Hate Groups Infiltrating U.S. Military?

The U.S. military is being infiltrated by white supremicists asserts a group that makes its living stirring up racial fears.

Hate Groups Infiltrating U.S. Military

Adecade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed “large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists” to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines. “We’ve got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad,” the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, www.splcenter.org. “That’s a problem.”

A Defense Department spokeswoman said officials there could not comment on the report because they had not yet seen it.

The center called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to appoint a task force to study the problem, declare a new zero tolerance policy and strictly enforce it.

The report said that neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance, whose founder, William Pierce, wrote “The Turner Diaries,” the novel that was the inspiration and blueprint for Timothy J. McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, sought to enroll followers in the Army to get training for a race war. The groups are being abetted, the report said, by pressure on recruiters, particularly for the Army, to meet quotas that are more difficult to reach because of the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.

The report quotes Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator, saying, “Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don’t remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members.”

The report, legal briefs, and the letter to Rumsfeld are available on the SPLC site.

Frankly, the SPLC and its leader, Morris Dees, are rather scary and not the most trustworthy source on such matters. See Ken Silverstein’s “The Church of Morris Dees” and the longrunning investigations into their ethical problems by the Montgomery Advertiser.

Nonetheless, I’m sure there are some substantial number of white supremacists in the military and that hate groups wouldn’t mind getting their young members the best infantry training in the world. Still, the same is true of street gangs (see here and here). And the Black Muslims (see “Uncle Sam’s Jihadists” in Slate, for example). The military will wash most of these people out rather quickly.

UPDATE: This one’s getting quite a bit of attention around the ‘sphere.

  • C.S. Scott says this is “An utterly ridiculous claim to say the least” and reminds us that the Army has reached its recruiting goals 12 consecutive months.
  • Marc Schulman wonders, “How many of the recently reported murders of Iraqi civilians were committed by these neo-Nazis?”
  • Blue Crab Boulevard thinks the NYT is “hyperventilating” again.
  • Chris in Paris observes, “Rummy has nothing to say about it so far, but I wouldn’t expect him or anyone else in the administration to complain, as long as they get their numbers or close to the target numbers.”
  • Kevin Hayden: “In addition to breeding terrorists, Bush’s policies are now breeding Timothy McVeighs.”
  • Gateway Pundit: “I’ve never seen or even met a Neo-Nazi or a Skinhead in my entire life, but I am supposed to believe there are thousands in the military?… Please!”
FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Military Affairs, Race and Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    James – Wasn’t it the SPLC that won the case against the Aryan Nation and took its property away in a case where a man was killed by the AN folks? I’m not sure if the article you cited was the most balanced report on the SPLC. I think they are effective in what they do, and frankly, any organization is going to be self-promoting and seeks not to go out of business. That said, can we say the same thing of the police – that they have an interest in not eliminating crime?

    The problem of extremists getting great military training from Uncle Sam is not new. There has been lots of articles written of gang bangers in the military going back to the gang lifestyle after they separate from the military, and using the skills they learned there to benefit their gangs.

  2. James Joyner says:

    DCL: The knock on SPLC is that it’s basically a fundraising racket with most of the money going to salaries and self-promotion rather than the cause they’re claiming to be raising the money for. Sure, they’ve had successes but not much in comparison to the whopping amounts they take in.

    I should note that the linked article, while on the FreeRepublic site, is from Harper‘s.

  3. Bithead says:

    So, we have Harpers treating the work of Morris Dees as some kind of gospel truth. Lemme see, here.. the same one that gave full color cover to Bill Clinton’s crotch, and to a suppsoed undercover op and her husband… in both cases making yet another leftist look good.

    Um, forgive me, but this is not exactly impressive.

    Harpers has little in the way of credibility to start with following the last few years of nonsense. Add Morris Dees as a subject and the whole thing takes on a surreal cast, where Willy Wonka has more credibility.

    And of course what possible reason would those in love with the left, such as Harpers, have, for wanting the US Military to look like a bunch of racists?

    No, sorry.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Uh, the Harper’s piece is the one which points to what a sleazeball Dees is.

  5. Bithead says:

    And I’m not even going to bother questioning the crediblity of the TIMES…

  6. Bithead says:

    Point taken, James.
    Busy Friday at work, sorry.

  7. One of the casualties of the rancor in the political system is an article like this. Large numbers of neo-nazis in our military, not good. But because of the hyperventilation on all sorts of other issues, we 1) can’t trust that the article is a reasonable and objective view of the facts and 2) know that some will start to wield the article as a club and others will start to impose a shield to deflect the blows.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have serious issues be discussed seriously without immediately falling into predictable attack/defend modes irregardless of the truth?

  8. Cernig says:

    Still, the same is true of street gangs (see here and here).

