Pentagon: White Supremacists, Rightwing Extremists Not Good Fit For US Military, Honest
When Lloyd Austin, the first Black secretary of Defense, took over at the Pentagon this year, he ordered each branch of the military to stand down over the next 60 days to “discuss" the threat posed by white supremacy and rightwing extremism. Presumably, if this was more than just Insurrectionist Book Club, they'd also actually address the threat. After all, a disturbing number of current and former members of the military participated in the January 6 siege on the Capitol,
Friday, Austin announced next steps in identifying and weeding out white supremacists and rightwing extremists. It's likely more complicated than asking “Would you have coffee with Stephen Miller?" but hopefully no less effective.
Under Austin's instruction, the Pentagon's top lawyer and other officials will review and update the department's definition of "prohibited extremist activities" for all service members. Critics have said the Pentagon needs to take into account how extremism has evolved in the digital era, and how some adherents engage in more loosely formed networks.
The secretary also called for updated screening questionnaires for potential recruits to gather information about current or previous extremist behavior "to ensure that only the best qualified recruits are selected for the services," according to the memo.
The questionnaires, which would be standardized across the armed forces, would also clarify any "demonstrably false answers" that could later hold a service member accountable and form the basis "for punitive action for fraudulent enlistment," it said.
Local crackpot bigot Tucker Carlson naturally objected to Austin's actions, even though keeping white supremacists out of the military would only affect Carlson if he had the courage to serve himself. He claimed that the military had “declared war" on people who disagree with them (the “them" here clearly referring to the new Black secretary of Defense). Carlson has also defended the actual insurrectionists, whom he laughably described as “a mob of older people from unfashionable zip codes" who "somehow made it all the way to Washington DC, probably by bus." (Yeah, that's a bunch of BS.)
Austin appreciates that we live in unstable times. Although there's some bipartisan consensus in ignoring the ugliness that's brewing beneath the nation's surface, the eruptions are growing more frequent. In an ideal world, the US military would not actively train the people who'd later try to overthrow the government. Once is enough.
One sobering example is Steven Carrillo, who was an active duty military police officer, a staff sergeant assigned to the 60th Security Forces Squadron out of Travis Air Force Base. He was also a member of the anti-government, paramilitary Boogaloo Bois movement, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as "an overwhelmingly white online subculture." Carrillo specifically wanted to start a second Civil War or perhaps more accurately further escalate the one that never truly ended.
He considered police officers "enforcers of a corrupt and tyrannical political order" and "domestic enemies" of the Constitution. Conservatives might assume there is natural alignment here between Boogaloo Bois and Black Lives Matter, but the "boogaloo remains a rightwing fantasy," per SPLC. Member remarks online would fit in nicely during a Tucker Carlson segment. For instance:
"Don't pander to or protest for people who would never do the same for you," one member of "Boogaloo: the Big Igloo" posted in the group. "When the day comes, we will be divided, and they won't check your Twitter to see if you were an 'ally' before he kills you and rapes your wife."
Yeah, don't let them replace you!
Prior to the Capitol siege, Carrillo and his associate Robert Alvin Justus Jr. had tried to exploit last summer's protests against police violence and Helter Skelter the nation into a race war. They killed federal security guard Dave Patrick Underwood and hoped BLM and antifa would take the fall. Carrillo later killed a Santa Cruz sheriff's deputy before he was apprehended.
Carrillo might've scrawled out passages of his manifesto in his own blood like a "Criminal Minds" unsub, but the young man had steadily risen up the ranks. By the time of his arrest last year, he was a team leader for the prestigious Phoenix Ravens, specially trained military security forces. The twist here is that Carrillo didn't fall in with a bad crowd outside the armed forces. He was reportedly introduced to Boogaloo Bois and whatever passes for their political ideology through friends in the Air Force.
News organizations identified 15 active-duty airmen who openly promoted Boogaloo content on Facebook (thanks, Zuck!). These extremists worked at bases around the world, and this includes the eight airmen who also served in the Air Force security branch, like Carrillo. The bad guys in 1960s spy shows would go to great lengths to infiltrate the government so completely. They didn't yet have the convenience of social media.
When asked about these active-duty airmen, the Air Force said in a statement that personnel who participate in extremist groups are in "direct violation" of Defense Department regulations. "Supporting extremist ideology, especially that which calls for violence or the deprivation of civil liberties of certain members of society, violates the oath every service member takes to support and defend the Constitution of the United States," the Air Force statement said.
Sure, it does.
If you indoctrinate young people and turn them into killing machines to aim at a faceless enemy, someone else can turn that weapon against you. Let's just hope that Austin's aggressive weeding of extremists can save this garden.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."