November 19-21, 2021 -- Vigilantism is at the core of fascism

publication date: Nov 19, 2021
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November 19-21, 2021 -- Vigilantism is at the core of fascism

Vigilantes, whether they are lone executioners or police acting outside the law as "death squad" enforcers, serve the interests of fascism. Some future historian might write that the final downward spiral of democracy in the United States began with vigilante vengeance being meted out on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin; Brunswick, Georgia; El Paso, Texas; Ferguson, Missouri; Sanford, Florida, and other towns and cities across the nation by white male executioners who gunned down innocent Americans for what amounted to some sort of macabre "sport."

Vigilantism is now codified in state law in Texas. Private citizens in Texas are now authorized to conduct their own investigations of anyone they believe might be assisting women in receiving abortion or counseling services. Successful plaintiffs under the Texas abortion law can walk away with $10,000 for each successful lawsuit under the abortion law. Other states, from Alabama and Arkansas to Ohio and Oklahoma are pursuing similar vigilante abortion laws.

In the past, the Central Intelligence Agency routinely warned of right-wing vigilantism in countries ranging from those in Latin America and Spain to colonial Algeria and apartheid South Africa. Hypocritically, while CIA analysts were sounding alarms about such vigilantism, another part of the CIA was training those same vigilantes in such practices as torture, sniper fire, and psychological intimidation. The targets of such past vigilantism might cite America's dabbling in such practices in their nations as coming full circle to now plague Americans with the same type of vigilante violence and intimidation.

One thing is certain with the advent of the Republican Party becoming a political organization dedicated to fascism and autocracy: the United States is now no different than the fascist nations about which Top Secret and Secret CIA reports once warned of rampant vigilantism. In over 90 percent of the cases, the CIA cited right-wing vigilantes as the main cause for violence against the political opposition. Reading the now-declassified CIA reports is like reading today's newspaper about America. Only the names and locations have changed.

CIA files also indicate that the agency was concerned about vigilantism taking root in the United States. The agency cited the case of New York's "subway vigilante" Bernhard Goetz, who, in 1985, shot four black teens on the subway. Goetz claimed they were harassing him at the time. One of Goetz's targets was in a coma after the shooting. What concerned Langley were reports that Goetz held a Top Secret "Q"-level clearance for his work as a contractor consultant on electronic calibration systems used in nuclear weapons. The CIA appeared to have been alarmed by Goetz's instant fame, with many in the public likening him to the Charles Bronson vigilante character from the movie "Death Wish." Even President Ronald Reagan, a pro-law and order conservative Republican, was forced to admit, "I think we all realize that there is a breakdown in civilization if people start taking the law into their own hands." Compare that statement to the frequent open calls for right-wing violence against Democrats and the left championed by Donald Trump and his Republican Party supporters.

In many respects, white vigilantism directed against people of color in the United States is a repetition of what the CIA warned about in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. There, white vigilantes were supported by the police in violent acts directed against blacks.

The following are some examples of the CIA warnings about vigilantism abroad:

"Right-wing violence has become a major headache for the [Argentine] government." (1976).
". . . the bloodiest right-wing action was the murder of 30 people on the outskirts of the capital [Buenos Aires]. The vigilantes left signs describing the victims as leftist guerrillas." (1976).
"The government of the nominally independent Ciskei homeland has called on township residents to form vigilante groups to combat antiapartheid protest." (1985).
"Israeli settlers continue to take the law into their own hands, occasionally engaging in vigilante attacks on Palestinians." (1985).
"President [José
Napoleón] Duarte [El Salvador] has publicly placed the death toll at over 40,000 and has primarily blamed rightwing death squads. We agree that a large but unknowable percentage of the political violence in recent years has been carried out by rightwing civilian and military extremists."(1985).
"The phenomenon of rightist violence, while publicly denounced by the leaders of virtually all sectors of Salvadoran society, evokes mixed feelings among average citizens in private discussion. While some talk about 'death squads' only in hushed tones, others express detachment and even gallows humor over the disappearance or assassination of individuals. Occasionally, some will claim to have close friends on the right who allegedly engage in violence or who have personal knowledge of specific terrorist activities. Conversely, others choose to believe that rightwing terrorist groups do not exist." (1985).

