"I Am No Kidnapper"
James "Bo" Gritz is well known to Americans as the former Green Beret colonel who attempted to help the U.S. government negotiate the standoffs with right-wing militants at Ruby Ridge, Mont. in 1992 and the Freemen's compound in Jordan, Mont. this past summer. Earlier this month, Gritz and his son were arrested in Suffield on a variety of charges, including attempted kidnapping of two children involved in a custody suit. Gritz, who is scheduled to return to Connecticut for his arraignment in Enfield Superior Court on Oct. 29., has written a response to our cover story that we have printed in full below. A brief response by staff writer John Perritano follows.
We welcome the opportunity to allow Gritz to set the record straight in his own words. The Advocate, however, cannot vouch for the representations made in the letter, which has been lightly edited for length and context in concurrence with our regular letters policy.
The 17 October edition of the Hartford Advocate's "Conspiracy of Hate" was indeed just that, but devoid of fact. Since its release, outraged Americans have faxed and mailed me copies from all over the United States. It is unfortunate that the Advocate printed this extensive cover article without so much as a phone call to me. This was irresponsible and insupportable journalism, unless the purpose of the publication is to provide the public with fishwrap!
The article cast me as a militia-leading, government-hating, anti-Semitic racist supporter of the KKK and neo-Nazis -- all of which is a blatant lie! In accordance with U.S. Codes 10 and 32, which define the "unorganized" militia, as a regular U.S. Army officer on retainer with "hip-pocket" orders, I cannot be a member of any militia. I neither belong to, nor lead any such organization. Neither do I support fear of "black helicopters," UN or extraterrestrial invasions. I have steadfastly done everything in my power to dissuade anarchist militia activity and debunk people who advocate violence.
I certainly have no hatred for the government, having served since joining as a cadet in 1953 and entering the U.S. Armed Forces in 1957. Unlike many holders of high national office, I went when called by our government along with millions of loyal American men and women to do what others feared and fled from. I served our nation on the Army general staff as a commander of U.S. Special Forces in Latin America and a chief of congressional relations in the office of the Secretary of Defense. When asked by high level intelligence officials in 1979, I returned to Communist Asia in search of U.S. prisoners of war and those missing in action, as confirmed by a Classified Information Procedures Act hearing in 1989, adjudicated by federal Judge Phil Pro.
Four times since 1992 I have volunteered to help our government solve prolonged deadly sieges without further bloodshed. The Weaver family on Ruby Ridge is well known; Gordon Sellner was just sentenced to live in prison for the attempted murder of a law officer in Montana; I was denied access to Waco; the Montana Freemen are now awaiting trial.
I returned in 1987 from Burma's Golden Triangle with information on official involvement in illegal drug operations. I was told to "erase and forget" or I would "hurt the government." My oath of allegiance was to uphold the law, not protect a nest of bureaucratic pukes overdosing America, regardless of their high office or lofty intentions. When I refused to cooperate and presented the evidence before Congress, Department of Justice elements tried to put me in prison.
What the Advocate article should have said is: "Bo Gritz refused to be David Duke's running mate in 1988." I was invited by the Populist Party in 1988 to share my POW experiences. I accepted the paid invitation to speak. Following my talk, I was told they planned to run James Traficant [D-Ohio] as their presidential candidate. I knew and respected Traficant. They asked me to be his running mate. After lunching with Traficant, I consented. My name was instantly accepted by the delegates. It wasn't until the next day that they rejected Traficant in favor of David Duke, whom I did not know.
I immediately informed the leadership of my withdrawal, but was urged to first meet with Duke. Photos were taken and we spoke briefly. I found Duke to be a brash, untraveled, overly opinionated, bigoted young man and resigned as a non-member candidate. Duke was furnished with another running mate who appeared on the voting ballot with him.
In 1992, seeing an explosive federal debt and misguided foreign policy, I ran for president as an independent. I offered my name as a Populist with the clear understanding that it was under my platform. I have no knowledge of, or relationship with the miscreants mentioned in the Advocate article as supporters of my campaign. I failed to qualify in Georgia because I ordered my state manager, Pastor Alan Peacock, to dump 10,000 signatures when he informed me that the Klan was behind my campaign. I will not support anyone that I know to hate any class of Americans.
During the 1992 campaign, Identity Christians "spewed" me from their mouth when I refused to support a position of death to all homosexuals and stated in Los Angeles that, as president, I would enforce their rights under the law. I had previously been invited to be a voice for our POWs at his Christian rallies. I did not and would not share the platform with persons I knew to be anti-American.
Traveling to every state I observed that many people are distrustful of the government. Ruby Ridge in August 1992 fanned fears that federal police were acting like the Nazis. My son Micheil and daughter Melody are Amerasian. A soon-to-be daughter-in-law is from Colombia. I have a black God-child. I get along well with people of all colors, creeds and ethnic diversity throughout the world.
