet­tos and the arming of more than one-third of adult Protestant males. The Catholic na­tionalist minority — which constituted be­tween a third and two-fifths of the popula­tion — was subject to institutionalized discrimination in employment, housing, voting, and almost all aspects of public life. The Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s — consciously modeled on its Ameri­can counterpart — provided a challenge to the system, and eventually tore it asunder. By 1969, it became apparent that Northern Ireland was incapable of reforming itself and British troops were sent in. The conclu­sion drawn by many Catholics was simple: civil rights could not be attained within the confines of the state of Northern Ireland. Only by uniting Ireland could they guaran­tee their democratic rights. That, coinci­dentally, had always been the position of Irish republicanism and its armed manifes­tation, the IRA.

Now, driving through the rain-swept, overcast countryside, we pass a slogan on a gable-end wall that sums up the perspective of this part of the world: “In the Middle­-East they say ‘Yassir,’ in County Tyrone we say ‘No-Sir!’ ” We are on our way to the small village of Loughmacrory in the hills of mid-Tyrone, where a Gaelic football match is in progress. The local side, many of whom have served time for various IRA offenses, is playing a team of IRA prisoners on a weeklong holiday parole from the H­-Blocks. After the game — which is won by the locals who, though lacking the prison­ers’ fitness, have the edge in game prac­tice — the players are joined by 300 to 400 locals in the village’s community center to debate the political and military strategy of the republican movement. First, though, the winning team has to be presented with medals.

Later, in a nearby roadhouse, hundreds of Tyrone republicans gather for a social event, the highlight of which is the presen­tation of plaques to the families of Tyrone IRA volunteers killed in action in the latest phase of the conflict. The ceremony goes on for an hour as family after family leaves its table and makes its way to the podium amid loud ovations from the crowd. The presentations are testimony both to the strength of support in the community for the IRA and also to the price paid in casu­alties over the last 20 years.

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A center of rebellion as far back as the 16th century, Tyrone became subject to a two-pronged British policy of genocide and plantation that saw the lands of the native Irish confiscated and the inhabitants re­placed by thousands of settlers imported from Scotland and England. The Irish fled to the poor land on the hillsides. Their descendants live there still, strong supporters of the secret military conspiracy that is the IRA. From here, in the late 1960s, Bernadette Devlin traveled to Queen’s Uni­versity in Belfast and became a leader of the civil rights movement that was first attacked and clubbed by loyalist mobs and their supporters in the RUC, and then shot off the streets by British paratroopers. On Bloody Sunday, in January 1972, they killed 14 unarmed civil rights marchers in Derry. Afterward, nationalist youth in Ty­rone joined the IRA in droves.

As the war has changed over the years, with the IRA focusing its targets more closely on commercial enterprises, the number of civilian casualties from its bombing attacks has declined. But the war has taken an ominous turn with the emer­gence of loyalist death squads, drawn from the descendants of the 17th-century Scot­tish and English settlers. In the last three years, the two main loyalist paramilitary groups — the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) — have carried out more killings than anyone else. Their targets vary from known republican activists to ordinary Catholics who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(It was an IRA attempt to take out the leadership of the UDA that resulted in one of the army’s biggest public relations disas­ters of recent years, when a bomb directed against a UDA leadership meeting explod­ed prematurely, killing 10 people, including the IRA bomber, in a fish store on loyalist Shankill Road in Belfast last December.)

Drawn from the lower sections of the Protestant working class, the loyalist gangs have close connections to neo-fascist groups in Britain and adopt a racially su­premacist attitude toward the Catholics. In many cases the loyalist gangs have been able to operate with impunity because of the latent sympathy among sections of the RUC for their aims and their methods.

For many years there have also been alle­gations of collusion between the British se­curity forces and the loyalist gangs. “It is a matter of common knowledge within the nationalist community that information gathered by the British forces regularly and easily finds its way into the hands of loyal­ist death squads,” says Gerry Adams. In 1989, the British government was forced to dispatch a senior British police official, John Stevens, to investigate the growing evidence that intelligence files on republi­cans were being handed over to the loyalists.

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One of the men Stevens arrested was the UDA’s intelligence officer, Brian Nelson. Shortly afterward it was revealed that Nel­son was an agent of British military intelli­gence. It was his function in the UDA to collate all of the intelligence files on nation­alists provided by the British security forces and provide computer readouts on poten­tial victims to UDA hit squads. One of Nelson’s victims was lawyer Patrick Finu­cane, who had become a thorn in the side of the North’s legal and security establish­ment by his courageous civil rights advoca­cy and his defense of IRA suspects.

Nelson had also been party to an arms deal engineered by loyalists in 1988 that imported 200 AK-47s, 90 Browning pistols, 500 splinter grenades, numerous rocket launchers, and tens of thousands of bullets from South Africa. The deal was set up by the South African authorities in collabora­tion with a Middle East arms dealer.

The arrest of Nelson was both a huge embarrassment to the British authorities and clear evidence that loyalist death squads were being armed and directed with the assistance of British intelligence. At his trial in January 1992, during which a senior British military intelligence officer provid­ed a character reference for Nelson, murder charges were dropped in the “public interest” in return for a guilty plea. Nelson is due to be released in 1996.

The loyalists’ propensity for violence is directly correlated to any indication of ambivalence on the part of the British govern­ment to the status quo in Northern Ireland. Should the British suggest even a long-term process of disengagement, the loyalist gangs, along with important sections of the local security forces, could be expected to unleash an unprecedented onslaught against the nationalist community.

LONDON

STARTING IN THE early 1970s, the IRA ran a wild and ruthless campaign, marked by bombings of civilian targets — pubs fre­quented by British Army personnel at Guildford and Woolwich, well-to-do gentle­men’s clubs and fancy restaurants in Knightsbridge, and Harrods department store in the middle of London. It botched a warning at a Birmingham pub, where the bomb killed 21 civilians. It killed horses in a ceremonial parade, and shot and killed the editor of the Guinness Book of Records, who had offered a reward for the capture of IRA squads in England.

Then, during the middle ’70s, it came close to collapsing altogether into what turned out to be a shrewd British trap. Offering the IRA a ceasefire, which they then extended, the British hinted they wanted to end the violence and leave Northern Ireland. The IRA accepted the ceasefire: the guerrilla fighters came out into the open and here and there began to take up normal lives, revealing their cover and support system in the process. Behind the scenes, the British were beefing up their own intelligence operations, penetrating the IRA brigade system that now was nakedly exposed, tightening the rules for criminal arrest and prosecution. They then swooped down, and the IRA buckled.

It was at that point that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s vice-­president, took over and, on the basis of discussion groups IRA prisoners had undertaken in jail, reorganized the republican movement. The IRA replaced brigades with cells, ended the retaliatory shootings of Protestants, and shifted its focus to a long-term campaign against commercial targets aimed at costing the British money. It began blowing off big bombs in the downtown provincial towns of the North, blowing up the center of Belfast itself, all the while aiming to kill as many British soldiers as possible in hit-and-run ambushes.

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Even with this redirection of efforts, they never quite got rid of the brutal IRA reputation, which was revived by what came to be known as the European campaign, in which British military units stationed along the Rhine and off-duty soldiers in Holland and Belgium were attacked. This campaign soon became marked by a sense of ruthless abandon, with IRA units killing a baby, injuring a mother on her way home from the store, and mistakenly killing two people with short hair it thought surely were off-duty soldiers. As it turned out, they were Australian tourists.

In 1988, amidst the botched campaign on the continent, the IRA launched another campaign within Britain itself, attacking a variety of targets — a soldiers’ barracks, the homes of Tory politicians — mortaring a cabinet meeting during the Gulf War, switching quickly back and forth to keep the British security forces off guard. The campaign climaxed with two big bombs in the City of London, the British capital’s financial district, which demolished the Baltic Exchange, the shipping center. A year later, just as the Tory establishment was congratulating itself with a grand banquet for reopening the Baltic, the IRA struck again, this time with an enormous bomb in Bishopsgate, which blew up buildings housing foreign banks and offices, and damaged the big Liverpool Street train and subway station. All in all, in 1993 the IRA tried to blow up three times as many explosives — 18 tons — in the City of London as it did in the whole of Northern Ireland. The damage totaled upward of $ 1.5 billion. It was the heaviest bombing since the Blitz.

From the bustling entrance of the mod­ern Liverpool Station the City looks like any modern downtown, construction cranes pulling the finishing touches on high-rise towers that are crowding out the historic financial buildings. It takes a moment to get one’s bearings, but a security guard standing outside a bank helpfully points out what’s going on. “There,” he jabs with a finger at a high-rise office building. “And over there.” Another jab. “There, there, there.” All points where the IRA truck bomb took out the heart of the City.

The cranes and workmen sprawled across the narrow, rain-swept streets are still struggling to rebuild. The streets are all but empty, traffic having been diverted around the City area. Another helpful guard points out the slim silver canisters at the beginning and end of every street, outside the entrances of Lloyd’s, all around the bank buildings. These are security cameras, so common in Belfast, but remarkable here.

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Inside a commodity trading house, which is reached only through locked doors and with a pass from a security guard (hooked by beeper into all the other security guards in the City), a young English broker de­scribes the effect of the IRA bombings. “The windows,” he says, pointing to the glass expanse that encloses the trading room, “there’s a bulletproof film over them. And most of the securities firms have duplicated their trading rooms.” That is, taking advantage of the recession to rent other quarters, they have created replicas of their offices, complete with telephones and computers. These stand empty, ready to be inhabited should there be another bombing.

Last fall, the IRA began to steadily bomb or hoax the commuter railroads. In Decem­ber, the army set off a bomb on the Reading railroad, a main commuter line. The IRA can easily close every mainline station during the morning rush hour. Last year it claimed there was a bomb on the Kent line, completely shutting it down for hours. It’s been estimated that hoax cost nearly $100 million.

Steady, long-term surveillance has brought a certain success to British security forces, leading the police to one or another stash of explosives. But, from what one can tell, the IRA’s operational network in England remains in place, ready to strike. In all probability it involves sleepers, people who are sent over to England years before they are activated. From some recent arrests, it’s clear the IRA now has second­-generation Irish involved, people who emigrated from Ireland, married, became to all intents and purposes English with English accents, living in working-class suburbs with decent working-class jobs. They drink at the corner pub. They fit no profile. Who would have ever thought that these descendants of the oldest colony — the dependable handyman, the maid, the accomplished but eccentric writer, the day laborer, the workers who built the Chunnel, would at the end of the 20th century turn on their decent En­glish employers and entertain the prospect of becoming urban guerrillas?

THE GHQ 

THE ATTACKS ON the City of London, indeed the overall British campaign, have been directed by a handful of individuals who make up the IRA’s General Headquarters, a secret floating command center that moves about the island of Ireland. Sometimes it’s in the north in working-class Belfast, and at others across the border in the countryside of the south. Getting in touch with GHQ isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but over time, following a circuitous and often haphazard-seeming route through New York, Dublin, and Belfast, we asked for and eventually were granted an inter­view with one of the officials at GHQ.

We were to show up on a certain street corner in downtown Belfast after lunch on a cold, drizzly day in mid-January. Our contact man was driving a small sedan. He didn’t speak as he drove carefully through a warren of terraced houses just west of Belfast’s city center. After about 10 minutes of taking side streets to avoid British Army checkpoints, we pulled up outside a small group of neighborhood stores. The driver nodded to another car parked adjacent to a grocery store. Inside were two young men in jeans. We switched cars, and started off again, crisscrossing the working-class hous­ing estates that slope down from the Divis mountain and sprawl across nationalist West Belfast. The two young men in the car drove along, asking how easy it would be to get a ticket to the World Cup soccer match in New York. Nobody mentioned politics.

After another car switch, and more criss­crossing, we stopped outside a small, two-­story dwelling on a cul-de-sac in a non­descript public housing development. We entered and waited in the front sitting room while the last driver scanned the street from the window. Then, a man who looked to be in his thirties came up the sidewalk and into the house. The two men who had brought us there produced massive dead­bolts, locking the front door. Settling into a chair, the official from GHQ began to talk.

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“It’s important to see the English cam­paign in the context of overall IRA strate­gy,” he began, setting up right away the political context for the discussion. “Our strategy is underpinned by a number of strategic objectives, the aim of which is to sap the will of the British government’s violent denial of the Irish people’s right to self-determination. Given that objective, the IRA seeks with a variety of tactics to stretch and re-stretch the British in terms of their personnel and resources.” He paused.

“Like all guerrilla armies, the IRA seeks to improvise and manufacture at as low a cost as possible weaponry and armaments which can be deployed against Crown forces and other targets on the basis of the largest return for the least outlay. Another factor is the need to pace ourselves. The essence of guerrilla warfare is that the smaller insurgency force harries and harass­es a massively superior enemy. The object is to have the enemy in a constant state of high alert and continuously guarding a wide range of potential targets. For example, in the mid 1980s the IRA devastated over 45 rural British Army and RUC bases with large-scale bombings. One effect of this was that the British had to undertake a large campaign of reconstruction and refortifica­tion. The IRA then issued a warning that anyone involved in the reconstruction of these bases would themselves become tar­gets. The effect of that was two-fold: it caused a major inflation in the cost of re­building, and two, it meant that the British had to deploy two extra battalions of troops to assist in the rebuilding program.

“The nature of the rebuilding program rendered the use of car bombs redundant because we were dealing with three-foot-­thick walls, sometimes reaching 20 to 30 feet. Quite early in that program the IRA began to improvise with their mortar tech­nology. We had the production of the Mark 10 to Mark 14 mortars and now the Mark 15, which the British call a barrack buster. When that mortar goes in — and it has a maximum payload of 500 pounds of explo­sives although they now average 150 to 200 pounds — the fortifications which act as a deterrent to car bombs actually multiply the damage in the base.”

But, he continued, if the IRA were to focus on just one method, the British soon would catch on and counter it. It’s the whole “tapestry of operations” that mat­ters. One important element was strikes against commercial targets, which countered British claims that life was normal.

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“Throughout 1991, ’92, and continuing in 1993, we engaged in massive bomb at­tacks in the commercial heartland of London. The IRA in one period of 1992 de­ployed 26 tons of explosives in and around London. Unfortunately 18 tons of explo­sives were seized by British forces, and the operation itself went wrong, when British forces tailed one van. IRA engineers and backup volunteers were in position with the explosives and had a simple choice to make. They could have executed the British police who had stumbled into an operation that was beyond their capacity to deal with, but it was decided that because the opportunity to remove the explosives didn’t exist there was no military justification for attacking the British police, and the volun­teers withdrew from the area. It had been our intention at that point to simultaneous­ly explode six substantial explosive devices at targets throughout the capital.

“Another aspect of the campaign has been the persistent and long-term disrup­tion of the travel network in and around London. There is the economic loss of work hours, and the sheer frustration of the local populace when the IRA paralyzes the city, making it hellish. That has the effect, along with our other operations, of draining the Exchequer and straining the nerves of the British establishment.

“It is clear that the British establishment, when it comes to the question of Ireland, are slow learners but they will find that the IRA are very patient teachers.”

The official broke off, rising to talk to one of the guards who had come into the room. Then, turning to us, he said, “I’ve got to get out of here right away,” and departed.

