Experts studying violent extremist organizations have warned that while the number of veterans and military personnel joining these groups is small, they can still be very dangerous for the country.
“Extremist ideas and groups cannot be let into action within organizations charged with protecting the population, including its most vulnerable citizens,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Laboratory at the American University. .
“The future of multicultural democracy from extremism in the military and the veterans communities must be treated like the threat to national security that it is.”
The comments came at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday on the targeting of veterans by extremist groups. This is an issue that drew national headlines after a significant percentage of rioters involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol Building were found to have military experience.
Democratic organizers said the goal of the hearing was to look at long-standing problems. Above all, these problems within the veterans community mostly stem from violent or anti-government ideologies. Their focus was not on the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
But Republican lawmakers questioned that intent. They accused Democrats of trying to paint all veterans as radicals and criminalize certain political views.
“Free speech must be protected,” said committee ranking member Mike Bost, R-Ill. “It is every veteran’s right to have an opinion – even one I find radical. However, if that opinion is acted on with violence, it is another thing altogether.
“Violence cannot be tolerated, it is undemocratic and anti-American.”
Therefore, witnesses at the hearing said the only way to settle the distinction between unpopular views and violent intentions is to focus more closely on the problem. (continue reading)