Welcome Matt Kennard (The Guardian) (TheInvestigativeFund) and Host Daryl Johnson (DTAnalytics) (author, Right Wing Resurgence)

Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror

In the wake of the horrific Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin by Wade Michael Page—an ex-military neo-Nazi—comes a startling new investigation that reveals the depths of the extremist and criminal elements that have infiltrated the US military over the past two decades. Compiling years of research, interviews, and reporting from around the globe, journalist Matt Kennard presents a hard look at how the deliberate loosening of enlistment standards, especially after 9/11, allowed neo-Nazis, gang members, and the mentally ill to flood the ranks of the military.

Since the launch of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars—now the longest wars in American history—the US military has struggled to recruit troops. It has responded, as Irregular Army makes clear, by opening its doors to the volatile fringes of society—including white supremacists like Wade Page. Kennard’s report includes extensive interviews with extremist veterans and leaders of far-right hate groups who spoke openly of their eagerness to have their followers acquire military training for a coming domestic race war, encountering minimal resistance from recruiters. As a report commissioned by the Department of Defense itself put it, “effectively, the military has a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy pertaining to extremism.”

Kennard additionally tracks the rising enlistment of a variety of dangerous groups—including the physically unfit, the mentally ill, and convicted felons. He turns an eye on prominent gangs, such as the Bloods, Crips and Gangster Disciples, whose members join the military to receive weapons and combat training, and in some cases, use their stations as platforms for global drug trafficking and the illegal sale of high-power arms. Kennard shows the presence of all these criminals causes deep and irreparable harm; not only to occupied populations and fellow soldiers, but also to the countries to which these dangerous combatants return.

Irregular Army is a powerful investigation that exposes both the roots of defective military recruitment and its deadly aftershocks. Kennard’s book issues an urgent warning to the American public. With millions of veterans now back in the US and domestic extremism on the rise, Kennard calls upon the Department of Defense to tighten its regulations. “These are easy regulatory changes to make—if the will is there,” Kennard states. “But in terms of future attacks in the vein of Page, it could already be too late.”

Matt Kennard is a journalist based in London. He has worked for the Financial Times in Washington, New York, and London, and has written for Salon, the Chicago Tribune, and the Guardian. He graduated as a Stabile Investigative Fellow from the Columbia Journalism School. (Verso)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

92 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Matt Kennard, Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror”

BevW November 4th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Matt, Daryl, Welcome to the Lake.

Daryl, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

BevW November 4th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

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Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

It is an honor to host today’s book salon. I welcome the opportunity.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Thanks for having me on the salon, and thanks to Daryl for the introduction, very glad he’s around to answer questions too. Daryl’s courage in highlighting the issue of right-wing extremist threat in 2009 when he was at the DHS was an inspiration for the book.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Good evening everyone and welcome to FDL’s book salon for Sunday, November 4th. I’m here with Matt Kennard, author of “Irregular Army: How the U.S. Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror.” This book is a fascinating read. And, I have read it cover to cover.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

So, Matt, how did you become interested in this topic for your book?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:00 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 6

Well, I arrived in the US in 2007 when the war in Iraq was at it’s height, and Afghanistan was also becoming much more violent. At the time there was a lot in the US media about the fact the US military could not recruit enough soldiers to populate both wars. The US military increased the enlistment age to 42, for example, and started letting in more people without a high school diploma, amongst other things. So I wanted to see if this same sort of ripping up of regulation was happening with other, more dangerous, groups. So I started looking into the neo-Nazi/ white supremacist movement, and it didn’t take more than a couple of interviews before I realized this was a big story that the American public needed to know about.

dakine01 November 4th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Matt and Daryl and welcome to FDL this afternoon

Matt, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question so forgive me if you address this.

How far back with the Army did you look? I seem to recall that there were large amounts of gangs and supremacists back in the days of Vietnam, probably due to the draft. I know the army tried to tighten things up from the mid-70s on, just as they instituted a requirement that in order to receive a commission as a 2nd Lt, you had to have a bachelor’s degree..

And I also recall reading when the word got out that the Army was relaxing recruitment standards that this was probably going to be a result. Not as if “no one could have anticipated…”

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

So, lets talk about some of those interviews with white power activists with military service. Who did you interview? And, did anything stand out during the course of your conversations?