WAR WITHOUT END

WITH THE PHONY ceasefire of the mid 1970s very much in mind, the IRA leader­ship warily approaches the recent British maneuvering over Ireland. They suspect that, far from planning to retire from Northern Ireland, John Major is more like­ly to try to split the IRA by luring Adams and the leadership into a ceasefire without the kind of concessions that would radically alter the situation. IRA leaders see rhetoric on Irish self-determination contradicted by the insistence that a majority in Northern Ireland have a veto over any change.

All of this takes place against a back­ground of secret talks between Sinn Fein, IRA leadership, and the British that began in 1990. In Belfast, Gerry Adams explained that the IRA had indeed been involved in direct talks with the British before the at­tacks on the City of London began. “We engaged in protracted dialogue and contact with the British government for almost a three-year period,” he said. “In the course of that, the British government offered a series of meetings with Sinn Fein and ar­gued that this could be facilitated and as­sisted if the IRA campaign was stopped. Having negotiated the logistics and the gen­eral political parameters of the meeting, Sinn Fein then asked the IRA leadership to suspend its campaign in line with the Brit­ish request.”

The IRA agreed to suspend the campaign for two weeks, after which the talks were supposed to take place at one of a number of suggested locations in mainland Europe. But having got the agreement of the IRA, Sinn Fein found that the British were sud­denly no longer interested.

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Adams continued: “The British govern­ment then walked away from the proposals. By that time, we think they got into trouble within their own Tory party and when they started to make an arrangement to deal with the unionists.” In June of last year, Major needed the votes of the Ulster union­ists in the House of Commons to save his political hide in a vote on European inte­gration. That need coincided with the Brit­ish decision not to pursue the peace talks with Sinn Fein/IRA.

But Adams had been pursuing his own talks with John Hume, the leader of moder­ate nationalist in Northern Ireland. Those talks created a momentum — particularly in Dublin, where the Irish government has, since the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, had a consultative role in the running of North­ern Ireland. The talks, and the revelation that the British had already been talking to Sinn Fein, created the pressure that result­ed in the so-called Downing Street Joint Declaration signed by Major and Irish prime minister Albert Reynolds.

Full of ambiguous language, the Joint Declaration implies that Britain is playing a neutral role in Northern Ireland. It declares that when the IRA lays down its arms the British will open talks with Sinn Fein — a new precondition. While the British and Irish governments talk of their initiative as one that will eventually open up the door to a United Ireland, the reality is easier to discern by the fact that the Unionist Party, the core of Ulster unionism, welcomed it as a document that would “copper-fasten the Union.”

The Joint Declaration was seen by Re­publican leaders as a maneuver designed for quick rejection by them —a rejection that the British could use first to isolate them and then to bring in even harsher repressive measures. Adams’s response was to seek clarification of the Joint Declaration and to place the onus on London and Dublin to prove that it was a genuine peace initiative.

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Under pressure from its electorate and an attempt to draw the IRA into a ceasefire, the Dublin government lifted the 20-year-­old censorship of Sinn Fem on television and radio. Dublin also made it known to the White House that it had no objection to the ban on Adams entering the U.S. being lifted.

Meanwhile, a consistent majority of peo­ple in Britain tell opinion pollers that they want out of Northern Ireland. Apart from the hundreds of millions of dollars that are paid out in compensation for IRA damage, Britain pays out $5 billion every year just to keep things running. So why, many peo­ple ask, don’t they just cut and run? One television journalist we met in London who has worked extensively in Northern Ireland pointed to the crisis in the British state as one key reason. “We have strong national­ist movements in Scotland and Wales, the monarchy is in a state of crisis, the Justice system is discredited, nobody believes in the established Anglican church anymore, and they can’t come to terms with the Eu­ropean Community. Ireland is our first and oldest colony and key parts of the establish­ment are scared to death of the ramifica­tions of losing what’s left of it.”

There is also the problem of the 1 million Protestants. “We have managed to create a hybrid race of our own little Afrikaners over there,” the Journalist added. “They say they are British but nobody here wants anything to do with them. They’re already armed to the teeth and ready to go to war if we pull out.”

Any deal struck between London, Dublin, and Belfast would have to meet the approval of the IRA, and especially the prisoners at Long Kesh. An indication of their view of things came during our meet­ing in the Maze with Sean Lynch, the OC of 350 IRA men who arc organized as a pris­oner-of-war unit. The peace proposals, among other things, offer them the possibil­ity of a general amnesty, a chance to abruptly conclude their 20-to-30-year sen­tences and return to normal life. Their an­swer, Lynch said without hesitation, was no. No until the British said they would retire from the island of Ireland.

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“The war has gone on for 25 years,” Bernadette Devlin McAliskey said. “And nobody can say what the balance sheet of suffering is. Certainly the greatest weight of war has been carried within the republican community. Those of us who have been part of the struggle for 25 years have chil­dren. The children have grown up in a totally militarized society. The most alarming thing about the situation is that this is nor­mal life for our children. This is the kind of society, the kind of life, the kind of struc­ture, that has provided the normal basis of their growing up. Peace is abnormal to any­body in this country under the age of 25. There may be some people around who say that anything would be better at this point than seeing these people have to go through the next 25 years the same as ourselves. But that’s not our decision. That decision is for people who are 22 and 23.

“And the kids? What they’re saying to the leadership is, if you’re tired, that’s all right. Go home. We’re not tired.” ■

Special thanks to Ed Moloney, the Sunday Tribune‘s Belfast correspondent, who has diligently covered the war and its complex politics over the last two decades. Additional reporting in New York: Susan Walsh, Eamon Lynch. 

Categories
CRIME ARCHIVES EXTREMISM ARCHIVES FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized Violence

Armies of the Right

Tim McVeigh’s revolutionary Footsteps

Moments after the cop ordered the Chevrolet Suburban to the side of the road that Saturday afternoon in Wilmington, Ohio, the man in the passenger seat jumped out, pulled a pistol, and opened fire on the officer. Staggering backward, the cop fumbled for his own gun and managed to get off a fusillade of shots. Unscathed, the car’s passenger ran into the woods. The driver, who had been standing beside his door, knocked aside another cop, got behind me wheel, and took off down the road.

Later that day the same men tangled with the cops in another shootout. Again they got away. The police all points bulletin for the men pictures a sweet-looking young man, with twin­kling eyes, his face protected by the floppy brim of a western hat straight out of Lonesome Dove.

His name is Chevie O’Brien Kehoe, 24. And it looks like he made a clean getaway across the Midwest in a Dodge Executive mobile home, along with his brother Cheyne, 20, and their wives and kids. Two weeks ago the motor home was found abandoned at an underpass on an in­terstate outside Casper, Wyoming.

The Kehoes are wanted for questioning in the robbery and grisly mur­der of an Arkansas gun dealer. But they are not just another gang of desperadoes. They are known to have ties with the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations in northern Idaho. And after the February 15 shootout in Ohio, police found in their vehicle what have by now become tell-tale tools of the far-right guerrilla war: bullet-resistant vests, two FBI logo baseball caps, two U.S. Marshal badges, handcuffs, a portable scanner radio, a gas grenade, pepper spray, a portable stretcher and body bag, latex gloves, duct tape, camouflage clothing, and three gas masks.

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The Kehoes, then, are foot sol­diers in a political army. Like others in that army, they see themselves as revolutionaries in a far-right movement who are determined to overthrow ZOG (the Zionist Occupation Government) and re­store society to its rightful protectors: white Christian men.

Some outriders in this movement look with favor toward Timothy McVeigh, whose trial begins March 31 in Denver, as another sol­dier in the fight for a white America. “I think he’s a courageous man,” says Dennis Mahon, the Tulsa leader of White Aryan Resistance. “Tremendous drive … If we had a hundred men like him in this country we’d probably change things around.” Referring to the Okla­homa City bombing that McVeigh is charged with, Mahon says, “I don’t agree with what he did particularly. My personal opinion is that that building should have been bombed early in the morning.” Mahon has offered to testify on behalf of McVeigh.

What makes this a movement and not just a collection of disparate violent acts is the web of associations that tie together the participants. The most powerful is the religious tenet of Christian Identity, which preaches that the true inheritors of the earth are White Aryans, and all others are subhuman “mud people.”

There are other ties that bind these like-minded people together. Some are pulled together because they practice polygamy. Many younger members are groupies on the skinhead circuit, follow­ing bands around the country, and picking up work at movement enclaves (like the sawmill at Elohim City) when the need arises. Others hang out together at summer camps, evening Bible studies, paramilitary training sessions, gun shows, and meetings of sympathetic militias. The reli­gious gatherings are where the hardcore, far-right operatives out of the old Ku Klux Klan or Posse Comitatus mix with less political, naive Christian religious people. The result is a potent combination of politics infused with religious zeal. It’s one thing to believe that it’s your mission under the constitution to set up, say, a citizens’ grand jury outside the corrupt court system, and quite something else to think of yourself as a Christian soldier in the opening phases of the battle of Armageddon.

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Beginning in the ’80s, groups of apocalyptic Christian fundamentalists withdrew from society, forming their own closed communities so as to more closely practice their religious beliefs and wait for the return of Christ. One group, called The Covenant, The Sword & The Arm of the Lord (CSA), aligned itself in the mid 1980s with the Order, a far-right under­ground gang. That explosive combination led to a tense showdown between 300 lawmen and some 75 heavily armed reli­gious zealots prepared to do God’s will in a shootout. The shooting was averted by last-minute negotiations.

In today’s revolutionary terrain the secluded enclaves remain, although they are of less importance now than in the last decade. Large gang-type formations like the Order have given way to a complex network of leaderless resistance cells, each made up of anywhere from six to eight in­dividuals. The cells strike at various targets, every one selected for the purpose of ad­vancing their revolution: bombing an abortion clinic, robbing a bank or ar­mored car, murdering an interracial cou­ple or someone thought to be Jewish, blacking out a big city by blowing up pow­er lines and thereby sparking a race riot (disrupting Tulsa in this manner has been much discussed at far-right gatherings), or blowing up federal buildings.

Indeed, the actual plan to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was first hatched within the CSA during the early ’80s. The attack was aborted when the rocket that was to be used blew up in the hands of the man who was build­ing it. By adopting the leaderless resistance cell strategy, the far right made large actions like Oklahoma City possible.

These violent acts are carried out with both the aim of screwing up an oppressive govern­ment (for example, by dumping cyanide into a community’s water supply — another plan that was hatched with the help of the CSA. This time with Robert Miles, the grand dragon of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan), or the need to raise money (by, say, robbing a bank or selling dope). The money is then used to purchase land to create a white bastion, buy equipment such as radios or trucks and vans (which are sometimes stolen as well), and amass weapons and ammu­nition (which are also often ripped off through home invasions of gun dealers).

Far-right gunmen have pulled off the greatest chain of bank robberies since Jesse James­ — one a month starting in 1994, with 19 in eight states by 1996. But the bomb is their m.o. Oklahoma City was the biggest, but it was just the first of a rash of such actions: in the south, three members of the Georgia Republic Militia were convicted of stockpiling bombs. Militia members from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania stand accused of planning to blow up the FBI’s national fingerprint center in Clarksburg. And in Vacaville, California, a federal mine inspector and his wife were critically injured in a far-right car bombing; before the car blew up, a caller had warned, “Timothy McVeigh lives on.” Other bombing attacks in­clude last-year’s Oklahoma-based conspiracy to blow up Anti-Defamation League offices in Houston, and the recent siege on abortion clin­ics and gay bars in the south.

In all, 25 states have recently experienced violent incidents linked to the far right. Amazingly the feds still see these violent acts as indi­vidual crimes.

The Oklahoma City bombing, how­ever, was clearly not a random act or terror. It was quite simply, a major operation in a growing revolution  — one that had been discussed for over a decade. And its timing suggests several intended messages: as possible retribution for the execution on April 19, 1995, of Richard Wayne Snell, a leader of the CSA who was sentenced to die for murdering an Arkansas state trooper and a pawn broker he mistakenly thought was Jewish. It may have been retaliation for the 1992 Idaho shootout be­tween the feds and Randv Weaver. And most likely, the Oklahoma City bombing could have been a response to the government’s siege at Waco.

Timothy McVeigh had been in and out of the far-right scene since he left the army in 1992, and was reportedly highly agitated by Waco. One of the main ques­tions to be answered at McVeigh’s trial, then, is to what extent did he fit into this revolutionary landscape — just how did his “cell” operate in relationship to the others now functioning across the Amer­ican hinterland?

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The Kehoe saga begins in western Arkansas with the disappearance in January 1996 of William Mueller, 53, a gun dealer; his wife Nancy, 28; and her daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Powell, age 8. They were last seen on their way to a gun show in the town of Springdale. Several weeks after the Muellers disappeared, a witness reported seeing them in a car along with several other men, fueling speculation that they had been abducted. In February, one of Mueller’s guns turned up at a pawn shop in Seattle, and it was traced to Kirby Kehoe and his son Chevie, who had sold it at a Washington gun show. The investigation dragged, and then on June 29, the badly decomposed bodies of the Mueller family surfaced in the Illinois Bayou, just north of Rus­sellville, Arkansas. Their heads were cov­ered with plastic bags and wrapped with duct tape, and the adults’ hands were cuffed.

By last summer the search for the Kehoes had widened into an interstate task force of law-enforcement officers. The witness who saw the car carrying the Muellers had identified the other occupants as Tim­othy Thomas Coombs (a white suprema­cist wanted for shooting a Missouri state trooper), and Kirby Kehoe’s two sons, Chevie and Cheyne. The cops started to close in. The Kehoes lived in a remote part of the Kaniksu National Forest in the mountains along the Washington-Idaho border — a place where most of the houses are without electricity, telephones, or even addresses. But somehow they were tipped off and witnesses reported seeing the Ke­hoes in a truck loaded with belongings, hightailing it out of the forest. The family headed for Montana where they lived until the Ohio shootout.

In December, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, police found another Mueller gun in a truck registered to the wife of Chevie Kehoe. The firearm and vehicle were in the possession of Sean Michael Haines, a 19-year-old Washington man with ties to white supremacist groups. He claimed he obtained the stolen rifle in a swap with Chevie. Haines later said he met Chevie at an Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho, and that the two attended gun shows together. Kehoe married his first wife in a ceremony at that compound. Haines de­scribed him as less of a supremacist than a “white separatist” as well as a “constitutional­ist” and a survivalist. In their search of Haines’s truck, police found another stolen gun (traced back to Washington state), blood stains, flexible handcuffs, and duct tape.

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Eastern Washington, where the Kehoes far-right movement that has long sought to establish a “white bastion” in the mountains stretching into northern Idaho and western Montana. Its headquarters is the Aryan Na­tions compound at Hayden Lake, a suburb of the resort and retirement community Coeur d’Alene in western Idaho. But its followers are sprawled out into the Idaho panhandle around Sandpoint, where Louis Beam, the de facto leader of the movement, has bought land. Sandpoint is also the home base of America’s Promise, a Christian Identity ministry.

Three members of America’s Promise have been tied to a string of bombings and a bank robbery in Spokane last year, three men — Charles Barbee, 44; Robert S. Berry, 42; and Verne Jay Merrell, 51 — have been charged with the April 1 bombings of the Spokane Spokesman ­Review‘s Valley office and a nearby U.S. Bank branch office. They are also charged with rob­bing the same bank and bombing a Planned Parenthood clinic on July 12, just two weeks be­fore the Olympic Park bombings. The robbers left behind notes signed Phineas Priesthood, a symbol of the far-right racialist underground. Phineas is a Bible figure who is a mythic hero on the right because he supposedly slew an inter­racial couple having sex.

