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Posted on Feb 17, 2021 Print this Article

Will Defense Department “Stand-Downs” Push Extremism in Pursuit of Extremists?

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for a worldwide “stand down” to address extremism in the ranks.  This is fine, but several questions come to mind.  Will the program target extremism on both ends of the political spectrum?  And how will the one-day events identify “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 the U.S. Military Academy, 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 have every right to 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 from the military.  “That probably won’t happen,” he added, “until the Trump loyalists are out.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) expressed a similar attitude, insinuating that most of the 25,000 National Guard soldiers guarding the Capitol were white males and probably Trump voters inclined to cause trouble.

The one-day military stand downs will halt normal operations to focus on extremism.  DoD Instruction 1325.06 prohibits active participation in “supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology or causes.”

That description fits factions such as white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and 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 worsen violence for political purposes.

We saw them in action during the 2020 Summer of Rage.  Masked and hooded hooligans looted and destroyed whole sections of cities such as Portland, Chicago, and New York City.  Street gangs armed with professional gear invaded, ransacked, and burned federal buildings.  Some threw pre-positioned bricks and firebombs at small businesses.  They harassed people outdoors or in their homes and threatened to tear down historic monuments near the White House and state capitols nationwide.

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, really does not want to know.

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 education programs focusing on previously overlooked extremist symbols and activities associated with white supremacist and racist groups.

These efforts have continued, but there have been exceptions and tragic examples of political correctness distorting leaders’ judgement.  The worst of these occurred in November 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas, where Army Major Abdul Nidal Hasan ruthlessly killed thirteen adults and one unborn child.

Officials at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Hasan had been a resident, knew that the failing psychiatrist was espousing jihadist extremism.  Written evaluations of Hasan’s antagonistic behavior with patients and colleagues highlighted “warning signs” and “flashing red lights,” including a 50-slide PowerPoint presentation that descended into madness.

Hasan’s disturbing presentation elevated Islamic law over the U.S. Constitution and justified suicide bombings and fratricide by Muslim-Americans in the military.  Why was this dangerous man, carrying business cards describing himself as a “Soldier for Allah,”  promoted and transferred to Fort Hood?

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.”

Some feared questions about the Army’s commitment to “diversity” if Walter Reed discharged the only Muslim psychiatrist hired since 9/11.  Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey inspired that mindset, saying, “[A]s horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

The Army had learned nothing from jihadist attacks that had occurred previously.  In 2003, during the Persian Gulf War in Kuwait, Sgt. Hasan Akbar threw incendiary grenades into sleeping soldiers’ tents, killing two and injuring many more with rifle fire.

The chief prosecutor described Akbar as "a hate-filled, ideologically driven murderer” who wrote in his diary that he would kill American soldiers “for Allah.”  Akbar was found guilty and his death sentence was upheld on appeal in 2015.

More recently, authorities arrested 20-year-old Cole Bridges, who joined the Army in 2019.  Bridges faces two federal charges: providing training and guidance to purported ISIS fighters who were planning attacks on New York City targets such as the 9/11 Memorial and narrating a propaganda video promoting an ISIS ambush of American troops.

The military service academies should be studying and deterring such threats, but the institutions have tolerated leftist ideology for years.  In 2013, for example, the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center released a report that lumped mainstream conservative groups with white supremacists and the “violent far-right.”

Then came West Point cadet Spenser Rapone in December 2016, posing 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.  Hosein was placed on administrative leave, but Rapone faced no discipline for his bizarre behavior.  Nor was the USMA Superintendent held accountable for graduating an America-hating officer to lead others into battle.

Instead, 2nd Lt. Rapone was sent to the 10th Mountain Division.  In June 2018, he resigned with an other-than-honorable discharge and a rude “final salute” at the Fort Drum gate – apparently without any obligation to reimburse the government for his West Point education.

In June 2020, a group of “woke” USMA alumni sent to West Point leadership a 40-page manifesto demanding that the Academy 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.”

Such demands reflect critical race theory (CRT) ideology, which divides people with unresolvable accusations of racism.  As CMR reported last Fall, a West Point Sociology course requires textbooks promoting CRT, but scholars who have rejected critical race theory, such as Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, or Walter Williams are not included.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has just released their “Task Force One Navy” Final Report (TF1N).  The 141-page document is filled with “woke” vocabulary like “intersectionality,” “disparate impact,” and 338 variations of the word “diverse.”

A 5-point “TF1N Pledge” makes sailors and Marines promise to fight “racism, sexism, ableism, and other structural and interpersonal biases,” but the pledge says nothing about operational readiness or mission accomplishment.

Nothing could be worse for morale than a toxic brew of racist suspicion and division being forced on participants for a full day.  Pentagon officials have been vague about the purpose of the stand-down sessions, but they need to get it right.

They could start by taking a hard look at lessons learned from all incidents of violent extremism, on both ends of the political spectrum, and investigating whether leftist anarchists are exploiting military training.  They should also avoid intimidation or punishment for people expressing normal political beliefs.

Finally, the Defense Department should reinforce classic principles of non-discrimination and recognition of individual merit, without promoting leftist extremism in pursuit of extremists.

 * * * * * *

The Center for Military Readiness is an independent, non-partisan public policy organization, founded in 1993, which reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  More information is available on the CMR website,, and tax-deductible contributions can be made here.


Posted on Feb 17, 2021 Print this Article