Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security published a report last week warning that military veterans pose a threat to America. It is a sad commentary on our politically correct government that Muslim Arabs cannot be profiled as potential extremists while our own veterans are.

In an intelligence assessment published April 7, Homeland Security singles out veterans who might be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war” as being particularly susceptible to recruitment by radical movements. The claim that veterans are more disposed than other citizens to become violent extremists is reminiscent of President Obama’s slur during his campaign about rural Americans who “get bitter, cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them … as a way to explain their frustrations.” The claim is wrong.

Contrary to the stereotype, a 2000 Justice Department study found that “veterans were incarcerated at less than half the rate of adult male nonveterans.” Veterans are more likely to be peace officers. In a 2009 survey of more than 1,000 urban policemen reported in Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35.4 percent of police officers had prior military service, which is approximately triple the percentage of the general population.

The DHS assessment is one of several recent government reports loosely profiling the types of people attracted to radical movements. A February 2009 Missouri Information Analysis Center “strategic report” on the modern militia movement was withdrawn after protests against its overbroad definition of dangerous radicals, which included third-party voters and those who support concealed-carry gun laws. A March 2009 Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment noted, “White nationalist groups are recruiting individuals who may be more apt than their predecessors to commit acts of violence, including military veterans skilled in weapons and tactics.” Note the embedded premise that a veteran is “more apt” to be violent than a non-veteran.

The DHS analysis is light on facts and statistics, but it offers up Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as an anecdotal example of the kind of rightist veteran about whom we should worry. In this superficial worldview, the veteran is seen as either a whacked-out, drug-addicted, homeless loser or a violence freak ready to explode. Its intellectual underpinnings are found in fiction such as the movies “Taxi Driver,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Forrest Gump.” The reality is that veterans are a lot like everybody else. A 2007 study of the 2004 election published in Armed Forces and Society showed that in their voting patterns, veterans “largely mirrored their non-veteran peers in terms of partisan identification, warmth toward candidates, ballot intentions and vote choice.”

Memo to DHS: Americans who serve in the military are not a threat to our freedoms; they are the ones who preserve, protect and defend them. The military builds character and inculcates values; it is not a breeding ground for dangerous radicalism.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, said yesterday that Homeland Security owes veterans an apology for characterizing them as terrorists. We agree.

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