Timothy McVeigh--the alleged Oklahoma City bomber--believed he was a soldier in a war against the United States government.
McVeigh's associates say the embittered veteran was already filled with rage when he made contact with the "Michigan Militia"--a far-right paramilitary unit that became the model for similar "militias" in at least 40 states.
Leaders of the militia movement believe the FBI and other federal law-enforcement agencies have been infiltrated by a global conspiracy centered in the United Nations. The conspiracy's plan: to establish a totalitarian "one-world government."
But it would be a mistake to dismiss the ideology of the Militia Movement as the paranoia of an isolated sect. The same conspiracy theories have been echoed by local chapters of the Christian Coalition--an influential lobby founded by TV evangelist Pat Robertson.
The ideology of the militia movement is a mix of doctrines inherited from older sects like the Aryan Nations Church and the American Nazi Party. The United Nations is planning to invade the United States, leaders of the militia movement say, and already has dispatched "black helicopters" to locate targets. American soldiers are training with U.N. forces for a nationwide strike against gun owners. Russian tanks and missiles have been deployed on U.S. soil. Citizens who resist will be interned in concentration camps.
Plotting to enslave American citizens
Like the leaders of the Militia Movement, Robertson believes a secret conspiracy is plotting to enslave American citizens.
But there is a critical difference between Robertson's ideology and the conspiracy theories that may have motivated the terrorist attack in Oklahoma City. Robertson's Christian Coalition opposes violence and Robertson himself repeatedly denounced the Oklahoma City bombing. Instead, Robertson and his followers are dedicated to a peaceful seizure of power by legal means.
Robertson says the real center of the conspiracy is "international Freemasonry"--a movement he believes is dominated by "satanists and occultists."
Freemasons were present at the birth of Communism, Robertson argues, but have also seized control of banks, corporations, liberal churches, public schools and the State Department. In his best-selling book, The New World Order, Robertson says the conspiracy's master plan is to establish "an occult-inspired world socialist dictatorship"--a "new world order based on the overthrow of civil governments, the church and private property."
"A single thread runs from the White House to the State Department to the Council on Foreign Relations to the Trilateral Commission to secret societies to extreme New Agers," Robertson writes. "There must be a new world order. It must eliminate national sovereignty. There must be world government, a world police force, world courts, world banking and currency, and a world elite in charge of it all."
The John Birch Society, in an endorsement printed on the book's back cover, says Robertson "shines light on the invisible hand shaping U.S. government policies."
Local Christian Coalition chapters less restrained
Unlike the Militia Movement, Robertson has never claimed the conspiracy has seized control of American law-enforcement agencies--although in The New World Order he speculates that the United Nations might order "young Americans serving in a United Nations army" to "fire on their own countrymen."
But local chapters of his Christian Coalition have been less restrained.
The Capital Christian News, a newsletter published by the Christian Coalition in Rensselaer County, N.Y., alleges that "Russian military equipment, including tanks and surface-to-air missiles," have been photographed "on our soil." Military bases will be converted into "detention centers," the newsletter says, and at the "10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum in New York" soldiers are training for "house-to-house searches."
Nancy Pellerin, the county's Christian Coalition director, says she believes the U.N. "is taking control of the American military."
Theories about U.N. "black helicopters" are circulating at meetings of the Christian Coalition chapter in Lake County, Ohio. The Rev. Jim Watkins, a United Church of Christ minister who attends Christian Coalition meetings as an observer, says that members of the chapter claim to have seen the mysterious helicopters in northeastern Ohio.