Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Attack on Veterans

I get steamed about a lot of things, it's true, but this latest round of attacks on veterans has really, really got me up in arms.

First the Missouri Militia report, then the DHS memo, now the helpful training video from Penn State, what's next?

Some of the highlights from the Missouri report and the DHS memo can be found at The New American:

Public outcry over a similarly controversial political profiling report by a federal-state “fusion center” under the aegis of the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) continues to reverberate through the Show Me State. The report, entitled “The Modern Militia Movement”, lists a number of violent activities attributed to “right wing” militia groups and then posits “mind set” links between them and legitimate, law-abiding groups, political parties, and political candidates. The report, which was disseminated to law enforcement, specifically names Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), who ran for president in the 2008 Republican Party primaries, and Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin, presidential candidates, respectively, for the Libertarian and Constitution parties. (See “Profiling and Criminalizing Political Dissent”).

The report states: “Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups. It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material.” On March 29, Campaign for Liberty staff member Steve Bierfeldt was stopped and subjected to harassing search and questioning by law enforcement at the St. Louis airport after the conclusion of the group’s conference, at which Rep. Ron Paul was the keynote speaker. The intimidation session was recorded on Bierfeldt’s iPhone and has subsequently become an Internet sensation.

The DHS report is very damning.

(U) Disgruntled Military Veterans
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.

— (U) After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans—including Timothy McVeigh—joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups.

— (U) A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads,and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.”

— (U//LES) The FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.

You can read the full DHS report here.

David K. Rehbein, national commander of the American Legion, expresses my problem with this report quite well:

The American Legion is well aware and horrified at the pain inflicted during the Oklahoma City bombing, but Timothy McVeigh was only one of more than 42 million veterans who have worn this nation's uniform during wartime. To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical "disgruntled military veteran" is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.

Penn State put out a wonderful training video for teachers, which is discussed in Dealing With Disruptive Veterans:

In the video, an instructor pays a visit to her department head indicating that she is still having a problem with a student. The department head responds eerily, asking whether the referenced student is "the veteran." She indicates that, yes, it is “the veteran.”

The timid instructor then explains to the department head that she's very nervous because the veteran student has confronted her in reference to the poor grades he's receiving in the class. Then the video breaks away to a flashback. In the flashback, the instructor calmly assures the student, "This isn't a personal thing against you."

Of course, the veteran student responds angrily. His gaze is intense and evokes fear of a possible physical assault as he says “I think it is. You've made it very clear in your class how you feel about the war and you're taking it out on me." The instructor responds in a pleading tone, "My personal beliefs have nothing to do with the way I treat you."

At least two messages in this video are very disturbing: First, instructors are often unfairly attacked for injecting their beliefs into their courses when, in fact, they do not. Second, those assaults come from dangerous extremists on the right including, but not limited to, members of the military.

Both of those messages are untrue and intentionally propagandistic. But that’s not what Penn State is saying.

These returning veterans are brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. This could be MY brother - a man who has dedicated his life to the service of others through the military and the church, who served in the first Iraq war. This administration appears to be actively targeting not those who should be our true concerns, but those who are not willing to be mindless sheeple and turn their hearts, minds and incomes over to the D.C. "cause de jour". The whole thing makes me very heartsore.

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