A new group of U.S. service-members vows to obey the Constitution, political allegiances be damned.
A diverse group of current and former servicemen and women from throughout the nation are banding together to defend the Constitution and they’re calling on their comrades to do the same — to honor the Constitution above all else, government and political parties included.
Launched by Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers, as the group is called, has publicly stated it doesn’t align itself with partisan politics. Instead, it uses the Constitution as its political bible, measuring the merits of all political policies based on their cohesion with the document.
“We’re all Americans, we all share a common ground of our declaration and our constitution, and in particular, our Bill of Rights — that’s our common ground,” Rhodes said. “Our mission is simply to use the First Amendment to reach out and remind all active duty military, police and firefighters of their civic obligation of their legal duty and responsibilities under Article 6 of the Constitution.”
For Rhodes, upholding the oath, which states to uphold the constitution above all else and defend it from domestic and foreign enemies, is not a suggestion — it’s a requirement. And while Oath Keepers say they speak to the larger national audience, its main focus is on servicemen and women.
“Our oath is to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and we will not obey unconstitutional orders, such as orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches against them, or to detain Americans as ‘unlawful combatants’ under the laws of war, which denies them their right to jury trial,” an Oath Keepers press release states.
As noted by Reason’s Radley Balko, the organization’s declaration resembles statements put forth by civil rights advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. And while that might be the case, the organization finds itself in line with positions of the National Rifle Association, too.
Rhodes, who once worked for Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R), considers himself a libertarian and constitutionalist, reflecting viewpoints that don’t fit neatly into either of the mainstream political parties. In Rhodes’ eyes, both the Democrats and the Republicans have been picking and choosing portions of the constitution to uphold — and he’s had enough.
Campaign blitz defies political lines
A recently launched advertisement campaign supporting Edward Snowden, the U.S. citizen on the lam for releasing secret NSA spying documents to the public, is causing its most recent stir.
The ad, which was displayed outside the Pentagon metro station in Washington, D.C., stated, “Snowden Honored His Oath. Honor Yours! Stop Big Brother!”
“[Snowden] is an example of what needs to be done by anyone who has knowledge of such gross violations of our rights,” Rhodes said in a statement issued to Reason reporter Jesse Walker in June. “We need more to stand up, because this is surely the mere tip of the iceberg of the infrastructure for a police state that is being built over us.”
“The first sign at the Pentagon Station is done in the style of the theater scene from George Orwell’s “1984” and features Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, as ‘Big Brother,’” Rhodes said in a July statement.
Now that billboard has been updated to depict President Barack Obama, a move the organization states is intent on reflecting the “unrepentant” attitude of Obama “even after Snowden’s embarrassing exposure of a snooping program the administration denied ever existed.”
A press release issued by the Oath Keepers includes an attack on the left wing of the political spectrum, making the organization sound as though it belongs within the realm of Tea Party Patriots — but it doesn’t. Not even the conservative Tea Party members are aligning themselves with Snowden. Dick Cheney, the former vice president and leader among conservatives, has defended the NSA spy program, referring to it as necessary to help fight terrorism.
“Nonetheless, you can bet there will be cries of “racist”! from the radical left because we dare to criticize their anointed god, despite the fact that we first featured Clapper — about as white a guy as you can imagine — as Big Brother, and despite the fact that Obama is the President, after all (exactly who should we criticize if not him, for the policies of his administration?),” the press release states.
Snowden is considered by the organization as an example of a man who held his oath to uphold the constitution by exposing NSA’s violations of the Fourth Amendment. Oath Keepers praise him not for disclosure of U.S. operations outside its borders, but for exposure of the NSA program. And while one would think those still standing behind the president are standing behind his stance on Snowden, a good portion of America’s “radical left” are the ones who believe in this particular message touted by the Oath Keepers.
In June, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was heckled by liberal activists over comments the Democrat made about Snowden and the need to create a balance between security and privacy.
On the other side of the partisan scale, another campaign launched by the Oath Keepers drew attention to the Fast and Furious scandal, pointing fingers at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms over an alleged botched gun-running sting operation to Mexican drug cartels. It also takes issue over whether the truth behind the Benghazi terrorist attacks was made clear.
In a June statement issued to Reason, Rhodes indicated the organization’s view, in terms of the NSA program, is one that can’t favor one political party over another.
“Unless we the people purge out these oath breakers from BOTH parties, we will find ourselves in a nightmare dictatorship and we will have to fight to throw it off,” he said. “Sweat now or bleed later. Purge them all.”
Calling on comrades
The placement of the most recent Snowden advertisement wasn’t an accident — located near the Pentagon, the idea was to have the resonate with as many service members as possible, about an oath many took years ago.
“This is part of a broader effort to place billboards at strategic locations throughout the United States,” Rhodes said in a statement.
Advertising campaigns, mostly billboards, have already been placed near Fort Benning, Fort Hood and Fort Stewart.
The perception among Oath Keepers is that there are servicemen and women out there who have knowledge of government activity that is contrary to the Constitution — and they’re highlighting their duty — their oath — to expose such violations.
“It is difficult to imagine a more direct and effective way to change the future course of history in this nation than to directly reach, teach, and inspire our active duty military to honor their oaths, and to encourage more whistleblowers to expose the ongoing crimes against our Constitution,” states an Oath Keepers press release. “That is an effective focus of effort.”
The organization is now made up of service members in the military and law enforcement. Frank Rich, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, wrote the following as a testament to his involvement with the Oath Keepers:
Though it was over thirty years ago, it seems like yesterday. I chose the Navy because my father was in the Navy, but when I said that oath, it opened my eyes. It felt good to say those words. It brought my patriotism to the front of my life and though I’m no longer on active duty, I will defend the Constitution with my life.