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)
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