Monday, April 20, 2009

Report insults troops by suggesting one or two of them might be susceptible to hate groups later in life

Footnote in Homeland Security report sparks hysteria

The report reached me on a listserv from an outraged writer, accompanied by a list of what it means to be a right-winger (written by right-wingers, so it's as funny as you'd expect). Subsequently, I was bombarded by numerous replies adding items to the list, most of which came from oil contractors and most expressing lust for Ann Coulter.

From reading these e-mailed items, it appears that the idea that the "far right=American" mentality is very much alive and well. In the aftermath of 9/11, having a dissenting opinion often meant you were hassled on the street and possibly checked out by law-enforcement agencies. It could even cause tensions among family and good friends. Numerous peace groups and political parties were put on watch lists or were infiltrated. In that age of fear, simple dissent of speech became conflated with the very real threats from both foreign and domestic sources. All the while, these acts were rationalized, "because you can't be too careful."

There's just one problem with that. You CAN be too careful. Earlier in the decade - amid all the Ari Fleischer-emanated fear, no less - a string of PC viruses was leaving computers vulnerable. Having been a PC virus victim in the past, my dad took no chances and quickly installed several anti-viral programs on our family computer. We didn't get hit by any viruses. But I also couldn't access the Internet. The setup was so safe that it literally blocked everything. But then I thought, "What if something smarter bypassed these protections? Then it really wasn't worth it."

The same goes for rights. No one should ever be persecuted for exercising their rights, nor for holding opinions contrary to those in power. I've always said this and I always will.

But that isn't the issue with this list. The groups on it are often heavily armed and repeatedly express threats toward the government. Some are racist in nature, and aren't happy with a black president. They are convinced that those who disagree with their beliefs are terrorists. And they have a potentially rich recruitment base in returning soldiers who may have chips on their shoulders, or far worse, who have been further disillusioned by stop-loss, a crippled VA system and inadequate military compensation. It also allows for the possibility of independent acts such as those carried out by Gulf War veterans Tim McVeigh and John Allen Muhammad. The report is precautionary, not a mandate to round up troops (it also warns against extreme-left activity with the same urgency). The Veterans of Foreign Wars defended it, while the right-leaning American Legion and Vets For Freedom groups were the ones calling for apologies.

I'd call this one misguided outrage, which is at least a step up from the false Tea Party outrage.

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