Elliott November 4th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Welcome to the Lake

This is a really scary story – are there efforts being made to fix the problem?

We should have brought back the draft after 9/11.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 8

Most of my research centered on the War on Terror period, although all the issues in the book have been around for much longer, as you say. The issue of white supremacists in the military, for example, was quite prominent in the 1990s because of Timothy McVeigh, and another white supremacist soldier called James Burmeister who killed an interracial couple next to Fort Bragg in 1995. Most of the military directive relating to these groups came about at this point.

But the issue of loosening regulation was big in the Vietnam era. Robert McNamara, Johnson’s Secretary of Defense, instituted a program called “Project 100,000″ in 1965, to increase the Army by that number in two years. It meant loosening regulations on intelligence, qualifications, and other things. The Army did have somewhat more to choose from in the Vietnam era though because of conscription, something which the Bush administration implacably opposed.

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Do you have a breakdown of the numbers of racists, gang members and mentally ill that got in the army is the army favoring any one group for recruitment are they favoring these groups to go into combat?
How do these groups react in combat?

hpschd November 4th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Welcome to FDL!

I’m reading the book and finding much that is very disturbing. I am wondering how you kept calm and objective during the interviews.

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

How about Blackwater are the Mercs who hire solders hiring these people because they one would think have less moral problems with doing things like torture for money?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:08 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 9

I interviewed a lot of white supremacist/ neo-Nazi vets. Perhaps the stand out interview was with a veteran of Iraq called Forrest Fogarty, who I went to meet in Florida, and actually went around the zoo with him and his kids. His resume reads exactly like Wade Michael Page, the shooter at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin — he was in a white power band, he had served as an open racist in the Army. He told me his command knew all about his neo-Nazism and it didn’t both them, in fact he said they would send him on the hardest misssions because of it.

I talked to neo-Nazi leaders too who said that service was encouraged so that their member could acquire training for the domestic race war they promoted back in the US.

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Are these people being used as cannon fodder ?

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

What if anything is the army and Obama doing to stop this problem? If an ex army vet who served as an open racist in the army kills Obama the army can expect budget cuts and several generals to lose their jobs.

Phoenix Woman November 4th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Welcome, gentlemen!

Dang, this makes me think of Project Paperclip, wherein we grabbed up the Nazi scientists after World War II in part so the Russians wouldn’t get ‘em (we’d already got the guys the Nazis kicked out, like Einstein): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4443934.stm

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
In response to Elliott @ 10

The regulations on neo-Nazis and white sup have always been ambigious, they are tightened every time there is an incident, but the wording is along the lines of it’s “inconsistent” with service, or “active participation” is banned, leaving the commander with enough leeway to interpret these words any way they want. In 2009 they tightened reg again, but it still didn’t outright ban neo-Nazis; it meant that it would be harder for them, but it gave enough leeway that if there were chronic troop deficits again, they would be allowed to flourish again.

Phoenix Woman November 4th, 2012 at 2:12 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 11

Oh, yeah — Project 100,000, which is how the fictional Forrest Gump (and several thousand real persons with mental retardation) got turned into cannon fodder in Vietnam.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

It’s hard to get numbers because the military don’t track neo-Nazis as a discreet group, but the figure I heard from analysts was that 10% of the US military is composed of street gangs, and about 1% of those are hardcore neo-Nazi white power types. In a military of 2m that’s a lot of people.

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Has the army studied how these solders actually perform in combat and how they adjust to civilian life afterwords?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I don’t think they are “cannon fodder” any more than other groups. But I found out something interesting in my research that the number of deaths of Latinos in the US military is far higher than their representation in the fighting force — which would indicate they are sent on more dangerous missions etc. So the racial component is probably more true of this. And you see that in the types of groups recruiters target — they go to high schools in the poorest areas, and prey on the poorest kids — often minorities.

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Who gave the order to lower standards to get into the army did the White House ever do polling on bringing back the draft instead to get better recruits?

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Elliott @ 10

To add another point to Matt’s, many military commanders and servicemen interpret the phrase “active participation” as group membership. Many of today’s white supremacists choose not to affiliate with groups, rather they network anonymously online. So, they rationalize they are not actively participating because they don’t belong to an organized hate group (if that makes sense).

