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The fax is signed, "James P. Wickstrom, former director of Counter-Intelligence of Posse Comitatus of the U.S., former Constitution Party U.S. Senate and Gov. candidate of Wisconsin, former VFW Post-Commander in Wisconsin."
Burgess believes the federal government blew up its own building in Oklahoma City and killed all those people, like the Nazis who torched the Reichstag building in Germany, to precipitate a crisis that would justify the government going after the militia movement.
Instead of dismissing Burgess out of hand, I decided to punch through the allegations in her inflammatory "Intelligence Survey."
The available evidence says Burgess and the survey are 100 percent, 180 degrees wrong. But being wrong--even extraordinarily, crazily wrong--ought not make you a state enemy.
Cheryl Burgess is a middle-aged redhead whose titian locks are sometimes so frizzy you think she's been up all night dwelling on things.
And she has.
"Paranoia is the cutting edge of the realization that all things are connected," she tells me, snapping her cigarettes back into their leather pouch.
While some have followed the path of the Tao, Cheryl Burgess has been seat-belted on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Her life has been contentious.
Her current obsession with the Constitution is just that, the current obsession. Before the militia period, there was the narcotics period.
"Drugs are wrong, I am very much against drugs. But I was very naive in those days," says Burgess, explaining how in 1983 she had come to be married to a man who was a drug dealer.
"For a year, I didn't even know he was doing drugs. All I knew was I couldn't understand his mood swings.
"He chased me with cars, and he chased me with guns. One time, he sat on top of me and put a gun in my mouth."
Burgess quit the marriage after two years and in 1985 went to work as a volunteer informant with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Everyone I knew then was involved with drugs, especially meth and coke."
In 1987, weary of undercover work, she tried to quit the life. Old patterns, however, are hard to break. About the same time, she bumped into an old friend, Jim Seagoe.
"Jimmy was heavily involved in drugs, but he wanted to get out and start over. He was murdered three months after we moved to Idaho."
She returned to the one thing she knew, building cases as a drug snitch, this time on behalf of the U.S. Marshal's Office.
Her first husband popped up again in 1990 in Idaho, claiming to have cancer and the need to spend his remaining days with the woman he loved. She believed him.
"It was good for a while there, and then he tried to kill me," recalls Burgess. She swore out assault charges on her husband, who responded by disappearing with her truck.
In 1992, she returned to her hometown, Wickenburg, and in the midst of a recall ran for the town council on the reform ticket and won.
Your mind does not need the all-terrain capacity of a Humvee to travel from the paranoia of sleazy drug dealers to the paranoia of one-world government. For Burgess, the journey is a short one.
Burgess understands that people may find her views outrageous, if not downright crazy. But she is not dismayed by what others think of her and her colleagues in the militia movement. "We all have, I would say, above-average IQs."
While the rest of Arizona is tuned in to the playoff game between the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets, Cheryl Burgess and the seven members of what she describes as her "militia pod" are meeting in a Wickenburg apartment to study the Constitution and discuss the bombing in Oklahoma City. There is no radio or television tuned to the game; no one, over the course of several hours, inquires about the score. In one bedroom, more than 600 law books accumulated by heavy-equipment operator David Riggs sit ready, should a legal question arise.
Some of these folks have been poring over tracts for years. In addition to this home-study group, several members attend three-hour classes on Saturday morning in a Mesa church to research English common law, the foundation of militia theory. Although all are proficient with firearms, the more ardent plan to take advanced training in Phoenix from Special Forces hero and former presidential candidate Bo Gritz.
Those present include two miners, a farrier, a check-out clerk at Bashas', a retired electrician, an ex-sheriff, Riggs and Burgess. Another militia member who had just completed a session in tactical shotgun maneuvers estimates that there are almost 50 patriots in greater Wickenburg. The apartment is no less noisy for their absence.
One of the most talkative is Charlie Wright, an elderly veteran closing in on 80.
Wearing a cap emblazoned with "I Dislike Our Presidents," Wright is something of a legend in these parts. It was Charlie Wright, and none other, who ran off the U.N. troops that invaded Wickenburg.
It is sacred scripture among militia groups that the American establishment has turned over control of this country to an international cartel whose army is the armed forces of the United Nations. Burgess possesses literature that shows Irish troops occupying California in the near future. To the south, Mongolian soldiers will oversee post-NAFTA Mexico.
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