The suspects were arrested October 8 in Yakima after a botched attempt to rob yet another bank. The men told a federal judge in Jan­uary that they are “ambassadors for the kingdom of Yahweh,” and hence beyond authority of the government. If convicted they face life without parole. A fourth suspect, Brian Ratigan, 38, was arrested last weekend in Spokane. He is charged with conspiring to bomb buildings and rob banks in the area last year.

The government believes Merrell is the leader of the gang. The son of an upper-middle­-class Philadelphia family, he went into the Navy following high school. After serving in the Atlantic fleet for 12 years, Merrell got jobs — and security clearances — in domestic nu­clear power plants. Along with Louis Beam, he writes for Jubilee, the Christian Identity news­paper, whose owner, Paul Hall, also lives in Sandpoint.

In late January, the Spokesman-Review re­vealed that the same witness who originally led the FBI to the accused America’s Promise bombers claimed he sold them a military back­pack and talked to them about a time-delayed detonator. The Olympic Park bomb — which killed a woman and injured 111 people — came in a military backpack and was set off by a time-­delayed detonator. A witness places at least one of the Spokane suspects, Robert Berry, in Atlanta during the Olympics. And telephone records show calls to Charles Barbee’s home were made from Atlanta at about the time of the July 27 attack. Barbee had worked at AT&T in Georgia, Florida, and Idaho before quitting his job. “Half the people I worked with were women,” Barbee complained. “They were working instead of being helpmates to their hus­bands, as God requires.”

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If Hayden Lake and the western slope of the Rockies are at one end of the outlaw trail, the Ozarks and the Elohim City compound at the other. Elohim City is another stronghold of Christian Identity and a common rest stop for members of the far right’s western  faction when they travel east. The Kehoes, for example, stopped off at this safe haven, where some resi­dents practice polygamy. Elohim City is the headquarters for another spoke of the move­ment, the Aryan Republican Army bank robbers, a gang of four men who had robbed one bank each month, beginning in 1994, before getting caught by the feds early last year.

Led by Richard Guthrie Jr., who was found hanged in jail last summer at the age of 38, and Pete Lan­gan, 38, a former in­formant for the U.S. Secret Service, the ARA was partly masterminded by Mark Thomas, 46, the Aryan Nations leader of northeastern Pennsylvania.Thomas put Guthrie and Langan together with young skinheads who squatted at his farm outside Allentown. According to the federal indictment, Thomas took some of the $250,000 stolen between 1994 and ’96, and used it to aid other white-power groups. Thomas has reportedly agreed to a plea bargain, while Lan­gan has been convicted of one robbery and has yet to be sentenced.

These are the type of people and this is the world that surrounded Timothy McVeigh, He is known to have made the gun-show rounds while selling copies of The Turner Diaries and staying overnight with gun collectors. His phone records show that he made one call to Elohim City shortly before the Oklahoma City bomb detonated, and be also received a traffic ticket not far from that far-right compound in an earlier incident.

Additionally, his defense team claims, he joined an Arkansas branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and his phone records reveal several different calls to a representative of the National Alliance in Arizona. William Pierce, who heads the Na­tional Alliance, is the author of The Turner Diaries. The McCurtain Daily Gazette, a local paper in Idabel, Oklahoma, has reported that an undercover informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, says McVeigh was a figure on the Aryan scene in Elohim City and knew the ARA bank robbers. A stripper in Oklahoma also claims to have seen McVeigh along with one of the accused ARA robbers. Although tantalizing, these stories remain largely unconfirmed. It is always possible, however, that the defense will try to insinuate them, one way or another, into the trial.

If anything, the struggle between the Aryan resistance movement and the government has intensified since the Oklahoma City bombing, with one cell after another coming to the surface. With the feds refusing to recognize their existence, the attacks by these pockets will only increase in size and strength. ❖

Categories
FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Sanctifying the Evangelical Vote

Pulpit Politics

The major political event of 1986 has been the emergence of the Christian right as a disciplined voting bloc within the Republican party. While television evangelist Pat Robertson may be its initial beneficiary, the ride of these white fundamentalist Christians could help push the Republicans further along the road towards majority party status. And in the process it broadens the ideological base for the right, some of whose leaders have been identified with fundamentalism and who have been the stalwarts of the Reagan Revolution.

Inspired by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority (recently renamed the Liberty Federation), and unscathed by derisory press, the Christian right has shown itself to be a disciplined political machine this spring. Recently, Christian candidates in Michigan loyal to Pat Robertson outnumbered those pledged to George Bush and Jack Kemp in precinct caucuses. The caucuses are the first step in picking delegates to the Republican national convention in 1988. After the Michigan vote, Robertson and Bush were roughly even in delegate strength — about 35 to 40 percent, which Jack Kemp had 20-30 per cent. Robertson campaigned as if he were in the final stage of a presidential election, making half a dozen personal appearances and spending $100,000 to stage a political rally that was televised across the state. Overall, Robertson’s supporters spent far more than his rivals.

Right-wing Christian candidates also dominated last month’s Republican Party delegate and platform process in Des Moines, Iowa. In two Indiana House districts, avowedly Christian candidates recently scored upsets to gain Republican nominations, and in Oregon a fundamentalist Baptist minister drew 43 percent of the vote in the GOP primary against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood. Robertson has hosted fund-raisers for Christian Republican candidates in Tennessee and New Mexico. And fundamentalists in Minnesota are battling to win the Republican gubernatorial candidacy.

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The term evangelical encompasses Protestant individuals and groups with different political views who share a belief in the authority of the Scriptures. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats. There are significant groups of evangelicals in the South and Midwest. And within these communities, right-wing, white Christian fundamentalists of the Robertson stripe account for a small but active bloc.

If it could ever be organized, the so-far amorphous and conflicted evangelical vote could be an important factor in politics. Twenty years ago the Gallup poll, which probes evangelism, found that 20 percent of the public claimed to have had a born-again experience (the gauge of evangelism used by Gallup). In 1984, the figure rose to 39 percent. If accurate, this means there are more than 65 million adult evangelicals and potential voters. And while these figures often are dismissed as too high, they may actually underplay the strength of the evangelical movement. Two-thirds or more Americans side with Christian fundamentalists in favor of tougher pornography laws, against homosexuals teaching in public schools, and in the belief that prayer is important, according to Gallup. Over 50 percent were opposed to abortion. All of these have been hotly debated issues on the campaign trail this spring.

Pat Robertson’s victory in Michigan last week makes it all the more likely that he will run for president. He now is a real threat to Jack Kemp, whose natural constituency he is attracting, and a serious obstacle to George Bush. Like Jesse Jackson in the Democratic Party, Robertson could become a major, if not decisive, factor in who gets the nomination and in the setting of party priorities.

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The Christian right poses a severe problem for George Bush, who in 1980 was widely portrayed on the right as an East Coast establishment figure who was both ineffective and soft on communism. Bush has since gained grudging respect from the right. But Robertson, like Reagan, is charismatic, and his right-wing credentials are unquestionable. Whatever the result of the presidential campaign, Robertson has and will act as a corrective influence on Bush, moving debate within the party further right.

When Bush’s advisers warned him recently that Robertson was moving up fast in Michigan and could wipe him out, the vice-president brushed them aside. Since the vote, Bush agents have been attempting to put their best face forward, insisting that the vice-president and Robertson equally split the vote. Privately, one Bush operative acknowledged that Robertson “got it all.”

Robertson is all the more powerful in these early stages because Bush has no real strategy for winning the evangelical vote. Jerry Falwell’s early support of Bush, once thought to be an asset, has turned into a hindrance. “There’s not one single plus in Falwell,” says a Bush adviser, who argues the Moral Majority leader has been discredited among fundamentalists because of his inflexibility (i.e., his unyielding defense of apartheid). Bush still has supporters among fundamentalists — TV evangelist Jim Bakker, for one. And he has good friends, including TV evangelist Billy Graham and Robert Schuller. In an effort to remedy his diminished stature among evangelicals, Bush will soon distribute a videotape in which he explains his position on various matters of faith. Some advisers hope Bush will ingratiate himself with evangelicals by making the protection of their political rights a campaign issue. But after Michigan, the vice-president’s advisers are glum. They acknowledge that Bush must move fast or face a cohesive fundamentalist bloc of Roberson supporters.

The rise of the Christian right within the Republican Party could be the galvanizing event that organizes the evangelical vote. Or, if the Democrats have their way, it could tar the GOP as the party of Jesus freaks. “The religious right is now institutionalized in the Republican Party … they have gained more influence over hitherto moderate candidates,” says Kevin Phillips, the political analyst. Having to address the interests of a fringe within the party, he says, “is likely to cause trouble for the Republicans rather than being an almost unmitigated plus.”

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Up the hill from sterile downtown Des Moines lies the political redoubt of the new Christian right — the large complex that houses the First Federated Church, its offices, and its Christian school. A few blocks away stands the equally impressive First Assembly of God Church. Within these buildings, fundamentalist churchmen preach both the Bible and politics. First Federated, which has a Sunday television worship program and a congregation of over 2000, has contacts with Falwell’s Moral Majority and Robertson’s Freedom Council. The church is active in voter registration and issues report cards on how politicians stand on issues that matter to its members. Recently, officials of the churches and members of their congregations have begun to organize the priorities of the city’s Republican Party apparatus.

Iowa is in the news these days because of the farm crisis. But it may turn out that religious conservatism will play a stronger role in the state’s politics than the demise of the family farm. The social issues of the Christian right have had a thorough airing in Iowa. The state, for example, has been the center of a fight to win equal time for creationism in the public schools.

The center of the Christian movement is in Des Moines (Polk County) and its suburbs (Dallas County). In mid-January, some two dozen fundamentalists in Dallas County met to organize for precinct caucuses. Both Republicans and Democrats were scheduled to hold 22 caucuses where they would elect delegates for county conventions and begin work for political platforms.

“God is giving us one last chance to get our act together,” Steve Scheffler told the group of fundamentalists in Dallas County last January. Scheffler is the state coordinator for the Freedom Council, the Virginia Beach-based organization, founded by Pat Robertson and dedicated to restoring “traditional” American values in government. The Freedom Council is a tax-exempt organization and refrains from overt political endorsement. Scheffler never mentioned Robertson’s campaign; instead, he encouraged the group to form a Christian caucus to plan for the precinct meetings.

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Scheffler himself has little experience in political organizing. He previously ran unsuccessfully for state office in Iowa; then last summer he took a training course in political organizing at the Freedom Council’s headquarters. This past winter in Des Moines, Scheffler became the catalyst for fundamentalist organizing.

“So many times we holler, but we don’t take a stand,” Scheffler told the Dallas County group. “If we want those Christian values returned, we have to get out of the pew.”

Two weeks later, 50 fundamentalists caucused informally at the Dallas Country Christian School and, taking Scheffler at his word, broke into 22 groups, one for each precinct in the county, decided who to nominate at the upcoming caucuses, and discussed possible platforms. Having shown their strength at the precinct caucuses, the Christians moved on to the county conventions and, in Dallas County, easily established dominance. Marc Stiles, a reporter for the Dallas County News who covered the event, gave a description of the debate: Moderate Republican attempts to water down a plank against abortion were easily beaten; an effort to weaken a plank supporting stronger laws against pornography, on grounds that such a law would infringe on the First Amendment, was quickly silenced. “Pornography,” said one fundamentalist delegate, “is stench on the nostrils of the holy God.”

A motion to strike the word “prayer” from a plank supporting a return to prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance in the public school system drew the ire of the Christians. “Removing prayer from the public school system was the same as removing God,” said one. The motion was decisively beaten. Next was a platform supporting the rights of business people and landlords not to accommodate gays. “Everyone thinks it’s cute to see two men kiss,” said another Christian delegate. “I think it’s sick.” The plank that labeled homosexual acts as “perverted sexual deviations not socially acceptable by American society” easily passed over objections by a man who said it was against the law in the U.S. to discriminate against people on the basis of race, religion, and lifestyle.

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Don Morris, the associate pastor of the First Federated Church in Des Moines, began to preach politics during the presidential campaign in 1984. This year he was a delegate to the Republican district convention. Morris says he was drawn to politics by other fundamentalist ministers he admires, and by the examples of Falwell and Robertson. Like many of the fundamentalists I spoke with in Des Moines in late April, Morris voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, then, realizing the error of his ways, supported Reagan. Morris now supports Bush for president in 1988, as do, he says, many members of his church. In Morris’s view, Bush has been a loyal Reagan-supporter, and he is a more realistic candidate than Robertson.

“For the longest time we blamed the politicians for stealing our rights,” he says. “Then we finally woke up and realized that we hadn’t spoken out when we should have, and said instead of complaining, let’s do what is right as citizens and use our God to bring back to America the Judeo-Christian ethics it was founded on.” Morris is especially concerned with social values. In a pamphlet, “The Battle for Our Children,” he attacks Smurf dolls, whose magical games make them agents of Satan. “If the pulpit does a good job,” Morris says,”the Christian community will always be involved in having a voice in government and legislating morality.”

At the county convention in Des Moines in March, Christian activists distributed a set of principles that revealed how thoroughly they had thought out the political situation. “When you have control of a party,” read one, “it might not be wise to place ‘our’ people into any and every position. Get the counsel of wise Christian politicians when in doubt.”

As the Christian right’s organizing drive in Iowa picked up steam, it made allies among nonreligious conservatives. Among them is Ian Binnie, a fiscal conservative, former member of the Des Moines school board, and secretary of the Polk County Republican Party. “There is an evangelical vote in this area, and it is based on some very clear-cut issues,” Binnie says. “I am not a religious conservative by any means, but I consider them natural allies … I diverge with them on the abortion issue. I wish it would just go away. I concede them the high moral ground.” On prayer in schools: “I’m not sure it did me any good, but it didn’t do me any harm. I can’t get excited about the idea of a minute of silence.”

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“Robertson is a real force, but I don’t see him as a viable candidate,” Binnie says. “Kemp is not as strong here as theoretically he should be. These people are all for Reagan now, and Bush has a loyalty to Reagan. Bush is very powerful here.”

Having successfully gained control of precincts in both counties, then asserting themselves at the county conventions, the alliance of newly active Christian fundamentalists and fiscal conservatives went on to easily dominate the district convention. By margins of two-thirds, they adopted social policy planks attacking abortion and pornography and endorsing family values. The Des Moines Register said the coalition fielded 400 of 450 delegates and attributed the large attendance to the evangelical turnout. Operating with the precision of a political machine, the fundamentalists sought to widen their coalition, supporting moderate Republicans for the party central committee and voting down audacious amendments from their own ranks (i.e., proposals to make committing an abortion a capital crime.)

Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader from Kansas, who is unofficially campaigning for president in 1988, was in Iowa during the county conventions last month. Seeking support from where he could find it, he embraced the Christian right; “the evangelical movement in the GOP is welcome,” Dole said. “There is lots of room in the party … If we want to be the big national party, then we have to be diverse.”

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Christian fundamentalists around Des Moines believe their ideas are misrepresented by the press, which often depicts them as intolerant kooks. So it was with some uneasiness that Jim and Kathy Michael agreed to sit down with me over breakfast in their DeSoto home one recent Saturday morning. We sat in the kitchen over coffee and doughnuts and talked about politics, AIDS, communism, and Christian rock as an antidote for rock ‘n’ roll.

