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Far Right accidentally protests Bush policy

Recently, the Obama administration declared that, as part of its ongoing program of monitoring violent radical organizations in order to prevent future terrorist attacks within the U.S., it will also watch for individuals with military training who may have developed antistate tendencies. This, of course, potentially refers to a number of our men and women currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Understandably, veterans’ groups were put off by some of the language in the report. The Department of Homeland Security document, dated April 7, contained a few controversial lines stating, for example, that “military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups ... carrying out violent attacks.”

Statements like this probably could have been written a bit better, and groups such as the American Legion let it be known that they were peeved. In an April 13 letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, David K. Rehbein, National Commander of the American Legion, called the report “incomplete” and “politically biased.”

He said the DHS unfairly used the anomalous case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to legitimize its findings that American veterans are more likely than ordinary citizens to commit acts of domestic terrorism. “To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical ‘disgruntled military veteran’ is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam,” said Rehbein’s letter.

The story was a week old when it was first printed on April 14 in the conservative Washington Times. The next day was Tax Day, and the Republican rank-and-file took to the streets to demonstrate against an imaginary dictatorship, with a fresh conspiracy theory hot off the presses.

The DHS document is not, as many would like to believe, an expansion of federal power beyond what it had been before. In fact, it is built upon guidelines that were laid down in December 2008, under then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The guidelines allowed for the FBI to investigate “suspects” without a shred of factual evidence, and many in the civil-rights community pointed out this policy’s similarity to domestic surveillance programs in the 1960s and early 1970s, when the FBI spied on people such as Martin Luther King Jr. without any cause for suspicion that they would turn violent.

The DHS document from April 7 does not expand the powers set out as part of the Mukasey plan, but rather clarifies who is to be considered a potential threat, since the Bush administration left that question fairly open. And while it is certainly unfair to assume that war veterans show a higher propensity toward committing acts of domestic terrorism — hence the American Legion reaction — it is nevertheless common sense that people with military training are more capable of effective violence than, say, vegan groups (which were monitored under President Bush).

What’s important to keep in mind here is that there were two distinct conservative responses to the DHS report: one, the tempered and rational response of America’s authentically conservative citizens; the other, the Carnivalesque buffoonery of thousands of nincompoops. While veterans’ groups rose up in sober dissent, the country’s tiny population of loud right-wing marionettes proudly demonstrated against a make-believe controversy that only served to embarrass their party.

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