August 16, 2022

Extremism in our military

One of the most disturbing aspects about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capital is the discovery that some of the rioters were members of the military.

It’s not the first time white nationalism has been found among our troops. In the recent past, however, such concerns were ignored, even after a poll was conducted by the military in March 2020. It showed 36 % of active troops had personally witnessed white nationalism and racism within their ranks. Unfortunately, the defense secretary at the time, Mark Esper, said he “didn’t believe it was an issue in the military,” thereby discounting the findings altogether.

After evidence came to light of military involvement on Jan. 6, the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin saw things differently. He was extremely disturbed to hear veterans and active-duty service members had participated in the insurrection, and immediately instituted a plan to address extremism in the nation’s armed forces. Austin wants to find out why men and women who pledged their loyalty to the Constitution participated in a violent and illegal attack on Congress and attempted to overturn a lawful, democratic presidential election.

The January 6 Commission wants to find out the same thing about a lot of people currently in Congress and among former White House officials.

As we learn about the extremist views of white supremacists such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, we have cause to be concerned. Their distorted views that defy all reason are evident on Twitter and podcasts, and constantly repeated in the nonsense disseminated by far-right media outlets. And it has an effect. Recent polls show 41% of Americans believe violence against the government is justified - proof that threats against democracy are real and need to be taken seriously.

We have already experienced the hateful effects of white nationalism in the military. In the 1993 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran and white nationalist, killed 167 people. The death toll included 19 children playing in their daycare center above the spot where the truck loaded with explosives was detonated. McVeigh was executed for his crime.

In 1995, 19 soldiers at Fort Bragg were identified as belonging to extremist groups and dishonorably discharged from the military for neo-Nazi activities. Two others were arrested for murdering two black citizens.

Sadly, people sometimes go into the military so they can be trained militarily to fight the “great white war.” Obviously, someone who thinks like this has no business being in the military. They are motivated by political or social beliefs that have become distorted, warping their minds and making them a threat to America.

Young, impressionable (mostly) men who may not be too bright, can easily be recruited by older, stronger men to join their white nationalist groups. Often, they are persuaded by the hyper-masculinity of their leaders to adopt extremist views, and they like feeling important, especially if they get to carry a big gun. We all know of young men who feel like big shots toting AR-15s, convinced they are great protectors of freedom, but are too naïve and foolish to understand they’re being manipulated by extremists.

Former members of the military recruited into white nationalist groups may have had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. They miss the excitement of military training. They lose that sense of belonging to a family while on active duty, and they look to extremist groups to help ease their feelings of isolation and insecurity.

It’s unfathomable how anyone believes they are patriots when they engage in violence against their own country. No one is allowed to harm their fellow citizens and then claim to be patriotic. It is ridiculous that some still today admire the Confederacy, stupidly wrapping themselves in the Confederate flag. Do they not understand waging war against the United States was, and still is, treason?

The attack at the Capitol was treason. Rioters and their supporters were trying to overturn a presidential election. And it really happened, despite the fact that only 40% of Republicans will admit Jan. 6 was an insurrection. Many of their colleagues even insist the violent attack was merely a protest, and those arrested are political prisoners.

It’s not true. It was an attempt to overthrow the United States government.