Kathy was brought up in the Baptist Church and, as a child, Jim attended Methodist Church. He left the church early, but became religious as an adult. Jim Michael works for the Des Moines power company. Kathy is a housewife, bringing up their five children — four boys and a girl. Both are fundamentalists and are active in Republican Party politics. Jim has served as a member of the DeSoto planning and zoning commission and most recently spent a four-year stint on the town council. Last year, he ran for mayor and came in third. Over the last four years, Kathy has been a poll-watcher at local elections. Both Michaels were active in previous precinct caucuses, but this year they ran as delegates and won. When asked who they’d support for the presidency, both said they hadn’t made up their minds. “If they were running tomorrow, I’d be in trouble.”

On abortion their views were similar to those of most Christian fundamentalists: “We recognize the amoeba as a primitive form of life,” says Jim. “If scientists can do that, then what is their problem in recognizing that two cells are tying into one and creating life.” Unlike some pro-lifers who oppose the death penalty as inconsistent with their support for sanctity of all life, Kathy Michael was adamant in her support: “An eye for an eye,” she says. “I don’t mean that if someone kills my child I should go out and take his life. I feel that we have laws and that people should abide by them.”

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AIDS has intensified the Michaels’ fear of homosexuals. Both Michaels believe the population at large should be tested for AIDS antibodies, and, “until we know” more, Kathy is for a quarantine. “It even crossed my mind when one of my children had something,” says Kathy. “He kept getting sick. I don’t know how in the world he would have gotten such a thing, but once in a while the thought will cross your mind.”

“I am against homosexuality because God says ‘no.’ But I am not against the homosexual, and there is a difference,” Kathy says. “It’s just like when I tell my children I love them very much, but I do not love everything they do.”

Should homosexuals be denied certain jobs? Should they be permitted to teach in public schools? “I have a hard time with that,” Kathy says. “How do I know if this person keeps his private life to himself. If a person chooses to be a homosexual, that is his right. Does he have the right to molest small children? Many of them do. I’m not saying all of them do.”

“It’s hard to say these people don’t have the right to teach,” says Jim. Kathy disagreed: “My instincts would tell me no because of fear for the children.”

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In the Des Moines area, fundamentalists increasingly have turned to Christian schools, and there is considerable support for teaching children at home. The Michaels support the trend. “I am 100 percent behind it,” Kathy says. “We have to be careful of the textbooks being used today … [they] have socialism in them — material on Russia versus our own country and Marx versus George Washington.”

The Michaels are opposed to communism, not only because they are fearful of aggressive war launched by the Soviet Union, but also because it runs counter to their Christian values. Jim wants to roll back communism.

“I’m not saying we should go into every place with guns,” Jim says. “I’m just saying that they [anti-Communists] may need help and we should aid them. But Communist nations mostly don’t go in and take over militarily. They go in and start educating people. They take their own agents in and begin to cause turmoil. I believe this is happening on our campuses today, that there is a certain amount of turmoil and unrest that is being bred on our campuses. They are putting a lot of questionable doubt in the minds of these future parents and leaders.”

Because they have teenage kids, rock ‘n’ roll music presents a real problem for the Michaels.

“I don’t want rock music in this house,” says Kathy. “I don’t even like this Christian rock music, but we have compromised on that. But now you’ve got backmasking. You can take records and play them backward. They’ve got hidden messages … The new thing is political rock with Bruce Springsteen. I like the music, I just don’t like the words. I think he’s teaching rebellion across the country.”

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Behind the politics of the Christian right lies the powerful engine of Armageddon theology, which lends an emotional intensity to the movement. Numerous fundamentalist leaders — Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to name but two — preach the doctrine of “premillennialism,” which holds that the world is entering a period of indescribable devastation and suffering. Its climax will be the battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ.

Premillennialists have been wrong in prophesying Armageddon at various points in history. Under President Reagan such prophecies have gained new currency. The president himself speculated on the subject in a 1981 interview with People magazine: “Never, in the time between the ancient prophecies up until now has there been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together. There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never like this.”

Jerry Falwell told the Los Angeles Times in 1981, “All of history is reaching a climax, and I do not think we have 50 years left.” And when Falwell was asked whether Reagan agreed with him on such matters, he replied, “Yes he does. He told me, ‘Jerry, I sometimes believe we’re heading very fast for Armageddon right now.'”

The right often pictures the farm crisis in the Midwest as a sign of the end times. Pornography, homosexuality, and AIDS are all viewed as signs of God’s judgment on sinners. The increasing conflagration in the Middle East, Libya’s threatening acts, and Communist aggression in the third world are all seen by some fundamentalists as part of an Armageddon countdown.

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In the story of Armageddon, the Middle East becomes the world’s last battleground, with God saving Israel from destruction by invading armies. In The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, Hal Lindsey, by far the most popular writer on the meaning of the end times, unaccountably concludes that, although he believes the U.S. will decline in power, it can still survive. “If some critical and difficult choices are made by the American people right now,” he writes, “it will be possible to see the U.S. remain a world power.” The choices Lindsey has in mind amount to embracing a right-wing political program.

Tim LaHaye, self-proclaimed “Christian ambassador to Washington, D.C.,” is president of the American Coalition for Traditional Values, which supports fundamentalist politics. He says he represents 45 million “born-again, Bible-believing Christians.” LaHaye argues that God will rout the Communists: “Some Bible teachers say when God rains fire and brimstone on the armies around Israel, gathered to destroy this nation, he is also going to send a similar fire on the coastlands. Now these coastlands could be the nations of the Western Empire, so that wherever the Marxist spies are entrenched they will suddenly drop dead … That would mean in a practical sense that the Marxist spies in America, on the university campus, in the State Department, wherever they are moled out, and in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, where they are doing their devious work—suddenly they will be eliminated by fire.”

Other fundamentalist writers counsel that survivalist techniques can help true believers make it through Armageddon until God rescues them in the Rapture. “We are considering the time when Christians will not be able to buy and sell, and will want to be independent of the utility system,” writes Jim McKeever, who says he is a computer expert, consulting economist, and Bible teacher. “You must do whatever God tells you to do at the moment.” McKeever’s brand of survivalism is popular in Christian circles. Pat Robertson wrote the forward to one of his books, and the 700 Club, Robertson’s television show, has promoted the stockpiling of food and other survivalist preparations.

Survivalism is also the connecting link between Christian fundamentalism and far-right anarchism. Some fundamentalists fear that the Antichrist will take over the world economy. National identification cards will be a warning of such an eventuality. Mary Stewart Relfe in When Your Money Fails proposes that Christians should avoid as many financial transactions as possible. They should work hard, remain free of debt, buy land in the country, and learn to live independent of city conveniences. Liquid assets should be turned into gold and silver. All this, according to Relfe, should help Christians fend off Armageddon until God can save them.

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It’s too soon to tell whether the Christian right can organize the evangelical vote and help assure the GOP majority party status. In all likelihood, the Christians will be most successful in exerting their influence within the narrow boundaries of precinct caucuses and party primaries, where small numbers of activists can have a substantial impact. On a larger scale, their influence may be more circumscribed. Though they have pushed debate over party priorities further right, forcing the presidential candidates to heed their interests, they, in turn, will be pulled by the political process toward the middle. If what happened in Iowa is any gauge of the future, the Christians themselves will moderate their program to gain power and eventually form coalitions with fiscal conservatives and even moderates. The ultimate question for Robertson and the Christian politicians is whether they can maintain their ideological program while playing electoral politics. ❖

Research: Marcia Ogrodnik; Andrew Lang at the Christic Institute. See Timothy Weber’s Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming for more on the politics of Armageddon.

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

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From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Iran-Contra: What Do We Know, and When Did We Know It?

“The Iran-Contra Scandal Ends In a Whimper”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unlike Watergate, in which the resigna­tion of the president created an ending of sorts, there is no suc­cessful conclusion to the Iran-contra scandal that tore the government to pieces during the mid-1980s. The release last week of the report of the independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, marks a frustrat­ing anticlimax to what clearly is a continuing crisis of American gov­ernment, based not in the execu­tive branch, but in Congress, which has been steadily under­mining its own ability to govern.

In their own investigation and subsequent report, the congressio­nal committees investigating the affair blamed the Reagan admin­istration, but never said a word about Congress’s own complicity, instead making it into a victim of the Reagan plot when in fact it was an accomplice.

There was never any official recognition of the Iran-contra scandal until November 25, 1986, when then-attorney general Edwin Meese made his “discovery” of the so-called diversion memo that for the first time officially ac­knowledged the funneling of mon­ey from the sale of arms to Iran to the rebels in Nicaragua.

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U.S. backing for the rebels was well known in Washington and co­piously reported in newspapers and on television from at least 1984 on. The National Security Archive, the independent, nonprofit watchdog outfit in Washington, which has led the way in investigating the Iran-­contra scandal, has compiled de­tailed chronologies of how the scan­dal unfolded. A simplified version, along with key documents, is con­tained in Iran Contra Scandal: A Declassified History, which should be taken as a reader’s guide to the Walsh report.

Here are a few of the events that everybody in Washington during that period of time knew about: On April 9, 1984, The Wall Street Journal revealed the CIA had se­cretly mined Nicaraguan harbors. The next month, contra rebel lead­er Eden Pastora held a press con­ference in the Nicaraguan jungle to denounce the CIA’s pressure to align his followers on the southern front with the Nicaraguan Democratic Force operating out of Hon­duras. In the midst of the confer­ence, a bomb exploded, killing eight journalists and wounding 17 others. The assassin escaped.

In April 1985, five members of the Civilian Military Assistance team, a U.S.-based mercenary operation, were arrested in Costa Rica. In prison interviews, they began to spell out details of the National Security Council’s sup­port of a southern front operation run by John Hull along the Nicaragua border. In August 1985, The New York Times ran a front-page story on the National Security Council’s role in supporting the contras. On June 25, 1986, the CBS program West 57th Street aired a documentary on the contra resupply mis­sion, identifying Robert Owen as “the bagman for Ollie North” and John Hull as the key American working for the NSC in Costa Rica. Within a year, the Associat­ed Press, Miami Herald, and CBS News had chipped away, exposing the basic outlines of the National Security Council-run enterprise.

Even though some of these re­ports caused an outcry on Capitol Hill, they had little lasting impact. Indeed, the House, in June 1985, passed legislation authorizing hu­manitarian assistance to the contras, which was well understood at the time as a way to build up the military infrastructure.

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In August 1985, Michael Barnes, then chairman of the House western hemisphere affairs subcommittee, and Lee Hamilton, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote Robert McFarlane, Rea­gan’s national security adviser, demanding an explanation of press reports that North was en­gaged in activities that violated the ban on contra aid. Together with North, McFarlane drew up a reply, stating that “at no time did I or any member of the National Security Council staff violate the letter or spirit” of congressional restrictions. That was that. Con­gress accepted this bald lie on its face.

A year later, in June, Represen­tative Ron Coleman from Texas introduced a Resolution of Inqui­ry directing the president to pro­vide documentation relating to the National Security Council contacts and support for the con­tras. By way of response, Vice-Admiral John Poindexter agreed to allow North to talk in secret to Hamilton’s intelligence commit­tee. At that meeting, on Aµgust 6, 1986, in the White House Situa­tion Room, North was all charm, denying any intention to violate the spirit, principle, or legal re­quirements of the Boland amend­ment. According to administra­tion notes of that meeting, the committee members seemed more concerned at the threats North and his family were receiving because of the newspaper exposes about his job.

Far from concerning itself about how the executive branch had methodically violated the laws it passed, in June 1986, the House passed President Reagan’s request for military and nonmili­tary support for the contras.

Three months later, on October 5, 1986, a planeload of arms was shot down over Nicaragua, and when the lone survivor, Eugene Hasenfus, was captured by the Sandinistas, the CIA station chief in Costa Rica cabled Washington that the situation requires we do necessary damage control.” Administration officials issued cate­gorical denials to three congressio­nal committees that sought answers about the flight. Elliott Abrams, in an appearance before the House intelligence committee, was asked by Hamilton: “Just to be clear, the United States govern­ment has not done anything to facilitate these private groups, is that a fair statement?” Abrams replied, “Yes, to the extent of my knowledge that I feel to be com­plete, other than the general pub­slic encouragement that we like this kind of activity.”

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The fact is that the congressional committees that are supposed to provide oversight over intelligence generally are boosters for both spooks and covert action. The intelligence committees are supposed to sort out and stop what Senator Patrick Leahy has called the intelligence community’s more “cockamamy ideas” be­fore they happen. They should have stopped Iran-contra before it happened.

But these committees sat by as the CIA mined Nicaragua’s har­bors and wrote up a murder man­ual for the contras. They watched passively as the CIA bungled a plan to assassinate a Lebanese radical religious sheikh with a car bomb that instead killed 80 by­standers. As Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive has observed, “the senators and con­gressmen who sit on the intelli­gence committees effectively become members of the covert club of government, the select clique of men and women privy to the se­crets of state. The intoxication of this privilege has transformed the committees into advocates as op­posed to counterweights.”

Michael Harrington, the former congressman who was censured in 1975 for revealing classified CIA testimony on the destabilization of Chile, said the oversight system is a “seductive game of shared secrets,” adding, “It starts with the pleasant feeling of being privy to things unknown to the ordinary citizen, but it works very much like blackmail. The more you know about dubious secret opera­tions, the more you are responsi­ble for hiding, and the more you hide, the tighter the grip of the State Department, or the CIA, or the Pentagon.”

The spooks hand-feed the com­mittees, telling them what they want to hear. And the committees can’t do anything about the spooks even if they wanted to. The CIA contingency fund allows the agency to finance whatever operation it desires until legisla­tion is passed specifically banning that operation.

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On April 26, 1984, the Senate intelligence committee put out a press release claiming Casey and the committee “have agreed on the need for more thorough and effective oversight procedures,” and that the CIA “pledged its full cooperation in this effort.” But as Congress’s subsequent investiga­tions revealed, at the same time Casey was feeding this line to the intelligence committees, he was collaborating with the National Security Council, soliciting funds from the Saudis, and meeting with retired general Richard Secord — all part of the administration’s ef­forts to get around congressional restrictions on aid to the contras.

What happened in Congress be­fore the Iran-contra scandal broke is bad enough, but the behavior by Congress after that is hard to believe. It was Congress that placidly doled out waivers of immunity to the leading participants, which everyone knew at the time would make any future criminal prosecution next to impossible.

Walsh’s report puts it in the most polite terms: “Immunity is ordinarily given by a prosecutor to a witness who will incriminate someone more important than himself. Congress gave immunity to North and Poindexter, who in­criminated only themselves and who largely exculpated those responsible for the initiation, supervision, arid support of their activi­ties. This delayed and infinitely complicated the effort to prosecute North and Poindexter.”

George Bush himself did as much as anyone could to ham­string the Walsh inquiry. In De­cember 1992, after he lost the election, Bush belatedly discov­ered notes for a political diary he had been keeping, which showed he knew about the Iran-contra arms deal from the get-go. Under an agreement with the Reagan White House, Walsh had first re­quested such documents back in 1987. And in one of his final acts as president, on Christmas eve, 1992, Bush pardoned former sec­retary of defense Casper Weinber­ger, 12 days before Weinberger was to go on trial, along with five other principal defendants. It was the first time a president ever par­doned someone in whose trial he might be called as a witness.

