05/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Military Training On Extremists Preying on Servicemembers

Yesterday, there was a big hubbub manufactured by the American Legion and Republicans surrounding the Department of Homeland Security finding that there is a possibility that returning veterans who were facing issues reintegrating into society could be recruiting targets for extremist groups.

The report makes no claim that veterans at large would seek out extremist groups, or would cause violence. It just makes the fairly logical conclusion that extremist groups who might be seeking to cause violence, but don't have the skills, may seek out those who do have military training in addition to the usual profile of the types of people they seek out.

Well, that was it. The uproar from the right was fast and harsh:

"To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable." - Rep. John Boehner

"The department is engaging in political and ideological profiling of people who fought to keep our country safe from terrorism, uphold our nation's immigration laws, and protect our constitutional right to keep and bear arms," Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.

"You have a report from Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama, Department of Homeland Security, portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than al Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong Il." - Rush Limbaugh

And, the American Legion chimed in with "outrage," especially that Timothy McVeigh was mentioned in the report.

"I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are." - David K. Rehbein, National Commander, The American Legion

Interestingly, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which pretty much always is tied at the hip to the Legion, disagreed.

"The report should have been worded differently, but it made no blanket accusation that every soldier was capable of being a traitor like Benedict Arnold, or every veteran could be a lone wolf, homegrown terrorist like Timothy McVeigh. It was just an assessment about possibilities that could take place," said Glen Gardener, National Commander of the VFW.

So why the rare schism between the Legion and VFW here? Because the VFW, in this case, is acting like a reality-based organization.

I hate to break it to Republicans, and to the Legion (which knows this, or should), but the military has been training servicemembers on the dangers of right wing extremist groups, and how they may target servicemembers and veterans, for years. That includes, yes, even under George W. Bush's Pentagon.

You can view Power Point presentations of these trainings here and here. (PowerPoint required)

For those who don't have PowerPoint, here's the gist of it. The 2d Battalion, 46th Infantry warns its members:

"Soldiers are prohibited from active participation in organizations which promote supremacist causes, attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, gender, religion, sex or national origin, advocate the use of force or violence, or otherwise attempt to deprive individuals of their civil rights."

Geesh, you'd think that the military thought there could be a problem with servicemembers being recruited by extremist groups which advocate violence, or something.

Another Army presentation lays out what it calls "Right Wing Ideology":

• America is in moral and religious peril
• Satanic forces are about to seize control of the world.
• Religions other than their own are false and not important.
• Anti-government

In a slide shortly thereafter, the Army presentation uses Timothy McVeigh - specifically - as someone who bought into this ideology and used his military training to cause harm to his nation and his people.

Oh my goodness, why does our Pentagon hate America and the military?!

The fact of the matter is, most military members and veterans - a vast majority - are good and decent people who only want to honor their nation. That's never going to change. What's also true is that extremist groups are always trying to infiltrate our ranks to get training, and if they cannot do that, they look for those out of the military who might be able to help them.

We who served in the military know it, which is why the military is constantly vigilant, and always training men and women to recognize extremists and keep away from them. The report from DHS says nothing new or different than what's been said by the Armed Forces for years, with not so much as a peep from the Republicans or American Legion. The only thing new and different here is the president.

Crossposted at