Monday, May 18, 2009

Veteran+Conservative+Private firearm ownership supporter+Rough economy=New domestic terrorist

Hello. I simply wanted to reintroduce myself as the new face of terrorism in the United States. Because I am a veteran, politically conservative, support the private ownership of firearms, live in a country suffering from an economic downturn, and apparently have no mind of my own, I am now susceptible to recruitment by so-called "right wing" groups that support the violent overthrow of the United States government.

Granted, this new designation and susceptibility means that the government-working-against-its-citizens shoe is now on the other foot and that the very mechanisms of surveillance and operation that I still support will now be turned on me, but I am not concerned because, as a veteran, conservative, firearm owner now purportedly surrounded by like-minded extremists, I think I have a pretty good shot at resistance.

Which is probably a good thing considering that the same government that felt the need to create this new definition of terrorism also has plans to restrict the First Amendment, scrap the Second, and ignore the Fifth. Perhaps what this government fears is not terrorists, but citizens who dare to be the individualists the Founders envisioned.

Whatever the reason, I think I am comfortable with my new label. I think that it means my government fears me, and in my view, governments should always fear their citizens. It helps keep them honest.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

--Second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence


David said...

Wow. If only you could get this worked up about ACTUAL grievances like, say, imprisoning people without charges, holding them indefinitely, and torturing them.

But please, by all means, tell us again how the factual statement that situations like the bad economy, as but one example, might be used to recruit extremists who share certain opinions with you makes you a domestic terrorist.

And while you're at it, you might want to rethink your willingness to accept that label. As it stands in this country today, the mere accusation of terrorism is enough to have to penned up for a life of torture. If you really think the government fears you, you should be very careful indeed.

Dennis L Hitzeman said...

First, if rendition has occurred in the way you say, it is criminal and people should be punished. I have repeatedly stated that view and still challenge anyone to produce credible evidence of its occurrence so that something can be done about it.

Second, the problem with the actual document is its specific singling out of current veterans for no other reason than their status of being veterans. I do not doubt that in any difficult time extremist groups gain recruitment, but this bulletin opens the door for government action against veterans simply for having served their country.

Third, I "accept" the label simply because it shows how quickly things have gone wrong. As a veteran, I served to give the people the right to do as they see fit through their government, even when I disagree. When the government turns on its own protectors, then what? That is an act of fear, whatever power the government might possess.

I understand that this problem is a parallel to our earlier debates about warrantless wiretapping, et al, but the issue of surveillance is not my gripe. Singling out veterans in such a blanket way is similar to singling out all members of environmental groups because some people commit environmental terrorism. Yes, it also happens that I am a veteran, so it hits home in this case, but I would be just as upset if the same thing was happening to another group with the same generalization and without cause.

As I see it, we are headed, as a nation, down a path of one knee-jerk reaction after another. Congress reacted in a knee-jerk way in the 90s to eliminate and restrict the very kind of intelligence gathering capabilities we needed to be able discern between civilians and terrorists, then after 2001, the executive reacted to the lack of intelligence tools by using a tool whose legality and viability was always in question. Now, the current executive has taken that reaction one step further by labeling entire groups as risks for no other reason than their--perhaps--propensity to think a certain way.

This is a cycle that, in my view, is doomed to devastate the undertaking of republican democracy as the government grows to supersede its citizens one reaction after another. So, in my view, this is an ACTUAL grievance just like you see in the potential that the government has done the other things you claim.

David said...

There's quite a bit of credible evidence (despite government attempts at suppression) for our immoral rendition practices. Here's but one link:

As an ostensible journalism student, I'm sure you can find much more on the subject if you have the will to do so.

As to your characterization of the DHS report as "singling out of current veterans for no other reason than their status of being veterans" you misunderstand or misconstue the issue on at least two fronts. First, the report isn't claiming that veterans are extreme by nature or that they are coming home with plots in mind. The report simply makes the very reasonable claim that their skills are the kinds of skills that are appealing to these extremists and that, therefore, veterans are likely to be targeted for recruiting. Further, it points out that certain veterans -- a small number who are disillusioned or disgruntled because of their experiences -- may be prone to this recruitment. Finally, it establishes that this has in fact been the case historically and that, in some cases, the veterans have had pre-existing extremeist associations or sympathies. (I've quote the relevant section at the end of this comment for easy reading).

I understand that because you are a veteran, this hits home. However, I think you're overreacting. There is really no reasonable way to read the report as a general indictment of military veterans.

I find your contention that you'd react the same way if another group were being treated this way dubious at best. I don't find any evidence of that in other posts here or elsewhere. You didn't seem compelled to respond in any way to the January report about left-wing extremists, for example.

Certainly, your sympathies for groups we might label as "right wing" is significantly more documented than any sympathy you might have for "the left." (That doesn't make you an extremist to be sure).

From the DHS report (emphasis added):

"U) Disgruntled Military Veterans
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today. —

(U) After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans—including Timothy McVeigh—joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups. —

(U) A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.” —

(U//LES) The FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."

By the way, this report was commissioned by the Bush administration.

Dennis L Hitzeman said...

Seriously? Really? There is no evidence in the Council of Europe's resolution, nor in anything from the UN, from Italian or Spanish prosecutors or anyone else. It's all accusation and innuendo hung together to present a case for which facts do not otherwise exist.

I am not, in any way, claiming that people have not been snatched by the CIA or any other intelligence agency, but the entire chain of conspiracy being created in these kinds of documents reads more like an X-Files episode than a news article. Frankly, with the leaky sieve that the Bush administration and the CIA were, if these kinds of things were really occurring, I believe there would be far more compelling evidence. That's what separates the rendition meme from the facts of warrantless wiretapping--the actual evidence of its occurrence.