    Umm, James, shouldn’t the word at the start of the sentence be “Plus”?

    The presence of street gang members in the military isn’t some kind of extenuating circumstance that balances the presence of white supremacists. Nor is the presence of militant Black Muslims. I really hope that you aren’t suggesting they are. The presence of any or all is unwanted, surely. One Nazi does not balance One MS13 Member, that’s not how it works.

    The military will wash most of these people out rather quickly. Why? Evidence? I’m at a loss to see why a military that recruited them in the first place would then wash them all out again “quickly”.

    And if recruiters really deviate this much from the preferred profile and/or do not check backgrounds sufficiently when recruiting, as you seem to be saying when listing all three groups, why is no-one talking about what to do about it?

    Regards, Cernig @ Newshog

  9. James Joyner says:

    Cernig: Agreed all around. My strong guess is that the numbers are being hyped by the SPLC because, well, that’s what they do. And the NYT is notorious for running with stuff like this without any sort of digging on their own.

    The “still” is just an indication that perspective is needed here. When you’re recruiting huge numbers of people, you’re bound to get your share of nutballs.

    I’m sure there are recruiters out there willingly taking these guys in or at least looking the other way. My strong guess, though, is that most of the skinheads and whatnot signing on are just slipping through the cracks.

    It should be noted, too, that the NCO ranks of the Army, especially the combat arms branches, are heavily African American. They’re plenty motivated to get rid of these yahoos, believe me.

  10. legion says:

    Does anyone else see a direct connection between this and the Army budget story a couple of articles down? We’ve been fighting the GWOT for years now, and we’ve been told repeatedly that it’s a long-term struggle that will probably last many more years (regardless of how long we stay in Iraq).

    But the military is still budgeting & planning things on a year-to-year ad hoc basis. Funding for GWOT has only been done through supplemental requests. Manpower requirements haven’t been reviewed in light of this new environment.

    Budget shortfalls and bottom-of-the-barrel recruiting nightmares are completely predictable in these circumstances – this should surprise no one. And it’s a hole we can’t get out of until we have an actual strategic plan for GWOT. “Fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” doesn’t cut it.

  11. Anderson says:

    Well, Bithead has persuaded me that the Harper’s expose of Dees can be safely disregarded ….

  12. vnjagvet says:

    Ideological tests are not among the screening mechanisms used by the Armed Services, to the best of my knowledge. I suspect that the ACLU, and other advocacy organizations might have some heartburn regarding such tests.

  13. Legion,

    I know this may be a conservative view of the world, but there are some constitutional restrictions on how far out the money can be allocated.

    “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;”

    Given that we are on a yearly budget cycle, its not to amazing that things are less than perfect. You might want to read up on some GOP efforts to go to a two year budget cycle.


  14. Bithead says:

    From what I’ve seen of it over Lunch, Anderson, the expose on Dees barely scratches the surface… and though I’ll finish it latrer today or tonight, I doubt my initial assesment will change much

  15. Cernig says:

    Just an observation, but Marc Schulman at American Future is usually a pretty steadfast member of the Militant Right – yet he seems far more worried about this report than others with more WASPish surnames, who are generally pooh-poohing the whole thing.

    Could there be a split in the Militant Right between WASPs and non-WASP pundits on this one?

    Any mention of Neo_Nazi groups using the U.S. military to gain fighting expertise, especially when it quotes an Army inspector, is something that should be taken seriously until its been totally investigated in my opinion.

    (The same goes for gangs, and other extremist political/religious groups.)

    But I don’t see that from right wing WASPS in this. There’s a rush to play down the whole issue. That worries me a lot.

    Regards, Cernig

  16. James Joyner says:


    The problem is that the NYT ran with a SPLC press release–cribbing much of the piece word for word, I might add–without so much as a mention of the fact that the SPLC is an activist group. They took a series of suppositions, assertions, and anecdotes by this group and passed it off as a “study.” In fact, there’s not much to it. I’ve linked the SPLC “report” in the story above. There’s just not much there.

  17. This is just crap. When I was still on active duty the coming apocalypse was said to be that black and Hispanic gangs were infiltrating the military.

    The SPLC exists by defining such groups in order to keep the fundraising going. They or some other alarmist group make this same claim or another like it with great regularity.

    As for McVeigh, Kevin Hayden, the FBI and CID investigations showed that his crime was unrelated whatsoever to the military or his service in it. I know because I took part in the investigation.

  18. James Joyner says:


    No fair bringing facts into this. The SPLC says it, it must be true.

