Chill Out About the DHS 'Right-Wing Extremist' Memo
After eight years of the paranoid opposition biting at the heels of President Bush, rejoicing at any possibility of evildoing in an attempt to vindicate their bitterness, it is now President Obama's turn to feel the hyper-partisan heat. Michael Savage and the Thomas More Law Center are suing Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano after her department issued a memo warning of "right-wing extremists." Parroting the claims of those who say the use of the term "radical Muslims" is bigoted, will lead to civil rights infringements, and is part of a political-religious crusade, we now hear that the term "right-wing extremists" is part of a political offensive aimed at destroying free speech.
The Drudge siren blared when the Washington Times report was published and within hours there was a mad dash by TV and radio hosts, blogs, and commentators to use the report to take aim at the Obama administration. They sunk their teeth into the portion of the memo warning that right-wing extremists could be motivated by issues like illegal immigration, gun control, abortion, or loss of U.S. sovereignty; they claimed that the Obama administration was viewing conservatives as dangerous radicals. Their quick and efficient drawing of arms, though, did not follow a quick and efficient reading past the first page of the three-page article.
The second page refers to a similar memo released in January by the Department of Homeland Security warning about the increasing threat of cyber-attacks from left-wing extremists. It warns of "left-wing groups within the animal rights, environmental, and anarchist extremist movements that promote or have conducted criminal or terrorist activities," listing the issues touted by the left-wing extremists as the later memo about right-wing extremists does. Another memo was written on March 26 warning of anti-capitalist, socialist, and communist radicals seeking "to bring about change through violent revolution rather than through established political processes."
House Minority Leader John Boehner says the memo characterizes veterans as potential terrorists and is "offensive and unacceptable," even though the memo does not say that all veterans, or even a significant fraction, are expected to join extremist groups. In fact, the memo references an FBI report from July 7, 2008 (under the Bush administration, that is), that states that between October 2001 and May 2008, 203 individuals with "confirmed or claimed military experience" had joined extremist groups, 19 of which have "verified or unverified service" in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers may not be accurate, but the extremists' emphasis on recruiting those with military backgrounds and the deadly effect of only a few being willing to join them makes the threat worthy of such a cautionary memo.
The threat of right-wing extremism is not an imaginary threat, dreamt up in the minds of Democratic Party mullahs seeking to silence their critics. In December, a murdered right-wing extremist, said to be infuriated by President Obama's election victory, was found to have acquired components for a "dirty bomb." Prior to that, two skinheads were arrested before acting on their plan to kill President Obama and go on a killing spree that would take the lives of 88 people, including 14 African-Americans who would be beheaded. In July 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that about 60 right-wing extremist terrorist plots had been foiled since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The memo is correct in warning that the current political and economic environment could result in an increase in such activity.
Critics of the memo are quick to pounce on the fact that it states that there is no specific intelligence about the plotting of terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists at the moment. Such extremists do not pose the threat that al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Jamaat ul-Fuqra does, but we cannot neglect tomorrow's threats while we face today's. Pointing out that there is another group of extremists that exists, members of which have carried out attacks in the past (Timothy McVeigh is a case in point), and that this group may mobilize into action due to economic or political conditions is not an act of bias; it's an act of responsibility.
It is also important to note that right-wing extremism is on the rise in Europe, providing extremists based in America with potential allies. In 2008, there were 13,986 acts of crime by right-wing extremists in Germany, a 28% increase over 2007. Violent incidents also increased from 642 in 2007 to 735 in 2008. There is rising concern throughout Europe about the activity of right-wing radicalism, which ironically targets both Jews and Muslims.
The rise in right-wing extremism in Europe is said by some to be facilitated by rapid changes in culture and demography, largely due to massive immigration. The U.S. is likewise changing quickly, due to the huge growth in Hispanics, Muslims, and African-Americans, and the authorities are right to be on guard in case some respond with hatred and violence. The memo specifically mentions that civil rights organizations are finding an increase in crimes against Hispanics and provides examples of right-wing extremists suspected of planning violent attacks on Hispanics and immigrants crossing the border.
Yes, it's ridiculous that Napolitano and other high-level officials in the Obama administration are cleansing their vocabularies of terms like "Islamic extremist," yet willingly use the term "right-wing/left-wing extremist." However, by the same token, it is equally ridiculous to condemn the use of the latter term and not the former.