“I went into the Marine Corps for one specific reason: I would learn how [to] 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,” confessed former Marine T.J. Leyden, who served in the […]
“I went into the Marine Corps for one specific reason: I would learn how [to] 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,” confessed former Marine T.J. Leyden, who served in the U.S. military from 1988 to 1991 while openly supporting neo-Nazi causes.
Is the U.S. military a sanctuary for racists and White supremacists? Moreover, does the military know about the problem, yet seek to downplay its chilling effects?
The answers to these questions are being sought by a small but vocal majority of people today, and the facts and details on the topic being unearthed by a smattering of news reports may come as a surprise to many Americans who hold a traditional view of the patriotic and upstanding G.I. Joe hero.
Neo-Nazis: in the Army now
It’s ironic to think that while the U.S. military once engaged in battle to fight Nazi ideology, today there are Neo-Nazis joining the ranks of all branches of the American armed forces.
Leyden has since renounced the White power movement and is a consultant for the anti-Nazi Simon Wiesenthal Center. However, there are many others who, like him, have entered the military with future aspirations of using their training to carry out a violent struggle motivated along racial lines.
British author Matt Kennard tells the story of Forrest Fogarty, an American soldier in the U.S. Army who served for two years in Iraq, in his book “Irregular Army: How The U.S. Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, And Criminals To Fight The War On Terror.” Recently, the Guardian published an excerpt from the book. Fogarty is also a White supremacist “of the serious Hitler-worshipping type,” Kennard says. He was also a founder of the band, Attack, now one of the biggest Nazi bands in the United States.
Fogarty, who confessed to always having seen himself as a fighter and a warrior, joined the National Alliance — at the time one of the biggest neo-Nazi organisations in the United States — before becoming the third generation in his family to join the military.
An ex-girlfriend of Fogarty’s sent pictures to his military command that showed him at White supremacist and neo-Nazi rallies, as well as performing with his racist rock band. “They hauled me before some sort of committee, and showed me the pictures. I just denied it.” The committee, he says, “knew what I was about, but they let it go because I’m a great soldier.”
In 2004, Fogarty was sent where he says he had always wanted to go: Iraq. Before he left for the Middle East, he joined the Hammerskin Nation – described by the Anti-Defamation League as the “the most violent and best-organized neo-Nazi skinhead group in the United States.” Fogarty says many around him were aware of his neo-Nazism.
However, as Kennard points out, “Fogarty was not the first extremist to enter the armed forces. The neo-Nazi movement has had a long and tense relationship with the U.S. military. Since its inception, the leaders of the White supremacist movement have encouraged their members to enlist. They see it as a way for their followers to receive combat and weapons training, courtesy of the U.S. government, and then to bring what they learn home to undertake a domestic race war.
Not all far-right groups subscribe to this vision – some, such as the Ku Klux Klan, claim to prefer a democratic approach – but a large portion see themselves as insurrectionary forces. To that end, professional training in warfare is a must.
The U.S. military has long been aware of these groups’ attempts at infiltration, but it wasn’t until 1996 that supremacist and neo-Nazi groups were specifically banned from the military, after the murder in 1995 of two African-Americans by a neo-Nazi paratrooper stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Another White supremacist soldier, James Douglas Ross, a military intelligence officer stationed at Fort Bragg, was given a bad conduct discharge from the Army after he was caught trying to mail a submachine gun from Iraq to his father in Spokane, Wash. Military police found a cache of White supremacist paraphernalia and several weapons hidden behind ceiling tiles in Ross’ military quarters.
White supremacists using military as training ground for “Racial Holy War”
White supremacists joining the military speak of “rahowa” — or racial holy war, and as a recent article in the Huffington Post details — “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.”
It may sound like the plot of a new Hollywood psychological thriller, but sadly, it is reality. Evidenced by the story of former U.S. Army soldier and known neo-Nazi Wade Page who in the summer of 2012, opened fire with a 9mm handgun at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Wade killed six innocents and critically wounded another three before killing himself following a shootout with police.
While stationed at Fort Bragg, Wade met James Burmeister, a skinhead paratrooper who, in 1995, killed a black Fayetteville couple in a racially-motivated shooting. Burmeister got a life sentence to prison, where he died in 2007.
While no one knows how many White supremacists have been or are currently involved in the military, a 2008 report commissioned by the Justice Department found half of all right-wing extremists in the United States had military experience.
But military officials seem to downplay the problem. “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 told the Huffington Post.
However, the Pentagon has launched three major pushes in the past two decades to crack down on racist extremists. The first directive being issued in 1986, when Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger ordered military personnel to reject supremacist organizations.
SPLC urges Congress to address racism in military
And in 2009 after the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups in the United States, identified about 40 personal profiles of people who list the military as their occupation on the “White only” website New Saxon, it asked Congress to investigate possible racial extremism in the military.
“We urge your committees to investigate the threat posed by racial extremists who may be serving in the military to ensure that our armed forces are not inadvertently training future domestic terrorists,” the SPLC pleaded.
However, Lt. Col. Les A. Melnyk, a Pentagon spokesman, stated that Pentagon’s current policy prohibiting military personnel from being involved in extremist groups is believed to be sufficient. Under it, military personnel “must reject” participation in organizations that espouse supremacist causes.
“We believe the policy … is broad and inclusive in its definition of ‘active participation,’ and encourages commanders to pursue and weed out service members who actively participate in these types of groups,” Melnyk said.
But perhaps the problem of racism in the military is a symptom of a larger issue.
“Those who continue to read headlines about the lack of cultural civility in our combat arms — whether stories on “Kill Teams” in Afghanistan, the Haditha shootings or Abu Graib in Iraq, or even the suicide of an Asian service member after being racially targeted in his own unit — the 98 percent of Americans who have no relation to the military service start to see this as commonplace about the way our service members regard diversity,” writes veteran of the current American war in Afghanistan, and Hindu-American Rajiv Srinivasan in Time magazine, in the wake of the shooting at the Wisconsin temple.
“If there’s one thing I hope America remembers about our military, it’s that we are indeed a cross-section of the country. If bigotry and insensitivity exists in our ranks, it’s because it originated in our society first. The context of serving in the military simply gives a visible and strategic platform upon which such ignorance can severely affect our mission abroad, and our image back home.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect on Mint Press News’ editorial policy.