New Book Examines Northwest Militia Movements

PULLMAN, Wash. — Militias, Freemen, Aryan Nations, Wise-Use Movement, Christian
Identity, Common Law Courts, Posse Comitatus, Phineas Priests — They go by many different
names but all are part of a national network of like-minded adherents that calls itself the “Patriot”
movement. David Neiwert’s “In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific
Northwest,” available now from Washington State University Press, weaves the various Patriot
beliefs and actions into a coherent picture.
This grass-roots belief system claims the United States is in the throes of a “New World
Order” conspiracy, designed to enslave mankind. The country can only be rescued by asserting
a return to Biblical law and what their leaders call “constitutional principles.”
Through face-to-face interviews, on-the-scene reporting and historical research, Neiwert
examines the Patriot phenomenon by fully exploring the Pacific Northwest’s singular experience
with the movement.
Patriots manifest their beliefs in a variety of ways. Some confrontations end peacefully, as
did the Freemen siege in Montana in 1996. Sometimes there are fatalities, such as at Ruby Ridge,
Idaho, prior to Randy Weaver’s surrender. Occasionally unimaginable violence erupts, as befell
the Oklahoma City federal building.
Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana cradle many of the movement’s most important
players and provide fertile ground for much of its growth, beginning with the arrival of the racist
Christian Identity religion in the form of the Aryan Nations in north Idaho in 1976 and continuing
with the appearance of the Posse Comitatus during the farm crisis scene of the 1980s.
Throughout this period the conspiratorial theories that form the movement’s bedrock beliefs
have multiplied.
The socioeconomic alienation that afflicts much of today’s rural population creates a special
opening for the oft-disguised Patriot agenda. The Freemen of eastern Montana typified the
movement and its explosive spread in the 1990s, particularly in how the homegrown rebellion
attracted believers whose actions spun wildly out of control. Neiwert explores the Freemen’s
saga in detail. He uses their 81-day armed standoff with the FBI as a focal point for delineating
the other Patriot figures and groups who circled around them. These include the Militia of
Montana, Col. James “Bo” Gritz, tax protestors, Constitutionalists, the Washington State Militia,
and a chilling group of would-be enforcers of “Biblical law” calling themselves the Phineas
“In God’s Country” also describes the people who stand up to the Patriots in their
communities: average citizens, local officials, church leaders and even family members.
Neiwert believes the best hope for confronting the Patriots is by honestly addressing the
movement’s root causes. The author maintains that the Patriot movement especially appeals to
blue-collar workers, farmers and ranchers in rural America who struggle to survive in an
increasingly urban-oriented economy that seems only too willing to leave them politically
disenfranchised and economically destitute. As the book makes clear, the spread of
anti-government organizations is an important warning sign that all is not well in the American
As a journalist, David Neiwert has been involved with coverage of the Patriot movement
since 1994. He began working on “In God’s Country” in 1996, after the bombing in Oklahoma City
impelled him to report on the movement’s origins in the Northwest. He may be reached at
“In God’s Country,” 384 pages, is available in the U.S. in paperback for $19.95 at bookstores
or directly from WSU Press at 800/354-7360. In Alaska and Canada call