| FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. Aug 21 They call it "rahowa"
- short for racial holy war - and they are preparing for it by
joining the ranks of the world's fiercest fighting machine, the
White supremacists, neo-Nazis and skinhead groups encourage
followers to enlist in the Army and Marine Corps to acquire the
skills to overthrow what some call the ZOG - the Zionist
Occupation Government. Get in, get trained and get out to brace
for the coming race war.
If this scenario seems like fantasy or bluster, civil rights
organizations take it as deadly serious, especially given recent
events. Former U.S. Army soldier Wade Page opened fire with a
9mm handgun at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, murdering
six people and critically wounding three before killing himself
during a shootout with police.
The U.S. Defense Department as well has stepped up efforts
to purge violent racists from its ranks, earning praise from
organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has
tracked and exposed hate groups since the 1970s.
Page, who was 40, was well known in the white supremacist
music scene. In the early 2000s he told academic researcher Pete
Simi that he became a neo-Nazi after joining the military in
1992. Fred Lucas, who served with him, said Page openly espoused
his racist views until 1998, when he was demoted from sergeant
to specialist, dis ch arged and barred from re-enlistment.
While at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, Page told Simi , he
made the acquaintance of James Burmeister, a skinhead
paratrooper who in 1995 killed a black Fayetteville couple in a
racially motivated shooting. Burmeister was sentenced to life in
prison and died in 2007.
No one knows how many white supremacists have served since
then. A 2008 report commissioned by the Justice Department found
half of all right-wing extremists in the United States had
"We don't really think this is a huge problem, at Bragg, and
across the Army," said Colonel Kevin Arata, a spokesman for Fort
"In my 26 years in the Army, I've never seen it," the former
company commander said.
Experts have identified the presence of street gang members
as a more widespread problem. Even so, the Pentagon has launched
three major pushes in recent decades to crack down on racist
extremists. The first directive was issued in 1986, when Defense
Secretary Casper Weinberger ordered military personnel to reject
That failed to stop former Marine T.J. Leyden, with two-inch
SS bolts tattooed above his collar, from serving from 1988 to
1991 while openly supporting neo-Nazi causes. A member of the
Hammerskin Nation, a skinhead group, he said he hung a swastika
from his locker, taking it down only when his commander politely
asked him to ahead of inspections by the commanding general.
"I went into the Marine Corps for one specific reason: I
would learn how shoot," Leyden told Reuters. "I also learned how
to use C-4 (explosives), blow things up. I took all my military
skills and said I could use these to train other people," said
Leyden, 46, who has since renounced the white power movement and
is a consultant for the anti-Nazi Simon Wiesenthal Center.
RATTLED BY OKLAHOMA BLAST
In 1995, eight months before the Fort Bragg murders, two
former Army soldiers bombed the Oklahoma City federal building,
killing 168 people. With a growing awareness of the spreading
militia movement, the Pentagon in 1996 banned military personnel
from participating in supremacist causes and authorized
commanders to cashier personnel for rallying, recruiting or
"What's scary about Page is that he served in the 1990s when
putatively this was being treated quite seriously by the
military. There's plenty of other Pages who served during the
war on terror, and we don't know what they're going to be doing
over the next decade or so," said Matt Kennard, author of the
forthcoming book "Irregular Army: How the U.S. Military
Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members and Criminals to Fight the War
Kennard argues the U.S. military was so desperate for troops
while fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that it
allowed extremists, felons and gang members into the armed
The military can grant a "moral waiver" to allow a convicted
criminal or otherwise ineligible person into the armed forces,
and the percentage of recruits granted such waivers grew from
16.7 percent in 2003 to 19.6 percent in 2006, according to
Pentagon data obtained by the Palm Center in a 2007 Freedom of
Information Act request. But the Pentagon says no waiver exists
for participation in extremist organizations.
"Our standards have not changed; participation in extremist
activities has never been tolerated and is punishable under the
Uniformed Code of Military Justice," said Eileen Lainez, a
Defense Department spokeswoman.
The Pentagon's third directive against white supremacists
was issued in 2009 after a Department of Homeland Security
report expressed concern that right-wing extremists were
recruiting veterans returning from wars overseas.
The Pentagon's 2009 instruction, updated in February
2012, directs commanders to remain alert for signs of racist
activity and to intervene when they see it. It bans soldiers
from blogging or chatting on racist websites while on duty.
"This is the best we've ever seen," said Heidi Beirich,
leader of the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence
project, referring to the Pentagon's attitute. "It was really
disheartening under the Bush administration how lightly they
took it, so this is a major advance."
Her group monitors online chatter among self-described
active-duty warriors serving overseas and reports it to military
officials. It also receives regular calls from military
investigators asking about racists in the service.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation
League (ADL), another civil rights monitor, have helped train
officers on how to spot extremists, although Mark Pitcavage,
director of investigative research at the ADL, says the military
lacks comprehensive training for recruiters and commanders. He
called the military's reaction when alerted to white
"We've discovered a great range of response, from getting a
phone call the next day saying, 'He's already out,' to not doing
anything at all," Pitcavage said.
THE TATTOO MATRIX
The Army showed Reuters a one-hour presentation it says was
designed to educate soldiers and Army leaders about its
extremism policy and how to respond, including to white
supremacy groups. Penalties for extremist ideology may include
being removed from the military, having security clearances
yanked or being demoted.
"The standard hateful message has not been replaced, just
packaged differently with issues like freedom of speech,
anti-gun control themes, tax reform and oppression," the
presentation says, noting that recruitment may be difficult to
detect, occurring quietly "in bars and break areas" on bases.
The presentation instructs Army leaders to look out for
tattooed symbols of lightning bolts, skulls, swastikas, eagles
and Nordic warriors. Skinheads may have tattoos showing barbed
wire, hobnailed boots and hammers.
In a detailed flowchart called a "Tattoo Decision Support
Matrix," Army leaders are shown how to respond to various
tattoos. At the time of publication, the Army was unable to
identify the locations where this course was being taught.
SCREENING OUT ROGUES
"We're very strict on the tattoo policy here within this
recruiting station," said Sergeant Aaron Iskenderian, head of
the Army recruiting office in Fayetteville, the Army town next
to Fort Bragg.
With the United States withdrawn from Iraq, winding down
from Afghanistan and unemployment stuck above 8 percent,
recruiters can be choosy again.
Iskenderian cited the example of a young man who came in
recently with a tattoo of the Confederate flag.
"We're in the South here. It's considered Southern
heritage. It's on the General Lee," Iskenderian said, referring
to the car from the television show "The Dukes of Hazzard."
"Is it racist? I asked him, 'What does it mean to you?' and
he said, 'Southern pride.'"
The potential recruit also told Iskenderian he had a black
girlfriend. Iskenderian sent the issue up the chain of command,
and the young man was rejected.
Academics who study white supremacists say proponents of the
"infiltration strategy" of joining the U.S. military have
adapted, telling skinheads to deceive military recruiters by
letting their hair grow, avoiding or covering tattoos, and
suppressing their racist views.
"You have to differentiate between some of the grandiose
fantasies of some of the leaders of the movement and what
actually is going on," cautioned the ADL's Pitcavage.
For neo-Nazis who get past the screeners, as with the gang
members, the military needs a comprehensive strategy, said
Carter F. Smith, a former military investigator who is now a
professor of criminal justice at Austin Peay State University in
"They are some of the most disciplined soldiers we have.
They really want to learn to shoot those weapons," Smith said.
"The problem wasn't just that we were opening the floodgates to
let them in. We let them out after prosecution or when their
time was up and we didn't let the police know."