Leaked military training docs identify pro-lifers, government critics as potential ‘extremists’
April 1, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The Biden administration appears to be intensifying efforts to purge certain right-of-center views from the United States Armed Forces, according to several recently-leaked training documents pertaining to the identification of “violent extremism.”
One slideshow, first revealed by Politico, asserts the existence of unidentified individuals within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) “who belong to extremist groups or actively participate in efforts to further extremist ideologies,” and declares that such ideologies “have no place within the Department.”
The greatest risk, it says, comes from three general categories. Two of those categories – ethnic or racial supremacy and anarchist opposition to all structures such as government and capitalism – are not controversial to identify, but the third – “‘patriot’ extremism” – is claimed to start with a handful of fairly mainstream views: “that the US government has become corrupt, has overstepped its constitutional boundaries or is no longer capable of protecting the people against foreign threats.”
It goes on to identify as secondary dangers “religious extremism,” identified as the “supremacy of a particular religion that advocates the establishment of religious purity through the subjugation, forced conversion, or elimination of other religions”; and “anti-feminism,” identified as an “ideology that holds that modern men have been emasculated by feminists and they need to reestablish themselves as the dominant gender.”
While right-wing extremists do exist (albeit with much smaller numbers and influence than dominant liberal narratives suggest), and the presentation does name some left-wing extremist groups and positions as well (including environmentalism, animal Antifa, and the Occupy movement), the material also frames mainstream debates over non-extreme positions, such as religious teachings on “abortion, LGBTQ lifestyles,” as associated with extremism. It also frames opposition to “feminism” as inherently extreme without acknowledging that modern feminism holds positions on issues such as abortion with which people may reasonably take issue.
Politico reports that the slideshow was created as part of a broader crackdown on “extremists who may be lurking inside the military after dozens of ex-service members were arrested for their roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of the presidential election.”
This comes despite the fact that, also per Politico, judges and federal prosecutors are increasingly admitting that most arrested in connection with the riot will not face harsh sentences because their actual offenses amounted to little more than trespassing.
Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a force-wide stand down “requiring all units to discuss the threat of extremism within 60 days” one of the first acts of his tenure, as the first step in “a concerted effort to better educate ourselves and our people about the scope of this problem and to develop sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive effects that extremist ideology and conduct have on the workforce.”
‘Chain of command’ can help make sure ‘social media posts’ don’t violate ‘regulations’
A publicly released DOD document titled “Leadership Stand-Down to Address Extremism in the Force” included as a discusssion talking point, “Although Service members enjoy the right to free speech protected by the First Amendment, the unique character of the military community and of the military mission requires a balancing of those rights with the important purpose of the military.” The document went on to cite the 1974 Supreme Court case Parker v. Levy. In Parker v. Levy, “The Court determined that the demands of military necessity are superior to individual constitutional rights in the military setting,” the First Amendment Encyclopedia notes.
The publicly released DOD document went on to add, “speech in the workplace that interferes with the mission, espouses extremist or discriminatory doctrine, or is disrespectful and harmful to colleagues, will have consequences.”
“You can always seek advice from your chain of command, supervisors, public affairs, or the legal office before making public statements or publishing materials,” the document continues. “Whether it’s a letter to an editor or a social media post, if you have questions about what you want to say, your chain of command, supervisors, public affairs, or legal office can also help you ensure you’re not violating regulations.”
No assurance evangelicals and Catholics won’t ‘be labeled and targeted as extremists’
Across the right, the materials, particularly the leaked slideshow, have been met with deep alarm and suspicion.
“We lack any concrete evidence that violent extremism is as ripe in the military as some commentators claim,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL.), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “While I agree with my colleagues that these numbers should be zero, this is far from the largest military justice issue facing our armed services.”
Center for Military Readiness president Elaine Donnelly notes that the “likelihood of leftist bias,” already established by various statements such as former West Point department head and retired Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Kolditz’s condemnation of a “strong Trump following” in the military, is “compounded by materials for the stand-down released ahead of time, which state that ‘speech in the workplace that interferes with the mission, espouses extremist or discriminatory doctrine, or is disrespectful and harmful to colleagues, will have consequences.’ In today’s ‘woke’ force and overall political environment, some people consider pro-life or pro-Trump views to be ‘discriminatory’ and ‘harmful to colleagues,’ including military officials and their elected overseers.”
“The DoD has yet to provide any assurance that Evangelical Christians and Catholics will not, once again, be labeled and targeted as extremists,” warns First Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry, a former active duty U.S. Marine Corps officer. “Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism might not be popular within the Pentagon, but to label their adherents ‘extremists’ is wrong, and it undermines our national security. Combined, the two comprise a substantial majority of the force, and as stated above, their believers are the most likely candidates to serve in the future.”
“I still find [the DOD’s] definition of extremism in its underlying instruction ambiguous enough to remain concerned that, for example, Catholics and other pro-life advocates who equate abortion, as Pope Francis does, to the ‘murder of children’ could be branded as ‘extremists’ even if they are adamantly opposed to violence or other illegal activities,” agrees retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., currently the executive director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security.
“Quite clearly, [the Defense Department] considers that activity that does not violate the Constitution, or any law, regulation or extremism policy could still be categorized as ‘extremist behavior,’” Dunlap continued. “Thus, those who follow the law and all the policies on extremism could still find themselves accused of ‘extremist behavior’ and have their careers suffer accordingly.”