NYT resurrects the racist violent veteran meme
I feel like I have to write this story twice a year. It's like some zombie that can't be killed. Some lunatic will do something violent, insane, horrifying, and then NYT or WaPo or someone else will pour through his history and find a military connection. Boom, case solved, military service either caused it, or trained him to do it.
I've been avoiding this NYT piece hoping it would die on its own, and also I was more interested (and worried) about Special Forces/MMA fighter Tim Kennedy's match last night. Now that Tim has won, I figured I go after the NYT story. Frankly I wish Tim were in a ring with the entire editorial staff of NYT, but I guess that might prove their point.
Nonetheless, to what the NYT published in an OPED from some better than us academic:
WHEN Frazier Glenn Miller shot and killed three people in Overland Park, Kan., on Sunday, he did so as a soldier of the white power movement: a groundswell that united Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other fringe elements after the Vietnam War, crested with the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, and remains a diminished but potent threat today.
Mr. Miller, the 73-year-old man charged in the killings, had been outspoken about his hatred of Jews, blacks, Communists and immigrants, but it would be a mistake to dismiss him as a crazed outlier. The shootings were consistent with his three decades of participation in organized hate groups. His violence was framed by a clear worldview.
OK, seems clear so far. Crazy white supremacist acts exactly how one suspects a crazy white supremecist (or any supremecist would act). Then it goes downhill:
The number of Vietnam veterans in that movement was small — a tiny proportion of those who served — but Vietnam veterans forged the first links between Klansmen and Nazis since World War II. They were central in leading Klan and neo-Nazi groups past the anti-civil rights backlash of the 1960s and toward paramilitary violence. The white power movement they forged had strongholds not only in the South, but also in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, California and Pennsylvania. Its members carried weapons like those they had used in Vietnam, and used boot-camp rhetoric to frame their pursuit of domestic enemies. They condoned violence against innocent people and, eventually, the state itself.
Um, ok, gonna need some specifics, but let's press on to your central thesis.
The report singled out one factor that has fueled every surge in Ku Klux Klan membership in American history, from the 1860s to the present: war. The return of veterans from combat appears to correlate more closely with Klan membership than any other historical factor. “Military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists carrying out violent attacks,” the report warned. The agency was “concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”
The report raised intense blowback from the American Legion, Fox News and conservative members of Congress. They demanded an apology and denounced the idea that any veteran could commit an act of domestic terrorism. The department shelved the report, removing it from its website. The threat, however, proved real.
There it is. You always know that this canard foisted on us by the SPLC had to make a showing. That report was a disgrace from jump street, and in the time since it came out (and was then quashed) nothing has changed to make it any more scientifically valid.
Miller left the military in 1979, so somehow I don’t think that 35 years later, his service as a company clerk in Vietnam had much to do with what he did last Sunday. Timothy McVeigh was a Bradley gunner in Desert Storm. Since I was trained in the same specialty, I can attest with some measure of authority that nothing he did that day in Oklahoma City was part of his training in the Army.
Much to the chagrin of the Southern Poverty Law Center and it’s adherents, the military doesn’t teach soldiers to be terrorists as a general rule. As Ms. Belew carefully points out, most veterans are not a danger to the general society and their only real example of one who was, is McVeigh and it’s fairly tiring that they drag out his rotting corpse and wave it like a bloody shirt.
I don’t know of one veteran who defends McVeigh and his actions. I served in the same division with McVeigh during Desert Storm and, as I said, I went through some of the same training and I have never plotted in my head or out of my head to do what he did. I take offense at being compared to him, as I’m sure all veterans take offense.
SOFREP also laid the smackdown on this piece of excrement:
Kathleen Belew is obviously an intelligent woman but she would be smart to “check fire” when casting a wide stereo-type on the veterans of America past or present. The seeds of racism were likely planted long before Glenn Miller joined the Army, and we should remember, as Belew herself points out, that the veterans mentioned in the article represent a tiny minority. Any psychologist will tell you that the character traits in men like Glenn (and others mentioned in Belew’s article) aren’t learned in the Army or any other branch of service, they are learned long beforehand.
One of the greatest gifts of military service is being thrown into a melting pot of different cultures and classes of all types. Human beings adapt to their environments, and in military boot camp (or officer candidate school) you are forced to put aside prejudices and to work as a team with your new family.
That was certainly true of my service. When I was deployed my squad came in all colors, socio-economical backgrounds and personalities. While my three best friends happened to be Massachusians in a Virginia guard unit, when I came back I also had been close friends with guys that I might never have met. In fact, the first thing I did when I came home was to head to Hawaii on vacation with two guys from my squad, one an African American who was WELL to the right of me on the political spectrum, and the other a guy of Ecuadorian descent who worked as a mechanic. It never occured to me about our racial make up until one of them quipped in a bar one night to a young lady that she could choose between dark chocolate, mocha caramel or the plain old vanilla.
It didn't matter to me then, and it doesn't now. Nor did it to any other guy I ever met in the service. In fact, if someone ever did say or do something racially insensitive, it would have been the quickest way to destroy every social circle he had, in an already small pool of comrades. In fact, it would simply be unfathomable.
The gratuitous shot at the Legion was really what angered me. As someone internally at The Legion reminded me yesterday in an email,
The American Legion has long shared Ms. Belew’s concern about white supremacist and radical groups. In 1923, when the Ku Klux Klan still yielded unspeakable influence in this country, The American Legion passed Resolution 407. It resolved, in part,…“we consider any individual, group of individuals or organizations, which creates or fosters racial, religious or class strife among our people, or which takes into their own hands the enforcement of law, the determination of guilt, or infliction of punishment, to be un-American, a menace to our liberties, and destructive to our fundamental law…”
So historically The American Legion was cognizant of these groups and the threat they posed to America long before it hit the general consciousness of the media or society at large.
Reaction from the Veteran World was fast, and fairly angry, as this article from Military Times makes clear.
Kerry Patton, a former Air Force staff sergeant who writes for Ranger Up’s blog “The Rhino Den,” said stories like Belew’s opinion piece are typical of how the media and academia view veterans.
“As veterans, we need to be concerned that this is unfolding, that people are talking like this, in this nature, about us when the great majority of us are the epitome of upstanding citizens,” he said on Wednesday.
My friend Paul Szoldra, who along with Alex Horton and J.R. Salzman were all over the PTSD/Ft Hood issue makes an appearance again:
Marine veteran Paul Szoldra, who writes for Business Insider, said he feels veterans are the last group in the U.S. that can be stereotyped.
“I think a lot of it has to do with misunderstanding,” said Szoldra, who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant. “What’s happening in these recent pieces is basically you have some journalists who aren’t covering the beat; they don’t really know what’s going on in the military; they just see a statistic and they are kind of like, ‘Oh, there’s something here; here’s a story; it’s a really interesting story.’ They don’t even realize just how terrible a story like that Huffington Post [story] looks.”
He's absolutely right. If you want to know what is going on in the military, you could start by hiring some veterans and asking them. But instead the media resorts to the path of easiest pursuit: scours the record anytime there is a heinous act, and if there is a hint of military service, immediately assume that was the cause.
It's lazy. It's wrong. And it does a great disservice to all of us who served and consider anyone who wore the green or tan with us our brothers or sisters. No matter the pigment of their skin.