Compare the above CIA report about El Salvador to the current situation in the United States. Republican leaders in Congress also do not believe right-wing terrorist groups exist, choosing to blame a non-existent "antifa" [anti-fascism] for the current ills of political violence. Gallows humor and worse has been on display with the January 6th calls by Trump insurrectionists to hang Vice President Mike Pence. Republicans like Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) have mused through social media postings about assassinating Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and President Joe Biden. A large sector of the Republican Party are also detached about the threat of right-wing violence.

"Important members of large [Salvadoran] agricultural, industrial, and commercial organizations are well-known right-wing zealots. US Embassy sources indicate, for example, that a number of wealthy Salvadoran expatriates living in Miami have lent both overt and covert financial and organizational support to paramilitary groups associated with the coffee exporter Orlando DeSola and others . . . A US Embassy informant with excellent access to rightwing groups has reported that some civilians are 'untouchable,' moreover, because of the power they wield through control of death squads." (1985).
"To eliminate challenges to its power, the extreme right traditionally has used civilian vigilante organizations, elements of the armed forces, and death squads led by ideologues and mercenaries." (1985). It is interesting that Columbia University graduate De Sola, one of many far-right Latin American expats in south Florida, told The New York Times in 1989 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt "
ruined the United States." Of course, such rhetoric among those who were fonder of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, such as Donald Trump and his father, have heaped only scorn on the U.S. president who helped vanquish fascism on a global scale. America does itself no benefit when individuals like De Solo; Steve Bannon's Chinese billionaire patron Guo Wengui, and Ted Cruz's Cuban-born father, Rafael Cruz, are given sanctuary in the United States to advance their fascist agendas. Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus" engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses." It says nothing about giving America any fascists, Nazis, or far-right provocateurs of the world.

"The Secret Anti-Communist Army (ESA), a rightwing terrorist group that past US Embassy reporting indicates has been ARENA's [
Nationalist Republican Alliance of El Salvador] primary instrument for clandestine operations over the past three years . . . [has stored] a large cache of dynamite, time fuses, and blasting caps . . . Rightist terrorist cells also use both active-duty and retired military personnel in their campaigns, according to an Embassy informant in the security forces." (1985).
"Past reporting from a variety of US Embassy sources has indicated that the National Guard, National Police, and Treasury Police have all harbored terrorist elements within their ranks." (1985).
"Some Christian Democratic Party members might react to increased violence by dropping out of public service or political activity altogether, thus leaving the field open to the conservative opposition." (1985).
(The above manifestation is currently witnessed in the United States, with several Republicans leaving Congress rather than face Trumpist primary challenges and a number of Democrats, as well as school board, county and municipal council, and other elected and appointed government officials quitting rather than face future violence directed at them and their families by the far-right).

El Salvador was identified by the CIA as a textbook case where right-wing vigilante and death squad activity posed a significant threat to political stability. Again, it was the CIA that was originally responsible for helping to create the situation in El Salvador and other countries, however, its intelligence reports are constructive in examining the current situation in the United States. The CIA concluded that several Salvadoran vigilante groups were ad hoc but some were permanent fixtures, including the Salvadoran Anti-Communist Command (CAS), Death Squadron (EM), Secret Anti-Communist Army (ESA), White Hand (MB), Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Anti-Communist Brigade (MHM), Salvation Movement of 28 March (MS-28), Organization for Liberation from Communism (OLC), and White Warriors Union (UGB). Just replace these organizations with the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Oath Keepers, Vanguard America, National Socialist Movement, Qanon, and others of the pro-Trump right, and it becomes clear that the United States has become the "new El Salvador."

Based on past fascist vigilante, death squad, and mercenary activity in Latin America and southern Africa, all of which was known by the CIA through informants and other counter-intelligence operations, it is past time for U.S. laws to be changed so that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the CIA, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency have the authorization to conduct surveillance against domestic right-wing organizations that seek to overthrow constitutional government in the United States. A domestic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court may be necessary to authorize domestic surveillance of the right-wing and alt-right. The targets for such surveillance and interdiction, at a minimum, should include the national and state Republican Party organizations, the Trump Organization, and the vast network of vigilante and death squad groups. We have seen the warning signs with Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017; the plot to attack the Michigan State Capitol and kidnap and execute Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020; and the January 6, 2021 attempt to assassinate several members of the U.S. Congress, along with the Vice President, to declare a second term for Trump.

Buried deep within the CIA's archives is a quote from Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, the Director of the Central Intelligence Group, the 1946 forerunner of the CIA: "We have no place in our country for vigilante activities." We must keep it that way.


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