Monday, 28 March 2011

Iowa Drill Demonizing Gun-rights Supporters Canceled

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gunA school-shooting training drill in Iowa that featured hypothetical gunmen opposed to open borders and infringements on the right to keep and bear arms was canceled after causing a nationwide uproar among gun-rights supporters and border-security advocates.

Various departments from Pottawattamie county participated in formulating the exercise plan for Treynor High School, published on March 21, that drew nationwide attention and condemnation. But the controversial drill was canceled after the school claimed to have received threats.

Known as “Operation Closed Campus,” the hypothetical scenario described in the drill outline starts with some background: a note about illegal immigrants reading “If you won’t get rid of them, we will” was found in the school cafeteria - one of several similar notes found in recent months. Illegal immigrants, according to the scenario, had been coming to the area in droves, angering parts of the local population.

The mock shooting begins as two teenage students known to support the Second Amendment and strict immigration enforcement shout racial remarks at a group of minority students at school. According to the exercise plan, one of the students tells the minority group "that he is tired of them moving in and stealing jobs and money from Americans."

Then, one of the white students pulls out a gun and starts shooting as his partner in crime screams “the revolution begins.” The other white student pulls out a gun too as they both go on a rampage and target “anyone who is against their ill-perceived stand.”

The first suspect was described in the document as an 18-year-old “white male” who “has been seen with anti-immigration demonstrators” and whose father is rumored to be part of an “underground white supremacy group.” On top of that, his family “is known to be firearm enthusiasts, if not fanatics,” the document states.

The second suspect, also a “white male,” is described in the exercise plan as a quiet 17-year old who was often bullied. Apparently he wasn’t good at sports, either. But his older friend acts as a sort of mentor, teaching him to hate illegal immigrants.

The excuse for bringing politics into the exercise, according to drill director Doug Reed, was to obtain federal “Homeland Security” terror grants. A spokesman for the federal department, however, distanced himself from the hypothetical scenario in a statement to the Associated Press, saying the plan was developed by state or local authorities. State officials also distanced themselves from the document.

Before the drill could get off the ground, however, a barrage of bad publicity hammered the plan and those responsible for it. "A terrorism drill should not target tens of millions of Americans because of their popular political views in favor of gun rights and border security," said William Gheen, the president of Americans for Legal Immigration.

In a statement released online, Gheen said President Obama and Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano were responsible and that they were “targeting” Americans. "We need Congress to step in immediately to determine why the Executive Branch is writing scripts and putting out false information telegraphing armed conflict between government and American gun owners and border security advocates,” he said. “Whose side are they on anyway?"

The Minuteman Patriots also objected to the drill. "We are trying to get this stopped because all it is doing is building up prejudices by calling people white supremacists and stuff like that," national director Craig Halverson told the Des Moines Register. "We are mad at the government for ignoring illegal immigration, but nobody is going to run out there and start killing people in Iowa or anything like that.... We are God-fearing people who believe in the sovereignty of our country and the Constitution." Halverson also said he doubted whether threats were actually made against the school.

Countless other critics attacked the drill as well. Some groups, however, defended the hypothetical scenario as a good opportunity to train the estimated 300 people who were supposed to be involved from more than 40 agencies.

In a piece published by the Tucson Citizen, a group calling itself the Arizona Hispanic Republicans expressed disappointment that the exercise was canceled. “We don’t think this terror scenario is unrealistic as some Minutemen have proven to be domestic terrorists,” the group said, citing an alleged Minutemen member convicted of murder. “It is entirely plausible that the Iowa Minutemen have white supremacists among their ranks who are potentially violent and so we believe the terror drill is reasonable.”

Exercise boss Doug Reed said the fictitious scenario was not intended to intimidate Americans. In a follow-up memo, the man in charge of the exercise emphasized that the hypothetical scene was only created so the drill could be defined as related to domestic terrorism. He also noted that there would be no role playing or hate crimes during the training.

"There is no political party that was or is in charge of planning this exercise," Reed said in the memo, claiming the scenario had nothing to do with politics or immigration. "This exercise has nothing to do with intimidating or preventing any American citizen their rights or liberties.”

But after days of pressure, the scheme was finally canceled. County officials said in a joint statement that they had received threats “which we must consider viable.” Accordingly, they “jointly decided” to kill the exercise. The sheriff’s office is reportedly investigating.  

Local activists, however, also said authorities were probably lying about the alleged threats. "First of all I don’t believe that they had threats - if they did it’s a pretty sad situation that they’re going to have a drills against terrorism then they're going to let threats cancel them," Iowa Minutemen director Robert Ussery told Fox News. "But I believe they accomplished their political agenda by canceling it like this so now it puts in the mind of people the people who are opposed to illegal immigration are dangerous people."

Ussery said many people had written to Congress, the Iowa legislature, the Governor and county officials and that there was an “overwhelming amount” of disapproval. "But I really don't believe they had threats," he concluded.

This isn’t the first time the Department of Homeland Security and its various organs have attempted to paint Americans who support the God-given right to keep and bear arms as terrorists. In 2009, DHS released a report about “right-wing extremism” that attempted to define the views of most Americans, including veterans, as dangerous and extreme. Pro-life activists, Second Amendment supporters, opponents of illegal immigration and NAFTA, returning veterans, and even people upset about jobs migrating abroad were all included as suspicious.

It later emerged that the report was based on a few dubious and discredited — to put it mildly — leftist Internet websites. The revelations sparked an outcry and led to calls for Homeland Security boss Napolitano’s resignation.