Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America: Kathleen Belew

A Guardian Best Book of the Year

“A gripping study of white power… Explosive.”
New York Times

“Helps explain how we got to today’s alt-right.”
―Terry Gross, Fresh Air

The white power movement in America wants a revolution.

Returning to a country ripped apart by a war they felt they were not allowed to win, a small group of Vietnam veterans and disgruntled civilians who shared their virulent anti-communism and potent sense of betrayal concluded that waging war on their own country was justified. The command structure of their covert movement gave women a prominent place. They operated with discipline, made tragic headlines in Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Oklahoma City, and are resurgent under President Trump. Based on a decade of deep immersion in previously classified FBI files and on extensive interviews, Bring the War Home tells the story of American paramilitarism and the birth of the alt-right.

“A much-needed and troubling revelation… The power of Belew’s book comes, in part, from the fact that it reveals a story about white-racist violence that we should all already know.”
The Nation

“Fascinating… Shows how hatred of the federal government, fears of communism, and racism all combined in white-power ideology and explains why our responses to the movement have long been woefully inadequate.”

“Superbly comprehensive…supplants all journalistic accounts of America’s resurgent white supremacism.”
―Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian



“A gripping study of white power…It is impossible to read the book without recalling more recent events…The book’s explosive thesis: that the white power movement …emerged as a radical reaction to the [Vietnam] war…It is a breathtaking argument, one that treats foreign policy as the impetus for a movement that most people view through the lens of domestic racism…It’s a stunning indictment of official culpability, and Belew constructs her case with forensic care. In doing so, she shows that, while racism is ever with us, policy choices ranging from local police strategies to the furthest reaches of foreign policy create the space for white power to flourish.”―New York Times

“Compelling…Meticulously researched and powerfully argued, Belew’s book isn’t only a definitive history of white-racist violence in late-20th-century America, but also a rigorous meditation on the relationship between American militarism abroad and extremism at home…The power of Belew’s book comes, in part, from the fact that it reveals a story about white-racist violence that we should all already know.”―The Nation

“Fascinating…Belew connects seemingly disparate events like the killings at Greensboro, the persecution of Vietnamese fishers in Texas in the early 1980s, and the siege at Ruby Ridge. She shows how hatred of the federal government, fears of communism, and racism all combined in white-power ideology and explains why our responses to the movement have long been woefully inadequate.”―Slate

“Superbly comprehensive…supplants all journalistic accounts of America’s resurgent white supremacism.”Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian

“This is a work of fierce intelligence. Belew shows how white power activists used their view of the Vietnam War to advance every element of their reactionary agenda and to justify domestic terrorism. A book of signal importance and urgency, it provides a haunting vantage point on contemporary American political culture.”Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

Bring the War Home is a tour de force. An utterly engrossing and piercingly argued history that tracks how the seismic aftershocks of the Vietnam War gave rise to a white power movement whose toxic admixture of violent bigotry, antigovernmental hostility, and racial terrorism helped set the stage for Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, and, yes, the presidency of Donald Trump.”Junot Díaz

“This is a troubling book for many reasons, not just because of the scope of the white power network it reveals…[It] raises questions about how the elements of United States culture that valorize violence and draw ready distinctions between the deserving ‘us’ and the less deserving ‘them’ …contribute to mass shootings…Belew treats the trajectory of white power victimhood as a shift from attacks on the other to a declaration of war against the federal government.”―Jotwell

“Fascinating and riveting… that archive is truly incredible.”Soledad O’Brien, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien

“Belew…traces the origins of the white power movement to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. She examines how various racist groups―skinheads, Klansmen, white separatists, neo-Nazis, militiamen, and others―united under a common banner and took the movement in a violent and revolutionary direction…Belew also argues that the anti-government sentiment created by the Vietnam War helped consolidate and radicalize the white power movement in ways we haven’t fully understood.”Sean Illing, Vox

