Cross-posted from Merge Left.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accused candidate Barack Obama of “paling around with terrorists”, referring to one-time Weatherman Bill Ayers, who has long since become a member of Chicago’s political/policy establishment, regularly rubbing shoulders with establishment Republicans as well as Democrats, primarily due to his involvement in urban education policy.

“It was never a concern by any of us in the Chicago school reform movement that he had led a fugitive life years earlier,” former Illinois state Republican Rep. Diana Nelson, told NPR, in a barely-noticed story that got lost in the flood of wild accusations. Nelson had worked with both Obama and Ayers over the years. “It’s ridiculous,” Nelson said. “There is no reason at all to smear Barack Obama with this association. It’s nonsensical, and it just makes me crazy. It’s so silly.”

But now it turns out that another Alaskan Republican—long-time Congressmember Don Young—has not just been palling around with actual terrorists, he’s even signed one of their seditious documents—a “Letter of Declaration”—calling for “alter[ing] or abolish[ing]” the government should it “seek to further tax, restrict or register firearms”. This is a clear-cut call for sedition, given that all the government actions cited are perfectly constitutional according to the most conservative Supreme Court in 70+ years.

A move is now afoot calling for Young to reaffirm the oath of office that he violated in signing the “Letter of Declaration.” The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has created a petition calling on Young to re-swear his oath to the U.S. Constitution. As explained in a press release:

CSGV’s petition calls on Rep. Young to immediately re-swear his oath to our Constitution and repudiate the “Letter of Declaration.” It also calls on NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre to publicly repudiate the letter and Young’s signing of it.

Young signed the “Letter”, drafted by Schaeffer Cox of the Second Amendment Task Force/Alaska Peacekeepers Militia, on April 13, 2009, as documented on a video posted online that June. (Copy here) On March 11, Cox was arrested as the ringleader in a planned conspiracy to kill state troopers and at least one named judge. (Indictment here.) On March 12, the Anchorage Daily News reported:

Federal agents made extensive recordings of Fairbanks militia members plotting to kill or kidnap judges and Alaska State Troopers and burn their houses, according to documents filed in court Friday.

Four leaders of the Fairbanks-based Alaska Peacekeeper’s Militia — Francis “Schaeffer” Cox, 26, Lonnie Vernon, 55, his wife Karen Vernon, 64, and Coleman Barney, 36 — are charged with conspiring to commit murder, kidnapping and arson. They are also charged with hindering prosecution and possession of illegal weapons.

Cox’s plan was named “241”, meaning that whatever action the government took, Cox’s milita forces were supposed to respond with double the force, according to undercover survelleince information contained in the indictment:

At that February 12th meeting COX specifically unveiled his ’241′ (two for one) plan which called for his militia to respond to attempts to arrest or kill him by responding against state court or law enforcement targets with twice the forces and consequences as happened to him or his familty. If he was arrested, two state targets would be “arrested” (kidnapped). If he was killed, two state targets would be killed. If his house was taken, two state target houses would be burned. COX spent a considerable amount of time logically (in his mind) justifying his actions, stating that ‘at this point, without any further provocation’ he would be ‘well within my rights to drill [Superior Court Judge] McConahy in his forehead’.

Cox’s ideas and actions have a substantial history behind them. He has a history of associating with and espousing the ideology of the “Sovereign Citizenship” movement, which emerged as part of the “militia movment” during the 1990s. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, explains:

Made up of an estimated 300,000 participants, the sprawling sovereign citizens subculture advocates the idea that the sovereigns themselves — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. Most don’t think they should have to pay taxes.

Sovereign citizens have long targeted judges and law enforcement officers Just this past May 20, two law enforcement officers were killed and two others were wounded by a father-son pair of sovereign citizens in West Memphis, Ark. In 1995 in Ohio, a sovereign named Michael Hill pulled a gun on an officer during a traffic stop. Hill was killed. In 1997, New Hampshire extremist Carl Drega shot dead two officers and two civilians, and wounded another three officers before being killed himself. In that same year in Idaho, when brothers Doug and Craig Broderick were pulled over for failing to signal, they killed one officer and wounded another before being killed themselves in a violent gun battle.

Despite openly denying government authority over everything from taxes to traffic laws, “Sovereign citizens” routinely try to pass themselves off as patriots and garden-variety gun-rights advocates, and they are often supported in this by the NRA and conservative politicians. This is exactly what Don Young did, through a spokesman, when his signing of the seditious “Letter of Declaration” came to light, following Cox’s arrest.:

Rep. Young’s communications director, Meredith Kenny, said the video shows Rep. Young signing the letter at an “open-carry day” in Fairbanks in the spring of 2009. At the open carry day, gun rights activists appeared in public openly wearing handgun in holsters.

“Rep. Young attended not because of anything having to do with Cox — nor is he in any way affiliated with Cox — but because he has always been a vocal and staunch defender of the Second Amendment,” Kenny said. “Congressman Young stands strong with gun owners of America, and will always defend the 2nd Amendment rights of Americans.”

Young’s casual endorsement of sedition, and the political establishment’s ho-hum attitude toward it so far stand in stark contrast to the official anti-Muslim hysteria being promoted in Congress. On March 11, Representative Peter King held a hearing on the threat of Islamic radicalization, as reported by The National:

Peter King, the chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, who called the hearings, has accused the Muslim community of refusing to cooperate with law enforcement and charged that preaching in some US mosques was leading to radicalisation.

“To combat this threat, moderate leadership must emerge from the Muslim community,”

But that same sort of moderate leadership is precisely what’s missing with regard to the “Sovereign Citizens” movement, and other violent rightwing extremists–particularly in the case of Representative Young, who sits on the NRA’s national board. Indeed, King appears to be badly misinformed about the Muslim community, as a report by report by Charles Kurzman, a sociologist the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that “ the largest single source of initial information” in disrupting Muslim terrorist plots was the Muslim community itself, responsible for 48 disruptions out of 120.

When presented with an opportunity to be equally responsible in opposing rightwing extremist violence, Representative Young failed the test of patriotic loyalty. In light of this, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s petition seems like a mild-mannered response. As CSGV’s Josh Horowitz put it:

“It is simply unacceptable for a sitting member of Congress to sign a document calling for violence against the government of the United States. We call on Rep. Don Young to do the right thing and repudiate this repugnant document.”

But if Don Young were a Muslim, there seems to be little doubt he would already have been expelled from Congress.

About the Author

Paul Rosenberg

Paul Rosenberg is not a dirty hippy. He bathes once a month, whether he needs it or not. An erstwhile programmer, he was a freelance op-ed and book review writer from 1994/96 to 2002, and has been a staff writer & editor at Random Lengths News, an alternative bi-weekly in the Los Angeles harbor area from 2002 to date. His October 2002 story “Iraq Attack-The Aims and Origins of Bush’s Plans” shared the Project Censored #1 Censored Story award for 2004.

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