Including a Discussion of Possible Connections Between Militant Islamic Fundamentalists and the U.S. Extreme Right

There is no hard evidence linking domestic U.S. right-wing groups to either the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01;  the mailing of real anthrax letters, or other acts of domestic terrorism. For example, the list of potential suspects in the real anthrax mailing cases is long, and the evidence is missing.  Claims about a connection between the Oklahoma City bombing and Middle East terrorists are based on dubious speculation. Some U.S. Extreme Right groups praised the 9/11 attacks along with some militant Islamic fundamentalists. Most Muslims around the world denounced the attacks.

In considering potential suspects for terrorism, however, possible connections between the U.S. extreme right and certain elements of militant Islamic fundamentalism cannot be dismissed. There is also a possible connection between these sectors and some Black Nationalists, the Third Position, and Antisemitism. Racial nationalism is a core building block of fascism. Most Black nationalists do not ascribe to the Third Position tendency. The matter of mental illness also needs to be considered.

If right-wing domestic groups are shown to be involved in the live anthrax letters, it may well be rank opportunism based on one of the first two ideological affinities with the terrorists. The intriguing ideological link of Third Position ethnonationalism deserves special scrutiny because it explains one reason why U.S. and European  Extreme Right White supremacist activists have already forged an alliance with Islamic supremacists or Arab supremacists that goes back over two decades.

A Tactical Alliance Around Common Enemies

The Extreme Right in the U.S. includes White Supremacists, militant antisemites, neofascists, neonazis and an assortment of hate groups. Activists in the Extreme Right have been involved in numerous violent incidents over the last 30 years; however, most have involved guns or bombs.

The U.S. Extreme Right shares three ideological affinities with some Islamic clerical fascist movements such as the Taliban and the al Qaeda networks, and some Black nationalist groups:

  • A hatred of Jews who are seen in the traditional antisemitic caricature of running the world through secret conspiracies.
  • A hatred of the U.S. government, seen as not just a global bully but also controlled by Jews. U.S. neonazis sometimes refer the administration in Washington, D.C. as the Zionist Occupational Government--ZOG.
  • A desire to overthrow existing governments and replace then with monocultural nation states built around the idea of supremacist racial nationalism or supremacist religious nationalism or both mixed together. This ethnonationalist philosophy is sometimes called the "Third Position."
  • U.S. White Supremacist Groups and Militant Islamic Fundamentalists

    11.15.01 NPR senior correspondent Howard Berkes:

    "Some investigators and researchers believe Osama bin Laden might still be getting help from within the United States. They suggest that help might not be coming solely from people with extreme views about Islam. It could also be coming from white supremacy groups." Hear the story using Real Player -- from Thursday's All Things Considered.

    According to an article in the Washington Post:

    A remote possibility is a collaborative effort. U.S. monitoring groups cite increased contacts between Middle Eastern radicals and some Americans on the far right. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center protested a planned meeting this year in Beirut between neo-Nazis and members of militant Islamic organizations. The gathering was shifted to Jordan, he said, and later canceled.

    "It's a long, long way from rubbing elbows and giving hateful speeches to acting out or inspiring others to act out," Cooper said. "But those connections are there."1

    In a Financial Times online article "Far-right has ties with Islamic extreme," by Hugh Williamson and Philipp Jaklin, Berlin, November 8 2001:
    Ahmed Huber, a 74-year-old Swiss businessman and former journalist who converted to Islam in the 1960s, is a board member of Nada Management, a financial services and consultancy company which is part of the international Al Taqwa group. The US says this group has long acted as financial advisers to al-Qaeda.

    Mr Huber, who is based in Bern, is known in Switzerland and Germany as an Islamic fundamentalist who attempts to forge links to far-right and neo-Nazi movements.

    A spokesman for Germany's office for the protection of the constitution, the internal intelligence agency, said on Thursday that Mr Huber "sees himself as a mediator between Islam and right-wing groups". He also belongs to the revisionist movement, which believes the Holocaust did not take place, the spokesman said.

    Klaus Beier, spokesman for the NPD, one of Germany's main far-right political parties, said Mr Huber has often addressed NPD events.

    What is the Third Position?

    Today there is a new form of fascism, a neofascism, called the Third Position, which seeks to overthrow existing governments and replace them with monocultural nation states built around the idea of supremacist racial nationalism and/or supremacist religious nationalism. Third Position neofascists have organized in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, and they maintain some kind of loose network, at least for the purposes of discussing their shared ideas and agenda, but in some cases involving meetings and even funding.