“Kathleen Belew’s vital new book begins in the belly of a Huey helicopter somewhere over South Vietnam. From there she follows with unflinching honesty the violence that violence begat, from the tiny cadre of veterans who decided to bring the war home through Ruby Ridge and Waco to the horror of the Oklahoma City terrorist attack. Over the years I’ve read any number of exemplary histories. Never have I read a more courageous one.”Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

“Belew…counters the treatment of white terrorists as ‘lone wolves’ by tracing the contours of an organized white power movement that connected radical white extremists from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and from Waco, Texas, to Oklahoma City…Belew does the hard work of restoring those connections, revealing how white supremacists built a coalition of rural survivalists, urban skinheads, and anti-Semitic Christian Identity believers.”―Los Angeles Review of Books

“An engaging account of how and why the modern white power movement emerged from 1975 to 1995…[Belew] offers an unprecedented level of detail, engaging deeply with developments that other authors typically gloss over…Bring the War Home is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history of America’s white power movement.”―Reason

“A smart and powerfully argued book about the way that the Vietnam War in particular reshaped white power in the United States… It’s really fascinating.”Nicole Hemmer, Past Present

“The connection between hate groups and the military is not new… Bring the War Home charts the path of radical white supremacists from the end of the Vietnam War to the 1995 bombing of a Federal government building in Oklahoma City.”―CBS News

“Examine[s] how romantic public narratives have been deployed to suppress collective memory of the violence that underwrites white supremacy.”―Times Literary Supplement

“An unquestionably powerful, well-researched and must-read addition to the post-2016 upsurge in analysis and investigation of the foundations of modern fascism. Anyone seeking to understand the origins of the modern far right in the U.S. should include this work at the top of their reading list.”Ryan Smith, Truthout

“A gorgeously rendered account of the white power movement in this country that reveals its symbiotic character, one that both feeds on mainstream angst and stimulates it to new heights.”―Los Angeles Review of Books

“Alarming and meticulously researched.”Wajahat Ali, NYR Daily

“This necessary work reminds readers that white violence―on behalf of, and against, the state―has a long and deep history.”―Library Journal

“In this major work of scholarly synthesis, Kathleen Belew uses letters, ephemera and ‘zines’ as well as newspaper reports and official documents to reconstruct a dark chapter in American history that has chilling echoes for today.”―Times Higher Education

Bring the War Home is a fascinating account of right-wing white power extremists in the United States. Kathleen Belew illuminates this history through staggeringly broad research. A compelling and sometimes shocking read, it is an outstanding contribution to the history of violence.”Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences

“If you weren’t afraid of the violent white power movement before reading [this], you will be when you’re done…Belew details fifty years of energetic racist organizing and violent acts…A ringing call to recognize the extent of the threat, in order to better organize an effective response.”Micol Seigel, American Historical Review

“For those who wish to make sense of the enduring ‘catastrophic ricochet of the Vietnam War’ as well as recent events in places like Charlottesville, Belew’s Bring the War Home is required reading.”Keira Williams, PopMatters

“An engrossing and comprehensive history of the white power movement in America, highlighting its racism, antigovernment hostility, and terrorist tactics…Belew presents a convincing case that white power rhetoric and activism continue to influence mainstream U.S. politics.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Invaluable to understanding our current political moment.”Angela E. Hubler, Against the Current

“A carefully written book that argues that violent white-supremacist groups were mobilized by the Vietnam War and the Cold War more generally to undertake an armed campaign in the service of their anticommunist, White supremacist goals…Belew’s work suggests that armed violence by militant movements is a far more enduring and deep-rooted part of American politics than conventional understandings admit.”Paul Musgrave, Systemic Organization

About the Author

Kathleen Belew spent ten years researching and writing Bring the War Home, examining previously classified FBI files and vivid personal testimonies and letters. She is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago and has appeared on Fresh Air, Weekend Edition, and CBS News. Her work featured prominently in the PBS Frontline documentary “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis.”

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (May 7, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0674237692
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0674237698
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches

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