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the Body Politic
Vol. 05, No. 06 - June/July 1995, Page 6
Copyright © 1995, 1998 by the Body Politic Inc.

Militia Men: Herb Philbrick In Camouflage?

By Anne Bower and Valerie Finkelman
See the contents of this issue for other militia-related articles, and especially Militia Diary for a history of the militia movement.


Quotes from the organizing manual for the Free Militia movement:

"Resistance movements begin to form when dissatisfaction occurs among strongly motivated individuals who cannot further their cause by peaceful and legal means."

U.S. Army Field manual on Guerilla Warfare

"The last, and admittedly, most cruel battle will be fought by civilians. It will be conducted under the fear of deportation, of execution, and concentration camps."

Major H. von Dach, Swiss Army

"I promise to defend and observe the Constitutional liberties embodied in the Bill of Rights for all American citizens by example, persuasion, and force of arms if necessary."

Oath of Office for the Free Militia

After reading the organizing manual for the Free Militia movement, the first image that came to mind was from a 1950s television show, I Lead Three Lives. Richard Carlson starred as Herbert Philbrick, a nice family man who also happened to be a Communist (it was the 50s) and, in life number 3, an FBI informant. Of course, Mr. Philbrick (supposedly a real person) was the hero of the series.

Hero is not a word we would use to describe our modern day militia men. Disaffected, frustrated, dangerous, and varying degrees of paranoid, is a closer description of those organizing and joining today's militia. Longshoreman/philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote about similar individuals in his 1951 book, The True Believer, a sociological and psychological profile of those who join "mass movements".

Mr. Hoffer theorized, at the core of the True Believer you find frustration, which can take many forms. Hitler was in some ways a frustrated artist. (Randall Terry, a pretty good musician, is a frustrated rock star.) The militia appeals to men who believe for various reasons--gun laws, legal abortion, environmental regulations--they are losing their God-given rights and Constitutional Liberties. Membership in a militia offers validation for their fears and a way to believe they can fight back when the time comes for revolution.

It has been months since Planned Parenthood Federation gave graphic proof of the links between anti-abortion zealots and these anti-government organizers. The sight of Matt Trewhella exhorting listeners at the U.S. Taxpayer's meeting to form militias then buy assault rifles and ammunition for their children's Christmas presents sent a chill through the whole pro-choice community.

Even after the hideous explosion in Oklahoma, much of the public is bewildered by or ignorant of the militia movement. What are they and what do they want? The 100 page organizing manual for the Free Militia clearly sets down their principles, gripes, and structure. The manual is set up as a textbook with lessons highlighted and a quiz at the end of each chapter and further suggested reading assignments.

A prospective recruit is screened through the first half of the book, before he is allowed to see the second half which explains the militia organization and tells a recruit what he must have to join the organization. What follows is a review of this manual with many quotes from the "horse's mouth."

Because God Said To

The headline in the Texas newspaper said, Disgruntled Citizens Join 'Unorganized' Militias. A grassroots movement of citizen soldiers is sweeping the country. These self-proclaimed defenders of the Constitution feel they should stand ready.

They are fed up with what they perceive to be a constant assault on their "inalienable rights." Chief among them is the right to bear arms. Across the country, hundreds of citizens have gathered under the banner of the 'unorganized' militia, so-called to distinguish them from state national guards or other government-sanctioned units.

The 1994 Field Manual produced by the Free Militia states that, "before we can rightly consider arming and organizing ourselves as a militia, we must consider whether or not doing so is the right thing to do." It is immediately apparent from looking at the cover of this document that their justification comes from the Bible. According to the author of this manual, the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

"We must make sure that whatever we do in any department of life, including the use of force, conforms to the truth and moral principles of the bible."

For those Christians who think that the New Testament and the teachings of Christ mandate non-violence, the manual purports to show that Jesus was not a pacifist and would approve of the use of deadly force. After all, did he not drive the money changers out of the temple? And, when he returns to earth for the final judgment he will "use deadly force on a wide scale." When Jesus said, "turn the other cheek" he only meant that you did not have to use force for insults. "But he was not condemning self-defense when our very lives are threatened..."

From the principle of the "avenging Jesus", the author proceeds to the principles of "Just War". According to the Bible, people have a "right to life" because God gave it to them. It is wrong to murder because God said so. However,

"The right to life implies the right to self-defense. If we should not be murdered, then we are justified in preventing someone from killing us."

