U.S. Army Fights Racists Within Its Own Ranks

Daniel Trotta, Yahoo! News, August 21, 2012

They call it “rahowa”—short for racial holy war—and they are preparing for it by joining the ranks of the world’s fiercest fighting machine, the U.S. military.

White supremacists, neo-Nazis and skinhead groups encourage followers to enlist in the Army and Marine Corps to acquire the skills to overthrow what some call the ZOG—the Zionist Occupation Government. Get in, get trained and get out to brace for the coming race war.

If this scenario seems like fantasy or bluster, civil rights organizations take it as deadly serious, especially given recent events. Former U.S. Army soldier Wade Page opened fire with a 9mm handgun at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on August 5, murdering six people and critically wounding three before killing himself during a shootout with police.

The U.S. Defense Department as well has stepped up efforts to purge violent racists from its ranks, earning praise from organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has tracked and exposed hate groups since the 1970s.

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{snip} A 2008 report commissioned by the Justice Department found half of all right-wing extremists in the United States had military experience.

“We don’t really think this is a huge problem, at Bragg, and across the Army,” said Colonel Kevin Arata, a spokesman for Fort Bragg.

“In my 26 years in the Army, I’ve never seen it,” the former company commander said.

Experts have identified the presence of street gang members as a more widespread problem. Even so, the Pentagon has launched three major pushes in recent decades to crack down on racist extremists. The first directive was issued in 1986, when Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger ordered military personnel to reject supremacist organizations.

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In 1995, eight months before the Fort Bragg murders, two former Army soldiers bombed the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people. With a growing awareness of the spreading militia movement, the Pentagon in 1996 banned military personnel from participating in supremacist causes and authorized commanders to cashier personnel for rallying, recruiting or training racists.

“What’s scary about Page is that he served in the 1990s when putatively this was being treated quite seriously by the military. There’s plenty of other Pages who served during the war on terror, and we don’t know what they’re going to be doing over the next decade or so,” said Matt Kennard, author of the forthcoming book “Irregular Army: How the U.S. Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror.”

Kennard argues the U.S. military was so desperate for troops while fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that it allowed extremists, felons and gang members into the armed forces.

The military can grant a “moral waiver” to allow a convicted criminal or otherwise ineligible person into the armed forces, and the percentage of recruits granted such waivers grew from 16.7 percent in 2003 to 19.6 percent in 2006, according to Pentagon data obtained by the Palm Center in a 2007 Freedom of Information Act request. But the Pentagon says no waiver exists for participation in extremist organizations.

“Our standards have not changed; participation in extremist activities has never been tolerated and is punishable under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice,” said Eileen Lainez, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

The Pentagon’s third directive against white supremacists was issued in 2009 after a Department of Homeland Security report expressed concern that right-wing extremists were recruiting veterans returning from wars overseas.

The Pentagon’s 2009 instruction, updated in February 2012, directs commanders to remain alert for signs of racist activity and to intervene when they see it. It bans soldiers from blogging or chatting on racist websites while on duty.

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The Army showed Reuters a one-hour presentation it says was designed to educate soldiers and Army leaders about its extremism policy and how to respond, including to white supremacy groups. Penalties for extremist ideology may include being removed from the military, having security clearances yanked or being demoted.

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“We’re very strict on the tattoo policy here within this recruiting station,” said Sergeant Aaron Iskenderian, head of the Army recruiting office in Fayetteville, the Army town next to Fort Bragg.

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Iskenderian cited the example of a young man who came in recently with a tattoo of the Confederate flag.

“We’re in the South here. It’s considered Southern heritage. It’s on the General Lee,” Iskenderian said, referring to the car from the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

“Is it racist? I asked him, ‘What does it mean to you?’ and he said, ‘Southern pride.’“

The potential recruit also told Iskenderian he had a black girlfriend. Iskenderian sent the issue up the chain of command, and the young man was rejected.

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