In response to a newly unclassified Department of Homeland Security report that warns of dangers associated with “right-wing extremists” – and singles out returning war veterans as particular threats – the American Legion has fired off a letter to DHS in protest.
“I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are,” writes David K. Rehbein, national commander of the American Legion, to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The Legion’s letter comes in response to a report titled “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” dated April 7, which warns against the possibility of violence by unnamed “right-wing extremists” concerned about illegal immigration, increasing federal power, restrictions on firearms, abortion and the loss of U.S. sovereignty.
The document, first reported by talk-radio host and WND columnist Roger Hedgecock, suggests worsening economic woes, potential new legislative restrictions on firearms and “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”
John Raughter, communications director for the American Legion, told WND that conjuring images of returning veterans as “lone wolf extremists” is unfair.
“We don’t like these stereotypes,” said Raughter. “Veterans are people who served their country, most of the time heroically. To denigrate their service, cite disgruntled military veterans, brings back images of the stereotypes Vietnam veterans faced when returning.
“It’s sad that the report comes from DHS,” Raugher added. “It could be from some fringe group.”
As WND reported, the release from DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis contends – “without any statistical evidence,” according to Rehbein’s letter – that returning veterans “could lead” terrorist cells planning domestic violence.
“Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right-wing extremists,” the report states. “DHS/I&A is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize veterans in order to boost their violent capacities.”
It adds that “growth in these groups subsided in reaction to increased government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and disrupted plots, improvements in the economy and the continued U.S. standing as the pre-eminent world power.”
The American Legion, however, strongly objects to the report linking veterans to the Oklahoma City tragedy simply because bomber Timothy McVeigh had served in the military.
“The American Legion is well aware and horrified at the pain inflicted during the Oklahoma City bombing,” writes Rehbein in his letter, “but Timothy McVeigh was only one of more than 42 million veterans who have worn this nation’s uniform during wartime. To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical ‘disgruntled military veteran’ is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.”
Offending more than veterans
Besides the American Legion, other organizations have also taken offense at the report, for its broad-sweeping categorization of who might be considered an “extremist.”
The report defines right-wing extremism in the U.S. as “divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
The report further adds that “‘end times’ prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition and weapons. These teachings also have been linked with the radicalization of domestic extremist individuals and groups in the past, such as the violent Christian Identity organizations and extremist members of the militia movement.”
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, director of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, released a statement condemning the report for lumping Christians, abortion opponents, limited government advocates and proponents of other politically “conservative” causes together into a supposedly “terrorist” faction.
“It would be impossible to overstate the way this report links conservative views with terrorist potential,” writes Crouse. “It even threatens the utilization of law enforcement actions to curb such activities ‘in today’s climate.’ It is scary to read that the United States government is launching major efforts to ‘limit’ domestic social conservatives – whom they call ‘rightwing extremists’ – at the same time that it is downplaying the threat of Islamic terrorists who have plainly stated their intent to harm our nation.”
One WND reader, whose name has been withheld, looked at his own beliefs about limited government and abortion – potentially “right-wing extremist” beliefs, according to the DHS – and voiced his opinion of the report in an email:
“According to Homeland Security, I am a right-wing radical,” writes the WND reader. “My extremist activities include: working on my 24th year of marriage, raising my four kids, believing that our inalienable rights are granted by God not the government, holding all life sacred, belief in American exceptionalism and, yes, attending Tea Parties to protest ‘generational theft’ of our childrens future.”
He added, “Let me know where I need to turn myself in, because I don’t want the government wasting money looking for me.”
An official with DHS, however, told Fox News that the critical reaction to the report has been overblown and that in January a similar report was drafted regarding left-wing extremists.
“This is the job of DHS,” the official said, “to assess what is happening in this country, with regard to homegrown terrorism, and determine whether it’s an actual threat or not, and that’s what these assessments do. This is nothing unusual. These assessments are done all the time. This is about awareness.”
DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban added, “DHS has no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right-wing extremists may be gaining new recruitments by playing on their fears about several emerging issues.”
The report states the DHS will be working with state and local partners over the next several months to determine the levels of right-wing extremist activity in the U.S.