Tuesday, August 21, 2012

US Army battling racists within its ranks

Leaders instructed to look out for tattoos of lightning bolts, skulls, swastikas, other extremist symbols

Image: Army soldiers in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan

Baz Ratner  /  Reuters
U.S. Army soldiers are silhouetted as they walk during a mission in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, in April.
updated 8/21/2012 11:36:46 AM ET
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 9 mm 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.
Page, who was 40, was well known in the white supremacist music scene. In the early 2000s he told academic researcher Pete Simi that he became a neo-Nazi after joining the military in 1992. Fred Lucas, who served with him, said Page openly espoused his racist views until 1998, when he was demoted from sergeant to specialist, discharged and barred from re-enlistment.
While at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, Page told Simi, he made the acquaintance of James Burmeister, a skinhead paratrooper who in 1995 killed a black Fayetteville couple in a racially motivated shooting. Burmeister was sentenced to life in prison and died in 2007.
No one knows how many white supremacists have served since then. A 2008 report commissioned by the Justice Department found half of all right-wing extremists in the United States had military experience.
"In my 26 years in the Army, I've never seen it," the former company commander said."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.
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.
That failed to stop former Marine T.J. Leyden, with two-inch SS bolts tattooed above his collar, from serving from 1988 to 1991 while openly supporting neo-Nazi causes. A member of the Hammerskin Nation, a skinhead group, he said he hung a swastika from his locker, taking it down only when his commander politely asked him to ahead of inspections by the commanding general.
Rattled by Oklahoma blast 
"I went into the Marine Corps for one specific reason: I would learn how shoot," Leyden told Reuters. "I also learned how to use C-4 (explosives), blow things up. I took all my military skills and said I could use these to train other people," said Leyden, 46, who has since renounced the white power movement and is a consultant for the anti-Nazi Simon Wiesenthal Center.
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.
Her group monitors online chatter among self-described active-duty warriors serving overseas and reports it to military officials. It also receives regular calls from military investigators asking about racists in the service."This is the best we've ever seen," said Heidi Beirich, leader of the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence project, referring to the Pentagon's attitude. "It was really disheartening under the Bush administration how lightly they took it, so this is a major advance."
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), another civil rights monitor, have helped train officers on how to spot extremists, although Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the ADL, says the military lacks comprehensive training for recruiters and commanders. He called the military's reaction when alerted to white supremacists "patchy."
"We've discovered a great range of response, from getting a phone call the next day saying, 'He's already out,' to not doing anything at all," Pitcavage said.
The tattoo matrix 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.
"The standard hateful message has not been replaced, just packaged differently with issues like freedom of speech, anti-gun control themes, tax reform and oppression," the presentation says, noting that recruitment may be difficult to detect, occurring quietly "in bars and break areas" on bases.
The presentation instructs Army leaders to look out for tattooed symbols of lightning bolts, skulls, swastikas, eagles and Nordic warriors. Skinheads may have tattoos showing barbed wire, hobnailed boots and hammers.
In a detailed flowchart called a "Tattoo Decision Support Matrix," Army leaders are shown how to respond to various tattoos. At the time of publication, the Army was unable to identify the locations where this course was being taught.
Screening out rogues "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.
With the United States withdrawn from Iraq, winding down from Afghanistan and unemployment stuck above 8 percent, recruiters can be choosy again.
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."
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."Is it racist? I asked him, 'What does it mean to you?' and he said, 'Southern pride.'"
Academics who study white supremacists say proponents of the "infiltration strategy" of joining the U.S. military have adapted, telling skinheads to deceive military recruiters by letting their hair grow, avoiding or covering tattoos, and suppressing their racist views.
"You have to differentiate between some of the grandiose fantasies of some of the leaders of the movement and what actually is going on," cautioned the ADL's Pitcavage.
For neo-Nazis who get past the screeners, as with the gang members, the military needs a comprehensive strategy, said Carter F. Smith, a former military investigator who is now a professor of criminal justice at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.
"They are some of the most disciplined soldiers we have. They really want to learn to shoot those weapons," Smith said. "The problem wasn't just that we were opening the floodgates to let them in. We let them out after prosecution or when their time was up and we didn't let the police know."

1248 total comments

Casey Thurston
I served in the Marine Corps and never met a single skin head or neo-nazi. I can tell you that there is a lot of racism though, just not against minorities but caucasians. I would walk down the hall of my barracks and hear racial slurs against white people all of the time and nothing would be done about it. Why you ask? All of the equal opportunity people were African-American.
I would also like to point out that there are a lot of former criminals and gang members in the Marine Corps. The thing is that they never got caught and they wanted to turn their life around, which they did. They were good Marines, who served honorably and were happen to put their past behind them. In fact, it was these people who probably got into less trouble than many of the people who had clean pasts.
Casey Thurstonwith 42

