Thursday, 18 December 2008
In addition to the problem with far-right religious military members and chaplains, the Army is dealing with the dark side of far-right extremism, white supremacism and racism. According to the SPLC and the FBI, problems with recruitment lead to military recruiters overlooking obvious signs of membership in hate groups.
In addition to overlooking membership in hate groups, the Army seems very reluctant to actually kick out those racists who are active members and recruiters for hate groups.
The racist skinhead logged on with exciting news: He'd just enlisted in the United States Army.
"Sieg Heil, I will do us proud," he wrote. It was a June 3 post to AryanWear Forum 14, a neo-Nazi online forum to which "Sobibor's SS," who identified himself as a skinhead living in Plantersville, Ala., had belonged since early 2004. (Sobibor was a Nazi death camp in Poland during World War II).
About a month after he announced his enlistment, Sobibor's SS bragged in another post to Forum 14 that he'd specifically requested and been assigned to MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty, 98D.
MOS98D soldiers are in high demand right now. That's because they're specially trained in disarming Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), the infamous roadside bombs that are killing and maiming so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presumably, part of learning how to disarm an IED is learning how one is made.
"I have my own reasons for wanting this training but in fear of the government tracing me and me loosing [sic] my clearance I can't share them here," Sobibor's SS informed his fellow neo-Nazis.
One of his earlier posts indicated his reasons serve a darker purpose than defending America: "Once all the Jews are gone the world will start fixing itself."
As someone who was working in a Federal Building when the Murrah Building was blown up, I take this type of threat very seriously. The warning signs were there, but were ignored. When it happened, I knew immediately that it was domestic terrorism. Our office had been forwarded copies of the threats that were received by the law enforcement agencies we shared a building with.
Forty members of Congress urged then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to launch a full-scale investigation and implement a zero-tolerance policy toward white supremacists in the military. "Military extremists present an elevated threat to both their fellow service members and the public," U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, wrote in a separate open letter to Rumsfeld. "We witnessed with Timothy McVeigh that today's racist extremist may become tomorrow's domestic terrorist."
But neither Rumsfeld nor his successor, Robert Gates, launched any sort of systemic investigation or crackdown. Military and Defense Department officials seem to have made no sustained effort to prevent active white supremacists from joining the armed forces or to weed out those already in uniform.
Furthermore, new evidence is emerging that not only supports the Intelligence Report's original findings, but also indicates the problem may have worsened since the summer of 2006, as enlistment rates have continued to plummet, and the military has struggled to meet recruitment goals in a time of unpopular war. Asked about the latest developments, military officials this fall declined to comment.
In addition, Mathew Kennard wrote his thesis about the increase in enlistment of hate group members.
A new FBI report confirms that white supremacists are infiltrating the military for several reasons. According to the unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11," which was released to law enforcement agencies nationwide: "Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as 'ghost skins,' in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement."
The FBI report details more than a dozen investigative findings and criminal cases involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well as active-duty personnel engaging in extremist activity in recent years. For example, in September 2006, the leader of the Celtic Knights, a central Texas splinter faction of the Hammerskins, a national racist skinhead organization, planned to obtain firearms and explosives from an active duty Army soldier in Fort Hood, Texas. That soldier, who served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, was a member of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group.
"Looking ahead, current and former military personnel belonging to white supremacist extremist organizations who experience frustration at the inability of these organizations to achieve their goals may choose to found new, more operationally minded and operationally capable groups," the report concludes. "The military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement's fringes."
Somehow, I don't think 88Soldier88 is talking about his future service in Iraq.
Earlier this year, the founder of White Military Men identified himself in his New Saxon account as "Lance Corporal Burton" of the 2nd Battalion Fox Company Pit 2097, from Florida, according to a master's thesis by graduate student Matthew Kennard. Under his "About Me" section, Burton writes: "Love to shoot my M16A2 service rifle effectively at the Hachies (Iraqis)," and, "Love to watch things blow up (Hachies House)."Kennard, who was working on his thesis for Columbia University's Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, also monitored claims of active-duty military service earlier this year on the neo-Nazi online forum Blood & Honour, where "88Soldier88" posted this message on Feb. 18: "I am in the ARMY right now. I work in the Detainee Holding Area [in Iraq]. … I am in this until 2013. I am in the infantry but want to go to SF [Special Forces]. Hopefully the training will prepare me for what I hope is to come."