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During the Iran-contra hearings, Oliver North argued that the American people “ought not to be led to believe, as a consequence of these hearings, that this nation cannot or should not conduct covert operations.” And having heard the testimony, the congres­sional committee seems to have agreed: “Covert operations are a necessary component of our Na­tion’s foreign policy,” the congressional report says, and maintains that ”history reflects that the prospects for peaceful settlement [of international conflict] are greater if this country has … the means to influence developments abroad.”

A decade earlier, the Church committee had inquired into the intelligence scandals of the 1960s and 1970s, considered proposing a ban on all forms of covert action, and declared that “covert action must be seen as an exceptional act, to be undertaken only when the national security requires it  and when overt means will not suffice.”

By the time the congressional committees on Iran-contra took up the issue, such a principle nev­er occurred to the members. There never has been the hint of legislation aimed at curbing the use of covert action. And under the current administration the structures of the national security state remain in place.

It is certainly not for poor Walsh to sort out this mess. He can only gesture toward it in frus­tration: “The underlying facts of Iran-contra are that, regardless of criminality, President Reagan, the secretary or state, the secretary of defense, and the director of cen­tral intelligence and their necessary assistants skirted … the law, some of them broke the law, and almost all of them tried to cover up the President’s willful activities.

“What protection do the people of the United States have against such a concerted action by such powerful officers? … [I]n the give and take of political community, congressional oversight is often overtaken and subordinated by the need to keep government functioning, by the need to antici­pate the future, and by the ever­-present requirement of maintain­ing consensus among the elected officials who are the Government.”

He goes on: “Time and again this Independent Counsel found himself at the mercy of political decisions of the Congress and the Executive branch … Despite ex­traordinary efforts to shield the OIC from exposure to immunized testimony, the North and Poin­dexter convictions were overturned on appeal on the immunity issue…

“Congressional action that pre­cludes, or makes it impossible to sustain, a prosecution has more serious consequences than simply one less conviction. There is a sig­nificant inequity when more peripheral players are convicted while central figures in a criminal enterprise escape punishment. And perhaps more fundamentally, the failure to punish governmen­tal law breakers feeds the percep­tion that public officials are not wholly accountable for their actions.”

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Although it is seldom seen as such, the United States has main­tained since the early part of the century what amounts to a centralized, federal police that has operated in numerous occasions as a political force lodged in the FBI, beginning with efforts aimed at expelling dissenters — at first, anarchists and commu­nists — then, from the ’50s on, used to spy on black civil rights activists including Martin Luther King, and during the ’60s to spy on student leftists and radicals.

During the 1980s, the govern­ment spied on and harassed those who dissented from the war in Central America, and when that dissent became mainstream and Congress outlawed aid to the contras in the Boland amendment, the White House entered into a conspiracy against Congress, and employed what amounts to a counterinsurgency operation against it.

Not only did the Reagan administration secretly deploy a well-heeled publicity campaign to overturn the amendment, but it built a private, sub rosa foreign policy in the basement of the White House with Oliver North as the point man. In its guide to the scandal, the National Security Ar­chive dug up and printed State Department documents describ­ing how the Reagan White House used members of the army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group to organize PR, including among other activities funneling phony wire service stories to “people like Newt Gingrich to read on C-Span during the open orders and enter into the Congressional Record.”

So the techniques of covert ac­tion designed to pacify and win guerrilla war in the Third World — those parts of the world then perceived to be on the periphery of the Soviet empire — were employed within the United States against the citizenry through a mostly unsuspecting and seemingly disinterested Congress.

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If ever there was an assault on the Constitution, this was it. But Congress, itself so caught up in the process of covert action, seems not to have recognized the challenge to its own authority, let alone to have much cared. Now everyone is willing to let bygones be bygones. With Reagan and Bush gone from government, the argument is, government will once more right itself.

But Clinton himself is now en­gaged in a crime bill that effec­tively employs the same techniques of counterinsurgency against the inner cities of America. ­

And Congress? Within a weak and vestigially corrupt executive, Congress is the most important bulwark of democracy. Yet it swings aimlessly, verging as time goes on towards the irrelevant. Af­ter the lengthy fight over NAFTA, which held out the prospects of being resolved — one way or another — on the basis of actual na­tional debate, the president just stepped in and bought the votes.

This sort of erosion of credibil­ity and democracy can be sus­tained for years, but in the end it will come to a head in a pointed crisis of the state. The anarchy that grips Europe may not be so far away. ■

Categories
From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Showtime 1984: Inside the Political Theater

Inside the Political Theater
July 24, 1984

SAN FRANCISCO — With the excep­tion of Mario Cuomo and Jesse Jackson, the big-name Democrats parading on TV here sound like third-rate sellers of soap. The Democratic Party remains the large­ly unimaginative political organization that began to lose its New Deal base years ago. But for the first time in recent memory there are signs of life within it, and stripped to its essentials, the fight pits the women and minorities, symbol­ized by Ferraro and Jackson, against the still-dominant conservative wing.

The question is whether Jackson and Ferraro will be consumed by the conser­vatives or stake out fresh ground. Just as the Republican Party was refreshed in 1980 with the raw energy of the New Right, the Democratic Party, buoyed by the feminist surge and black voter regis­tration, could begin to find itself this year.

Ferraro is best known as a team player, disciple of Tip O’Neill; unlikely to stray far from his beck and call. Mondale al­ready is flooding her with his own staff, but while Ferraro may appear to be a political pawn, the forces behind her as­cendancy are not so easily controlled.

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Since Jackson’s arrival in San Francis­co, he has sounded a note of reconcilia­tion. He pledged himself to resolve ten­sions between Jews and blacks and offered a public apology: “… if, in my low moments, in words, deeds, or atti­tudes, through error or temper, taste or tone, I have caused anyone discomfort, created pain, or revived anyone’s fears, I sincerely apologize.”

For weeks now, Jackson has been hold­ing secret meetings with Bert Lance. Lance and Jackson are negotiating the terms of the minority planks, and concocting the southern strategy for Mon­dale’s campaign. Jackson is thankful to be cut into the ruling party councils, and with his help Mondale gets a shot at an expanded black vote.

At first, Jackson negotiated with Lance over delegate questions. More recently, Lance sent his advisers to brief Jackson on the economy. Much pleased, Jackson responded by making Lance’s major pro­posals the centerpiece of his convention speech, at least in early drafts.

Thus, stuck incongruously into the midst of Jackson’s powerful, poetic rhet­oric, were Lance’s corny ideas about U.S. banks being in hock to foreigners. It is Lance’s theory that Reagan, in running up the deficit, has made the United States dependent on foreign bankers from whom the country must borrow to keep going.

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Roll Call of Shame

Consider the record of this party over the last four years — what Tom Hayden called neo-Reaganism. The list is telling:

Support for the MX; refusal to oppose the deployment of Euromissiles in any serious way; Democrats in Congress, in­cluding those with liberal credentials, re­peatedly declining to oppose Reagan on Central America, with the result that American-backed contras have laid siege to Nicaragua; standing with Reagan in El Salvador in the face of mounting civilian murder. Even as this convention opened, the party leadership is preparing to back President Duarte, under whose rule the terror in El Salvador has mushroomed.

The Democratic leadership stood with Reagan on the 1981 tax bill — legislation which transferred wealth from the middle class to the rich, and in the process virtually ended the corporate income tax. The neo-liberal wing of the party has, under Gary Hart, mounted a vigorous at­tack on the labor movement as a “special interest” — at a time when the unions rep­resent the only buffer between workers and the aggressive policies of corporate business.

Most recently, the House Democratic leadership created the umbrella beneath which the Republicans successfully pushed through Simpson-Mazzoli, which, among other things, would establish a “guest worker” program for foreign agri­cultural workers. This re-creation of the bracero program — which another era of Democrats fought to eliminate — threat­ens to wipe out the Farm Workers Union, and amounts to one of the most vindic­tive, punitive, racist measures in Ameri­can history.

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The New Democrats

Despite the choice of Ferraro, the Democratic Party has persistently fought the rise of women within its own ranks. Nevertheless, Ferraro’s emergence and the Jackson campaign represent a broad challenge to the rampant neo-Reaganism in the party.

For the women who have had to fight, kicking and screaming, to the top of the Democratic Party, Ferraro’s selection represents an immense victory, and the opening of what surely will be a wider struggle for economic equality.

Ferraro is much more than a feminist candidate. The daughter of an immigrant working mother, she speaks directly to the disenfranchised base of the Demo­cratic Party, the working women who have been most hurt by the recession and placed under savage attack by Reagan’s policies — the last hired and first fired who now populate the irregular work­force and are now a critical factor in American labor.

These women play a major role in the expanding lower middle class, which now consists of 72 million Americans — 30 per cent of the population. They come come from households with earnings between $6000 and $18,000 a year. Since 1978, the lower middle class has grown by a third. An increasing percentage of this class is made up of households headed by wom­en, most of them minorities. It includes millions of young people who have never held a full-time job; people who once held factory jobs and now work for less than $6 an hour in service jobs; and old people living on fixed incomes.

There are within this group enough people to elect a Democratic president, but until Jesse Jackson began his cam­paign in predominantly white New Hampshire you’d hardly have known they existed. It is absolutely true that without Jackson, Ferraro’s nomination would never have been possible. The feminist movement owes a great debt to Jackson, a debt that many women seemed incapable of recognizing in the early moments of this convention.

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Tough Talking Ferraro

Ferraro is a person of progressive polit­ical instincts. Here are a few points she made in an interview with the Voice ear­lier this year:

On the MX: “I have supported re­search and development. I have not sup­ported deployment because it is destabilizing.”

On Nicaragua (asked if she thought it was a Cuban or Soviet satellite): “They are a Marxist government. There is no doubt about that. I think our problem is, frankly, that we expect it to be a democ­racy the way we define democracy, and I don’t think that’s possible.”

On El Salvador: “I would insist that the U.S. government let the people know we expect them to get their own act together, within their own units, to put someone in charge of the government. And probably the most important thing is that they do something about the amount of killing that is going on there. I would exert pressure on them to clean up their act, or they would be without economic aid.”

In one speech this year, talking about the concept of comparable worth, which fundamentally seeks to redefine the so­cial utility of work (the most potentially profound economic subject the feminist movement has taken up), Ferraro de­clared: “A woman with a college educa­tion can expect lifetime earnings equal to those paid to a man who never finished the eighth grade. Groundskeepers are paid more than nurses. Parking lot attendants are often paid more than experi­enced secretaries. We entrust our chil­dren — our most precious resource — to teachers who frequently earn less than truck drivers.”

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A New Feminist Era 

Geraldine Ferraro is not just a sym­bol. Her nomination, as Frances Fox Pi­ven puts it, is a “signal,” a tremor from within. Ferraro’s nomination opens a new era of feminist politics, for the first time placing the genuinely radical perspec­tives of the feminist movement in a far broader national arena.

Comparable worth, for example, en­tails a restructuring of the American economy and could precipitate a struggle of serious proportions with the business community. It is because Ferraro is asso­ciated with these ideas that her candida­cy will in all probability undergo formi­dable challenge.

The vice presidency would be more than a symbolic job for a woman, It offers a forum of real power and, if gained, could spark a political groundswell.

The feminist movement has so far succeeded in spanning class divisions. Things are now apt to change. Its future political course will, in all likelihood, de­pend on how successfully it deals with potentially divisive splits — the extent to which, for example, white middle-class women reach out to include black wom­en, and the measure of cooperation shown to poor working women.

The Republicans already have begun to play on these potential divisions to split the gender gap vote and open a seri­ous attack on the feminists.

As with the environmental movement a decade ago, it is certain that the modern feminist movement will focus increasing­ly on basic economic issues — equal pay for equal work, redressing inequality in the workplace, the social purpose of work in general, the feminization of poverty. In short, Ferraro’s nomination should result in a bold, new opening for feminist poli­tics, and a new radical lens through which to view the economy. ■

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives Security THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Beautiful Butchers: The Shah Serves Up Caviar and Torture

The proof that torture can look better through a cham­pagne glass and taste better after a mouthful of caviar will be provided next Tues­day by the arrival in the United States of someone who can boast of a most notable achievement: He has made torturers chic. Though Hitler won the ad­miration of half the British upper classes in the 1930s, even he could not make the same boast.

Yet the Shah of Iran, whose own father was so ardent an admirer of the Nazis that he abdicated in 1941, can claim a double distinction: being the bane of the U.S. taxpayers (who paid the bills for his instal­lation on the Peacock Throne and his maintenance thereafter) and being at the same time the toast of the smart set in Washington, New York, Paris, and London. Thus does the Shah differ from Idi Amin or the Em­peror Bokassa, for, though as many pris­oners scream in his torture chambers and face his firing squads, he is socially okay —  and so are his emissaries abroad.

The social success of the Shah in the galaxy of international despots is the end result of a careful campaign, premised on two vital ingredients: snobbery and cash. Barbara Walters was recently able to confide to her ABC audience that, “There aren’t too many kings and queens around these days. Of the handful left, two couples have particular fascination for Americans. England’s own Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. And, for different, reasons, the Shah and Empress of Iran.

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It was not always thus for the House of Pahlavi. The Shah can race a regal an­cestry only to his father, Reza Shah, a fellow of common origins who was hoisted onto the Peacock Throne in the ’20s by the British. Reza Shah’s achievements — apart from looting the Iranian people in a fairly methodical manner — included the intro­duction of torture on a wide scale. Thus, when the present Shah was finally and securely installed on the throne in 1953 with the help of the CIA, he was not particularly well placed to be a truly fashionable mon­arch.

But gradually he inched ahead of his peers, who at that time included such U.S. clients as Battista of Cuba and Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Neither of those gentlemen ever had truly overweening social ambitions beyond the amassing of huge fortunes and the total control of their dominions. The Shah’s thoughts, however, always soared higher and he yearned to be placed in the national historical pantheon ranging back to the ancient Persian kings.

And in the eyes of international society, at least, he achieved his ambition with the famed coronation at Persepolis in 1967. Virtually every king was there except Kong. In a tented city a goodly proportion of the executives, chiselers, and spongers of western capitalism gathered to marvel and stayed to gorge at a coming-out gala for a regime of unexampled savagery.

Since then the Shah has gone from strength to strength, most notably in the boom days since the oil price hikes of 1973. Tehran is, as they say, the Mecca of every investment banker, industrialist, arms salesman, developer, and straightforward adventurer with a prospectus in one pocket and a bribe in the other.

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Steady accrual of status was expressed through the increasing social success of the Shah’s plenipotentiaries abroad — most not­ably in the career of Ardeshir Zahedi, the present Iranian ambassador in Wash­ington. This Zahedi’s father, General Fuzullah Zahedi, was one of those instrumen­tal in securing the throne for the Shah in 1953. The son himself was once married to the Shah’s daughter. His function in Wash­ington has been that of every ambassador: to lie abroad for his country. Zahedi — as is evidenced in the gossip columns weekly — ­has managed to sell the beautiful people on torture by the simple expedient of throwing large parties, amply furnished with caviar. He mastered, you might say, the political economy of Elizabeth Taylor and realized that one star-studded bash, well-reported in the gossip columns, can do much to offset a couple of Amnesty reports about torture and a few intellectuals detailing exactly how the Shah’s secret police ripped out their fingernails.

