Repercussions of rightwing extremism rise in the military on US democracy
Retired US generals have warned of the possibility of a coup during the 2024 election.
Experts are concerned that the emergence of right-wing extremism in the US military would endanger democracy in the US. The Department of Defense is implementing new procedures to combat extremism inside its forces; however, experts are concerned that the measures will not go far enough, making the next election vulnerable to assault. Retired US generals have warned of the possibility of a coup during the 2024 election.
Paul Eaton, a retired US army major general and senior advisor to the non-profit VoteVets, said, "We’re behind the ball on what we know about domestic terrorists in the United States."
In an interview, Eaton said the US military and law enforcement have a history of underestimating the threat posed from the far right. Referring to the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh that killed 168 people and injured over 650, Eaton said, “It’s the Timothy McVeigh problem: what did we know about McVeigh and what were we doing about it?”
He adds that the cyber age and social media have helped to boost the threat of the far-right, considering that the "McVeighs of the world are still there, we had about 4,500 of them crawling all over the nation's Capitol."
Eaton warns that there is a recruiting effort ongoing and that extremism infiltrating the police force is a concern that needs to be monitored.
Neo-Nazi attacks attempted
Last year, army private Ethan Phelan Melzer confessed to organizing an attack against his fellow troops with a neo-Nazi group to ensure the "deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible."
In 2018, after attacking people in the 2017 Charlottesville "Unite the Right" demonstrations, marine lance corporal Vasillios Pistolis was found to be a member of the neo-Nazi group Aomwaffen.
354 people with military backgrounds have committed criminal acts motivated by political or religious goals, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
From 1990-2010, the number of cases a year has tripled.
Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, authorized a 60-day "stand down" early last year to devise regulations to combat extremism throughout the military's many branches.
The Pentagon's new guidelines, enacted last month, state that military officers are barred from engaging in extremist activities and may face disciplinary action even for "liking" terrorist information on social media.
Additionally, officers cannot be "indifferent" and must hold military personnel who engage in extremist activity accountable.
An AP investigation found that the Pentagon's efforts may fall short, as the new guidelines don't prohibit membership in extremist organizations, as long as they are not "actively participating".
Kristofer Goldsmith, an Iraq veteran and researcher, says white supremacist and fascist movements target veterans because they are an "economically efficient target for campaigns because if you get one, they often bring their immediate social circle with them."
Goldsmith says, “we saw a violent insurrection, we did not experience a peaceful transfer of power. It was an attempted coup. Every failed coup is just practice for the next one."