Some blogs on the right dismiss the SPLC as overly alarmist, but it only takes one highly motivated extremist to cause considerable damage. Timothy McVeigh is an example that should not be forgotten.
As part of the research for his thesis, "The New Nazi Army: How the U.S. military is allowing the far right to join its ranks," Kennard used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain from the Army's Criminal Investigative Division investigative reports concerning white supremacist activity in 2006 and 2007. They show that Army commanders repeatedly terminated investigations of suspected extremist activity in the military despite strong evidence it was occurring. This evidence was often provided by regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which are made up of FBI and state and local law enforcement officials.
For example, one CID report details a 2006 investigation of a suspected member of the Hammerskins, a multi-state racist skinhead gang, who was stationed at Fort Hood, a large Army base in central Texas. According to the report, there was "probable cause" to believe that the soldier "had participated in a white extremist meeting and also provided a military technical manual 31-210, Improvised Munitions Handbook, to the leader of a white extremist group in order to assist in the planning and execution of future attacks on various targets."
The report shows that agents only interviewed the subject once, in November 2006, before Fort Hood higher-ups called off the investigation that December.
Another report, also from 2006, covers an investigation of another Fort Hood soldier who was posting messages on Stormfront.org, a major white supremacist website. One CID investigator expresses his frustration at the muddled process for dealing with extremists. "We need to discuss the review process," he writes. "I'm not doing my job here. Needs to get fixed."
A third CID report, regarding a 2007 investigation, notes the termination of an investigation of a soldier at Fort Richardson, Alaska, who was reportedly the leader and chief recruiter for the Alaska Front, a white supremacist group. According to the report, the investigation was halted because the solider was "mobilized to Camp Shelby, MS in preparation for deployment to Iraq."
There is a comment addressing freedom of speech and beliefs of service members. Service members can believe what they want, but cannot use their position, especially while in uniform to advocate religious or political views, both popular or unpopular. But I'm not really addressing racist or supremacist viewpoints held by service members. I'm discussing members who are active, participating members of hate groups. Groups who conduct illegal actions such as harassment of minority service members and citizens, murder, and illegal drug and arms dealing. Groups which explicitly advocate the violent overthrow of the the United States.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Well, look who wants to join the fun. Fred Phelps (from godhatefags.com) and clan want a piece of the action as well. This has had me giggling all day. Great comments over here at Pharyngula as well. I hope Fred gets his wish and is allowed to post his signs. He wants to post "Santa Claus will take you to hell".
This whole mess started when the state put up a Christmas tree and a Jewish group wanted to display a menorah and were allowed to. Then a Christian group (Alliance Defense Fund) wanted to put up a nativity scene and had to sue the state to be allowed to put a display up. They won and the state of Washington had to allow free expression at the state capitol. If one is allowed, then all are allowed.
Plaintiff and all other persons and organizations will be treated similarly to other private members of the public in all respects, including access to the areas in the Capitol Rotunda, pursuant to CCF policy attached as Exhibit A, to display a Nativity Scene during the 2007 traditional holiday season.Fred also has a song to go with the sign:
"You'd better watch out, get ready to cry, You'd better go hide, I'm telling you why 'cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell. He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet, but when you stand before your God He won't help you take the heat. So get this fact straight: you're feeling God's hate, Santa's to blame for the economy's fate, Santa Claus will take you to hell."Kudos to whichever nut at the Westboro Baptist Church wrote this little ditty. It's been highly entertaining watching the religious people have fits over what is posted. Way to go FFRF, for firing the opening shot in the War of the Decorations with your sign. The religious nuts are making your point that no decoration should be put up to mark the holiday. Thanks Alliance Defense Fund.
Here is a video of the Phelps clan actually singing their song. It would be absolutely hysterical, except for the fact that their children are involved in the lunacy.
You know, I really wonder about crazy old Fred. The fixation on anal sex and sex with children is way too creepy. There is a story written by one of his sons on the internet somewhere. I remember reading about Fred's fixation on the youngest daughter, and there was some speculation about incest.
Here is a story about the friendship between two men who did not let their differences in belief get between them, and all NPR could highlight was the fact that one of the men is an atheist. It's as if the staff at NPR are surprised that atheists are humans also. Capt. Benjamin Tupper has a very moving story of his friendship with an Afghan translator, Fayez.