Knut November 4th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Welcome to the Lake, Mr. Kennard. I haven’t read your book, but am interested in it, as my Yale roommate designed the volunteer army back in the late 70s and was Pentagon head of military personnel under Bush II. My understanding is that from the late 70s, to the late 1990s standards for admission to the military were actually quite high. The extremely high rates of employment after 1995 seem to have forced the army to lower its standards. I’m sure there was a lot of self-selection of sickoes into the military, just as there is into the police. I don’t think the army ever wanted these people; it was just all they could get, especially as long as the economy was booming. Were you able to get hold of the recruiting protocols? I know they were scraping the bottom of the barrel in 2005.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Obama admin changed the regulation in 2009 on neo-Nazis, but I believe it’s still ambiguous, it’s not an outright ban. Obviously if there is some massacre involving a neo-Nazi vet of the War on Terror, it will provoke outrage that will probably change things — until then, I think it’s elastic enough to be bent by commanders.

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 23

So Latinos are sent into combat more my guess is people with limited language skiils can’t do other jobs in the army. However I would Really like a study done to confirm this.
By the way how many Mormons serve in the army does it reflect their population and economic circumstances?

Elliott November 4th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 25

yes, thank you, that does make sense

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 27

Obviously if there is some massacre involving a neo-Nazi vet of the War on Terror, it will provoke outrage that will probably change things

Great it won’t likely be the President that gets hurt it will be us regular people who will die before this rule gets changed.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

The Bush administration were always opposed to conscription because the war in Iraq was so unpopular and they didn’t want a rerun of the anti-war movement during Vietnam. It actually was talked about quite a lot in 2006 and Charlie Rangle, the congressman from NY, sponsored a Reinstate the Draft Bill, but it was defeated in the House of Representative. Bush said he would have vetoed it anyway.

The changing of regulations was done consciously and by the people at the top. People like Rumsfeld were aware of the strain on the force but chose to redeploy soldiers more frequently and for longer (“stop loss”). A sign of their desperation was the renaissance that homosexual service members enjoyed under the Bush admin. Discharges under Dont Ask Dont Tell went right down, not because the Bush admin decided they were pro-gay now, but because they had no choice but to let them stay.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

We’ve already had members of the U.S. military arrested for threatening to kill President Obama. Assigning numbers to extremist membership is a tricky business. Lots of factors come into play. That said, I would estimate the number of hardcore white supremacists in the U.S. military at 1,000 or less. There are assuredly many more sympathizers, supporters and “closet racists.” But there are other extremists in the military like militia members and Oath Keepers. These extremist movements have a much greater representation in the military services.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to Knut @ 26

Interesting points, and I tend to agree. I don’t think the military dropped the regulations for any other reason than desperation. I don’t think they thought that white supremacists would make better soldiers etc, it was just that they could no longer afford to kick them out.

I think there was a progressive tightening of regulation and rebuilding of the US military after the Vietnam war ended in 1975 as it was in such a mess. The non-commissioned officer corp was completely depleted, the US population was turning away from service (Vietnam Syndrome) so the US military really had to rebuilt. A lot of that progress was throw out during the War on Terror as the Bush administration put such a strain on the institution that it basically broke. It could no longer attract enough soldiers, or retain the ones they had. They repeatedly sent soldiers with PTSD back into the war zone, and denied treatment to many who sort it for a host of really serious mental ailments. Many veterans are still dealing with the consequences of this.

ThingsComeUndone November 4th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

To keep the mentally ill sane in high stress situations like combat I wonder what kind of drugs and how strong are these drugs they are giving the mentally ill.
Also people on drugs tend not to be good workers I’ve noticed.
I can see special drugs being given before combat to increase aggression but how do you give these drugs to people before you are attacked? Also how do you turn off the aggression after the fighting is over.

hpschd November 4th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

An issue that you do deal with in the book is sexual abuse. Women in the army are at greater risk than ever. The lowering of recruitment standards would seem to be a contributing factor.

