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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 12/9/21

Kyle Rittenhaus, the 'Trial,' and the formation of the U.S.S.A. (Orig.: 'Die Sturmabteilung')

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

Horst Wessel, an S.A. trooper who was killed in a street fight, became a Nazi hero: The .Horst Wessel Song..
Horst Wessel, an S.A. trooper who was killed in a street fight, became a Nazi hero: The .Horst Wessel Song..
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Like many other observers, when Kyle Rittenhouse went to trial, I assumed that it was highly likely that he would get off. There was the judge, Bruce Schroeder who was known to have a "God Bless the USA" ring-tone on his cell phone. Not that anyone could not have that ringtone, but in the U.S. culture it is most often associated with the Christian Right. Also, on one news show I heard that among randomly selected Black interviewees, Schroeder was considered the worst possible choice for a trial like this. Then there was the jury selection, done by the hired hand who did wonders for O.J. Simpson.

Then after the trial, I learned that Schroeder is an elected judge (party indeterminate). But what? You think that his donors (surely neither left-wing, nor Black, nor both) did not call him during the trial, so that such things as the appearing-to-be-random (ho, ho, ho) dropping of the gun charge against Rittenhouse --- the one on which he was clearly guilty (given his age if nothing else) would almost certainly occur? And then there was the "you can't use the word 'victim' " coming from the judge. Obviously not prejudiced nor given to making prejudicial statements (ho, ho, ho) (to say nothing of screaming at the prosecution, and not because he thought that they were doing a bad job).

But then, as the trial wound on, it indeed became clear that the prosecution was doing a terrible job (although not from Rittenhouse's perspective). Why? Because they didn't raise the most obvious way (to me at any rate) to attack the "self-defense" defense, to wit. A) Rittenhouse voluntarily placed himself in a dangerous situation. B) Forgetting about the "under-age-toting-a-gun" and the "transporting-a-certain-kind-of-weapon-across-state-lines" stuff, Rittenhouse had absolutely no legal standing or legal authority to do what he was doing: acting as "an armed guard" for some random business. C) there were plenty of police in the area, and D) if that weren't enough for the owner of the property, he/she could have hired authorized, licensed, of-age guards for his/her property, not relied on some unlicensed kid carrying a semiautomatic rifle, with no training/experience in guarding property while armed. Rittenhouse chose to put himself in danger.

By being there armed, with no authorization from any law-enforcement agency, Rittenhouse took the law into his own hands, in, as it happened, the context of an ample police presence. To repeat, he had, in terms of Federal law, an apparently illegal gun (we'll see what the Feds do with this, if anything), but no badge, no papers, no authorization from any law-enforcement agency. He had only self-determination to be where he was. I think that a strong legal argument could have been made that "self-defense" is not applicable if one voluntarily places oneself in a dangerous situation, in which firearms might be used (and again, he was carrying a firearm), without any authorization. But the prosecution did nothing of the kind (as far as I can tell).

My first reaction to the outcome was that despite the skin colors of the perpetrator and the victims, this was just another way-station on the long, long road of "mis-justice" in the United States for both Blacks (and other minorities) and Progressives. But then, within a day-or-two, seeing the response to Rittenhouse by Republicans, the Republo-fascist Party, and those even further to the Right (although that is now getting to be a very small space), to the acquittal, combined of course with the apparently Trump-organized mob-assault on U.S. bourgeois Constitutional democracy that occurred on Jan. 6, 2021, I believe that something rather different is now underway.

Rittenhouse is being hailed as a hero, someone who, for example, should receive a Congressional honor. Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a motion to do so. Who else --- well, Boebert, Gosar, and a whole bunch, actually --- could have introduced such a motion. It read in part: "award a Congressional Gold Medal to Kyle H. Rittenhouse, who protected the community of Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) riot on August 25, 2020." (Actually, there wasn't any organized "rioting," led by BLM or anyone else, but facts of course don't matter to such folk when a racist trope is readily at hand. And of course, there was a major police presence there, presumably prepared to act if such a thing had actually happened.)

As of the time of writing of the original version of this column, a permanent U.S. Right-wing civilian militia had not yet been formed. But there are clear indications going back to Charlottesville and before that, and now with the acquittal of a person such as Rittenhouse, it will be, especially as such an eventuality will receive the blessing of such Republicans as Greene and (guess who?) Trump, who entertained Rittenhouse at Mar-a-Lago.

There are a variety of historical precedents for such an organization. One of the most important is the German/Nazi "Sturmabteilung," the "Storm Division." During the post-World War One period in Germany of the Weimar Republic, following the defeat of the Prussian Empire in World War I, the Nazis and gradually enlarged this organized-but-unofficial army that supported the Party in the streets of Germany. In then, as is well-known, slowly blazed its way to power, in a politico-violent process that culminated in the passage by the German parliament, the Reichstag, of the "Enabling Act" on March 23, 1933, which established the Hitlerian dictatorship. Not coincidentally, when the vote on the Act was taken, the Reichstag auditorium was surrounded by S.A. troopers in full uniform.

The S.A. played a key role in the developments over the years that led to these outcomes, from battling and attempting to intimidate German trade unionists, to trashing the offices of anti-Nazi newspapers and threatening their staffs, to intimidating ordinary German citizens on the streets, to engaging in repeated pro-Nazi, often anti-Semitic, demonstrations, in uniform. Given what certain Republicans are saying about Rittenhouse (and, possibly more importantly, what virtually every other Republican is NOT saying about him, especially since he has received Trump's blessing), he could very easily become a role model for them. After all, the "Proud Boys" and etc. are already there. There is a name at-the-ready for them: the U.S.S.A., the "United States Sturm Abteilung." A variety if military and non-military Right-Wing Republicans would be more than ready to take over the leadership of such a group. (You could think of the names as well as I can.)


Post-script I: It is interesting to note what happened to the S.A. once the Hitlerian dictatorship was firmly established. A little over a year later, on June 30, 1934, on what came to be known as the "Night of the Long Knives," the leadership of the S.A., headed by one of Hitler's most loyal supporters, Ernst Roehm, was wiped out (along with many other non-Left Hitler opponents who had survived until that date). As the price of agreeing to fully come under the dictatorship, the German Army (which became the Wehrmacht) demanded that the independent "army" that was the S.A. be eliminated. And so it was. Turning on allies. Sound familiar?

Post-script II: As if to illustrate my point that we are seeing the early stages of the formation of a U.S. Sturmabteilung, on Dec. 4 there was a pro-Trump-lies march in Washington by uniformed men carrying non-lethal (so far) weapons. They call themselves the Patriot Front. They are literally descended from the group that murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. (On the color of the uniform, it's a pretty pale, actually yucky, blue. However, although these thugs probably didn't know it, the best blue shade for right-wing private armies was already taken, by the Franco-supporting Spanish Falange during the Spanish Civil War and afterward with the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union (when those poor Spaniards, who got chopped up, wore it into battle against the Red Army as the "Blue Division").

Post-script III: Again, after the original version of this column was published, it was announced that Gov. Mark DeSantis of Florida is in the process of creating --- get this --- a "civilian militia" that would be under his direct control. He said that this force would give him "the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible." One can only wonder what the color of the shirts will be.


Note: An earlier version of this column was published on, at: Click Here.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a ├ éČ┼"Trusted Author,├ éČ Ł he is a Senior (more...)
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