  19. legion says:

    You’re correct, but only to a point. Yes, money is generally spent on a year-by-year basis, but there are some exceptions. For example, military construction funds run for either 2 or 3 years (I can’t remember exactly). But budget _planning_ is done via a 5-6 year program called the FYDP, or Future Year Defense Program, which is the planning tool used to plot out very large or multi-year buys. And the GWOT isn’t really accounted for in that…

    My concern is that there is no _planning_ for what GWOT is going to cost, even within a single year. Ever since we started this thing, all costs associated directly with GWOT operations – the maintenance, travel, combat pay, ammo, etc, etc – have been covered each year by a (sometimes more than one, IIRC) supplemental request to the Congress. That’s on top of whatever the Pres already asked for that year as the “regular” DoD budget.

    This causes a number of problems… for one, the services have to fund combat ops out of other buckets of money until they get those supplementals, and those buckets don’t always get filled back up with what was taken. Then, there’s the fact that each year’s budget requests become more and more guesswork as the cost of ‘doing business’ in Iraq (specifically, civilian contracts) goes up. This in turn makes it very difficult to determine the actual amount of money GWOT operations are costing, or likely to cost in the future. And all of this makes it impossible to do any kind of logistics planning or run an efficient procurement system.

  20. Dale says:

    I am an active duty Gunnery Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. I also happen to be a paralegal in the Marine Corps (aside from my first job as a rifleman of course). During my time I’ve had exactly one occasion to process the paperwork on a neo-nazi (administrative discharge in that case)and several occasions (both admin discharges and courts-martial) to process the paperwork on street gang members. I’ve also met several former gang members and one neo nazi that changed their ways either before or after coming in the Marine Corps.

    I was also a Drill Instructor at MCRD, San Diego from 1995 – 1997. There were several occasions during my two years there that I or another DI found gang/nazi tatoos on a recruit’s body. Anytime we found a tatoo like that we pulled the recruit in the duty hut and questioned him regarding his beliefs sytem and then we forwarded a report (verbally or in writing) to our Series Officer (usually a 1stLt or Capt) recommending whether or not to keep the individual in the Corps. The chain of command then made its determination.

    Are there Neo-Nazis in the military…undoubtedly. Thousands of them…I doubt it. When they are found (they don’t advertise their beliefs usually) they are processed for discharge for unsuitability if the chain of command deems it necessary.

    In short this is nothing to worry about. You have to remember that America’s military is a reflection of America (usually a better reflection I believe).

    I did find it rather interesting that the story cited a defense investigator as saying that “We have grafitti in Bahgdad. Using that as the test we could come to the conclusion that thousands of people in the military “roll their S— in little balls and write on S—house walls.”

    In short this is a NON-STORY. The good news is that if the NY Times is wasting space on “news” like this they’re not using that space to publish state secrets.

  21. Orman says:

    Story makes me feel incredibly old and cynical.

    The original document – not necessariitly the summary press release or the NYT rehash – quotes 2 current sources – a “Department of Defense investigator” (whatever that is) and an Air Force Office of Special Investigations guy. When I was in the Air Force decades ago, OSI guys were notable for only 2 things: 1)the cheap sport coats they wore; 2) their ability to keep their yaps shut. I guess these 2 guys – if they actually exist – have caught the Babbles from the New York Times.

    Could it be that the NYT is so increasingly desperate about it’s declining prestige that it is willing to publish anything that is detrimental about the only institution left that is highly reguarded – the armed forces.

  22. Orman says:

    Sorry to be back so soon but I had 2 other thoughts:

    1) Salt is supposed to be hazardous to your health – high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, etc.. Since to swallow a NYT story you have to swallow several million grains of salt, maybe the Times should be required to start displaying “Hazardous to your Health” warnings like the ones on cigarette packages.

    2) If anybody is tempted to believe the wild ass guess of “thousands” of these boogie men, I refer them to a book called “Damned Lies and Statistics Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians and Activists” publishe by – Gott Sei Dank! – The University of California Press.

  23. Kent says:

    Should we be concerned about the possibility this could happen? Of course. I suspect the military attracts neo-Nazis the way schools, day cares, and Boy Scout troops attract pederasts.

    Should we be concerned that this is already happening on a massive scale? Almost certainly not. The military are certainly aware of the potential problem, as illustrated by Dale’s excellent post, and have taken precautions.

    Lesson? Don’t let the ACLU sue the military for investigating recruits with suspicious taboos. Or, put more generally, don’t let military service begin to be treated as a Constitutional right.

  24. Bithead says:

    In short this is a NON-STORY. The good news is that if the NY Times is wasting space on �news� like this they�re not using that space to publish state secrets.

    Yes, and no.
    You’re quite correct, and that there is no ‘there’ there. one I think you’re missing, is the real story here; who has it that would benefit by miscasting the U.S. military has a bunch of racist killers?

    More, why is our domestic press, particularly the New York Times, so willing to spread this idea ?