Is this a particular problem with the ‘extremeists’?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I was merely highlighting the figures on Latinos, it’s not something I have looked into deeply, it was just an interesting fact. The prevalence of Green Card soldiers — those who were serving as a way to citizenship — is also dealt with in the book, and was another way the US military dealt with troop shortages. The number of foreign citizens serving in the US military shot up 500% from 2004-6. The first combat casualty in Iraq was actually a Guatemalan orphan called Jose Gutierrez.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 32

Yeah I have heard 1,500 as the figure from analysts. In terms of numbers, street gangs is actually a lot more serious, they were extremely prevalent and still are, especially in the bases along the Mexican border, Fort Bliss, Fort Hood, and involved in murders, drugs and weapons trafficking etc.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Like in Vietnam, the US military covered for the lack of medical professionals (they were leaving and services were cut at the height of Iraq) with drugs — anti-depressents, ambien, stimulants. You name it the US military was prescribing it. And there were cases I document in the book of active duty personel actually trafficking cocaine and ecstasy from South America and Afghanistan.

holajuana November 4th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Hi Matt, firstly congratulations on the book, I have just finished reading it, it is an excellent piece of research and such an important investigation, thanks. I would like to hear a bit more about what the effects were on Iraqi and Afghani citizens of the US lowering of recruitment standards. I can only imagine that this lead to a horrendous amount of abuses, what do you know about this? thanks

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
In response to hpschd @ 35

Although a growing issue within the military, I have seen very little information about sexual abuse of women by extremists in the military. In the U.S. population, we’ve had many instances over the years of right wing extremist violence against women (particularly spouses) as well as some sexual exploitation of minors (both male and female). Charles Dyer, Scott Woodring, Charles Barefoot Jr., among many others.

CTuttle November 4th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Aloha, Matt and Daryl, welcome to the Lake…!

Having served 20 yrs in the Army (’85-’05) I’d witnessed it first-hand…!

Mahalo for shedding light on the degradation of our armed forces…!

November 4th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I should start by saying that I have not read this book. However speaking as somebody with direct personal experience of the barbaric way in which American soldiers behaved in my country and the casually vicious racism with which “good” American soldiers, mercenaries, and PRT civilians behaved towards Irakis it does not surprise me to learn that many of them are avowed extreme right-wing extremists.

I attended a course in we were taught to recognise various American dialects and accents. It was noticeable how many American soldiers in Irak were from the American southwest and deep south.

Mohammed Ibn Laith

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to hpschd @ 35

In the book, I link the awful amount of sexual abuse and rape of women service members with the prevalence of criminals, who benefitted from the “moral waiver” program which was out of control at the height of the War on Terror. You are making guesses in this situation because there is obviously a confluence of factors that contribute to this large amount of sexual abuse, but there’s no doubt allowing rapists, hardened criminals, as well as street gangs, to serve, increases the risk to women in the force. The culture of impunity afforded to sexual abusers is also a massive factor. There is a suit now being brought against Rumsfeld and his successor Robert Gates by 17 women who were raped in the War on Terror. They name them as defendents because they blame them for engendering a culture of impunity and a culture where women knew it would have a negative affect on their careers if they told their commanders about being abused.

Gitcheegumee November 4th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Mr, Kennard, this is an extremely interesting topic.

I have asked many times WHY has not the draft been reinstated?

Incidentally, the recruitment of gang style members brings(tangentially) to mind an article by Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque-by any chance are you familiar with it?( Enormously on point with the issue at hand.)

Dead Souls: The Pentagon Plan to Create Remorseless “Warfighters”


Jan 11, 2008 – Penny Coleman at Alternet.com gives us a look at a new program designed to dull the moral sensibilities of American soldiers in combat on the …

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to holajuana @ 39

Thanks for this question. In the American media, they never ask about this — the effect on the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The focus is always on what this means for the domestic population, which is serious, but so is what these people were doing out there. In short, we will never know the effect on the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan because the US military generally covered up or lied about the atrocities that were carried out — blaming them on insurgents for the most part. We have some cases like the massacre at Mahmudiyah (carried out by a soldier who received a moral waiver), but generally it’s hard to connect explicitly atrocities to the loosening of regs on undesirables, because we don’t know half of what happened over there, and the ones we do know it’s hard to investigate whether these people were white supremacists etc.