The appropriate time for the use of force comes under the Principles of Just War. Resisting tyranny is a common Biblical theme. The manual says high taxes do not warrant taking lives, but,

"... when leaders are responsible for murder, deny civil liberties, and generally impose a draconian regime upon the people, then we should disobey, resist and rise up to fight."

For those of you who feel you missed all that in America, remember Weaver, Waco, and White Water. Many militia members believe our government and elected officials are corrupt and it is the patriotic duty of citizens to rebel.

Patrick Henry Wannabes

American history is the other motif used in the manual to justify militia organizing. Patrick Henry's speech, urging armed conflict with England and ending with the powerful words, "Give me liberty, or give me death" is reprinted in its entirety in the manual. The author then draws parallels with today's situation including gun laws which seek to disarm the population, just as the British did 200 years ago.

"American patriots took up arms against the British and began the revolution only when--and precisely because-- the British attempted to disarm them."

One month after the Henry speech, hostilities broke out on April 19, 1775. The manual makes the point, if you are convinced that "the Federal Government is bent on systematic violations of your personal liberties, it is your moral duty and obligation to join with others to restore true liberty for all Americans."

The final part of this chapter explains why guns are not the problem in our society. The author complains about gun laws restricting firearms, but especially, assault weapons.

"So-called 'assault rifles' are not the weapon of choice among criminals. They are singled out for gun-control...because they threaten an unconstitutional government."

Prospective militia members are encouraged to read Alan Gottlieb, Gun Rights Fact Book, and The Rights of Gun Owners, plus Morgan Norval's Take My Gun If You Dare.

The Bill of Rights "Rules"

Continuing the practice of reprinting historical documents, the author includes the Bill of Rights. He offers three concepts to properly understand these amendments; Original Intent. The People, and Rights.

Original Intent

The author appears to be the strictest of strict constructionists. He? suggests we ignore any court rulings made under our Constitution and only concern ourselves with "the historical context of drafting and ratifying the Constitution." He laments

"Today, the Bill of Rights is being reinterpreted by political officials for the 'benefit' of the majority. But such interpretations are clearly contrary to the true meaning of the Bill of Rights."

Just as the Bible is the inerrant guide for all moral decisions, so must the Constitution be for all political decisions.

The People

The People refers to "individual citizens, not federal or state governments. The People have the right to free speech; the People have the right to keep and bear arms. "The Bill of Rights guarantees no rights to the federal government and in fact is intended as "a limitation of government." Violence is done to the original intent of The Bill of Rights when we "twist 'the people' to mean collective groups or state governments."


Rights come from one source, God. The manual says, Rights,

"... cannot be denied, legislated away, or amended into oblivion by any majority short of 100 percent."

God is greater than any government. He has given humans certain rights, such as the right to life. Even the Declaration of Independence affirms that. From this reasoning the author reaches the conclusion that,

We do not have majority rule. The whole constitution--with its system of checks and balances as well as the rights of the people--is designed to prevent personal liberties from being denied by a tyranny of the majority.

2nd Forever

The Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights comes in for special scrutiny. "A well regulated militia" does not refer to the regular army. It means an army "of the people, by the people." Citizens have the right not only to "keep" arms, but to "bear" them, consequently, any law that prevents you from carrying a gun is unconstitutional. Arms are defined as those useful to a militia member, not just those for hunting and target shooting. Whatever type of firearms that are the standard issue of the armed forces are weapons citizen militia members have the right to own.

"Select-fire assault rifles like the M-16 are the most constitutionally protected firearms precisely because they are standard infantry weapons."

The rights of gun ownership must also not be infringed. Infringed can be described as licensing, registration, taxation, or prohibition. The government has no right to register serial numbers on guns, ban certain guns for sale, or tax guns. (This increases the cost and is especially hard on the poor). "The $200 dollar transfer tax on automatic weapons is a good example of an illegal tax intended to restrict ownership"

One of the questions at the end of this section asks,

"How do you feel about 'assault rifles'? Is it your right to own one? Is it your duty to own one? Is it your desire to own one? Why or Why not? Which is wiser to own right now, a semi-automatic or select-fire rifle?"

Only the proper answer to these questions will take you to the next section.

The Reason to Arm and Organize:
Abortion, Etc.

In this manual, it is clear that liberty- loving citizens have their civil rights threatened in America today. When that happens, the author makes the case that the Bible and American history teach you to "possess firearms and join a militia." The list of "violated" civil rights is long, beginning with, The Right to Life.