I spent many cold nights in Afghanistan sitting on worn mats in cramped, smoky huts, drinking chai with Afghan and U.S. soldiers. As soldiers often do on quiet nights, we pondered many things, including religion. I was the lone atheist, surrounded by equally convinced Christians and Muslims. There was one thing they all could agree on — that I was going to hell.It's telling that an Afghan understands more about religious tolerance than those American Christians who were raised in a democratic republic whose constitution explicitly states that its citizen's religious and political opinions can be freely stated without interference by the state.
Then there was Fayez, one of our Afghan interpreters, who was the most eloquent in explaining the pillars of Islam. One night, I described my faith — that men could do good deeds without interference from God — and my fear that religion caused much of the strife we witnessed daily in Afghanistan. This was met by a chorus of condemnation. Fayez floored everyone by interrupting to say that they all should consider the possibility that I was right. This was a brave thing to do in a country where, even today, people face death for questioning Islam.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Here at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), we get countless complaints about religiously based mental health and counseling programs, which, over the past few years, have been systematically replacing proven psychological and medical approaches to a multitude of issues faced by military personnel. I've seen so many truly insane, not to mention blatantly unconstitutional, ways that the military is playing with the mental well being of our troops since I began working for MRFF that I really didn't think it was possible for me to be surprised by anything anymore. Then I was sent a PowerPoint presentation by an airman at RAF Lakenheath, the largest U.S. Air Force base in England. On the MRFF scale of classifying by various expletives the egregiousness level of things that are reported to us -- "holy crap," "holy shit," and "holy f..." -- this one, promoting creationism as a means of preventing suicide among our military personnel, was definitely a "holy f..."Instead of using effective medical techniques and therapy to prevent suicide, now it seems that the US Air Force wants its airmen to "embrace the purpose-driven life"and creationism in addition to the chastity and purity material for females. Here is a slide from the presentation:
The conclusion in the slide appears to be wrong. Isn't II the correct option, after all it shows that you don't need to love God to love man and the self. What the hell is the bizarre fixation on Karl Marx and Charles Darwin? And how will this solve anyone's depression? If anything, having to view such illogical thinking would tend to drive one to suicide. And isn't humanism simply caring for other humans? And aren't there religious humanists as well? What is wrong with these people? This presentation is all about identifying and denigrating "The Other". In this case "The Other" are those military members who are not religious.
Another example of the lack of reasoning skills is slide 3.
I'm not sure who developed these slides, but it seems they are completely unable to think logically. It looks like he is trying to say that the increase in spirituality is directly correlated with the increase in suicides. You know, I think he is onto something.
And one of the more outrageous slides tries to imply that Pat Tillman was a "man of faith".
Pat Tillman was an Army Ranger killed by "friendly fire" in 2004. He was an outspoken atheist. This slide reminds me of a really strange encounter at a charity event I supported last summer. The event was called "42 Events in 42 Days" and was in Pat Tillman's honor. I thought that I would meet some more non-religious in my local area. But most of the people were fundamentalist Christians and seemed totally unaware that Pat Tillman was a very outspoken atheist. What's going on here? Are fundy Christians so insecure in their faith that the very thought of an atheist who gave his life in the service of his country gives them the vapours? So insecure so they pretend that he was a Christian?
All of this dishonesty seems to be driving service members away from the more conservative Christian denominations. The December 2004 Population Bulletin - America's Military Population, Vol. 59, No.4 which analyzes the US Armed Forces regarding race, religion, ethnicity, civilian background, education, etc. A copy of the report is located at the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.
Religious affiliation or the lack of it is addressed on page 25 of the bulletin. According to the bulletin, the percentage of service members identifying themselves as nonreligious is larger than in the civilian population, even taking into account the younger average age of service members. In the civilian population, younger people are significantly more nonreligious than older people.
We do know the civilian American population has been moving away from the traditional Christian religions and toward other religious groups or eschewing any religious affiliation.34 This latter trend is particularly pronounced among young adults, exactly the age groups most likely to enter the military. In general, the armed forces show lower religious affiliation than the civilian population, even among civilians ages 20 to 39 (see Table 5). A larger share of military than civilians reported they are Christians but are not Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox or Protestant, or do not specify a denomination.This report shows the higher number of the nonreligious in the services, but also the higher number of non-denominational Christians in the military. A lot of non-denominational churches are heavily evangelical. The large number of non-denominational chaplains who have entered the service in the last 15 years may account for the increased friction between the nonreligious service members and the evangelical Christians that have made the news in the last few years.
And who would blame the soldier or airmen for choosing atheism when they see these "spokesmen for Christ" as gibbering madmen when these presentations are given?