Congressmen Demand Action Against Military Extremists

Extremists in the Military

Forty members of Congress wrote U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in late July, asking that he launch an investigation into racist extremists in the military and discharge soldiers involved in racist activities or groups. The letter (PDF) came in reaction to an Intelligence Report investigation revealing that large numbers of extremists had infiltrated the armed forces in recent years by taking advantage of recruiting standards that were relaxed due to wartime manpower shortages.

In the letter, which cited the report entitled "A Few Bad Men," the congressmen urged Rumsfeld to "implement the recommendations of the Southern Poverty Law Center to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to white supremacy and other forms of racist ... extremism in the military." The letter was initiated by Democratic congressmen Elliot Engel of New York and Artur Davis of Alabama. The 40 signers represented 20 states around the country.

The report was initially released on the Internet on July 7 and generated a flurry of media attention, including stories in The New York Times and other major venues. It was also the cover story in the Report's Summer 2006 issue.

Separately, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, also urged Rumsfeld to adopt and enforce a zero-tolerance policy. "Military extremists present an elevated threat both to their fellow service members and the public," Shelby wrote (PDF). "We witnessed with Timothy McVeigh that today's racist extremist may become tomorrow's domestic terrorist. Of all the institutions in our society, the U.S. military is the absolute last place extremists can be permitted to exist."

Another response to the Report's investigation came from the president and three senior advisors of VoteVets.org, a nonpartisan political action committee of veterans of the war in Iraq. The group wrote Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner to call for "immediate hearings to examine the impact of low recruiting standards in the military." The veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom -- two Democrats and two Republicans — added, "We cannot overstate the corrosive effect ... lowered standards have on our military. They are hurting readiness, morale, and unit cohesion by allowing criminals and skinheads to permeate the ranks."

When the report was first released, Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes the Intelligence Report, wrote Rumsfeld to request a zero-tolerance policy toward extremists and a study of the level of extremism in the military. No response had arrived as of twelve weeks later.

Since the report's release, the Intelligence Report has continued to track neo-Nazis online who claim to be active duty military personnel. One such person, who identifies himself as 18-year-old Marine infantryman Jeremy Arnold from Coral Springs, Fla., also uses the online alias "Skin Diesel." He says he is a member of an online network of nearly 100 neo-Nazis claiming to belong to an underground organization called the American Society for Aryan Preservation (ASAP).