White supremacists and far-right extremists joining US military to 'acquire skills', warns defense department

The matter has hogged the limelight particularly in the wake of reports that members of the armed forces, active and former, took part in the Capitol riot

                            White supremacists and far-right extremists joining US military to 'acquire skills', warns defense department
(Getty Images)

At a time when America’s socio-political life looks increasingly polarized, the defense department has come up with a shocking revelation. It said on Thursday, January 14, that far-right and White supremacists are actively recruiting in the US military and they have garnered more support over the past one year.

AFP reported about the defense department’s revelations and it came just a week after the violence that President Donald Trump’s supporters carried out at the Capitol Hill to protest the results of the 2020 presidential election that went in favor of Joe Biden. There were also reports of current and former members of the armed forces taking part in the violence and even losing life, such as Ashli Babbitt, an air force veteran. The alarming reports saw the top leaders of the military, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, reiterating the armed forces’ commitment towards the Constitution’s sanctity. 

Trump supporters gather outside the US Capitol building following a 'Stop the Steal' rally on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

“One week after hard-liners who support President Donald Trump stormed the US Congress shutting down the legislature, the Pentagon said it will launch an investigation into the extent of extremism in US military ranks,” the report added.

The AFP report also cited a senior defense official saying on the condition of anonymity that there was a rise in far-right activity among the military over the past year and noted that it paralleled a similar growth in society at large. “We know that some groups actively attempt to recruit our personnel into their cause, or actually encourage their members to join the military for the purpose of acquiring skills and experience our military force,” the official was quoted as saying by the reporters. “We recognize that those skills are prized by some of these groups, not only for the capability it offers them, but it also brings legitimacy in their mind to their cause.”

'Military aware of the problem'

The report also said that the military has been aware of the problem for some time but the fact was still underscored by the involvement of force members — both serving and retired — and police officers, among Trump’s supporters who violently stormed the Capitol building last week. 

One military captain — a psychological operations specialist in North Carolina — organized a group of 100 people to join the protests but has resigned from the military since then. “We in the Department of Defense are doing everything we can to eliminate extremism,” Garry Reid, who oversees intelligence and law enforcement in the office of the secretary of defense, was quoted as saying by AFP. “DoD policy expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine ideology or causes,” Reid added.

The Pentagon’s independent inspector general said they are launching a probe to see how effective programs are to stop the growth of extremism and criminal gang support in the American military force which is two-million strong. The inspector general’s probe announcement came following a letter on Thursday from 14 US senators asking the Pentagon to look at the problem from close quarters. “The issue of White supremacy and extremist ideology within the ranks of our military is not new, but the attack on the Capitol makes clear this alarming trend must be immediately addressed,” they said. “They noted that a survey by the Military Times last year found that about one-third of all active-duty respondents had seen signs of White supremacist or racist ideology in the ranks,” the report added. 

The defense department, however, is yet to release any data on the size of the problem, AFP added.

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