    For instance Libyan president of Mu'ammar Qadhafi has sponsored several international conferences in Libya promoting his special variation of racial nationalism and cultivating ideas congruent with Third Position ideology. Qadhafi has also offered funds to racial nationalist groups active in the U.S. and Canada.2 During the Gulf War, according to the Searchlight magazine, "Neo-nazis is several European countries have been queuing up to shoulder arms for Saddam Hussein's murderous Iraqi Regime."3 One organizer for this attempted neonazi brigade, claimed he had over 500 volunteers from "several countries, including Germany, the USA, the Netherlands, Austria and France."4 Revealing the Third Position motif, a racial nationalist journal, Nation und Europa, promoted the slogans "Arabia for the Arabs," and "the whole of Germany for the Germans."5 In Britain, some neofascists praised the regimes in Libya and Iran as allies in the fight against communism, capitalism, and Israel.6

    The Third Position has a more intellectual aristocratic ally called the European New Right (Nouvelle Droit) which is different from the U.S. New Right.7 Intellectual leaders of the European New Right, such as Alain de Benoist, are hailed as profound thinkers in U.S. reactionary publications such as the Rockford Institute's Chronicles. The more overtly neo-Nazi segment of the Third Position has intellectual links to the Strasserite wing of German national socialism, and is critical of Hitler's brand of Nazism for having betrayed the working class. See magazines such as Scorpion or Third Way published in England. Third Position groups believe in a racially-homogeneous decentralized tribal form of nationalism, and claim to have evolved an ideology "beyond communism and capitalism."

    White supremacist leader Tom Metzger promotes Third Position politics in his newspaper WAR which stands for White Aryan Resistance. In Europe, the Third Position defines its racial-nationalist theories in publications such as Third Way and The Scorpion. Third Position adherents actively seek to recruit from the left. One such group is the American Front in Portland, Oregon, which ran a phone hotline that in late November, 1991 featured an attack on critics of left/right coalitions. Some Third Position themes have surfaced in the ecology movement and other movements championed by progressives.8

    While the Third Position is an obscure ideology, there have been published reports that have reported on it. An excellent discussion of the emergence of the Third Position and the revivial of a national socialist/Strasserite version of intrernational fascism can be found in Kevin Coogan's 1999 book, Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International and in Martin A. Lee's  1997 book, The Beast Reawakens. The convergence among racial nationalists in North America and Western and Eastern Europe is discussed at length in Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Bjørgo, eds., Nation and Race, and Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg, The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right.9 There is a theoretical discussion of the European Third Position and racially separate nation-states by Robert Antonio in "After Postmodernism: Reactionary Tribalism.10 The anti-U.S. aspect of the Third Position is examined in "´Neither Left Nor Right´" in the Southern Poverty Law Center magazine, Intelligence Report.11

    I argue elsewhere that a good case can be made that the religious ideology of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban is a form of clerical fascism or some close hybrid. It certainly is a form of religious nationalism. This could help explain the potential for links between Islamic religious supremacists and U.S. White racial supremacists. The White racial supremacists we are discussing are part of the U.S. Extreme Right, not the Patriot or armed militia movements or the Christian Right. This is purely a speculative exercise, however, based on ideological affinities. A similar argument that places the Islamic supremacists in the context of apocalyptic revolutionary millenarianism makes the same point, since most U.S. neofascists can be placed in the same category. See: The `Religion' of Usamah bin Ladin: Terror As the Hand of God, by Jean E. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., UCLA Center for the Study of Religion.

    In Right-Wing Populism in America Matthew N. Lyons and I discussed the Third Position:  To varying degrees, some neofascists also shifted away from traditional fascism's highly centralized approach to political power and toward plans to fragment and subdivide political authority. Many neonazis called for creation of an independent White homeland in the Pacific Northwest, based on the ethnic partitioning of the United States. Posse Comitatus, mostly active in rural areas, repudiated all government authority above the county level. And in the 1990s neonazi leader Louis Beam promoted the influential doctrine of "leaderless resistance." While such decentralist policies may seem incompatible with full-blown fascism, we see them partly as defensive adaptations and partly as expressions of a new social totalitarianism. Industrial-era totalitarianism relied on the nation-state; in the era of outsourcing, deregulation, and global mobility, social totalitarianism looked to local authorities, private bodies (such as churches), and direct mass activism to enforce repressive control.