Zahedi threw the parties and in they came. Henry Kissinger, Nancy Kissinger, Senator Ed Brooke, Elizabeth Taylor danc­ing wildly with Senator Ed Brooke, Marion Javits, paid by the Iranians for the pleasure of her PR. William Rogen, John Murphy, John Lindsay, Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite, Julian Goodman, Gregory and Veronique Peck, Phyllis and Bob Evans, the Baroness Stackelberg, Mrs. Drew Pearson, Page Lee Hufty, Polly Bergen, Buffy Cafritz, Sandra McElwaine, Diane von Furstenberg, David Frost, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Braden, Mrs. Frank Ikard, Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol, Yolanda Fox, even Birch Bayh. On and on the list of names goes, and on and on the parties go too: the political crowd, the Hollywood crowd, the art crowd, and the straight tacky crowd.

How do they like the parties and their host? Here’s a fairly representative series of remarks from Mrs. Bill Cafritz, wife of a Washington builder. “Every adjective in the book has been used to describe Ar­deshir,” she confided to The Voice‘s Jan Albert a few months back. “He’s a warm, marvelous host, expert with food and wines. He’s not just an ordinary host. His centerpieces are famous. He’s had glass globes with flowers coming out of them. For Andy Warhol’s party, he had hearts with Campbell soup cans. All his parties, in every detail, from food to music to guests to decor are highly imaginative. He makes every guest feel that he is intent and interested in them. An invitation from Ardeshir is something to be cherished. He invites all the glamour people — Polly Ber­gen and Diana Vreeland came to the Warhol party.”

Mrs. Cafritz was then asked how she felt about the matter of torture in Iran, and whether she had asked Zahedi about it. “He’s not anti-American,” she replied. “At almost all of his parties he makes after­ dinner speeches toasting the friendship of Iran and America. He is a good friend of America’s. Besides, these reports are exaggerated. There are open lines of communication between our countries and the Shah is our friend. It’s not for me to make judgments. They should be made at a higher level. Everyone just has the best to say about him.”

To a similar sort of query from Jan Albert, Mrs. Frank Ikard (wife of the head of the American Petroleum Institute) stressed the beauties of Zahedi’s charac­ter — “the most kind, warm-hearted man, the friendliest and most outgoing” — while taking a balanced view on the matter of torture. “I have never been interested in international news,” she said. adding that she was the kind of person who felt we should “clean things up in our own back yard first. Besides, if you had a brother who was a black sheep I wouldn’t hold it against you. These reports are largely youthful mutterings. Anyway, Ardeshir’s house is not the place to find out such things.” She added that her son, a reporter in Iran for the Tehran Journal, had never mentioned such subjects to her.

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And so it goes — from Elizabeth Taylor through fascist chic’s recording angel, Andy Warhol, with his Polaroid and his tape recorder.

Would they all go to a similar sort of bash, hosted by Amin’s Washington envoy? Probably not, for reasons of taste. And of course there is the fact that the Iranians are, as you might say, sophisticated — and not even Arabs at that: the children of Xerxes rather than Ham.

If the Shah’s regime were not so repul­sive, there would be something pathetic about his pronounced social ambitions and desire to make his palace a haven for the rich, the famous, and the beautiful. Not so long ago it was the turn of Farrah Faw­cett-Majors to rest up in the shadow of the Peacock Throne. In his arriviste dreams, said one journalist long in Tehran, the Shah probably thought a double-barrelled name was a sure emblem of ancient and distinguished social lineage.

The bloom is going off the rose. Despite Zahedi’s greatest efforts and the precipi­tate rush to his parties by the beautiful people, there is general recognition that the Shah’s regime is not an emblem of liberty. The U.S. will continue to sell him arms. American universities will go on taking his money, socialites will go on drinking his champagne and eating his caviar. Money always talks, but it will have to do so amid increasing clamor about one of the most savage regimes of the 20th century. ■

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How Rich is the Shah?

The present inhabitant of the Peacock Throne has attained the dream of every rich person around the world: he has funneled his assets into a private founda­tion whose proceedings are secret and whose operations are beyond scrutiny. The Pahlavi Foundation, now 19 years old, is thought to have assets of more than $1 billion and is a combined charitable foundation and family trust fund. The Shah is its chief officer and selects all board members. The income is tax-free and can be drawn only the Shah’s family.

The Shah’s father (a former army sergeant who seized the throne under the aegis of the British in 1926) laid the basis for the Pahlavi family’s wealth by simply stealing it. He confiscated vast estates which he designated as crown lands. His son later sold off some of this land and began to invest in industrial and financial enter­prises: the cement industry (which the Shah virtually controls); sugar-processing installations; insurance and banking businesses; assembly plants; hotels; computer equipment marketing, and the like. The Shah is thus not only the leader of his country; he is also its chief stockholder.

In addition, the national budget provides expenses for the imperial court, plus $1 billion for a revolving discretionary fund. Prudently mindful of the possibility of exile one day, the Shah is also thought to have over $1 billion banked abroad.

As the Pahlavi Foundation’s chief officer, the Shah is entitled to 25 percent of the income of the foundation. He has stipulated that he is not accepting this money. His son and heir will become entitled to the 25 percent take, which as Eric Pace of The New York Times pointed out last year in a report on the foundation — could run into tens of millions of dollars annually.

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New Yorkers who desire an immediate sense of the Shah’s financial status can proceed to the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street where a 36-story building for the tax-exempt Pahlavi Foun­dation of New York is being erected. The Pahlavi Foundation of New York was created by the Pahlavi Foundation of Iran in 1973. The nominal charitable purpose of the New York outfit is to provide funds for Iranian students going to American universities. In an article on the U.S. founda­tion published last fall, Ann Crittenden reported in The New York Times that, “Two individuals close to these early arrangements say that from the first, howev­er, the acquisition [of the site] was con­sidered solely as an investment for the Iranian foundation and as a showcase site for offices of Iranian companies and government agencies in New York City — such as the Iranian consulate, the National Iranian Oil Company, the Bank Melli, and various tourist offices. One man who was intimately involved and who asked not to be identified, laughed when asked if the scholarship program was ever discussed: “It’s egregious,” he said,”with all of the problems New York City has, for an immensely wealthy foreign outfit to come in and receive a tax exemption at almost the same moment when the same government has just created an oil crisis.’ ”

Vitally concerned with the establishment of the tax-exempt foundation here were several well-known local faces: one was William Rogers, former secretary of state under Nixon and partner in the law firm of Rogers and Wells. Rogers set up the foun­dation and its address is currently at his law office. Also involved was Representative John Murphy of Staten Island, a frequent visitor to Iran. He, along with Rogers, is on the board of the foundation and has acknowledged his involvement in its business affairs, particularly in the construction contracting for the Fifth Ave­nue building. And indeed, helping out one would-be contractor — John Tishman of Tishman Realty and Construction Company — was former Mayor John Lindsay. The architect is John Warnacke. Another adviser to the Pahlavi Foundation is former Assistant Treasury Secretary James A. Reed. He told Crittenden that foundation officials in Tehran had said they would not go ahead with the New York operation unless they were able to get tax-exempt status. Thus, American tax­payers help finance an operation designed to further the Shah’s personal and political interests abroad. Even Amin hasn’t the gall to demand these kinds of favors. ■

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The Iranian National Pastime: Torture

“The torture on the second day of my arrest consisted of seventy-five blows with a plaited wire whip at the soles of my feet. I was whipped on my hands as well, and the head torturer took the small finger of my left hand and broke it, saying he was going to break my fingers one by one, each day. Then I was told that if I didn’t confess my wife and thirteen-year-old daughter would be raped in front of my eyes. All this time I was being beaten from head to toe.

“Then a pistol was held at my temple by the head torturer, Dr. Azudi, and he prepared to shoot. In fact, the sound of the shooting came and I fainted. When I opened my eyes, I was being interrogated by someone called Dr. Rezvan. The interrogation, combined with psychological torture and sometimes additional beating, went on for 102 days until I was let out…

” … There were also all sizes of whips hanging from nails on the walls. Electric prods stood on little stools. The nail-pluck­ing instrument stood on the far side. I could only recognize these devices upon later remembrance and through the description of others, as well as by personal experience. The gallows stood on the other side. They hang you upside down and then someone beats you with a club on your legs, or uses the electric prod on your chest or your genitals, or they lower you down, pull your pants up and one of them tries to rape you while you’re still hanging upside down …

” … This is what happens to a prisoner of the first importance. First, he is beaten by several torturers at once, with sticks and clubs. If he doesn’t confess, he is hanged upside down and beaten; if this doesn’t work, he is raped; and if he still shows signs of resistance, he is given electric shock which turns him into a howling dog; and if he is still obstinate, his nails and sometimes all his teeth are pulled out, and in certain exceptional cases, a hot iron rod is put into one side of the face to force its way to the other side, burning the entire mouth and the tongue. A young man was killed in this way. At other times he is thrown down on his stomach on the iron bed and boiling water is pumped into his rectum by an enema.

“Other types of torture are used which have never been heard of in other despotic systems. A heavy weight is hung from the testicles of the prisoner, maiming him in only a few minutes. Even the strongest prisoners are crippled in this way. In the case of the woman, the electric baton is moved over the naked body with the power increased on the breasts and the interstices of the vagina. I have heard women screaming and laughing hysterically, shouting, ‘Don’t do it, I’ll tell you.’ Rape is also a common practice. Thirteen-year-old girls have been raped in order to betray their parents, brothers or relatives.” Reza Bahareni was finally freed from the Shah’s prisons in 1974 under international pres­sure. His descriptions come from his book, God’s Shadow and from an article by him published in The New York Review of Books on October 28, 1976. Other state­ments attributed to Bahareni in this issue of The Voice are taken from the same article. ■

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Some Facts at a Glance 

• “The Shah of Iran,” said Martin Ennals in the introduction to Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 1974-5, “retains his benevolent image despite the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief.” The total number of political prisoners for 1975, stated the report, “has been reported at times throughout the year to be anything from 25,000 to 100,000.”

• Thousands of people have been executed over the last 23 years. According to Bahareni, more than 300,000 people have been in and out of jail in the last 20 years.

• Ninety-five percent of the press is controlled by two families taking their orders from the Shah and the police.

• There is only one political party — the Resurgence Party — whose membership is compulsory for the entire adult popula­tion.

• The vast bulk of the population is desperately poor, undernourished, and un­educated. In Quri-Chai, the northern slums of Tabriz, there is only one school for 100,000 children.

• There are 34 million people in Iran. Only half are Persian; the rest are Azar­baijanis, Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis, along with Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. The Shah considers all Iranians to be Aryan, who must learn one language, Persian. He is attempting to purge the Persian language of all Arab and Turkish elements, thus proscribing 40 percent of the vocabulary. The Shah himself speaks Persian badly, faring better in French and English. ■

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Why the US Backs the Shah

The reason the Shah is where he is today is because the U.S. government put him there.

By 1949, the Middle East was perceived by American foreign policy planners as perhaps the most critical area in the world in the contest between the U.S. and the Soviets. As George McGhee, then assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, recently recalled in congressional testi­mony: “The governments in the area were very unstable. We had no security pact covering this area. The Soviets had threat­ened Greece, Turkey, and Iran. As a result of the very strong position taken by President Truman we were able to dislodge the Soviets from northern Iran, where they had demanded an oil concession. Although we had already bolstered Greece and Turkey through the Greek-Turkish aid program, both were still in a precarious state. The Arab states were hostile to us because of our involvement in Israeli affairs.”

McGhee pointed out, “At this time the principal threat to the Middle East lay in the possibility of nationalist leaders mov­ing to upset regimes which were relatively inept and corrupt, and not attuned to the modern world. There was also always in the background the reaction in the Arab states to what happened elsewhere. For example, had there been a Communist seizure in Iran, we would have expected a similar threat in the Arab states.” And, of course, underlying American concern for the politics of the region was the business of oil, which McGhee described as “the jackpot of world oil. To have American companies owning the concession there was a great advantage for our country.”

It was against this background that Iran’s nationalist premier, Mohammed Mossadegh, sought to increase the country’s participation in the affairs of the British-controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.

When the British refused to meet his demands, Mossadegh nationalized the company. The seizure reverberated throughout the Middle East. In Saudi Ara­bia the finance minister threatened to shut down the Aramco concession if more money was not forthcoming.

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Both Aramco officials and the U.S. State Department, acting independently, con­cluded — as McGhee later put it — that a “big move had to be made.” Thereupon, the Middle East underwent political con­vulsions which eventually were felt within the U.S. itself. First, this country did a secret deal with Saudi Arabia that allowed Aramco to take a tax break, offsetting its royalty payments to Saudi Arabia against U.S. taxes. The net effect of this was a subsidy, continuing to this day, of Saudi Arabia and the oil companies by the U.S. taxpayer.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department, quite independently of other branches of government, began to press actively two grand jury investigations, attacking the international petroleum cartel. These in­vestigations followed publication of a lengthy report by the Federal Trade Com­mission, which spelled out the details of the cartel’s operations. When Dean Acheson, then secretary of state, found out about the Justice Department probe, he opposed it vigorously, on the grounds that the results of such an investigation “will probably be to cause a decrease in political stability in the region [Middle East].” Acheson’s view eventually prevailed and President Tru­man himself downgraded the inquiry from a criminal to a civil proceeding, on national security grounds.

Eisenhower, taking office at the start of 1953, held to the same line. By the middle of 1953 Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, turned up in Switzerland for meetings with Loy Henderson, the ambassador to Iran, and with the sister of the present Shah. Soon after, American intelligence agents — not­ably Kermit Roosevelt — appeared in Te­hran. The Shah dismissed Mossadegh, who paid no attention and remained in office. The Shah left the country. On August 18, units of off-duty police and soldiers joined mobs in overthrowing Mossadegh. The Shah returned from exile and, thus aided by the CIA and Iranian associates, took charge of the country.

Two months after the Shah was restored to power, Herbert Hoover, Jr., set to work reorganizing the Iranian oil industry. Hoover soon persuaded major American oil companies to join in a consortium that would exploit Iran’s oil: In part, they agreed with the plan because of the down­grading of the Justice Department’s cartel case. Eisenhower’s attorney general formally sanctioned the new deal, ruling that the proposed consortium would not, in itself, constitute an unreasonable restraint of trade. The cartel was never brought to trial and instead members of the consor­tium signed a participants’ agreement which had the effect of sanctioning the cartel and indeed making it an instrument of cold war policy.

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Hence it is no academic exercise to regard the Shah not only as a U.S.-­sponsored oppressor of his own people but of the American people as well. His role has been to help maintain the international oil cartel, with the resulting bogus shortages, price hikes, and penalties attaching to the present international system of oil extrac­tion and distribution.

Oil, of course, forms the basis for American interest in Iran. But in the last 25 years the game has changed somewhat from its original primitive terms. Now, in order to get the oil, the American government has to pay off the Shah in other ways. As part of the U.S.’s policy to maintain the Shah and his repressive apparatus, it was necessary to train and supply a police force and army for him. The tastes of the army have grown more profligate over the years.

In 1972, the U.S. was sending the Iranians a half-billion dollars worth of military armaments. In the current fiscal year the U.S. is sending $5.3 billion worth of weap­ons. This is paid for by Americans in the form of higher prices for petroleum products, and in aid. The long-term scheme for Iran is a vast process of industrialization, with American companies forming joint ventures with Iranian companies, leading toward the establishment of industries such as aluminum, steel, and a whole variety of mining exploration. The idea in this is not to make life any better for the Iranian people, but to achieve savings in manufac­ture, due to the plentiful and immediate supply of energy (natural gas).

