Fri, Aug 24, 2012 - Page 9 News List

US Army battling racists within its own ranks

Some analysts claim that the US military was so desperate for troops while fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that it allowed felons, extremists and gang members into the armed forces

By Daniel Trotta  /  Reuters, FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina

Illustration: Mountain People

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 US military.

White supremacists, neo-Nazis and skinhead groups encourage followers to enlist in the US Army and US 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 US Army soldier Wade Page opened fire with a 9mm handgun at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, murdering six people and critically wounding three, before killing himself during a shootout with police.

The US Department of Defense 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 US Department of Justice found that half of all right-wing extremists in the US had military experience.

“We don’t really think this is a huge problem, at Bragg, and across the army,” Fort Bragg spokesman Colonel Kevin Arata said.

“In my 26 years in the army, I’ve never seen it,” the former company commander said.

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 former US secretary of defense Casper Weinberger ordered military personnel to reject supremacist organizations.

That failed to stop former marine T.J. Leyden, with 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.

“I went into the Marine Corps for one specific reason — I would learn how to shoot,” Leyden told reporters.

“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.

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