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.
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:
"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 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."
"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."
Over the weekend, Matt Kennard, author of the forthcoming Irregular Army, appeared alongside Ret. Col Jack Jacobs on MSNBC to discuss recruiting standards—or the startling lack thereof—in the United States military. "The fact is that the US military does have regulations to govern the recruitment of neo-Nazis and white supremacists," Kennard explains, "and they were completely torn up during the War on Terror because the army was failing to recruit sufficient troops."
Visit MSNBC to watch the episode in full.