Most of the clues we get as to what these people were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan comes from cases of what veterans and active duty did once back in the US. You can’t murder and maim in the US without law enforcement calling you to account like you could in Iraq and Afghanistan. So Kenneth Eastridge is a neo-Nazi who was part of a murder of a fellow soldier in Colorado Springs and is now serving 10 years. After it emerged from a member of his platoon that Eastridge had taken a stolen AK47 and gone around Baghdad taking potshots at locals. Two were hit, said his colleague. Of course, noone was ever charged or called to account for this.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Matt, when you get a chance, I think your audience would be really interested in getting your thoughts on why white supremacists are interested in joining the military? And, perhaps, compare and contrast this with the different sort of interest from gang members in the military.

Gitcheegumee November 4th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Please see the Chris Floyd piece I mentioned upthread…

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 44

The draft was never reinstated because the Bush administration was scared about it increasing the anti-war mood. It’s a good question because in any other time conscription would have been instituted, there’s no doubt that was the logical thing to do with two such large ground wars. The ghost of Vietnam was haunting the Bush administration.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 46

Sure, the far right see the US military as a way to acquire training in weapons and tactical skills courtesy of the US taxpayer. Every group I interviewed said that — that when the end times war against ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government) comes their troops need to be equipped. Gangs is pretty similar, although I found with my research in to gangs, the military is often attractive because of the protection is gives you from law enforcement. The weapons training is obviously a boon, but it’s much easier to engage in criminal activities while in the military because you are not watched as closely as in the civilian world, and if you’re smart you can use the benefits of base life, like being surrounded by thousands of other people, the regular movements, to your advantage.

The final thing is access to weapons. There were (and are) countless cases of soldiers stealing weapons and selling them or keeping them for themselves. Neo-Nazis and gangs both used this.

I would add that good work on this has been done by the Government Accountability Office, and the FBI. Although the CID, Army’s investigative unit, has been more reticent to bring cases against soldiers involved in this sort of activity or even investigate it.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

An interesting point raised in your book was the pervasive racism within the military towards Arabs/Muslims. Has the War On Terror facilitated the growing phenomena known as “Islamophobia”?

CTuttle November 4th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 48

Shrub also implemented the ‘backdoor draft’ of ‘Stop Loss’…! Which pissed off a whole lot of service members…!

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 19

Another interesting point raised in Matt’s book is how military recruiters are inconsistently trained on how to recognize extremist symbolism. Still, those who are questioned about a swastika or other Nazi tattoo often provide vague or blatantly false answers which intentionally mislead the recruiters.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 50

Yeah I would say that it was endemic, and it came from the brass. So
this term “Hajji” which is a racial epithet used to describe the
subject population was used by top commanders (one soldier said he
experienced General George Casey using it frequently). I think also
this fortress mentality made it worse. Rumsfeld had this idea “virus
theory” that US soldiers would act like viruses in the Iraqi and
Afghani communities and therefore “anti-bodies”, or disgruntled Iraqi
and Afghani people, would try to get them out violently. So a lot of
the time US soldiers spent behind the blast walls at their bases, not
interacting with the local populations. Obviously this compounded this
idea that it was “us” and “them”. I think also there is a certain
inevitability to racism in war because there is such a power
imbalance, and it often engenders feelings of superiority in the

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 51

Yep “stop loss” caused a lot of pain for soldiers, and pushed some to the end of their tether. Repeated deployments as well, when soldiers would be away from family, friends for over a year.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Agreed….and, this sort of racism is part of a deliberate strategy to “dehumanize the enemy” making it easier to justify killing the opposition.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 52

Yeah tattoos are probably the best way to identify an extremist. And the education of recruiters was pretty much nil. The Pentagon admitted as much in their own internal reports, and I tested it out by calling recruitment centers saying I had SS bolts — blatant Nazi insignia — tattooed on me. Not one of the recruiters said it was a bar. I don’t blame them for it, I think they just weren’t trained well enough. And the Pentagon didn’t care. Also, recruiters get bonuses for reaching sign up targets, so it’s in their interest often to turn a blind eye.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Daryl, I would be interest to learn from you about CID, the Army’s investigative unit. Lots of people I talked to in the military said they were to blame for this culture of impunity afforded to far-right extremists. You know the institution well, what do you make of it?