I love it how when the Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones wants to prevent drowning in the black community by teaching young black kids to swim, he is called a racist. A criminal who had been frisked twice before being handcuffed and thrown in the back of a squad car on a misdemeanor drug charge, "shoots himself in the head" with a hidden pistol in Jonesboro, AR and it is dismissed as "suicide." But here are self described Neo-Nazis with SS bolts tattooed on their necks and most of you on here are not speaking out against it, but offering excuses for it. "They let the gays, why not the racists?", "Jesus freaks are more annoying", "Blacks in the Corps are more racist", "This is BS", "Where were the Neo-Nazis on Fort Hood when MAJ Hassan was shooting everyone?" "What about political correctness and the liberal left?" "How come only whites can be racist?" Most of you jump at the chance to point out real or perceived racism when the victim is white and/or the culprits are a minority. Apparently when whites are admitted racists, it's justfied and/or excused away. Incredible.
Cappy-1911with 15
There are active gang-bangers in today's military (an NCO died from a gang initiation while I was in Germany) and there are racists, but in both cases they are in the extreme minority and will be plucked from the ranks like the tumors they are when discovered.
I found the mention of the Sikh temple shooting suspect's service as proof that there are racists to be proof of what I'm saying because he was REMOVED from the ranks for misconduct long before he became a mass murderer.
The only recent evidence of extreme prejudice within the ranks is Pvt (or soon enough Pvt) Nidal Hassan, who mass murdered those he served with because of his religious beliefs. No mention of him in the article, I wonder* why??
*not really, it doesn't perpetrate the myth this article would like to promote that most of the white faces in the ranks belong to racists...
  • 4 votes
#3.6 - Tue Aug 21, 2012 5:40 PM EDT

Gary 420 - Poorly researched and written story.
And a f**king joke. Misses the Elephant in the room, and focuses on the fleas on the elephants arse. The purpose of the DOD Policy of 2009 was to find and boot out the Hispanic Gang Members of MS-13, MS-14, etc. that were joining the US Military for "Skills" (free Tactical Combat training). To cover our arses NCOs were "observing" everyone, including in the showers, latrines, etc. (don't laugh, to avoid detection some of the Gang Members had their gang tat on their penis, scrotums, under their eye lids (detected by Physicians during physicals), right next to their rectal orifices, etc..
Gang Bangers in the US Military Forces
MEXICAN GANG INITIATION (involves violent beatings).
Gary 420 - There are nearly 2 million Americans in uniform.
Population of US is 311,591,917, (round up to 312 Million) according to First Lady Michelle Obama only 1% of US Citizens are Serving in the US Military, so 312 Million times 0.1 equals _____________— US Military Personnel.
This is why we are so worn out, there are only 1% of the entire US Population doing what President Obama stated, "US Military Service is a Civic Duty", as his previous Solution as Candidate Obama during the Presidential Debates with Repugnant Senator McPain, the start of the Selective Service and Mandatory Compulsory US Military Service to force the 92% that have Never Served in the US Military to do their Civic Duty.
Even worse, of the 1% of US Citizens currently Serving in the US Military, only 1% of the entire US Military are Asymmetric Warfare (trained and experienced in Insurgency, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorist, FID, Special Reconnaissance, Special Surveillance, Humanitarian Assistance, etc.), the rest are Conventional Warfare. As stated (trained) at Command and General Staff College and War College before the Defeat of the USSR, the next Wars would be Asymmetric Wars and NOT Conventional Wars.
Burning Brightly - Support our troops returning home and give them the best chances to succeed in this hard economy. We owe them as a nation. Peace.
Nice thought; but far from current Reality. The Veterans Affairs is already stretched to the breaking point (including previous, current, and upcoming Budget Cuts).
President Obama as Commander In Chief has order the Reduction In Forces (RIF) of 90,000 US Military Personnel.
President Obama's Appointed Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta has told President Obama and US Congress that a US Military Defense Budget Cut will result in a Million (US) Civilians being Unemployed.
Like I stated before, the US Military Defense Industrial Complex created by President FDR to get the US out of the Great Depression 1939 before US Entry into WWII 1941, employs about a hundred million US Civilians directly or indirectly. Regardless of what Secretary of Defense Penetta stated to President Obama and the News Media, President Obama as Commander in Chief has Ordered a US Military Defense Budget Cut (large percentage to fund President Obama's 1.7 Trillion to 2.1 Trillion ACA, majority being the Bailouts (Payoffs) the Insurance Corporations $67 Billion, Medical Device Corporations $23 Billion, Pharmaceuticals Corporations $20 Billion of US Taxpayer Money in the Section of Source of New Revenues of the ACA).
Before you even think it, nope. President Obama's April 2009 Policy as stated to the Mexican President, "US Military will not be used to secure US Borders".
President Obama's August 2009 Policy as stated to the Canadian Prime Minister, "US Military will not be used to secure US Borders".
mike277 - All these idiotic civil rights groups or whatever they are can say all they want..
Go look who funds the Southern Poverty Law Center (strings attached to the "Donations" as "no such thing as a free lunch".).
  • 3 votes
#3.11 - Tue Aug 21, 2012 7:19 PM EDT

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