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Dark Secret of the US Military -- Neo-Nazis and Criminals Are Filling Its Ranks

How the armed services have become a sanctuary for racists and the mentally unfit.

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The degree of impunity encountered by Fogarty and countless other extremists has caused tensions within the military. The blind eye turned by the recruiters angered many investigators whose integrity was being compromised. Hunter Glass was a paratrooper in the 1980s and became a gang cop in 1999 in Fairville, North Carolina, next to Fort Bragg. "In the 1990s, the military was hard on them, they could pick and choose," he recalls. The change came after 9/11. "The key rule nowadays is ignore it until it becomes a problem," Glass tells me. "We need manpower. So as long as the man isn't acting out, let's blow it off." He recounts one episode in early 2005 when he was requested by military police investigators at Fort Bragg to interview a soldier with blatant skinhead insignia – SS lightning bolts and hammers. Glass worked with the base's military police investigators, who filed a report. "They recommended that he be kicked out," he recalls, "but the commanding officers didn't do anything." He says there was an open culture of impunity. "We're seeing guys with tattoos all the time ... As far as hunting them down, I don't see it. I'm seeing the opposite, where if a white supremacist has committed a crime, the military stance will be, 'He didn't commit a race-related crime.' "

By 2005, the US had 150,000 troops deployed in Iraq and 19,500 in Afghanistan. But the military wasn't prepared in any way for this kind of extended deployment – and just two years into the war in Iraq, people were talking openly about the fact that it had reached breaking point. The slim forces needed fattening up and what followed constituted a complete re-evaluation of who was qualified to serve – a full-works facelift of the service unheard of in modern American history. In the relatively halcyon days of the  first Gulf war in 1990, the US military blocked the enlistment of felons. It spurned men and women with low IQs or those without a high school diploma. It would either block the enlistment of or kick out neo-Nazis and gang members. It would treat or discharge alcoholics, drug abusers and the mentally ill. No more. While the Bush administration adopted conservative policies pretty much universally, it saved its ration of liberalism for the US military, where it scrapped many of the regulations governing recruitment.

Many of the wars' worst atrocities are linked directly to the loosening of enlistment regulations on criminals, racist extremists, and gang members, among others. Then there are the effects on the troops themselves. Lowering standards on intelligence and body weight, for example, compromised the military's operational readiness and undoubtedly endangered the lives of US and allied troops. Hundreds of soldiers may have paid with their lives for this folly.

On 1 December 2007,  Kevin Shields was murdered in Colorado Springs in an incident involving three of his fellow soldiers, Louis Bressler, Kenneth Eastridge and Bruce Bastien Jr, who all served in Iraq as part of the Second Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division. Bressler and Bastien were each put away for 60 years for their part in the murder, alongside a litany of other crimes in Colorado Springs; Eastridge is serving a 10-year prison sentence for his part. In the aftermath of the arrests, pictures emerged of Eastridge proudly displaying his SS bolts tattoo. After his arrest, Bastien told investigators that he and Eastridge had randomly fired at civilians in Iraq during patrols through the streets of Baghdad. In broad daylight, Bastien alleged, Eastridge would use a stolen AK-47 to fire indiscriminately at Iraqi civilians. At least one was hit, he said. "We were trigger happy," said another member of the platoon, José Barco, who is serving 52 years in jail for shooting and injuring a pregnant woman in Colorado Springs. "We'd open up on anything. They even didn't have to be armed. We were keeping scores." So far, no one has been charged with shooting civilians in Iraq.

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