I found in my investigations there was lots of beef between the FBI and CID — the FBI took the threat much more seriously it seems.

holajuana November 4th, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hi again matt, the revelations in the book are really shocking, have you had any official response from the US authorities on this, and why has the issue not been covered more by the US mainstream media given its importance?

bigchin November 4th, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I’m going to pose a rhetorical question to which I neither expect nor require a response from the author. Nor is it asked without immense respect as I enthusiastically support Mr. Kennard’s courage and his research and feel there’s a critical need to address his disturbing findings. In no way am I questioning his good faith, so I hope the moderator will allow my comment to stand even if this intro tacitly admits it is not entirely germane to Mr. Kennard’s book.


Doesn’t the war-on-terror make most soldiers American supremacists (perhaps Western supremacists is more appropriate)? And what does this say about our hyper-militarized culture that equates war crime with patriotism?

The innocent Muslim victims far outnumber the “terrorist troops” that actually exist even as our indiscriminate, deadly exercise in Pax Americana serves to swell the ranks of those we are trying, specifically, to kill.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I’m going to shift my attention for a moment away from extremist and gang infiltration of the military and focus on another equally disturbing topic raised in Irregular Army – the military’s insatiable appetite to recruit school children, non-US citizens and the poor. What types of recruiting techniques is the US military using against these vulnerable populations?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to holajuana @ 58

The Pentagon told Al-Jazeera that they had a complete ban on far-right activists, which isn’t true. Apart from that, not much. I have heard that the military is quite unhappy about the book, but I guess from their point of view it’s best not to comment directly on my findings.

I don’t understand why the US media isn’t more worried about this issue. I think number 1 it’s extremely controversial, and often the messengers are attacked, which is what happened to Daryl Johnson. He was attacked mercilessly by right-wing politicians who said that the threat from Islamic fundamentalism was front and center and white Americans, people like us, should not be looked as potential terrorists.

hpschd November 4th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Jared Loughner (shooter in AZ who killed 6 and shot Rep Giffords) was rejected from enlistment because he admitted using marijuana!!? He passed all other tests and qualifications. (as you described in the epilogue)

Moral waivers for gang members, white supremacists, felonies OK but you’re a reject for using marihuana?

CTuttle November 4th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 54

More Soldiers are dead from suicide, than from combat these days…! We need to wake the f*ck up, stop our Western Imperialism, and bring all the Boyz home Now…! 8-(

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 57

Jurisdictional friction between law enforcement agencies is common place – particularly if it involves the FBI – so, that’s not surprising that FBI and Army CID had dissenting opinions on the issue. In my interaction with Army CID over the years, I’ve found them to be professional and interested in pursuing investigative leads concerning extremist activity in the military. However, like all law enforcement agencies, they are often constrained on what they can do about the problem until it escalates into a criminal matter. Also, you may have some elements within Army CID that downplay the problem similar to a family downplaying a misfit family member. Nevertheless, I did not observe such behavior. I primarily interacted with CID HQ at Ft. Belvoir, Va.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 60

The US military basically colonized high schools during the War on Terror. Through the No Child Left Behind Act, schools were obliged to hand over the details of all their kids to recruiters — phone numbers, addresses etc. And a process of grooming got underway. Obviously these recruiters didn’t prey on Upper East Side Manhattan private schools, they went to the poorest areas, where kids could be most tempted by (often false) promises of monetary bonuses and educational benefits. It was a really shocking part of the military strategy to swell their ranks. It was also fought valiantly by children and their parents. I talk in the book about a movement that started in Brooklyn New York to stop military recruiters taking over their schools — it was largely successful. Although it’s always a risky approach because certain types of funding are linked to a schools willingness to allow recruiters on their grounds. For poor schools in deprived neighborhoods this makes it especially hard to fight.

Recruiters would also often lie to the kids about what they had signed up to. So the DEP — delayed enlistment program — is something you can sign up to before you graduate high school saying you want to go into the military. It’s non-binding. But kids would often be told on graduation that it was binding and be forced, under threats and insults from recruiters, to join up and be shipped off to the Middle East.

hpschd November 4th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 61

Reports on domestic terrorists are suppressed, but ‘eco-terrorists’ (who have not directly harmed anyone) are sent to prison.

