First up on today's show: President Obama announces his Executive Actions to combat the scourge of gun violence in this country. Then, I'm joined by Stewart Rhodes, Founder and President of Oath Keepers, a group which describes itself as "a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to 'defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'"
While the Oath Keepers were on the front lines of the armed 2014 standoff against the federal government at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada, Rhodes has declined to join the ongoing armed take-over of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon by other members of the so-called "Patriot Movement," including two of rancher Cliven Bundy's sons.
Rhodes explains how he believes the showdown at the Bundy Ranch differs from the current situation at Malheur. He claims the former resulted in stopping the "assassination" of the Bundy clan by federal officials, whereas, in the latter case, "I haven't seen any direct threat to anybody's life."
He describes one of the men holed up in the federal Oregon facility as "either insane or an agent provocateur who…wants to see violence," and another as a "loose cannon idiot who has a martyr complex." He suggests that Bundy's son Ammon, who helped lead the takeover in Oregon, is "naive" and "has people right there with him who are unstable, who may initiate violence."
"They want to go down in a glorious firefight," Rhodes warns about at least two of the individuals. "If they don't get that, it's entirely possible they might initiate it." And while the other Bundy son, Ryan, has reportedly said he was "willing to kill and be killed if necessary," in the stand-off, Rhodes rejects the idea that the men are "terrorists".
I also pressed Rhodes about critiques of his own organization, which has been described as "conspiracy theorists", "vigilantes", "rightwing extremists" and even "racists" at various times. Many have accused them and others in the Patriot and Militia Movements of looking to pick fights with the federal Government. I ask him why his group and others like it didn't come to the aid of the Occupy Movement when those peaceful protests were brutally crushed by local, state and federal officials back in 2011 and why they haven't been louder in opposition to the ongoing epidemic of police violence across the country.
We also discussed the claims made in a Rolling Stone feature article this week, charging that former Oath Keeper Sam Andrews was drummed out of the group for attempting to organize with African-Americans in Ferguson, MO. Rhodes calls Andrews a "liar".
As to the Bundys, Rhodes claims the family took advantage of his group back in 2014. "We didn't go there to get cattle back. We went there to keep the Bundy family from being murdered. They then took advantage of that situation and went and got their cattle back," he tells me. "They didn't say 'come help us with armed supporters to go get our cattle back'. That's not what they did. They said 'we're about to be murdered, come protect us'. And so Ammon Bundy has displayed the propensity to deceive people. And he's doing that right now (in Oregon)"
There was a lot more in our spirited conversation. We both agree, for example, about the outrage of "minimum sentencing" laws of the type at the center of the current dispute up in Oregon right now, as well as at the heart of the so-called "Drug War", but you'll have to give the full show a listen for complete details…
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