The Shah, always a client of the United States, visits Washington next week (until the postponement of his trip, President Carter was to have dropped in on Tehran for lunch later in the month in the course of his grand tour). As Henry Kissinger remarked, the interests of the United States and Iran coincide, and Zbigniew Brzezin­ski, Carter’s security adviser, agrees. Iran is one of those impending powers, argues Brzezinski, to which the U.S. may pay court. Other nations on the Carter schedule included Venezuela, Brazil, and Ni­geria. For all the talk about human rights, the Carter administration has been careful not to offend Iran. The king of torturers will be received with decorousness and respect, even though any honest toast at the White House banquet would demand silence and sorrow for the thousands who have died for opposing a regime built in blood. ■

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Law Enforcement in Iran

Every tyranny needs an efficient secret police force and Iran can boast of one of the most awesome in recent world history —  namely, the infamous SAVAK.

The Sazamane Ettella’at va Amniyate Keshvar (State Security and Intelligence Organization) was set up in 1956 with the help of the American CIA and, according to some reports, Israeli intelligence. The Shah himself has claimed that SAVAK has about 3000 people. Other estimates put the number at more than 60,000 and beyond that to an army of agents and informants amounting to hundreds of thousands. SAVAK, controlled by the Shah, is now run by General Hossein Fardust, a former classmate of the Shah, described by him as “a special friend.”

SAVAK is not only the cutting edge of oppression and torture in Iran, but operates on a worldwide scale as well. Documented cases of its activities in Europe and the United States have received much publicity — including espionage and harassment of Iranian students working abroad and of political exiles. Agents of SAVAK have been dispatched abroad with missions of assassination.

This army of spies and torturers should have a special meaning for American citizens. As exiled writer Reza Bahareni put it: “Imagine a more tyrannical and primi­tive George III being crowned 6000 miles away by the very descendants of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin with money raised by the American taxpayer. The CIA re-created the monarchy, built up the SAVAK and trained all its prominent members, and stood by the Shah and his secret police as their powerful ally. Iran became the police state it is now.” Ba­hareni did not mention that as a final expression of courtesy Richard Nixon sent former CIA head Richard Helms to be the American ambassador in Tehran. ■

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Welcoming Committees 

Already, law enforcement officials In Washington are worried about reception committees for the Shah when he arrives next Tuesday. It is possible that as many as 20,000 demonstrators will converge from around the country for the two-day visit. A compromise supervised by the Secret Service and the National Park Service has stipulated that on Tuesday pro-Shah demonstrators will be allowed to congre­gate nearer the White House. Anti-Shah Iranian students will be given the prime spot on Wednesday, when he leaves.

According to Iranian students in the U.S. opposed to the Shah, SAVAK agents have been carefully building up for the Shah’s visit, offering individuals from all over the U.S. up to $300 to travel to Washington to demonstrate their loyalty. Iranian students in the New School’s political economy division have stated that they have been approached and offered bus fare to Washington, if they join the pro-Shah group. Anti-Shah demonstrations will also be held in San Francisco. The Shah will be staying in Blair House. No demonstrators will be allowed within 500 feet of the building.

Anti-Shah Iranian students in the United States have not only been harassed by SAVAK agents, but also by college administrations and U. S. police. Darioush Bayandor, adviser to Iran’s ex-prime min­ister Hoveida, has been quoted as saying that “SAVAK has agents outside Iranian borders to detect subversive elements and their links with other countries that might be against Iran and to penetrate the ranks of students and make sure their organizations are not used to harm Iran.” Iranian student groups at American colleges around the country have protested the interference of college administrations and police in their meetings, demonstrations, and finally their private conversations.

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At Emporia College in Kansas, a group of Iranian students were told that they would be arrested if they picketed in the presence of an Iranian government representative at a cultural day on campus. The official pretext was that the students were not an officially recognized organization. They had made repeated applications and were denied approval.

Ninety-two students in Houston, marching in front of the French Consulate at the end of 1976 to protest the expulsion of some Iranian nationals from Paris, were arrest­ed and beaten up by local police. Many witnesses have testified to the fact that the demonstration was orderly and peaceful and that the attack by police was unprovoked.

At San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, students were forbidden to form a club by school officials who insisted that tapes of any meetings held in their native tongue be made and handed over to the administration for review. If held in Eng­lish, a school representative was to be present. This harassment culminated in several students being arrested for conversing in Persian over lunch. A teacher approached them and reminded them that it was against the rules to hold meetings in “a foreign language.” Police arrived and charged students with resisting arrest and menacing police and school authorities. In this and other in­stances, the police passed the names of Iranian student transgressors along to the Iranian consulate, and received letters of congratulation on a job well done and thanks from Zahedi. ■

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From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Anarchy in the U.S.A.: The GOP Plays a Dangerous Game With It’s Far-Right Fringe

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Behind the Waco and the Whitewater hearings lies a concerted effort on the part of Republican right “revolutionar­ies” to make use of its anarchist fringes.

Ever since Newt Gingrich turned self-hate into a campaign manifesto last November, the GOP has been conducting a risky affair with the far right. Now, though, this “we’re crazier than the crazies” stance seems to be backfiring. As the Waco hear­ings have demonstrated, it helps to know a little about the cause you’re supporting. Far from martyring David Koresh’s Branch Davidians and hence elevating the Christian right above law and order, the testimony of one Davidian survivor last week only reinforced the government’s accusations that Koresh was a child abuser.

No doubt Republicans, and their NRA sponsors, will have better luck beating up on the ATF and FBI once hearings begin into the 1992 Ruby Ridge raid on the home of white supremacist Randy Weaver, but for the moment they are split on how to play their far right wing.

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Gingrich continues to indulge the anarchists, just last week weighing in on the favorite wacko topic of who killed Vince Foster. Meanwhile, Helen Chenoweth in the House and Larry Craig in the Senate continue to run wild, attacking the effrontery of federal agents and invoking the specter of the dreaded black helicopters.

But last week mainstream con­servatives regained their voice. In the Washington Times, Peter King, Republican congressman from Long Island, wrote in an op-ed, “Why now are some conservatives so willing to turn the presumption against federal law enforcement agen­cies such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms? Why was it wrong to call cops ‘pigs’ in the ’60s, but acceptable to call federal agents ‘Nazis’ and ‘jack-booted thugs’ in the ’90s? If it is because gun own­ers are considered to have a status different from blacks and left wing demonstrators, that would be unac­ceptable since principles are immutable and cannot be altered to suit the situation.

1995_Village Voice Thomas Goetz chart covering killings by the government from 1969 - 1993

“Nothing that happened at Waco and Ruby Ridge justifies citizens arm­ing themselves for some eventual struggle with the government. That is not what we do in a democratic society where we have the means to control government abuses at the voting booth and through the courts. Militia supporters talk of the ‘spirit of the Founding Fathers,’ but it was George Washington, the Father of our country, who denounced Shay’s Militia and the Whiskey Rebel­lion as threats to ‘republican gov­ernment.’ Any armed force with a political agenda in a democratic society is a threat to republican government.”

The Waco hearings have provided little substance. Unlike Watergate, or even the Iran-contra inves­tigation, there has been little or no effort by the Republican chairmen to figure out why the raid was staged, and the hearings have largely omitted the ludicrous attempts of the ATF to woo the press that played a major role in the timing of the first raid. From start to finish, the hearings have been a PR move, basically an effort to publicly attack the ATF in order to revoke the assault-weapon ban. More sub­tly, the hearings have played to the Christian right, key supporters of the Republican majority, and an entity everyone in Congress fears. But more than anything, the hearings have provided a dazzling display of farce and hypocrisy. Repub­licans who had been slashing away at the Fourth Amendment on the House floor earlier this spring in their determination to pass a tough crime bill have now been portray­ing themselves as feel-good liberals, invoking the rights of the Constitu­tion on behalf of Koresh and the other “individualistic” Christians within the compound.

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Aside from the desire to pander to Christian conservatives and the gun lobby, the Waco hearings are also an attempt to play to the lib­ertarian-anarchist wing of the party. Behind the attack on the ATF is anarchist frothing for the role of county sheriff in govern­ment. In Waco, the sheriff was on friendly terms with Koresh and clearly had no intention of challenging the Davidians, despite the accusa­tions made against the group. Indeed, various Republicans at the hearings came awfully close to suggesting that the sanctity of pri­vate property should have acted as a barrier against any federal intrusion. The argument that what Koresh was doing was his business and nobody else’s will get any politician, Christian right or other, firmly clobbered in the polls.

At first look, the new love affair with the role of county sher­iff might seem to go well with the overall Republican effort to decentralize govern­ment, removing power from Washington and spreading it out to the states — whose gov­ernors Republicans see as natural allies in the revolution to remake the federal government within the frame­work of states’ rights. But states’ rights is not county rights, and invariably states are opposed to county rights, siding again and again with the federal government against efforts to wrest control of land and water from the feds. State governments, especially in the West, where county rights is a much-publicized movement, are generally dri­ven by their urban citizenry, who stand to lose power should rural, often sparsely populated, counties suddenly grab more political power.

Western revolutionaries, such as the Wise Use and county movements, have gained national prominence, and a degree of legitimacy, over the last year, but just how the Republican right, centered around the followers of former interior secretary James Watt, intends to rope in these loos­er-than-loose cannons is unclear. Whipping up emotions over the sovereign rights of the county sher­iff may be good as a Gingrichian sound bite, but is a card no serious Republican politician who wants to stay in office is apt to play.

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Why, to cite but one example, would any serious Republican (or Democ­ratic politician) in Nevada want to put rural Nye County, the hotbed of the county secession movement, on an equal footing with Las Vegas, the fastest growing city in the nation?

And playing to anarchist Repub­licans almost inevitably opens an attack on the whole structure of local government. In Oklahoma, for instance, the Oklahoma Tax Com­mission revoked Woodward County agent June Griffith’s appointment after she filed what she called her “sovereignty papers.” According to the Enid News & Eagle, “similar papers show up in courthouses across Northwest Oklahoma, with only the filing party’s name changed, rejecting Social Security numbers, birth certificates and marriage licenses and renouncing U.S. citizenship.”

In northwestern Oklahoma this movement, which threatens to play havoc with the local Republi­can organization, “appears to be little more than a loosely orga­nized collection of disgruntled property owners who have lost their land in foreclosure actions and who hold forth on farms and in homes across Northwest Oklahoma to redress their grievances against the system.” The result is clogged court filings with false judgments against banks, bogus liens, phony subpoenas for state prosecutors, lawsuits against federal, state, and county governments.

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Through the Wise Use, county, and property rights movements, the GOP has built a supercharged engine of conservative politicking. This attack group leads the fight against environmentalists and is the driving force of every move­ment aimed at tax reduction. It is an angry and highly motivated group that Republican politicians have actively encouraged, and one that they can scarcely afford to have split and turn on itself.

That, though, as Democrats have learned over years of internal rift, is always a danger when mobilizing angry constituencies. The Waco hear­ings exposed one more time that the fragile coalition that makes up the Republican right is itself riven with contradictions.

It is seldom understood, for example, that the Christian right is not made up of anarchists. As a group, it believes in strong federal government that can institute and enforce the repressive codes of social conduct in birth control and education that they advocate. Unlike the racist survivalist faction, the Christian fringe has no interest in retiring to some wilderness tract in the Northwest. It wants to take power in Washington and then exercise it.

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When you strip down the revolutionary rhetoric coming from Congress, it isn’t hard to see what a dangerous game the GOP is playing.

If the Republican majority were seriously interested in addressing the Waco raid, then, turning to the Treasury Department’s excellent indictment of its own handling of the matter, it could seek to prose­cute the leaders of the department for dereliction of their duty. Top of the list is former Treasury head Lloyd Bentsen, a conservative Republican in all but name, whose han­dling of the raid points to a clear case of incompetence and derelic­tion, leading up to direct violation of constitutional rights.

Also, the Treasury’s report makes a powerful case against the ATF as an institution. Add to that the bureau’s recent history of sex­ual harassment cases, not to men­tion its racist “good ol’ boys” reunion. Here, sunset legislation to abolish this agency, turning its duties over to other existing law enforcement agencies, would be a welcome and most constructive step forward.

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Why not abolish the ATF? That would definitely play to the anar­chist crowd, and to the money bags at the NRA. It would help carry on the sense of revolution infused by Gingrich. But it would also run the powerful risk of opening its spon­sors to charges they are soft on crime — a charge that right-wing Democrats showered on the hear­ings from the beginning. Most importantly, it would turn over the duties of the ATF to other law enforce­ment agencies, i.e., the Secret Ser­vice, something the NRA would fight hard to avoid.

Sooner or later the Republican anarchists will get the message that they are being played with by the Republican right, and bolt off into the gullies and under the rocks from which they only lately have emerged. They will especially get the message when the Republican right sides with the government in wiping them out, which can’t be far from happening. ■

Additional reporting by Julian Foley, Pat McDonald, Vinita Srivatava

1995_Village Voice article by James Ridgeway about the paranoid far right

1995_Village Voice Thomas Goetz chart covering killings by the government from 1969 - 1993

Categories
From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Republican Nation: The War on Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Make no mistake. The goal of the Republican Revolution is to dismantle government as we know it.

They aim to eliminate at least six cabinet-level departments, can smaller agencies, and combine others into much smaller units. In addition, the Republican right will move promptly to end farm subsidies, speed up executions, bundle up all social-welfare programs in block grants and send them back to the States, and move forward with privatization of the social security system.

This new right sees itself as a wrecking crew for the state governors, who will wield all power in the new America. If they are successful in dismantling govern­ment as we now know it, the crew will abolish their own full-time jobs and turn Con­gress into a part­-time institution.

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Consider just a few of the planks of the real Republican contract, as set forth by the folks who put together the Reagan transition in 1980 — the Heritage Foundation:

WOMEN AND GAYS. The Republicans have yet to say how they will tackle the politically charged issues of abor­tion and gay rights. But they have weighed in on the mili­tary. The right wants gays out of the armed services, and if the courts don’t rule in their favor, they will draft legisla­tion to get them out. Women are already too involved in combat, and if the administration doesn’t pull them back, the Republicans will act in Congress to keep them off the front lines.

THE ENVIRONMENT. Return the public lands, compris­ing one-third of the nation’s landmass (as well as the bulk of its energy resources, national parks, forests, ranges, moun­tains, deserts, and the outer-continental shelf), to state gov­ernments for use as they see fit. Prevent the government from making new environmental regulations that encroach on private property — such as blocking a new factory over pollution concerns or halting the drilling of an oil well in a city’s backyard.

FEDERAL REGULATIONS. The rules that govern much of the nation’s economic life will go. The GOP will propose an immediate moratorium while new legislation to end the complex web of laws is drafted. New regulations would re­quire a two-step procedure in which, after legislation is passed, Congress would have to pass a second act setting forth in detail how it would be implemented. If it is decid­ed that the legislation would put a drag on the economy, then other related regulations would be cut back.

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LABOR. The minimum wage is out the window. Fair la­bor standards will go, as will current federal efforts to con­trol unsafe labor practices in the workplace. The Republi­cans will move to terminate Davis-Bacon (1931), Walsh-Healy (1936), and Service Contract (1965) — acts that require the federal government to pay union scale wage rates for anything made under contract with the federal gov­ernment. “These laws,” the Heritage Foundation argues, “make it virtually impossible for low-skilled workers, especially minorities and young people, to be hired on govern­ment jobs because their productivity cannot justify the man­dated wages. Besides their inherent unfairness, these laws cost taxpayers dearly.”