    In the 1970s and 1980s these efforts to reinterpret fascism were not confined to the United States, but took place among neofascists in many industrialized capitalist countries. European, Canadian, and South African neofascists, too, at times advanced the doctrine known as the Third Position, strengthened internationalist ties, used coded racial appeals, advocated ethnic separatism and the breakup of nation-states, and practiced solidarity with right-wing nationalists of color.12

    = = =


    The Third Position-which rejects both capitalism and communism-traces its roots to the most "radical" anticapitalist wing of Hitler's Nazi Party. In the 1970s and 1980s, neonazis in several European countries advocated the Third Position.13 Its leading proponent in the United States was White Aryan Resistance, headed by former California Klan leader Tom Metzger. Metzger, who was a Democratic candidate for Congress in 1980, expounded his philosophy at the 1987 Aryan Nations Congress:  

    "WAR is dedicated to the White working people, the farmers, the White poor. . . . This is a working class movement. . . . Our problem is with monopoly capitalism. The Jews first went with Capitalism and then created their Marxist game. You go for the throat of the Capitalist. You must go for the throat of the corporates. You take the game away from the left. It's our game! We're not going to fight your whore wars no more! We've got one war, that is right here, the same war the SA fought in Germany, right here; in the streets of America."14
    Metzger's organization vividly illustrated fascism's tendency to appropriate elements of leftist politics in distorted form. WAR supported "white working-class" militancy such as the lengthy "P-9" labor union strike against Hormel in Minnesota, stressed environmentalism, and opposed U.S. military intervention in Central America and the Persian Gulf. The Aryan Women's League, affiliated with WAR, claimed that Jews invented male supremacy and called for "Women's Power as well as White Power."15 Metzger's television program, "Race and Reason," was broadcast on cable TV in dozens of cities and aided cooperation among White supremacist groups. Through its Aryan Youth Movement wing, WAR was particularly successful in the 1980s in recruiting racist skinheads, who include thousands of young people clustered in scores of violent pro-Nazi formations. (Not all skinheads are racist and there are antiracist and antifascist skinhead groups.) Metzger and WAR's position in the neonazi movement was weakened in October 1990 when they were fined $12.5 million in a civil suit for inciting three Portland skinheads who murdered Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw.16

    Out of the stew of the Third Position, and the European New Right theories of intellectuals such as Alain de Benoist, came a new version of White Nationalism that championed racially separate nation-states.17 In the United States this filtered down to White supremacists, who began to call themselves White Separatists.18 Dobratz and Shanks-Meile believe that "most, if not all, whites in this movement feel they are superior to blacks."19 Instead of segregation, however, White Separatism called for "geographic separation of the world's races" and in the United States this prompted calls for an Aryan Homeland in the Pacific Northwest.20   [Excerpt: Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, Chapter 13, pp. 265-286.]

    Connections between Canadian Extreme Right racial nationalists and Libya have been reported by author Warren Kinsella.

    "The Libyan government of Mu'ammar Qadhafi had been funding [Canadian nationalist Party Leader Don] Andrew's group since at least April 1987, when a number of his members traveled to Tripoli for a "peace conference" to commemorate a U.S. bombing raid. Qadhafi liked the white supremacists because, like him, they believed in separate racial states and they despised Jews."21

    "Andrews worked closely with Wolfgang Droege, a leader of the Canadian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who visited the U.S. to meet with members of the extreme right including David Duke.22 Droege was arrested in Louisiana in 1981 with nine other extreme right activists in a plot to overthrow the government of the island of Dominica and establish a White homeland.23

    "In September 1989, at Andrew's suggestion, Droege traveled to Libya with a group of 17 [Canadian] Nationalist Party members." 24

    The pan-Arab Ba'ath party is rooted in racial nationalism, not religious nationalism. Ba'ath is the political ideology behind the regimes in Libya and Iraq. Islamic clerical fascists, on the other hand, are religious nationalists. This might seem to be a barrier to cooperation, but in fact, many U.S. White supremacists also practice a racial nationalist religion called Christian Identity. There is clearly a fluidity between political and religious ideologies based on ethnonationalist desires. Since the idea is to smash all current nations and redivide the world into separate nation states based on race or religion, there is a shared goal.

    Antisemitic Conspiracism & Black Nationalism

    Antisemitism is another link among Third Position ethnonationalists. Tom Metzger's White Aryan Resistance forged active ties with Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, as did the network of maverick fascist Lyndon LaRouche.25 At the same time, Qadhafi forged a relationship with the Nation of Islam. Qadhafi also tried to organize a coalition among U.S. Black nationalist groups into the Afrikan Anti-Zionist Front, first announced on June 11, 1990 at an initial meeting held in Tripoli, Libya. In all of these relationships the central theme for coalition building was a hatred of Jews and the spreading of antisemitic conspiracy theories.

    For more on this, see: Black Nationalists, the Third Position, and Antisemitism

    There are several more militant Islamic Black nationalist groups in the U.S., such as al Fuqra.

    See articles by the ultraconservative National Review and ADL.

