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Wacky Warriors

St. Louis plays host to a strange and unusual national gathering


Ever wonder about those black helicopters hovering above the Arch?

Did it ever occur to you that the United Nations might be scheming to force despotic world rule on all the people of the earth?

Have you heard that global warming is a fiction concocted by an international conspiracy hellbent on destroying our way of life through environmental laws?

Would it come as a surprise that the Endangered Species Act is actually a thinly veiled plot to seize our private property?

Can you see I'm here to brainwash you?

You don't need to join the Missouri Militia to learn the answers to these questions and more. Just pack your fatigues and head over to the Airport Marriott, where the Freedom 21 National Conference is in session Thursday-Saturday.

The conclave's stated mission is "advancing the principles of freedom in the world, in Washington and at home." Two dozen speakers are on tap, most of them with résumés that make Rush Limbaugh look like a tree-hugger.

It turns out that "advancing the principles of freedom" is a euphemism for demanding U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, warring against wilderness preservation and conservation in the name of "property rights," and resisting acts of environmental terrorism such as the Clean Air Act. Most important, it's about connecting the dots to understand that these things are all part of a diabolical worldwide conspiracy perpetrated by Gaia-worshipping pagans such as Al Gore.

The conference is co-sponsored by six groups to the right of Darth Vader, including our own Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. Indeed, next to sponsors such as the American Policy Center and Sovereignty International (more on them in a bit), the ranting Eagle Forum may represent the liberal wing of the get-together.

Outwardly, the conference maintains a beguiling air of moderation. Featured speakers included U.S. Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and Wall Street Journal editorial-board member John Fund.

These people never sport M-16's publicly. The two congressmen aren't generally regarded as extremists in the House -- although Emerson did (quietly) garner the League of Conservation Voters' absolute-worst rating a couple of years back -- and Fund is a frequent guest on CNN's Crossfire and TalkBack Live, MSNBC, the Fox News Channel and the like.

Paul was actually the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988 -- albeit a Libertarian who rejected his own party's pro-choice platform -- and in 1996, he returned to Congress (where he had served from 1976-84) as a Republican. His voting is what you'd expect from an oxymoronic anti-choice Libertarian: unpredictable and a tad off the trolley but not especially conservative.

So what's so reactionary about all this? Isn't this just your basic assemblage of garden-variety patriotic conservatives?

Yes and no. Superficially, it's as Milquetoast as a George Will column. But take a closer look at the sponsors and some of the more colorful speakers, and it seems we're not playing with a political deck of 52.

Paul, it turns out, has earned his bona fides as keynote dinner speaker for what the program extols as "his efforts to prevent the United Nations' relentless march toward global governance." That would be his perennial effort in Congress calling for U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations.

That alone is only somewhat out there, but a closer look at some of the other sponsors and speakers fills out the picture more clearly. On one Web site after another -- and in a wide range of public speeches -- the participants leading "Freedom 21" foam at the mouth over "sinister forces of an omnipotent global elite."

Those are the words of Michael Coffman, founder and CEO of Sovereignty International and one of the more colorful featured speakers. This fellow's a piece of work.

At a dinner in Twin Falls, Idaho, last year, Coffman described a U.S. Forest Service effort to close a dirt road for the purpose of saving threatened bull trout in a nearby river as part of a decades-long effort to place the U.S. under the domination of a U.N. world government.

Sovereignty International doesn't limit its wild eyes to the sinister U.N. On its Web site, for example, is this: "Socialism in America is alive, well, and growing. Aided by such influential congressmen as John Conyers ... David Bonior ... Maxine Waters and nearly fifty Representatives, socialism is advancing in America behind the 'Progressive' label."

There's the American Policy Center and its president, Tom DeWeese, who also is a member of a movement called Project Exodus, committed to moving children out of public education across the nation. The center has published dozens of articles documenting the U.N. conspiracy to achieve world domination, noting in one: "The once bankrupt poison of tyranny is about to be repackaged and spread anew on an unsuspecting world in the guise of a 'Charter for Global Democracy.'"

As for global warming: "This nation is threatened by a cabal of science fascists who are determined to influence the President's decisions about issues that real science has already decided. The Earth is not warming. The liars say it is."

And, of course, those environmentalists, including such radicals as the Wilderness Society and the National Audubon Society: "The greens really seek to completely restructure American society into vast regions of wilderness, inaccessible to human activity."

On and on goes the delirium, which is fine in a free society. Someone has to look out for those black helicopters.

But if there's a problem with the extremists, it's that they may not be so extreme, after all, in the context of George W. Bush's America. Just this week, his administration went to war at the U.N. -- with friend and foe -- over the very notion of an international effort to slow the proliferation of small arms on the planet.

The weirdos visiting town are fine.

But why are Jo Ann Emerson and the Wall Street Journal hanging out with them?

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