House Democrats on Wednesday sounded the alarm that white supremacist groups in the United States were targeting military veterans for recruitment.
Democrats in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee argued that veterans are more vulnerable to recruitment from the extremist fringe and are increasingly being lured into joining the white supremacists.
“The corrupt influence of violent domestic violent extremist groups recruiting veterans is a critical issue at a time when our nation remains deeply divided,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano, the California Democrat, when he launched the first in a series of scheduled hearings on the subject.
The Republicans on the panel opposed the Democrats perpetuating false stories and painting veterans in a bad light.
The committee’s top Republicans, rep. Mike Bost, from Illinois, said that news reports about “headlines” about veterans in extremist groups do not tell the whole story.
“There is very little data on how many veterans are actually involved in violent extremism and the actions that follow,” he said. And there is no doubt that the vast majority of veterans are law-abiding and peaceful. We can not let a few bad apples ruin the whole flock. ”
Democrats presented several experts who testified that the white supremacist threat grew and infected the veterans community.
“The pace, scope, and extent of right-wing extremism has demonstrably increased and is escalating rapidly,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University.
She described an “explosion of right-wing extremist violence” over the past five years, including white supremacists and right-wing extremists who were responsible for two-thirds of domestic terror plans by 2020.
Other researchers see different patterns.
Lora Reis, a senior homeland security researcher at the Conservative Heritage Foundation, said much of the testimony from the expert panel continued a false narrative that she said was built by the Biden administration to target Republicans.
The number of domestic terrorist attacks is still quite small, although President Bidens Department of Homeland Security has identified it as one of the biggest threats to the country, she said, adding that the threats from left-wing extremist groups like Antifa are often ignored.
Ms Reis said there were about 48 domestic terrorist attacks between 2018 and 2019, before the wave of Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots in 2020.
“So very small numbers, and yet that’s what the left is focusing on and running with and continuing this tale of domestic violence and white supremacists, especially the most persistent and deadly threat in the home country,” she said in an interview. “They completely ignore what actually happened in 2020, they do not mention Antifa or BLM. And then this is completely biased and it is used to go after conservatives and in the hearing of this hearing to go after veterans and ask them from freedom of speech. ”
Yet military extremism has been a focus of Pentagon leaders after several active-duty members were identified in the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin promised to eradicate extremism within the services during his confirmation hearing a few weeks after the attack. Last spring, the Pentagon ordered a Department of Defense “stand down” to discuss the scourge of extremism.
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