On Monday, prosecutors in Liberty County, Georgia indicted five men for illegal gang activity including burglaries, thefts and car break-ins, alleging they were all part of a militia group calling itself FEAR, or, Forever Enduring, Always Ready. In August, prosecutors indicted three other men, including purported FEAR leader Isaac Aguigui, for the murder of a former member and his girlfriend last December, allegedly out of concern that the couple would reveal the group’s existence and its plans.
One of the accused in the murders, Army private Michael Burnett, 26, pleaded guilty to two charges of manslaughter in order to avoid the death penalty. Burnett testified at a court hearing in August that Aguigui, a private at Fort Stewart, Sergeant Anthony Peden and Private Christopher Salmon led former soldier Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Tiffany York, into a secluded woodland area near the Fort and shot them execution style. Roark had recently left the Army. Aguigui and his cohorts were concerned that he and York would expose their terrorist plots and FEAR’s existence at Fort Stewart, Burnett said.
He said that Aguigui introduced him to “the manuscript … a book about true patriots,” and said that FEAR wanted to “give the government back to the people.” According to prosecutor Isabel Pauley, Aguigui sought to recruit soldiers who were disillusioned or in trouble, showing them an article about a video game where soldiers take over the government and gauging their reaction before encouraging them to join. Aguigui called this process “the awakening.”
So far, ten people have been charged with crimes pertaining to FEAR, most of whom are either current or former soldiers at US Army Fort Stewart in southeastern Georgia. It appears that the militia group intended to take control of the fort itself, commit various acts of terrorism and ultimately overthrow the US government. There were plans to bomb a fountain in Savannah’s Forsyth park, bomb a damn in Washington state, poison that state’s crop of apples, car bomb various politicians and judicial figures in Georgia and vehicles of the Department of Homeland Security, and assassinate President Obama.
Prosecutors allege that FEAR leader Aguigui’s pregnant wife died last July under suspicious circumstances, leaving him the proceeds of a $500,000 life insurance policy. From this sum, Aguigui and others purchased $87,000 worth of military grade rifles and bomb components as well as land in Washington state intended to serve as a training camp.
In September of last year, a female family member of one FEAR member facing murder charges contacted police in Washington state about Aguigui’s purchase of 15 firearms, including semi-automatic rifles, at a store in Wenatchee while on military leave. The police contacted Army investigators at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, who confirmed the existence of an ongoing investigation into the death of Aguigui’s wife. Police also contacted FBI supervisory special agent Frank Harrill in Spokane, who may have interviewed Aguigui. He declined comment when contacted by the Associated Press.
Authorities in Elbert county in northern Georgia believe that one Adam Dearman, held since last December on charges of shooting and wounding a man, did so in connection with FEAR, and also coordinated some of the thefts other members committed.
Civilian authorities do not know how large the militia may be, and Army authorities at Fort Stewart, while confident that there are no unidentified members, will not comment further on the militia’s size.
The exact political makeup of FEAR is not yet known. Members reportedly have tattoos of anarchist symbols and, based on their purported targets, appear to be influenced by the right-wing, anti-government militia movement that began in the early 1990s. One of the defendants charged on Monday in relation to the December murder, 21-year-old former soldier Timothy Joiner, told the Associated Press by telephone that he was a “proud Republican.” He is charged with three home burglaries, nine car break-ins, and thefts of items including guns, cell phones, GPS devices, a bulletproof vest, a motorcycle helmet and a woman’s debit cards.
It appears that Aguigui served as a page at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Someone with his same name and likeness is in a Reuters photograph and caption of the event.
Revelations about the FEAR group, its activities and secret existence in and around the military are part of a broader phenomenon, an increasing symbiosis of right-wing extremist groups and the US military. For its part, the military permits and encourages fanaticism, consciously cultivating Christian fundamentalism in particular. US imperialism appreciates a soldiery and officer corps indoctrinated in antidemocratic principles who will carry out brutal attacks, including on civilian populations.
The August killing of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin was the work of a former military neo-fascist, Wade Page.
For their part, right-wing militia groups recruit within the armed forces and send members in to gain combat training.
A Reuters article in August highlights the intersection of the militia movement with the US military, referring to a 2008 report commissioned by the Justice Department, which found that half of all right-wing extremists in the United States had military experience.
Nonetheless, Fort Bragg spokesman Colonel Kevin Arata told Reuters, “We don’t really think this is a huge problem, at Bragg, and across the Army. “In my 26 years in the Army, I've never seen it,” he added.
Former Marine T.J. Leyden, a former member of the skinhead group Hammerskin Nation, told Reuters about the tolerant attitude he encountered in regards to his support for neo-Nazism from 1988 to 1991. Leyden wore a tattoo of SS lightening bolts above his collar. He kept a swastika emblem on his locker, removing it at the request of a superior only during inspections of the barracks by higher officials.
Leyden told Reuters, “I went into the Marine Corps for one specific reason: I would learn how to shoot. … I also learned how to use C-4 (explosives), blow things up. I took all my military skills and said I could use these to train other people.”
According to the Reuters article, right-wing groups who send members into the military are preparing for “rahowa,” or racial holy war.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks right-wing extremist and hate groups, the number of anti-government “patriot” groups rose from 824 in 2010 to 1,274 in 2011. Since the mid-2000s violent attacks by people affiliated with such right-wing groups has nearly doubled.
What stands out about FEAR is the advanced nature of their plans, their willingness to commit murder to protect these plans, and their secret existence within a US Army base. A 2009 report released by the Department of Homeland Security warned against the danger that right-wing extremist groups were both contemplating terror attacks and seeking recruits among US military veterans. Many Republican politicians vigorously attacked the report as targeting opponents of abortion, being anti-military, only underscoring the party’s intimate ties with these fascistic groups.
The Obama administration cowered before this attack, repudiating the report and dissolving the DHS team that had monitored so-called non-Muslim domestic terrorism. As the Washington Post reported in June of last year, “the department had not reported in depth on any domestic extremist groups since 2009.”