Report details the chilling ways far-right extremists are recruiting military veterans

Report details the chilling ways far-right extremists are recruiting military veterans

From a mass shooting in a Buffalo, New York supermarket on May 14 to the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in October 2018 to a plot to kidnap and possibly murder Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — not to mention the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building — the United States clearly has a problem with White supremacist and White nationalist terrorism. And one of the places where racist extremists, according to law enforcement officials and national security experts, are trying to recruit new members is the U.S. military.

Reporter Sonner Kehrt, in article published by The War Horse on June 23 and republished by Navy Times that day, takes an in-depth look at White power groups that are trying to convert veterans to their cause. And her piece points to Chris Buckley, an Afghan War veteran, as an example of a veteran who racists targeted for recruitment.

After serving in Afghanistan, Kehrt reports, Buckley was incredibly angry — angry because of the death of a close friend and fellow veteran in Afghanistan, angry because of the severe back pain he was living with because of a training accident. And Buckley was attracted to the anger expressed by a Facebook group, not realizing, at first, that the people he was chatting with online were Ku Klux Klan members. Buckley joined the KKK in 2014, but he has since distanced from that terrorist group.

“With the help of a former extremist, Buckley left the KKK,” Kehrt explains. “Today, he works with Parents for Peace, an organization dedicated to supporting families and friends trying to help loved ones leave extremist groups. He points to his experience in the months and years after he left the Army National Guard as an example of why a disproportionate number of veterans are vulnerable to extremist recruitment efforts.”

Buckley, interviewed by The War Horse, warned, “I would rival KKK recruiters to that of any military recruiter I ever talked to…. I was looking for something to be a part of something. I needed a mission.”

Buckley, according to Kehrt, is hardly the only military veteran who has been vulnerable to recruitment by White supremacists and White nationalists.

“The data that does exist suggests the problem is growing,” Kehrt reports. “Statistics from the Center for Strategic & International Studies show that 6.4% of all domestic terror plots and attacks in the United States in 2020 were committed by active-duty or reserve service members — a tiny percentage, but up from 1.5% in 2019. A 2019 poll by Military Times found that more than 1 in 3 troops surveyed reported seeing direct evidence of White nationalism within the military.”

Kehrt continues, “That’s also up, from 1 in 4 in 2017…. While the total number of veterans who join extremist groups is still very small, they play an outsize role in these groups, particularly in militia-style organizations. (Researcher) Amy Cooter and other experts have found that, very roughly, 30 to 40% of militia members have military experience.”

Because there are so many different far-right extremist groups in the U.S. in 2022 — from Patriot Front to the Proud Boys to the Oath Keepers to the Boogaloo Bois to Patriot Prayer — the KKK, which has a long history of terrorism, doesn’t receive as much attention as it did in the past. But Buckley warns that the KKK is still a threat, although they have changed some of their tactics.

Buckley told The War Horse, “They’re doing away with the ‘let’s protest in public with pointy hats and robes.’ The KKK is shifting towards a more militia-style environment.”

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