Failing the election, I thought my contribution might be to pass along my confidence and experience to concerned Americans, as I had in foreign lands. I have never run a paramilitary camp! My SPIKE (Specially Prepared Individuals for Key Events) program is specifically designed to allow trained Americans to be self-reliant and capable of assisting others and caring for themselves when 911 cannot. Hurricanes such as Andrew, Midwest floods, southern tornadoes, western earthquakes, eastern ice storms, riots and power failures are all evidence why people need to be prepared.
Linda Wiegand has never attended a SPIKE seminar. SPIKE training, conducted in 12 phases over a period of 42 months in 10 cities from Jacksonville to Portland, concluded this last June in Sacramento. Every phase focused on emergency medical skills from basic EMT (Phase 1) to pain control (Phase 12). Additionally, each phase incorporated subjects like alternative energy, self-defense for the young, elderly and disabled, rape prevention, hostage negotiation, personal security, counter-terrorist driving, mountain adventure operations, et al.
We taught 3,000 people how to safely handle a handgun, as well as control an aircraft under emergency conditions. Many Spikers are now "first responders" to 911 calls, present as security coordinators for the Republican Convention in San Diego, assisting in FEMA operations and helping in community operations as so-called "militia" organizations should be doing.
I am a member of the Jewish Defense League's San Francisco chapter. I believe the fate of America is linked to Israel. For that reason I am a longtime The Forward subscriber. I do not support Israel's trade of land for paper promises. I do believe that Armageddon will take place on a 200-mile battlefield not far from Jerusalem. I have no idea of the exact time, but current events point to a possible confrontation between Israel and her enemies in the years to come.
I have formed a Constitutional Covenant Community in central Idaho where the great Nez Perce Chief Joseph said: "From where the sun stands now, I will fight no more forever." It is open to any and every American. Kamiah, Idaho is the only location from Maine to Miami, San Diego to Seattle, devoid of weather extremes, social upheaval, economic problems, military targeting, environmental ills from nuclear power, natural disasters etc., while offering moderate climate, rich soil, pure water, beautiful scenery, small government and other desirable qualities.
Unfortunately, the Advocate is right. For reasons I don't understand, Linda Wiegand's story would not be nationwide had I not been arrested. Every attorney, doctor and official I spoke to in trying to disprove her charges of sexual child abuse only affirmed what her documents state. After taking Linda to a eminent local attorney, I decided the only acceptable course of action was to elevate the issue in the national news to a point where Linda and her sons might get fair consideration in the Connecticut courts.
I planned to challenge the Suffield Police handling of Linda's case, it was not at the place, time and circumstance of our arrest. I was not aware of where either boy goes to school. Having looked at a map we were not at Jon's middle school but at the high school. The 1955 Chevrolet was on that same road, just further down than we had ventured before turning back. There was no cause for the officers to stop us. The weapon is a legal pocket knife. There was no photo of the children between us, or a school schedule. There were two boxes, one was sealed and the other full of knitting yarn.
Unless the Suffield Police are perennial liars, they will confirm this. My son and I were leaving that day, the radios were rentals we used at a parachute event and didn't want to leave them unattended in the motel. The small lock pick kit is mine. I am a certified lockmaster; I have written three manuals on vocational locksmithing and maintain current accounts with major locksmith suppliers.
I intend to file a false arrest suit. I will continue doing all I can until Linda Wiegand has her custody case properly heard in the courts. I am not a kidnapper! We have representation and will be found innocent. In my opinion the Advocate maligned a mom frightened for her two young sons. So many authorities can't all be wrong about their written opinions of abuse. While the problem is nationwide, I pray the same never happens to any of you. Too bad Hartford doesn't have Brussels's public interest in child rights and police bungling.
John Perritano replies: It is true that Bo Gritz articulates the views of a relatively small number of Americans who are convinced the U.S. government is not to be trusted. According to David H. Bennett, a history professor at Syracuse University, Gritz is the best known of the leaders of the Christian Patriot movement. Bennett, in his book The Party of Fear (University of North Carolina Press, 1988, updated 1995) says, as do other sources, that Gritz was on the Populist ticket with David Duke in 1988, but quickly dropped out of the race. Bennett writes that Gritz later disavow links to Duke and others saying "anyone who is a racist, anyone who is a bigot...I don't want their support."
Yet the Christian patriot movement, according to Bennett, "fold their racist views into discussions of constitutional rights...there is a subject of bigotry in much of what they say and do." While Gritz denies being a bigot--a denial that we fully acknowledged on page 13--his mere association with the movement has casts a dubious shadow over Gritz in the minds of many. Gritz has, to his credit, consistently tried to distance himself from people like Duke.
Bo Gritz's name appears prominently in much of the literature of the Christian patriot movement and therefore, unfortunately, its unsavory elements. "He has a magnetic personality and is a charismatic figure for many people," Bennett told us in an interview. "He does have a dark underbelly." We were unable to speak with Gritz for our cover story, despite contacting his Hartford attorney, Jon Schoenhorn, a half-dozen times with requests for an interview.
Copyright ©1996 New Mass. Media, Inc. All rights reserved.