Demonizing Veterans, DHS’ Deja vu

By Bob Brewin 04/17/09 05:49 pm ET

In July 1975, I wrote an article for TV Guide that started:

I am a Vietnam veteran, and if I acted according to what I have seen on television in the last six months or so, I should probably be harboring extreme psychopathic tendencies that prompt me to shoot up heroin with one hand while fashioning plastique with the other as my war-and-drug-crazed mind flashes back to the rice paddy where I fragged my lieutenant.
It’s 2009, and we now have a bunch of new veterans demonized once again, not in television programs (though I’m sure more than one script writer has already started to develop the crazed Iraq veteran plot line), but by my own Homeland Security Department.

According to a “For Official Use Only” DHS report, which surfaced this week, “right wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to recruit and exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”

That report also said a “prominent [and prominently unidentified] civil rights organization reported in 2006 that large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces,'” invoking an image of all the above running amok as updated Rambos in the Homeland, whatever that means.

The entire DHS “Right Wing Extremism” report has the malodorous tang of Washington-ese, which means it has little connection with the reality of those of us who live in the Homeland. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledged this in her rather half-hearted apology when she said, “If there’s one part of that report I would rewrite, in the word-smithing, Washington-ese that goes on after the fact, it would be that footnote.”

Napolitano’s use of the word “footnote” in her apology to veterans stands out as a bit of Washington-ese because the sections on veterans in the eight page “Right Wing Extremism” report take up about a page and a half – which, out here in the Las Vegas, N.M., section of the Homeland where I live and work, amounts to far more than a footnote.


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