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Amid a warning that extremism in the ranks is increasing, the Biden Pentagon has generated “detailed new rules” prohibiting service members from actively engaging in extremist activities — the immediate problem being what exactly amounts to extremism and who gets to make that determination.
With the nation nearing the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol, the review of guidelines was justified because some current service members and veterans took part in the rioting that day, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Senior defense officials tell the Associated Press that fewer than 100 military members are known to have been involved in substantiated cases of extremist activity in the past year, but they warn that the number may grow given recent spikes in domestic violent extremism, particularly among veterans,” the newspaper reported.
More from the Times on the new rules:
Officials said the new policy doesn’t largely change what is prohibited, but is more of an effort to make sure troops are clear on what they can and can’t do, while still protecting their 1st Amendment free speech rights. And for the first time, it is far more specific about social media.
The new policy lays out in detail the banned activities, which include advocating terrorism, supporting the overthrow of the government, fundraising or rallying on behalf of an extremist group, or “liking” or reposting extremist views on social media. The rules also specify that commanders must determine two things in order for someone to be held accountable: that the action was an extremist activity, as defined in the rules, and that the service member “actively participated” in that prohibited activity.
The officials spoke about the new rules on condition of anonymity because they have not yet been made public, the article noted, adding that the officials said service members told a study group that wanted clearer definitions of what was not allowed.
The Times referenced small numbers of white supremacists known to be among the troops, in addition to other extremists, but said Jan. 6 prompted “a broader campaign to root out extremism in the force.”
“The overwhelming majority of the men and women of the Department of Defense serve this country with honor and integrity,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said Monday in a memo to the department. “They respect the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“We believe only a very few violate this oath by participating in extremist activities,” he added, “but even the actions of a few can have an outsized impact on unit cohesion, morale and readiness, and the physical harm some of these activities can engender can undermine the safety of our people.”
Critics have suggested that the U.S. military under President Biden may have greater concerns they should be focusing on.
With China reportedly having tested recently a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, a weapon seen as faster, more maneuverable and a greater threat to air-defense systems than a conventional intercontinental ballistic missile, the U.S. Air Force just announced that it has authorized the use of gender pronouns in electronic signature boxes for inter-department communications.
The timing of the report on new rules comes on the heels of three former generals essentially calling for a purge of the U.S. military.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Paul D. Eaton, retired U.S. Army Major Gen. Antonio M. Taguba and retired U.S. Army Brigadier Gen. Steven M. Anderson, penned a conspiracy theory laden op-ed for The Washington Post warning of a potential coup and civil war in 2024 unless certain steps are taken now to nullify the threat.
According to the trio, should Democrats win the 2024 election Republicans under former President Donald Trump “or another Trumpian figure” may install a shadow government.
They cite “the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” to claim that “more than 1 in 10 of those charged in the attacks had a service record,” before suggesting some troops may side with “the Trumpian loser.”
“All service members take an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution,” they state. “But in a contested election, with loyalties split, some might follow orders from the rightful commander in chief, while others might follow the Trumpian loser. Arms might not be secured depending on who was overseeing them. Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war.”
The Pentagon “must reinforce unity of command to make perfectly clear to every member of the Defense Department whom they answer to. No service member should say they didn’t understand whom to take orders from during a worst-case scenario,” the generals write, adding that military leaders must also “identify, isolate and remove potential mutineers.”
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