Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Army Brass Rattled by Ties of Soldiers to White Supremacists

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Army Brass Rattled by Ties of Soldiers to White Supremacists

Article excerpt

THE US Army is looking into how many of its 510,000 soldiers are members of racial hate groups - but it is unlikely to find the force riddled with such extremists.

Civil rights activists and academics who monitor the white-supremacy movement say that as far as they can determine, the percentage of organized bigots in the Army - and the military as a whole - is no different from that of the general US population. Citing the all-volunteer Army's success at integration, some say the percentage could even be lower.

But independent experts and Defense Department officials say the numbers are not as important as the fact that there are any hate-group members in the military at all. Such soldiers not only damage the Army's image and endanger their units' cohesion and morale but also have access to weapons, ammunition, and training.

"It only took a few people to blow up the {federal} building in Oklahoma City," says Mary Maumey, research director at the Center for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta. "It's important for the military not only to investigate, but to take a pro-active approach."

Secretary of the Army Togo West announced last week that the Army would investigate hate-group membership among its troops in the wake of the Dec. 7 slayings of a black man and woman in Fayetteville, N.C. Three white soldiers of the elite 82nd Airborne Division, based at nearby Fort Bragg, were charged in connection with the murders, assessed by police as random and race-motivated.

Maj. Gen. Larry Jordan, the Army's deputy inspector general, is conducting the investigation and is to submit his findings by March 1.

Police say the three suspects in the Fayetteville murders were self-styled neo-Nazis. A search of a private room rented off base by one suspect, Pvt. James Norman Burmeister II, found racist literature, a Nazi flag, a bombmaking manual, and weapons, police say. Newspaper reports quoted one of Private Burmeister's former barrack-mates as saying he had pinned the flag above his bed at Fort Bragg before he moved off base.

Infiltration by hate groups

The slayings focused fresh attention on the question of infiltration of the military by hate groups. The issue was last raised after the Oklahoma City bombing. The suspects in the April 19 attack that killed some 200 people, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, served together in the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., and reportedly shared right-wing views and had links to antigovernment militias.

Army regulations prohibit soldiers from "active" membership in racist groups. …

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