This is insane.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to hpschd @ 62

Yeah it’s interesting the case of Loughner because he was so obviously crazy but go through all the initial tests, then came up on the marijuana question. In the recruiting process, it is actually up to the enlistee to admit past criminal convictions — it’s not actively investigated by the US military, which seem strange in itself. Also it’s worth saying that being a gang member is not prohibited by the military — there is no regulation on gang members, which is also strange, seeing as they are often hyper-violent, criminal enterprises.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

With regard to unwanted targeting of children by military recruiters in schools, do concerned parents have any other recourse such as requesting their child’s name be removed from recruitment lists and student databases used by the military? Your chapter about military recruitment tactics targeting children really disturbed me.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:21 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 63

The level of suicide in the veteran community is a complete outrage. It’s really out of control, the figures make your jaw drop. And it didn’t occur in a vacuum — soldiers were denied treatment when they needed it and sent back into combat. These people are now entering the prison system in large numbers, too, which is also a big worry.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 68

Yes, in this long, long No Child Left Behind, there was a caveat that said parents can request that their children’s name aren’t given to recruiters. But obviously most parents don’t know about the caveat, let alone the bill itself, so it was hardly ever used. From what I heard as well the military would make it as hard as possible for parents to opt out, they would increase the bureaucratic procedures to unmanageable levels — huge amounts of documentation needed — and it would take months if not years. All of it was designed to put parents off bothering.

hpschd November 4th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Are young men still required to register for the draft? Is the contact information used by recruiters?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to hpschd @ 71

By 2006, the Pentagon had gathered the names of 34 million young people, what they called “the largest repository of 16-25-year-old youth data in the country,” in something they called the JAMRS database, or the Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies program run by the DOD. The data was also retrieved by private data brokers, such as the Student Marketing Group and American Student List, who were paid up to $600,000 by the Pentagon every year to aggregate young people’s purchasing choices.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Matt, in your book, you talk about the rapid privatization/corporate (i.e. use of contractors) of the US military for the Global War On Terror. Should we be concerned about this? And, what potentially adverse side-effects will this have on future war fighting?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 73

The use of increasing number of private contractors in the WoT was all part of a long-held plan by Rumsfeld to transform the Pentagon, eviscerate the regular army and scale down, corporatise its functions. By 2005, there were more private contractors than US military personnel in Iraq.

I think it is extremely worrying for the domestic population, and also those occupied. Private contractors can, and did, act with impunity. They are outside of the usual legal procedures for military personnel and the occupied country. Blackwater employees who carried out Nissour Sq massacre never had to stand trial for the crimes, they were spirited out of the country.

I believe it is unconstitutional as well. And I think an outgrowth of this is the gradual militarisation of policing in the US. Increasingly private contractors are being deployed to handle domestic crises (like Katrina in 2005), and it doesn’t bode well for those involved in peacefully protesting.

CTuttle November 4th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to Matt Kennard @ 69

Most excellent points…! We’ve yet to fully realize the true costs to Society, of Shrub’s illegal war(s)…! 8-(

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

let me know if I missed any questions, I think I got to them all?

hpschd November 4th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

The US has hundreds of bases scattered around the planet. These ‘irregular army’ types must be at these bases. Surely they are trouble there too.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

We’ve briefly touched on a variety of issues facing US military servicemen and women….alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness (i.e. PTSD, depression, anxiety), individual struggles related to reintegrating into civilian life, etc. Is the military prepared to deal with these soldiers who are facing personal crisis? How much money has the US military invested in treatment programs for these soldiers?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to hpschd @ 77

Yeah good question, and they definitely are. I deal in the book with cases of alcoholism and drug use, and local communities in these countries have sometimes paid the price through assaults and murders of locals by US service member drunk etc. And I recount in the book the case of Juwan Johnson, a soldier who was murdered in a gang initiation ceremony in a forest in Kaiserslauten, Germany, by a bunch of his fellow soldiers. These people are a danger to the communities around the bases without doubt.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

In addition to physical, emotional and mental health issues, what other long term affects have resulted from the War On Terror? Do you have any thoughts about the economic toll and the potential radicalization of many future terrorists?

