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Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror

Reveals the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to extremists in its ranks.

Since the launch of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars—now the longest wars in American history—the US military has struggled to recruit troops. It has responded, as Matt Kennard’s explosive investigative report makes clear, by opening its doors to neo-Nazis, white supremacists, gang members, criminals of all stripes, the overweight, and the mentally ill. Based on several years of reporting, Irregular Army includes extensive interviews with extremist veterans and leaders of far-right hate groups—who spoke openly of their eagerness to have their followers acquire military training for a coming domestic race war. As a report commissioned by the Department of Defense itself put it, “Effectively, the military has a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy pertaining to extremism.”

Irregular Army connects some of the War on Terror’s worst crimes to this opening-up of the US military. With millions of veterans now back in the US and domestic extremism on the rise, Kennard’s book is a stark warning about potential dangers facing Americans—from their own soldiers.

Reviews

  • “Matt Kennard’s careful and judicious investigations reveal an aspect of the modern US military system that should be of deep concern to American citizens – and to everyone, given the unique scope and character of the deployment of US military force worldwide.”
  • “Chilling… Illuminating… Kennard's nonpartisan portrait of martial waywardness is foreboding.”
  • “Kennard's book provides the first comprehensive account of the lengths the military went to maintain its numbers.”
  • Irregular Army is an excellent piece of journalism…As a result of [Kennard's] research and fresh angle, it stands out amid the vast sea of literature already published on the failings of the War on Terror.”
  • “Irregular Army makes a...strong case that nothing good lies in the future so long as the American government continues to dissolve its standards of human decency to keep the pipeline filled with new soldiers.”
  • “Matt Kennard is a fluent, powerful and authoritative writer whose debut book will surely establish him as one of Britain’s best-known investigative journalists.”
  • “Faced with declining enlistment numbers as fighting dragged on year after year with no clear end in sight, Kennard shows that the American armed forces looked for alternatives to populate its ranks. In the process, regulations were weakened, rewritten and in some cases, not enforced…If the Sikh temple massacre is any indication of what may be in store, Kennard's argument that the United States faces an uncertain future as these veterans return from home from war couldn't be more urgent.”
  • Irregular Army goes into great narrative detail to illustrate an unfolding disaster that has engulfed the U.S. military, particularly the Army and Marine Corps…[Kennard] demonstrates a serious weakness in America’s ability to recruit a long- or even medium-term occupying force.”
  • “Kennard joins an important, and all too small, tradition of military analysis from the position of logistical capacity and strategic effects, in the tradition of a writer like Jeremy Scahill…[Irregular Army] is exhaustively written, and based in incredibly thorough documentation.”
  • “A startling new investigation that reveals the depths of the extremist and criminal elements that have infiltrated the US military over the past two decades. Irregular Army is a powerful investigation that exposes both the roots of defective military recruitment and its deadly aftershocks. Kennard’s book issues an urgent warning to the American public.”
  • “Matt Kennard's new book expertly exposes the effect of the American colonial capitalist war machine on poor American soldiers as well as the stricken peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan living under them. I hope it is read by many people.”
  • “An exceptional author. Matt Kennard never tries to paint a pig pretty. Thanks, Matt, for keeping it ugly.”
  • “Matt Kennard is a creative and dogged investigative reporter whose probe of hidden realities inside the U.S. military promises to be a revelation.”
  • Irregular Army is a grim but compelling reading, a book which exposes the apparently irredeemable position the US military has created. The reader is indeed left with a deeper sense of the horrors of the last decade of futile wars, and an understanding of how far-reaching their implications have already proven themselves to be.”
  • “In inauspicious news for foreign and domestic populations alike, investigative journalist Matt Kennard’s recent book Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror reveals the extent to which racist extremists have been welcomed into the nation’s armed forces despite the fact that they openly view enlistment as a means of training for a race war at home.”
  • “Armies corrupt and disintegrate when they fight colonial wars. Matt Kennard's outstanding, meticulous book exposes the secret recruiting of criminals in an army whose wars are criminal. This is journalism as it should be.”
  • “In his first, gripping book, Matt Kennard delves deeply in the heart of darkness of the U.S. government's so-called War on Terror. Irregular Army is required reading for anyone probing the true horror of modern American war. Kennard exposes an organized system of destruction that serves well the generals, the politicians, and above all the profiteering military contractors, but which exploits the poor and vulnerable, and trains and arms the most hateful and vicious in our society, consigning so many millions around the world to displacement, misery and death.”

Blog

  • Writing on Iraq in the Aftermath of War: A Reading List on the "War on Terror"

    What can be learned from Iraq's recent past — a past haunted by imperial power — to help us critically engage with the present cycle of violence in Iraq?

    Verso has been actively publishing books over the last decade that addresses the conflict in Iraq. Below is a list of critical texts that seeks to contextualize the disaster which has resulted from the US and UK "War on Terror".


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  • Matt Kennard brings the 'War on Terror' home

    Recent months have shown that the War on Terror justified the waiving of virtually every constitutional right but the sacrosanct right to bear arms. The Washington Navy Yard shooting is yet another reminder of this stringent absurdity. As Matt Kennard, author of Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members and Criminal to Fight the War on Terror, writes in The Guardian, today’s killing cannot be dismissed as accidental.

    The shooter, Aaron Alexis, was not a first-time offender. Moreover, wrestling to recruit more men after the abolition of the draft, the Pentagon turned to loosening regulations on recruitment in 2005, welcoming people who had previously been barred from enlistment. As a result, Kennard warns, “we have to brace ourselves for future instances of the ‘war coming home’ in very public, tragic ways” as unstable and abandoned vets practice at home the skills they learned abroad:

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  • Noam Chomsky interviewed by our own Matt Kennard

    Matt Kennard, author of Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror, recently interviewed linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, who had a thing or two to say about the media:
    "My impression in general is that the business press is more open, more free, often more critical, less constrained by external power and external influences."

    Latin America:
    "Latin Ameirca has begun to address its horrendous internal problems. This is an area of the world that ought to be pretty rich and successful. [...] Compare it with East Asia which is far poorer in resources, many faced with hostile powers and internal conflicts, which South America isn't - but it's grown extensively and developed."

    and US-backed coups:
    "The first was in Venezuela in 2002 when the US quite openly backed a coup attempt which was successful for a few days but was then overturned. [...] The second was in Haiti in 2004 when the traditional torturers of Haiti, France and the US, combined to give not-so-tacit support to a military uprising, and intervened to kidnap the elected president and send him off to central Africa [...] The third case was Honduras, where the elected president, Zelaya, was expelled by the military."

    Visit the FT to read the interview in full.