The disruption of a plot by a clandestine militant group in Clayton, Michigan, to murder law enforcement officials illustrates perfectly what an unholy and inconsistent mess America’s counter-terrorism architecture has become.
Major Hassan’s murderous rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, is repeatedly described as terrorism but the word is barely mentioned when a group of white right-wing extremists plan to do almost exactly the same thing in Michigan.
The chosen target was the same – men and women in uniform. The chosen method was the same – murder. In both cases the motivation seems to be prompted by perverted religious teachings.
If anything, the militarization of the Hutaree group is more alarming than Hassan’s lone wolf shooting spree. There are forty-six other similar militia groups in Michigan alone. Fifty-seven in Texas. The only real difference between the two incidents is that Major Hassan was Muslim and the Stone Gang Christian.
The alleged members of the Clayton plot have been charged with sedition – seeking to overthrow the elected government of the United States. If there was ever a group that, in the words of George W. Bush, hates our freedoms surely this is it.
Yet our response to the two events is completely schizophrenic. Perhaps this is because the Clayton case raises such difficult questions. Is joining a militia any different than attending a terrorist training camp? What might providing material support to such groups entail?
Is using a nationally syndicated radio show or a platform on a 24-hour news channel any different that promoting hate-speech from a pulpit or minbar? If the war on terror extends over the globe what implications does this have when the threat springs from American soil?
These are certainly questions worth pondering as the Southern Poverty Law Center reports an upsurge in the activities of these groups in reaction to the election of President Obama.
However, there is also another takeaway here. Law enforcement officials have proven more than equal to the task of meeting the threat these militia groups pose. Somehow the threat just seems less overwhelming when it comes in the form of good ol’boys dressed in jeans and T-shirts.
The Stone Gang will be dealt with entirely within the confines of the criminal justice system. The state’s response will have the legitimacy of more than two centuries of legal precedent and the Stones and their friends will receive all the rights guaranteed to them as citizens by the constitution.
America will not be weakened as a result, quite the reverse. The value of our system of government will be affirmed and the twisted propaganda of the Hutaree and their ilk refuted – quite a satisfactory result. No existential crisis, no panic, just the calm and rational dispensation of justice. It is not a bad model to follow.