How far-right groups are trying to recruit the military

Experts – on the actions of extremists to radicalize military personnel and veterans in the United States

In April 2009, in the first months of Barack Obama’s presidency, the report of a group of experts on the problems of political extremism became available to the press. In it, Homeland Security analyst Daryl Johnson warned that there is a growing number of far-right groups in the United States seeking to recruit former military personnel. The expert emphasized that this could lead to outbreaks of violence.

«The Department of Homeland Security’s Intelligence and Analysis Office estimates that far-right extremists will try to recruit and radicalize veterans to use their skills and knowledge gained from military training and combat.», – noted in the report.

Republican lawmakers and veteran leaders have criticized the report. Janet Napolitano, then head of the BIF, apologized. The department responsible for preparing the information used in the report was disbanded. Nearly 11 years later, extreme right-wing extremists attacked the Capitol. Among 150 detainees – 21 military or veteran.

The author of the report said in an interview with the Russian Service «Voices of America», that it didn’t surprise him.

«2009 saw an economic crisis combined with an unprecedented African American presidency. All this created "fertile soil" for recruitment and radicalization by extremist groups», – states Daryl Johnson.

«The administration, which operated from 2016 to 2020, instead of condemning these groups and viewing them as a threat to internal security, nursed them and used some extremist ideas in their political initiatives: I’m talking about building a wall, about a ban on entering the country. Muslims (a ban on entering the country for residents of a number of countries with a predominantly Muslim population – G.A.), on restrictions on immigration and threats of mass deportation of immigrants. (Discussion) of all these topics I saw on the forums of anti-government groups and supporters of the white supremacy idea 10-15 years ago. And so – all this was approved at the political level», – recalls the expert.

Among anti-government and extremist movements that have emerged since 2009 – Oath Keepers («Oath keepers») – a group formed by former paratrooper Stuart Rhodes and the Proud Boys («Proud guys») – a group that became known during the ultra-right speeches in Charlottesville.

The ideology of such groups remains largely unchanged. – nationalism, misogyny, xenophobia. Sometimes connections with the military and veterans – also not a new phenomenon. Recall that the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan was a former general of the Confederate army; even then, racists tried to recruit Civil War veterans into their ranks. In the 1990s, ultra-right groups advised young racists to serve in the military to learn how to use weapons and explosives..

Today there are more ways to recruit.

«Many far-right groups encourage their members or their supporters to become the military in order to receive the necessary training. In addition, they strive to recruit military personnel and people with military service experience, whom extremists specifically seek out and recruit, knowing that they have valuable skills.», – Says Chapman University Professor Pete Simi Says. – Former military personnel may suffer from PTSD. This weak point can be exploited by the ultra-right when recruiting».

The Pentagon and US veterans’ organizations condemned the January 6 events. Marine Corps veteran John Rather of the American Legion believes it is unfair to judge veterans based on the activities of members of extremist groups. He says that as part of the American Legion – thousands of staff members helping veterans adapt to civilian life after service. They have special programs to help former military prisoners, as well as to prevent suicide. Last thing – the main thing in the work of the organization: about twenty veterans a day commit suicide.

How far-right groups are trying to recruit the military

The organization has no programs to counter extremism.

«I disagree with the claim that veterans are more vulnerable to radicalization than any other group. I don’t see statistics on how many of those arrested were realtors, teachers, civil servants or workers. If someone served a year in the army 30 years ago, they already call him a veteran. And this is wrong», – believes John Rather.

«If you want to remember the veterans who participated in the events of January 6, then talk about such heroes as Brian Siknik and Eugene Goodman, who served with the Capitol Police and defended this great symbol of our republic.», – says Rather.

According to media reports, two of those arrested – military personnel, two more – national guards. Among them are veterans of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. They fought in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. At least one – medal «Purple heart» for participating in hostilities. Now some of them broke into the Capitol with weapons and military equipment..

Experts hope that veterans’ organizations will begin to more actively oppose the radicalization of the former military.

«Many thought that the January 6 attack on the Capitol was something of the movement’s last breath, that it was about to end. This is not true. In fact, this is an indicator that a new period of violent ultra-right extremism is beginning. These groups are usually activated when in the White House – a democrat because they are afraid that new laws on gun control will be passed, that minorities will get more rights, that immigration policy will become softer. Time to take action, time to acknowledge (existence) this internal security threat», – stresses Daryl Johnson

How far-right groups are trying to recruit the military

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