    Right Woos Left

    From the study Right Woos Left:

    Right-wing racial nationalists and antisemites have attempted to spread their conspiracist message to the political left by stressing the anticapitalist aspects of the Third Position. For the most part this has failed, but it is worth briefly exploring. This section is adapted from Chapter 16 of Right-Wing Populism in America:   One popular author bringing right-wing antisemitism into left and alternative subcultures was David Icke.26 A former soccer player and sports commentator, Icke was removed as spokesperson of the Green Party in Britain for antisemitic conspiracism in his book The Robot's Rebellion.27

    Critics of conspiracism quickly emerged in a number of progressive alternative movements.28 In the social ecology newsletter Green Perspectives, Janet Biehl warned that "antistatism has been adopted by a movement of insurgent hate," and that made it even more important for leftists to understand that they have "nothing to learn from paranoid racists, no matter how psychedelic their conspiracies may be."29 As one report from a progressive watchdog group argued, "There is a vast gulf between the simplistic yet dangerous rhetoric of elite cabals, Jewish conspiracies and the omnipotence of ´international finance´ and a thoughtful analysis of the deep divisions and inequities in our society."30

    Click here for the full report: Right Woos Left

    Left-Right Coalitions and Antiglobalism

    From Right-Wing Populism in America:

    A handful of right-wing activists, including some Third Position neonazis and fans of David Icke, took part in the large and dramatic Seattle protests against globalization in early December 1999.31 As a result, the Southern Poverty Law Center used the Seattle protests to anchor a report titled "Neither Left Nor Right: The Spreading Battle against the Forces of Economic Globalism Is Shaping the Extremism of the New Millennium."32 The report contained a detailed discussion of the rise of Third Position fascist movements and their call for Left/Right unity to smash capitalism. But since the report relied heavily on centrist/extremist analysis, it was read by some as implying that fascist forces played a major role in Seattle, which was false. In addition, the report appears to have played a role in law enforcement circles where countersubversive hard-liners lumped "extremists" of the Right and the Left together. They falsely asserted that antiglobalist protests were a cover for neonazis and anarchists to engage in terrorism.33 When the Washington, DC, protests against the World Bank were staged in mid-April 2000, police engaged in a number of repressive preemptive maneuvers and there were numerous reports of excessive use of force.34   [Excerpt: Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, Chapter 16, pp. 341-342.] 

    What About Mental Illness?

     The combination of apocalyptic thinking and demonization of opponents can lead some people to see violence as a legitimate moral choice.  Not all mentally ill people turn to violence, and some violence is carried out by people not mentally ill.

    It is possible that some people who are suffering from some forms of mental illness become caught up in political or religious subcultures where apocalyptic thinking and demonization are commonplace. They then lack the psychological restraints that keep other similarly situated people from acting out on their beliefs in a violent manner.

    At the same time, relatively sane people in political or religious subcultures where apocalyptic thinking and demonization are commonplace can become so angry and frustrated that the barriers to violence are simply breeched by arguments that the violence prevents a greater moral harm.

    We can see examples of both types of dynamics in anti-abortion violence and violence against Blacks, Jews, Asians, and government workers by persons in various race hate movements.

    For example, in the case of John C. Salvi III, who shot abortion providers in the Boston.  Salvi came out of an apocalyptic Catholic Right subculture. Salvi was someone who was arguably mentally ill, but who picked his targets based on a recognizable political/theological outlook. The same may be true with Buford Furrow, Jr. who shot up a Jewish day care center in California, then killed a Filipino-American postal worker. Furrow came out of an apocalyptic neonazi subculture that demonized Jews, people of color, and the government. The political/theological outlook sets the stage, but it is the mental illness that writes the script where someone pulls the trigger or commits other acts of violence.

    Salvi’s psychological condition was not demonstrated by his claims about a banking conspiracy, which were commonplace in the Catholic apocalyptic Right, but at the same time his choice of targets was not random.  Certainly a person like Salvi did not represent the mainstream of Catholicism, the antiabortion movement, or the U.S. political Right, but he expressed the views of a durable subculture with conspiracist views that consciously resorts to scapegoating.

    This dynamic of rhetoric triggering violence functions more easily among some who are mentally ill. But those who are scapegoated can be injured or killed by people—whatever their mental state—who act out their conspiracist beliefs in a zealous manner. The failure of political and religious leaders to take strong public stands against groups and individuals that demagogically spread conspiracist scapegoating theories encourages this dangerous dynamic.

    When someone engages in terrorism it is not fair to automatically blame the entire political or religious subculture in which they are embedded. At the same time, it is naive to ignore the possible influence of demonization, scapegoating, and conspiracism on persons who choose to engage in violence.



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