Last night, Bill O’Reilly had Stewart Rhodes, founder of the right-wing extremist group “The Oath Keepers,” on his show. Things got a little tense when Rhodes described the group’s belief that members of the military need not follow orders they believe to be unconstitutional.
“That’s a pretty extreme position,” said O’Reilly.
O’Reilly had had Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center on the show the night before. Potok slammed Oath Keepers, which he said is primarily driven by the fear that the government is going to impose martial law and turn American cities into concentration camps.
Potok, it seems, wasn’t exaggerating. From the group’s website:
Our oath is to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and we will not obey unconstitutional (and thus illegal) and immoral orders, such as orders to disarm the American people or to place them under martial law and deprive them of their ancient right to jury trial.
We Oath Keepers have drawn a line in the sand. We will not “just follow orders.”
Rhodes explained this further on The O’Reilly Factor, claiming that some soldiers “don’t understand that their oath is first and foremost to the Constitution,” and not to the president.
O’Reilly, in disbelief, asked if this means that every soldier “makes up his mind whether the order he’s given is Constitutional or not?”
Rhodes replied: “What were the Nazis told at Nuremberg? That disobeying orders is no excuse, no defense.”
O’Reilly pressed him further, saying that “if it’s a matter of interpretation” as to whether a solider has to follow an order, “you could have anarchy, easily.”
O’Reilly also asked Rhodes about the group’s core fear: “Who’s going to try to disarm people and place them under martial law? Why would that even be something you would be discussing?”
It happened as recently as Katrina. You probably have seen the videos there of an old lady being tackled in her kitchen and disarmed of her revolver. And there was house-to-house searches for firearms. And you have the police chief declaring that no one would be allowed to have weapons, and they’re going to take all the guns. And they did. So they disarmed Americans over some bad weather. As though the bad weather suspended the Second Amendment. So that’s the most recent example.
O’Reilly pointed out that New Orleans was in a state of emergency after Hurricane Katrina, and that local authorities couldn’t control the city. Rhodes replied: “So you call it state of emergency. Call it what you want. It’s still unconstitutional.”
The Oath Keepers have some connections to the Tea Party movement, which itself has gained a lot of traction within the conservative movement. For one thing, Oath Keepers is part of the Friends for Liberty coalition, an umbrella group for such Tea Party-friendly movements as Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project and the John Birch Society. Rhodes is even on the planning committee for the 2010 9/12 Project.
He is also scheduled to appear this Sunday at “Taking Back Texas” with Debra Medina, the Tea Party activist and candidate in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary.
Also, notably, Oath Keepers has a booth at the ongoing CPAC conference in Washington, D.C., where they are handing out a DVD called “For Liberty: How the Ron Paul Revolution Watered the Withered Tree of Liberty” (the ties between the group and Ron Paul don’t stop there – Rhodes himself is a former member of Paul’s D.C. staff, according to his Oath Keeper’s bio page).
For more Oath Keepers fun, check out the “Declaration Of Orders We Will Not Obey” on their website.