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 78

I don’t think the military, or the federal government, is ready for the millions of veterans who are now settling back into the US. The main costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have yet to be spent (the health care for these millions) and I don’t think the money will be there to do it. You saw during the WoT that the military would tell doctors to misdiagnose PTSD as a “personality disorder” so the costs of treatment could be avoided. Thousands of lives have been ruined because of this.

Also, one of the grandest myths in US political discourse is that the Republican Party are the party of the armed forces. The Bush admin consistently cut health care insurance for vets during its tenure, and in Paul Ryan’s FY2011 budget he sought to completely, 100 per cent, destroyed the one program which houses homeless vets (HUD-VASH). The veteran community for the Republicans are part of Romney’s 47%, an expendable and victim group. It’s really shocking when you start looking into it. The Democrats are not much better, but the savage cuts the Repubs propose are much more extreme.

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

In the closing minutes, I have a few remaining questions for Matt. Where do we go from here? What can the US military do now to combat its own problems which are elaborated in your book?

CTuttle November 4th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 78

How much money has the US military invested in treatment programs for these soldiers?

In my years of experience, they’ve certainly invested a lot more over the years, and, had made large strides forward in outreach efforts…! But, en toto, it is still a mere pittance, and falls well short of what needs to be expended, within both, the DoD and VA systems…! 8-(

BevW November 4th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Matt, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and our military crisis.

Daryl, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Matt’s website and book (Irregular Army)

Daryl’s website (DTAnalytics) and book (Right Wing Resurgence)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Daryl Johnson November 4th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

To echo Bev’s comments, Irregular Army is a great read. I highly recommend it to those interested in the aforementioned topics of discussion. Like I said earlier, it contains a wealth of information related to how the War On Terror is affecting our nation and will continue to affect it for many years to come.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:55 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 80

I think the War on Terror changed America forever. There is a silent tragedy going on right now — tens of thousands of people are living out nightmare lives now because of the the effects of these wars. The price attached to that, in economic terms, but also in terms of future threats to US population is scary to contemplate. I really believe that this story, the Irregular Army, will play out over the next decades and will grievously harm US society. Regulation can be tightened, more care gives to troops — but in some ways it might already be too late. It took Wade Page 14 years to detonate after he was discharged from Army. How many Page’s are out there one foreclosure, break up with a girlfriend, away from losing it? It’s not a nice thing to think about.

In Joseph Stiglitz’s book The $3 Trillion War he says that much of the economic toll of the war in Iraq will be felt as health care payments in the coming decades, so the problem isn’t over as the wars wind down.

CTuttle November 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Daryl Johnson @ 82

*heh* Divert our Warbuck$ from warfare to healthcare…! Easy enough…! ;-)

hpschd November 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Thanks Matt and Daryl.

This is certainly a serious issue and the consequences are already dire. It is clear that the media are ignoring it.

Thanks for doing the hard work and exposing the decline.

Matt, I was very interested in your discussion of the decline of Rome and Flavius Vegitius Renatus on “Concerning Military Matters”

This is not a new problem, but the result will likely be the same.

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Ok thanks Bev and everyone. And thanks especially to Daryl, who is a hero in many respects for his principled stand over this issue. Check out his new book here: http://www.amazon.com/Right-Wing-Resurgence-Domestic-Terrorist-Ignored/dp/1442218967 a great and informative read…

Matt Kennard November 4th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to hpschd @ 88

Yep the Rome analogy is not made a lot in this context, but the similarities are quite striking. What is sure is that you cannot do this kind of thing — allow in all sorts of desirables — without harming the domestic society. It will have an effect for many decades to come. Hope that was helpful…

CTuttle November 4th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa, Matt and Daryl, for all of your efforts…! *g*

Phoenix Woman November 4th, 2012 at 5:38 pm

It’s no accident that persons from the deep south and west make up a disproportionately large part of the US’ armed forces. The south – which never had as strong a middle class as did the north, and where a tiny group of plantation and slave owners ruled over black slaves and poor whites who were all but slaves themselves – has always prided itself on having better military minds than the north. There is also the fact that because decent jobs and good public educations were and are hard to come by for most Southerners, a career in the military is the best, if not the only, way to have a better life.

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