House hearing on extremist recruitment of veterans highlights partisan divide

Veterans are more and more becoming a member of extremist teams however an absence of information on the subject makes it tough to pinpoint precisely how deep the issue runs, a panel of consultants informed Home lawmakers on Wednesday.

“Violent extremism is a rising downside in America and by extension the navy and veteran communities,” retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler, a researcher of extremism, informed the Home Veteran Affairs Committee.

“The query just isn’t whether or not home violent extremist teams are recruiting and organizing veterans to commit violence, we already know this to be true. The questions are how intensive is that this downside and what are we going to do about it,” Plenzler stated. 

What’s extra, even when extremist teams attain and radicalize solely a small variety of veterans and repair members, they’ll nonetheless pose a menace to the USA.

“Whereas veterans who take part in home terrorism could also be few, they are often extraordinarily harmful,” Plenzler stated. 

He pointed to information that discovered veterans, who account for lower than 6 p.c of the U.S. inhabitants, have been related to 10 p.c of all home terrorist assaults since 2015.

Plenzler joined a panel of teachers, former navy officers and veterans group leaders talking within the first of three committee hearings on the recruitment of U.S. veterans by violent extremist teams.

The difficulty gained nationwide consideration after it was found that a big portion of those that participated within the lethal Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol had navy backgrounds.

Of the greater than 620 folks arrested in connection to the riot, 71, or 12 p.c, have been a part of the navy and veteran communities. 5 have been active-duty members of the Nationwide Guard or Reserve power whereas 66 have been veterans.

Committee Chairman Mark TakanoblankMark Allan TakanoHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment Legislation assuring automatic VA enrollment is more vital than ever before Yellen tries to tamp down Democrats fury over evictions ban MORE (D-Calif.) stated the aim of the listening to was to not condemn veterans who interact with extremist teams however “to attract consideration to what these teams truly signify and to focus on the lurking menace posed.”

“Solely by understanding who these teams are, what they consider, and what violent or unlawful actions they encourage from their members, can we start to evaluate our potential to intervene and to assist these veterans and their households reclaim their lives,” Takano stated.

Wednesday’s listening to was typically stalled by Republican lawmakers who questioned the necessity for such testimony and framed extremist views and behaviors as a matter of free speech. 

Rating member Mike BostblankMichael (Mike) J. BostMORE (R-Sick.) stated it was “each veterans’ proper to have an opinion, even one I discover radical,” although he allowed that if such an opinion is acted on with violence it “can’t be tolerated.”

He additionally apprehensive that holding the listening to risked spreading the false stigma that veterans are “damaged” as soon as they go away the navy, thus simply focused by extremists.

“I hope each veteran in America is watching this listening to at the moment and listening to from the bulk celebration that our veterans are so silly and prone to changing into home terrorists that Democrats have to avoid wasting them,” stated Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).

Committee Republicans, together with Banks and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), questioned why panelists didn’t embrace far-left extremist teams of their dialogue. They highlighted Black Lives Matter and antifa, which they blamed for final yr’s violent protests throughout the nation following the homicide of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. 

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, the director of American College’s Polarization and Extremism Analysis & Innovation Lab, replied that the panel was “discussing these teams which have been deemed the best potential menace by the Division of Homeland Safety and different businesses,” such because the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters militia teams 

A foremost focus of the listening to was the best way to cease veterans from changing into susceptible to recruitment from extremist teams, with emphasis on educating service members on the difficulty earlier than they go away the ranks.

Miller-Idriss additionally stated the U.S. authorities should do extra to help analysis on extremism, noting that there’s not sufficient information on why veterans could possibly be prone to such organizations. 

The panel additionally advisable that the Protection Division and Division of Veterans Affairs type a joint activity power to share info on the difficulty and that the departments be extra clear in how they deal with the issue.

Pentagon officers earlier this yr started investigating the difficulty amongst service members, however the VA has not introduced an identical effort. | Home listening to on extremist recruitment of veterans highlights partisan divide

Huynh Nguyen

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