Dennis L Hitzeman said...

As for the DHS report, yes I understand that the Bush admin, for which I have taken many hits for defending specific aspects of its policies like Iraq and warrantless wiretapping, commissioned this report, and I think it is still wrong. No, I did not comment on the similar leftist report, but from my point of view the characters of the two reports were remarkably different.

In the text you cited, clearly in my view, makes the case that extremist groups are actively recruiting among veterans in general, some of whom are already extremists, and that their recruitment will pay enough dividends to warrant additional law enforcement and intelligence activities targeted at veterans. Keep in mind that most of these veterans are still active duty or reserve members still sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, a duty most of them take very seriously.

Based on the character of these statements, the character of the people they were made against, and the potential results, I know exactly why so many veterans took them very personally and reacted, as I have, the way they did. When the people sworn to protect the nation are now under active scrutiny as the people trying to destroy it, there is a problem as far as I am concerned.

None of this reaction is to suggest that the elemental truth of the DHS report is not valid, but the DHS and government in general could have gone about this in a far, far better way.

David said...

On the rendition front, I don't even know how to begin to parse what you wrote. There's no evidence, but you're not claiming it didn't happen? What's your point?

As to the DHS report(s), you're right that the reports were different. However, the preponderance of the evidence shows that you are much more likely to get stoked when "the right" comes under criticism than "the left." Nothing wrong with that since you're a "righty."

Your defense of veterans is spot on, but your reading of the DHS report demonstrates that you're a little too touchy about the whole veteran thing. There was nothing in the report (that I can recall without looking back at it) that suggested that veterans as a group would be coming under suspicion.

In fact, there is no need to increase surveillance of veterans. All that is required is to keep up surveillance on the extremist groups. Any veterans they attract will be properly caught up in that surveillance and will come under watch, not as veterans, but as extremists.

It's not like the DHS went out and said, "We should be suspicious of veterans. They're a nasty lot. Let's keep an eye on them." What happened is they noted that extremists were ramping up their recruitment of said veterans and the warning is about extremist activity, not the veterans.

I'm sorry that we don't thank you (veterans and active duty military) enough for your service. I know that upsets you. However, it is also true that military service doesn't place anyone beyond reproach. You don't get a pass just because you served.

There are many honorable men and women in our armed forces, and there are some that are not so honorable and some who have become hostile. There are some pretty valid reasons for that hostility in some cases -- the way we treat our veterans is pretty pitiful all in all. In other cases, maybe not so much. Honestly, the overreaction to this report makes me think twice about the people who overreact. Sometimes people react to these things because they hit a little too close to home.

David said...

Does this count as evidence in your opinion? And if not, does that mean if I come and beat you senseless and no one else sees it that it didn't really happen?

Dennis L Hitzeman said...

David, I would never suggest that veterans or any other group get a pass because they have done something. You are right that my initial reaction to the DHS report is easily explained by my status as a member of that group, but more deeply, there is the, as I see it, ongoing reality that there is an element in the American population and government that continues to seek to criminalize the actions of military members. This is a phenomenon that is well documented in military and veteran circles, but I will, when I get a chance, try to gather and present some of that evidence here.

As for whether or not my view is balanced, I never intended for it to be, so my silence on issues affecting "the other side" is often intentional. I think there are plenty of other people defending the opposite point of view to my own, and since I think they are wrong most of the time, I see no reason to defend them.

Dennis L Hitzeman said...

David, in the case of Boumediene, his is one of a few cases--there is also a case of someone who lived in Italy whose name I cannot find after a quick search--where something clearly questionable happened. Unfortunately, Greenwald, true to form, jumps to a scathing conclusion on the Boumediene case without presenting all of the facts.

Primarily, what Greenwald fails to address in the Boumediene case is that a significant amount of evidence against him was forced to be disregarded because it was classified because it involved ongoing intelligence and military operations. This issue of evidence is one of the reasons that hearing these cases in civilian courts is so troublesome: civilian judges and attorneys are rarely in a position to handle the kind of evidence that has been gathered against the suspects; therefore, civilian law has no choice but to dismiss that evidence, which typically eviscerates the government's case.

The specific military commission act may have been unconstitutional, but one of the reasons it was passed was to eliminate the issue of classified evidence. Without such a system, we are now releasing detainees so that they can kill again.

Secondarily, Greenwald's claims to the "horrific" nature of Boumediene's detention deserves the same jurisprudence he is demanding for the detainees, whatever way they got there. I make this a secondary point because I believe a line may have been crossed with some of the methods used to interrogate some of the prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere, but just like the rendition cases, I need more evidence before I am willing to believe anything one way or another.

Dennis L Hitzeman said...

Proof of the danger of the DHS meme and that Fox News is just as stupid as all the other news outlets out there. This kind of thinking will inevitably translate into actions against innocent vets even after the character of most vets has been cleared.

David said...

"there is the, as I see it, ongoing reality that there is an element in the American population and government that continues to seek to criminalize the actions of military members."

How does the report do this in any way? There is an element of any population that is completely fucking nuts. Let's not make mountains out of mole hills. The DHS report properly places its emphasis on the actions of extremists. Should a military veteran join an extremist group and commit an unlawful, extremist act (or just a garden variety unlawful act) then that veteran will rightly be arrested and tried for his unlawful act. He will not have been "criminalized" by anyone; he will have made a criminal of himself.

There is absolutely nothing in anything you have written on this subject or linked to that validates your belief that somehow veterans are being wronged or insulted here. The meme you refer to elsewhere is not that veterans are dangerous; the dominant meme being portrayed is one that shows veterans over-reacting to the report and some politicians and commentators using that to make hay on what should be a non-issue.

This story would have died already if not for all the hysterics from people looking to be offended.