FOREIGN AID. The Republicans want to end the U.S. Agency for International Development as it currently ex­ists, tying economic development to free-market economies. The Heritage Foundation has published an Index of Eco­nomic Freedom, which argues that U.S. foreign aid reform should be rooted in the recognition that “the free market is the only proven method of promot­ing economic growth and development.” By using the In­dex, policymakers can identify which countries are making progress toward free-market reforms and which are not.

THAT’S JUST THE BEGINNING. Delaware Re­publican Bill Roth, incoming chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, proposes to cut federal agencies by up to 50 percent, in some cases privatizing the work. But his real goal is to eliminate entire agencies. Chief candidates are the Appalachi­an Regional Commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the Economic Development Administration. Roth is eager to abolish six entire federal de­partments: Commerce, Transportation, Interior, Energy, HUD, and Labor.

The Republicans will try to do away with Congress as we know it. They will begin by defunding committees, cen­tralizing power under the Speaker as they return various functions to state governments. At the same time, they want to reduce by one-quarter to one-third the $329 million al­located every year to the General Accounting Office, which performs independent studies for members of Congress. The Republicans would privatize GAO, subcontracting its functions to the lowest bidders. They also want to shift the Government Printing Office to the executive branch, and then privatize most of what it does. The Library of Con­gress is next in line for cuts, especially the Congressional Re­search Service, which provides research for members. The GOP would like to get rid of the Office of Technology As­sessment, or at least sharply reduce its functions.

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THE RESULT of these cuts will be to drastically re­duce the flow of information to legislators on intri­cate issues such as telecommunication, the effects of biochemical pollution, and genetic engineering, not to mention hampering investigations into private-­sector fraud and high-tech crimes. But the most tangible effect of the Republican ax will be felt in the District of Columbia, the vio­lence-prone capital that is virtually bankrupt. The federal cuts will almost surely result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, devastating the black and white middle classes in the city. As the capital disintegrates, Congress can take back con­trol of the city’s finances and arrange for its ultimate disposal as a subdivision of the state of Maryland. So much for D.C. statehood — and the likely addition of two black senators.

Cutting down domestic social programs and the agen­cies that manage them frees up money for defense, which the right wants to increase. They also intend to cancel the War Powers Act, end the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, and reverse the current limits on an arms buildup.

Such moves bolster the corporations that depend on mil­itary contracts. The private sector, in fact, will reap a windfall from the Republican revolution. Undertaken in the name of decentralization, the right’s program amounts to a scheme for turning over more and more power to private corpora­tions. When turning a governmental function back to the states complicates matters for corporations, as in the regula­tion of private health insurance plans, then right-wingers fa­vor federal regulation to accommodate the corporate interests.

MEANWHILE, IN THE White House, President Bill Clinton is under siege, from all quarters: drive-by shooters, gun-toting survivalists, homeless men brandishing knives, wackos on the Hill. But un­like most sieges, the object here is not to get the enemy to surrender. Bill Clinton can’t surrender. Not that he hasn’t tried. Since his election, Clinton has hoisted the white flag time after time — on gays, on supporting cities, on social welfare, on Bosnia, on the environment. But the Republicans refuse to accept his surrender. That’s because he’s more useful to them where he is. They want him to remain permanently on his knees, to go through the ritual act of surrender again and again. They want Clinton in office so they can keep taunting him. And the longer he stays, the more opportu­nities they have to wear down any remaining opposition to their revolution in American politics.

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What conceivable purpose does Clinton serve by sitting in the White House during this period of turmoil? The un­happy truth is that he serves the Republican interest in de­moralizing the electorate. The more disheartened people are by the spectacle of a lame-duck president, the less likely they will be to vote — and the Republicans need a low turnout in 1996 to win the presidency. They won Congress with 35 percent of the electorate. You could win a House seat with as little as 18 percent of the vote. The way to discourage peo­ple from voting is to keep them dispirited. What better ve­hicle for such a project than the hapless figure of Bill Clinton?

Of course, it’s always possible that Clinton will, for the first time in his life, discover his nerve. After all, Nixon faced a hostile Congress and that didn’t stop him from ad­vocating his policies. Nor did it stop Reagan or Bush. When the Democrats blocked Reagan, he pushed ahead rather than cave in.

But Clinton is different. He has no core convictions — he swings in the wind. His only institutional connection to the American people is within the Democratic party; and that barely exists except in the bank accounts of lobbyists and corpora­tions. As for the Democratic Na­tional Committee, it is less an ap­pendage of Clinton than of the lobbyists and corporate figureheads who own the party.

What’s left of the Democrats is to be found in Congress, mostly in the House, where Dick Gephardt, the minority leader, and David Bo­nior, the whip, may build a follow­ing. Both men fought Clinton on NAFTA and GATT, the two defining issues of this Congress. There’s almost no reason for them to side with the White House now; they will have to forge their own coalitions and discover their own politics.

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(Just to remember how differ­ent things might have been, note that, had Clinton stood with the rest of his party and fought these two pieces of legislation, the Democrats, even though in the minority, would still be calling the shots in the Re­publican Congress. Instead of spend­ing the first 100 days debating the Contract with America, the Democ­rats could fire up a debate on GATT that might split the Republican majority. But there will be no debate be­cause Clinton has already given away the store.)

With the Republicans pulling the levers in Congress, they can eas­ily crank up an investigation of Whitewater, pushing the two independent counsels already working on the probe. The possibilities for investigating Clinton are endless, reaching from Whitewater to the Tyson chicken empire. That includes Hillary Clinton’s mysterious com­modity trades and now accusations of cash payments sent by Tyson to Clinton himself. The Vincent Foster case is still alive. There are now ques­tions about Clinton’s past campaign funding and the behavior of numer­ous White House staffers. Beyond that, there is the continuing saga of his personal relationships. Any or all of these issues can be easily brought into the spotlight on Capitol Hill, and Clinton can be made to either apologize one more time or, if it is in the Republican interest, forced to resign.

Under this continuing pressure, the Democratic Party could actually break up. Since the election, both Gephardt and Bonior have made it clear they will turn their backs on the White House. Paul Tsongas is push­ing for a third-party movement, and Jackson hasn’t given up the presi­dential ghost. Meanwhile, Clinton’s own supporters are clamoring for the president to follow them to the right.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario that would deny the right-wing control of the White House in 1996. Under the best of circumstances it will take many years for what’s left of the Democratic Party to regroup. In the meantime, the Republicans have a clear path ahead. The only thing standing in their way is Bill Clinton, who really is no obstacle at all. ❖

Research: Valerie Burgher 

Categories
From The Archives IMPEACHMENT ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Washington, D.C.

Impeachment: Three Groups In Search of an Umbrella

Three Groups In Search of an Umbrella
November 1, 1973

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unless the President unexpectedly resigns, his impeachment will be a long, tedious process: The problem is how to persuade members of the House of Representatives to take seriously the issues in impeachment, including an understanding that they must actively share in the management of government. It’s a consciousness raising lesson as much as anything else.

Citizen pressures for impeachment are now forming along three different fronts. Most important is the American Civil Liberties Union campaign which aims to arouse the electorate to persuade members of Congress to take the issue seriously. Already this campaign, which includes newspaper advertising and direct mailings to between one and two million people, is meeting with considerable success. As of late last week, two ads in the New York Times produced more than $31,000. In Los Angeles, returns on newspaper ads in two days — Tuesday and Wednesday — raised more than $20,000. In San Francisco, the ACLU was beginning to run ads, and planned local town meetings where members of Congress will be invited to come to debate the issues.

A second front revolves around Ralph Nader. Nader himself has come out for impeachment, and last week he chaired a meeting of left-liberal groups that gathered to consider strategy. Nader’s efforts are channeled through his organization Citizen Action, which is asking local groups to pressure their congressmen to debate impeachment.

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More important, Nader’s lawyers have launched a legal maneuver that can result in tightening the binds around Nixon. Their suit, filed last week, argues that Archibald Cox should be reinstated because his dismissal violates Justice Department regulations promulgated May 31 when Elliot Richardson set up the special prosecutor’s office. Among other things, the regulations specified that the special prosecutor would continue to carry out the responsibilities of his office until “such time as in his judgement he has completed them or until a date mutually agreed upon between the attorney general and himself.”

This suit also argues that in abolishing Cox’s office Nixon failed to comply with procedures mandated by the Executive Reorganization Act. That Act expressly provides that whenever one branch of an agency is transferred to another branch, then the President must submit reorganization plans to Congress.

Even if Robert Bork had the power to abolish the office of the special prosecutor, the suit says his attempt to do so in the Cox case was ineffective because he was directed to do so by the President, who himself was subject of investigation.

While this suit awaits a hearing, lawyers are getting ready to hit Nixon on another front. Bork is Acting Attorney General, but within 30 days Nixon must send a nomination for a new attorney general to Congress. If Nixon ignores this law, as he did in the case of OEO, he will be hit by lawsuits demanding removal of Bork on grounds he illegally holds office. The courts removed Howard Phillips, acting director of OEO, on these grounds.

A third important move toward impeachment is being brought by a group of Washington attorneys led by William Dobrovir and financed by Stewart Mott, the liberal philanthropist. Mott provided the money for Dobrovir’s suits that exposed campaign contributions by the dairy industry. Since July, Mott and Dobrovir have been working on a 100-page detailed bill of particulars for impeachment. This “indictment” will be used by an ad hoc group of Congressmen led by John Conyers in their campaign to press impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee. The ad hoc group numbers between 12 and 20 members, and includes Bella Abzug, Barbara Jordan, Donald Riegle, and Pete Stark. They have been meeting off and on for several months, with Dobrovir and his associates, in effect, functioning as staff.

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The left-liberal meeting last Monday included representatives from organizations such as ADA, Peoples Bicentennial Institute for Policy Studies, Movement for Economic Justice, and others. It was inconclusive in terms of devising future strategy. Movement groups argued for national demonstrations. Nader’s people seemed to be opposed to that idea, pushing instead for local pressure on members of Congress. There was a good deal of skepticism from the other groups about Nader’s sudden interest in impeachment.

It seems likely that the different groups will go off in their own directions, with Nader probably being most successful in legal affairs and perhaps in organizing  law school faculties.

As the pressure to impeach builds, the lack of national leadership can become more of a problem and may yet result in an umbrella organization.

Categories
From The Archives IMPEACHMENT ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Washington, D.C.

How Can We Impeach Thee? Let Us Count the Ways

How Can We Impeach Thee? Let Us Count the Ways
June 7, 1973

WASHINGTON, D.C. — If Nixon didn’t know about Watergate beforehand and did not participate in the cover-up, why doesn’t he go before the Senate committee or better yet, the grand jury, and clear things up? There’s a very good reason. He might wind up being impeached.

In addition to the well-known method of initiating impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, a grand jury may also set the impeachment machinery in motion. The precedent for grand juries referring impeachment actions to the House is specifically set forth in Jefferson’s Manual, the official rule book of the House written by Thomas Jefferson while he was Vice-President of the United States and presiding officer of the Senate.

Jefferson’s Manual says, “In the House of Representatives there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a member or delegate; by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for ex­amination; by a message from the President; by charges trans­mitted from the legislature of a state or territory, or from a grand jury, or from facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House.”

In one instance, an impeach­ment proceeding was begun on the basis of a report from a grand jury. It concerned the conduct of Harry Toulmin, a U.S. judge in the Mississippi territory. In De­cember 1811, the Speaker of the House received a letter from the speaker of the Mississippi Terri­torial legislature, one Cowles Mead, who in turn enclosed a copy of a presentment against Judge Toulmin by the Baldwin County grand jury. On receiving the letter and presentment, the House created a select committee to investigate the charges. The committee recommended that no further action was necessary and impeachment proceedings were dropped.

After reading a Washington Post story that suggested Water­gate prosecutors wanted to discuss the matter with the President, Ronald Ziegler said Nixon would not testify. “We feel it would be constitutionally inappropriate,” he said. “It would do violence to the separation of powers” if the President testified before the grand juries on the Senate panel. Ziegler said the decision ap­plied to sworn testimony, informal statements, and written re­sponses to written questions.

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In a letter in last Friday’s Washington Post, Lawrence R. Velvel, law professor at Catholic University, disputed Nixon’s posi­tion. He points out, “…in the case of Aaron Burr, John Mar­shall held that a subpoena duces tecum can be issued to the Pres­ident. Marshall pointed out that unlike the King of England, the President is not a monarch, but, like any citizen, is subject to being called to testify.”

“A five-man majority of the Supreme Court,” he goes on to say, “including the four Justices appointed by Nixon, recently gave a clear indication that the President is subject to being called before a grand jury. In the Caldwell case, where the court struck down the newsman’s privi­lege, the majority said, ‘the long standing principle that “the public has a right to every man’s evidence” except for those persons protected by a constitu­tional common law, or statutory privilege…is particularly applicable to grand jury proceedings.’

“The court in a footnote then continued this theme, citing Jeremy Bentham for the proposition that even ‘men of the first rank and consideration can be brought into courts to testify: men like the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Lord High Chancellor. The Court concluded the footnote by pointing out that in the Burr case Justice Marshall ‘opined that in proper circumstances a subpoena could be issued to the United States.’ ”

It is generally thought that impeachment proceedings would begin after a member of the House made accusations which under usual circumstances would be referred to a standing or special committee for investigation. There undoubtedly is little enthusiasm for this course now. In addition to a statement from a grand jury, the House might find itself having to deal seriously with impeachment brought in other ways. As Jefferson’s Manual makes clear, the House has begun impeachment proceedings after receiving reports from state and territorial legislatures. Another way to begin impeachment proceedings is for an individual citizen to present a memorial, usually a statement of facts accompanied by a petition. Jefferson’s Manual lists seven precedents for this course of action.

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One of the more spectacular efforts to impeach a high government official occurred on January 6, 1932, during Hebert Hoover’s administration, when Congressman Wright Patman, rising on a “question of constitutional privilege,” moved to impeach Andrew Mellon, then Secretary of the Treasure, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Patman essentially charged that while Treasury Secretary, Mellon maintained control of some 300 corporations to which he handed out government business and awarded tax refunds. The matter was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which held hearings. At those hearings, Patman laid out his case in detail. Before Mellon was scheduled to appear to answer charges, President Hoover announced the Secretary of Treasury had resigned and been made ambassador to Great Britain. Impeachment proceedings were discontinued.

Although it is sometimes believed that impeachment must be for an indictable crime, Jefferson’s Manual says this: “As to what are impeachable offenses there has been much discussion. For a time the theory that indictable offenses only were impeachable was stoutly maintained and as stoutly denied; but on the 10th and 11th articles of impeachment of the President (Andrew Johnson), the House concluded to impeach for other than indictable offenses and in the Swayne trial (a Florida judge impeached and acquitted in 1903) the theory was definitely abandoned. While there has not been definite concurrence in the claim of the managers in the trial of the President that an impeachable offense is any misbehavior that shows disqualification to hold and exercise the office, whether moral, intellectual, or physical, yet the House has impeached judges for improper personal habits, and in the impeachment of the President one of the articles charged him with ‘intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues’ in public addresses, tending to the harm of the government. There was no conviction under these charges except in the single case of Judge Pickering, who was charged with intoxication on the bench.”

In all, the Senate has sat as a court of impeachment in 12 cases, including one President, a Secretary of War (William Belknap), a Senator (William Blount), and nine judges. Four judges were removed from office. One judge resigned before the proceedings were complete. The others were acquitted.

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