Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for a worldwide “stand down” of the U.S. military in April to focus on extremism in the ranks. This is fine, but indications are that the one-day sessions will not focus on both ends of the political spectrum, and will not identify true extremists who have no place in the military.
One wag snarked, “Just ask if they voted for Donald Trump.” More seriously, retired Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Kolditz, a former department head at West Point, told Fortune in an interview that he was very concerned about a “strong Trump following in the military.”
Kolditz conceded that military men and women can be conservative, but Trump supporters who think that the attack on the U.S. Capitol was “a good thing” (Are there any?) should be removed. “That probably won’t happen,” he added, “until the Trump loyalists are out.”
This likelihood of leftist bias is compounded by materials for the stand-down released ahead of time, which state that “speech in the workplace that interferes with the mission, espouses extremist or discriminatory doctrine, or is disrespectful and harmful to colleagues, will have consequences.” In today’s “woke” force and overall political environment, some people consider pro-life or pro-Trump views to be “discriminatory” and “harmful to colleagues,” including military officials and their elected overseers.
On Inauguration Day, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., insinuated that most of the 25,000 National Guard soldiers guarding the Capitol were white males and probably Trump voters inclined to cause trouble. Neither of these disdainful opinions reflect what the rules regarding extremism actually say.
Department of Defense (DOD) Instruction 1325.06 prohibits active participation in “supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology or causes.” The description fits white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and like-minded fringe hate groups. It also fits the “anti-fascist” Antifa movement, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, led by self-identified, trained Marxists, and other leftist groups that instigate, exploit, or engage in violence for political purposes.
During the 2020 Summer of Rage, leftist extremists repeatedly used professional gear and military-like tactics to ransack and destroy whole sections of cities. Did any of these rampaging rioters join the military to learn tactics, or did leftist groups recruit former military because of their tactical skills? The Pentagon, it seems, does not want to know.
Ignorance about extremism can be dangerous. In 1995, the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg removed 22 soldiers, three of whom were accused of killing a black couple walking down a Fayetteville street. The crime sparked worldwide military education programs on the symbols and activities of extremist hate groups.
These efforts have continued, but tragedies have happened when political correctness stopped leaders from taking justified action against extremists. The worst example was Army Major Abdul Nidal Hasan, who ruthlessly killed 13 adults and one unborn child at Fort Hood in Nov. 2009.
A written evaluation of Hasan’s behavior when he was a resident at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center described many “flashing red light” warnings of extremism. These included “Soldier for Allah” on his business cards and a PowerPoint presentation that justified suicide bombings and fratricide by Muslim-Americans in the military.
Why was this dangerous man promoted and transferred to Fort Hood? Because officials at Walter Reed hesitated to fire the first Muslim psychiatrist hired since 9/11.
According to National Public Radio, Walter Reed officials expressed concerns that they would be accused of “discriminating against Hasan because of his extremist Islamic beliefs.” That self-blinding mindset was so pervasive, Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said, “[A]s horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
There was no excuse for this, since several jihadists in the ranks had targeted Army personnel before. In 2003, for example, during the Persian Gulf War, Sgt. Hasan Akbar threw incendiary grenades into sleeping soldiers’ tents, killing two and injuring many more with rifle fire. Akbar, whom prosecutors described as “a hate-filled, ideologically driven murderer” who wanted to kill American soldiers “for Allah,” was found guilty and his death sentence was upheld on appeal.
More recently, in December 2019, Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi Arabian Air Force being trained at the Pensacola Naval Station, shot and killed three sailors and wounded ten more. A video tape released by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP) claimed the radicalized man had been planning the attack on Americans for many years. Will the upcoming stand-down sessions investigate whether this jihadist gained access to our naval base because Saudi Arabia is an ally?
The Army also should discuss whether it was wise to recruit 20-year-old Cole Bridges in 2019. Bridges faces federal charges for providing training and guidance to purported Islamic State fighters who were planning attacks on American troops and New York City targets such as the 9/11 Memorial.
Instead of studying and deterring such threats in an even-handed way, the military service academies have worn politically correct blinders for years. In 2013, a West Point report lumped mainstream conservative groups with white supremacists and the “violent far-right.”
Then there was West Point cadet Spenser Rapone, who posed in his full-dress uniform sporting a red Che Guevara undershirt, a raised fist, and the message “Communism will win” scrawled inside his cap. The notorious “Commie Cadet,” who was known for vulgar social media attacks on America, was mentored by Professor Rasheed Hosein, a socialist organizer.
Instead of facing discipline for his bizarre behavior, Rapone was sent to the 10th Mountain Division after graduation in December 2016. He resigned in June 2018 with an other-than-honorable discharge and a rude “final salute” at the Fort Drum gate—apparently without reimbursing taxpayers for the pricey cost of his West Point education.
Now the military academies are embracing critical race theory (CRT), which divides people with unresolvable accusations of “systemic racism.” Last year a group of “woke” alumni issued a 40-page manifesto demanding that West Point make “anti-racism” the central feature of the curriculum. Action items included statements from all white leaders “acknowledging how their white privilege sustains systems of racism.”
Meanwhile, the Navy just released their “Task Force One Navy” Final Report (TF1N). The 141-page document is filled with ideologically leftist vocabulary including “intersectionality,” “disparate impact,” and 338 variations of the word “diverse.” A five-point “TF1N Pledge” makes sailors and Marines promise to fight “racism, sexism, ableism, and other structural and interpersonal biases,” but it does not mention operational readiness or mission accomplishment.
Nothing could be worse for morale than a toxic brew of racist suspicions and division being forced on participants for a full day. Instead of intimidating servicemembers for expressing normal political beliefs, military leaders should investigate whether military personnel are being recruited by extremists on both ends of the spectrum, not just one.
They should also take an even-handed, honest look at all incidents of violent extremism, without promoting leftist extremism in pursuit of extremists.