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US military is struggling to purge its ranks of radical nationalists

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The recent arrest of a nationalist US soldier who wanted to carry out attacks in the United States aimed at spreading “chaos” has highlighted the difficulties the US military faces in clearing its ranks of dangerous extremists.

Garrett Smith, 24, a ground force military officer based at Fort Riley, Kansas, was arrested after explaining in detail to an FBI agent how a bomb was made from materials found in stores.

He was convicted Saturday in a Kansas court of “publishing information about explosives or weapons of mass destruction.”

The links between the far right and the military have been in the spotlight since the 1980s, when Vietnam’s military fighter Louis Pim became the leader of a neo-Nazi organization calling for the overthrow of the US government and its replacement by a “Aryan nation.”

A US Coast Guard admirer of Norwegian serial killer Anders Breivik was arrested in February near Washington after he talked about his plans to target Democratic politicians and media figures.

Christopher Paul Hasson, a 49-year-old white racist, presents himself as a “man of action” and a supporter of “violence aimed at establishing a white homeland.”

In May, ground forces approved an investigation into 22-year-old Corwin Carver, an Army nurse at Fort Bliss, Texas, who is suspected of belonging to the neo-Nazi group Atom Waven Division.

The Pentagon asserts that military involvement in extremist activities is “never tolerated” by the US military.

Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell told AFP that the Pentagon “is using a multifaceted approach to knowing what can be done about potential new recruits … to make sure they deserve the honor of serving in the military.”

– “Honest efforts” –

“We have many means of choice that allow us to reveal what they do not share our values.”

But in the case of Garrett Smith, the investigation showed that he entered the army after a year of Facebook exchanges with Craig Lang, an extremist known to US security forces for fighting in Ukraine alongside extremist nationalist military groups, the “Right Sector”.

“I don’t have military experience, but if I can’t find a place for me in Ukraine by October, I will join the army,” Smith said to Lang in June 2016, according to the content of the FBI case.

A year later, Smith joined the ranks of the ground forces at Fort Benning, Georgia, without those responsible for accepting recruits succeeding in exposing the threat he posed.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Extremism at the University of San Bernardino in California, says Jarrett-Smith’s case is interesting: it shows a new effort among some white racist groups that want to “focus on the military because they have very important qualifications.”

“The Pentagon is making a sincere effort,” the expert told AFP. “The military are fully aware of the problem and are certainly working to solve it.”

“What needs to be done now is to find new ways to address it,” he said.

Although the US military is one of the most diverse institutions in the United States, it remains a breeding ground for far-right movements.

According to a poll conducted in October 2018 by the Military Times in which 829 military personnel participated, 22% of respondents said they had observed neural or racist indications in the armed forces over the past year.

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