House Democrats sounded the alarm on Wednesday about white supremacist groups in the United States targeting military veterans for recruiting.
Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee have argued that veterans are more vulnerable to recruitment by the extremist fringe and are increasingly encouraged to join the ranks of white supremacists.
“The corrupting influence of 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 Mark Takano, Democrat of California , as he launched the first in a series. hearings planned on the subject.
Republicans on the panel retorted that Democrats were perpetuating false narratives and portraying veterans in a bad light.
The committee’s top Republican, Representative Mike Bost of Illinois, said “headline-grabbing” reports of veterans of extremist groups do not tell the whole story.
“There is very little data on the number of ex-combatants 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’t let a few bad apples spoil the whole group.
Democrats introduced several experts who testified that the threat of white supremacy was growing and infecting the veteran community.
“The pace, scope and scale of far-right extremism has clearly increased and is intensifying rapidly,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University.
She described an “explosion of far-right violence” over the past five years, including white supremacists and far-right extremists responsible for two-thirds of domestic terrorism plots in 2020.
Other researchers see different models.
Lora Reis, senior homeland security researcher at the Conservative Heritage Foundation, said much of the expert panel’s testimony continued a false narrative which she said was being constructed by the administration Biden to target Republicans.
The number of domestic terrorist attacks remains fairly low despite being identified by President Biden’s Department of Homeland Security as one of the main threats facing the country, she said, adding that Threats posed by left-wing extremist groups such as Antifa are often ignored.
Ms Reis said there were around 48 national terrorist attacks between 2018 and 2019, before the wave of Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots in 2020.
“So very small numbers, and yet this is what the left is focused on and pursuing and pursuing this narrative of domestic violence and white supremacists, in particular being the most enduring and deadly threat to the homeland,” she said in an interview. “They have no idea what really happened in 2020, they don’t mention Antifa or BLM. And so it’s completely skewed, and it’s being used to go after the Conservatives and in the courtroom of this hearing to go after the veterans and silence them about free speech. “
Yet extremism in the military has been at the center of the concerns of Pentagon leaders after several active duty members were identified in the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed to root out extremism within the service during his confirmation hearing just weeks after the attack. Last spring, the Pentagon ordered a Department of Defense-wide “pullout” to discuss the scourge of extremism.