"For a generation we have had legalized abortion which denies the right of the unborn child to live. While an individual's right to privacy cannot be restricted by the interests of the majority, they are restricted by other individual rights. The Declaration of Independence and Bible both imply that the right to life is superior to privacy."

Statements like this are what have drawn anti-abortion zealots like Matt Trewhella and Randall Terry, already preaching that God's laws are Higher Laws, to support the militia movement. The manual's author also decries the Clinton Health Plan, (since deceased) because it would provide "reproductive services" like abortion. The author then goes on to make the fantastic claim,

"This means we are approaching the situation in communist China where abortions are mandated by the state for all but the firstborn child."

Just to finish out the Right-to-Life laundry list of issues, the author adds that euthanasia will practically become mandatory if the Clinton Health Care Program passes. Other fears include: requiring state certification of private schools, teachers, and homeschool parents.

The Internal Revenue Service comes in for its share of approbation. Militia members believe income taxes are unconstitutional because the Constitution required all taxes to be apportioned among the states according to their population, not the people's incomes.

What about the 16th Amendment, we hear you ask? According to the author that is unconstitutional because, "...(it) WAS NOT ratified in the same language by three fourths of the United States as required by Article V of the Constitution..." For some unaccountable reason, the courts have refused to cast down the 16th Amendment. Other tax grievances include: Progressive Taxes, Excessive Taxes, and Hotel Taxes.

Restriction on property rights, especially zoning and environmental laws, plus the fact that States' Rights are routinely ignored are, in the author's opinion, enough ammunition to warrant a Call to Arms.

At this place in the manual, if the potential recruit has answered the questions satisfactorily, then he is ready to learn more about the Free Militia. The author concludes the first half of the manual by promoting the Swiss as role models for militia members because they are a "virtual armed camp of citizen soldiers prepared to fight to the last man for their freedom." Does the new recruit fit that mold?

Just What Is a Free Militia?

The definition of the Free Militia is, "a locally organized body of armed American citizens committed to defending their Constitutional liberties." However, it becomes obvious right away that being in the Free Militia is not going to be "free". The list of equipment is impressive. First, is an assault rifle. For this author, the "weapon of choice is a Ruger Mini-14." For those unable to find this little beauty, there are a list of other acceptable substitutes. Submachine guns are not recommended because "they are not particularly accurate on a battlefield and their calibers generally lack the punch of assault rifles..." Besides guns, the well-turned out soldier needs: magazines, 1000 rounds of full metal jacket ammunition, a pistol belt, and other equipment totaling over $1,535. What price liberty!

The author cautions care in how purchases are made--always in cash, never sign anything or give your name and address. And "don't dress for gun shows in camos and body armor." Secrecy is urged in many matters, including keeping your activities from you wife and family.

Members are warned to: keep a low profile, keep your mouth shut, be as decentralized as is possible, be as transient as possible, and protect all records and information.

Cells Are Us

Like many other subversive organizations throughout history, the militia is built around the cell structure. Each cell, usually composed of eight men, can be used to carry out military orders such as rural and urban defense and offense.

"Eight men make an effective house assault team. While four men give suppressive fire, the other four can advance on and enter a house or small building. Once inside, two men may enter and clear rooms while the other two provide security in the hallways or open areas."

Different cells perform different functions: Command, Support, Communique, and Combat.

A militia member knows those in his cell and the man who commands his commander, but no one else. The key to protection of the militia lies in the fact that an individual member knows little about the whole militia. No central records or lists are kept. Militia members are required to "obey any order pertaining to preparation for or conduct in actual combat, regardless of how you like or 'feel' about it."


In the anti-abortion movement, "Rescue" organizations used to portray themselves as mostly a group of grandmothers praying the rosary and saving babies lives. Then Michael Griffin and Paul Hill murdered two doctors and an escort and John Salvi assassinated two receptionists.

For the past few years, militias have been forming all over the United States. Militia members see themselves as liberty-loving citizens, who want to reclaim the republic from an unconstitutional government promoting a New World Order and the last line of defense against federal tyranny. Good citizens, all.

Before Oklahoma City, these disaffected men playing weekend soldier, might have been slightly comic. Now, no one is laughing and the nation is asking, "How dangerous are they?"

The answer comes back, paranoia can be a powerful fertilizer for violence.

[ Top of article | Contents of this issue | Other online articles ]
This archive is hosted by
Political Research Associates on its Public Eye website
The material posted here is not current