Kenny Stancil Military Politics

U.S. Military Document Puts Socialists in Same Category as Neo-Nazis

The Navy's new counterterrorism training guide says that socialists are "political terrorists," just like neo-Nazis.
Photo of a U.S. Navy flag.
U.S. Navy flag. (Thad Zajdowicz / Flickr)(CC BY 2.0)

By Kenny Stancil / Common Dreams

A new U.S. military training document obtained exclusively by The Intercept places socialists in the same “terrorist ideological category” as neo-nazis, worsening long-standing progressive fears that a federal crackdown on “domestic terrorism” would just as likely be used to target leftists who want a truly democratic society as to thwart far-right extremists who favor racist authoritarianism.

Journalist Ken Klippenstein, the recipient of the leaked counterterrorism training material, reported Tuesday that the Navy’s new guide includes the following question: “Anarchists, socialists, and neo-nazis represent which terrorist ideological category?”

“The correct answer is ‘political terrorists,'” according to Klippenstein, who was informed on the matter by an unnamed military source familiar with the training.

Klippenstein noted that the document, titled Introduction to Terrorism/Terrorist Operations, is “part of a longer training manual recently disseminated by the Naval Education Training and Command’s Navy Tactical Training Center in conjunction with the Center for Security Forces.” The military source told him that “the training is designed for masters-at-arms, the Navy’s internal police.”

According to Klippenstein, the military official, who is not authorized to speak publicly, described the training as “ineffective.”

While socialists—including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who received nearly 23 million votes in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries in 2016 and 2020, combined—typically want to expand democracy beyond the political sphere, into the economic realm that most profoundly shapes the lives of working people, neo-nazis seek to exterminate people of color, people with disabilities, and other individuals deemed “undesirable.”

And yet, according to the Navy’s counterterrorism training manual, socialists pursuing a more egalitarian society that would benefit the vast majority of the world’s population are tantamount to neo-nazis advocating for a genocidal dictatorship led by eugenicists.

”Medicare for All is now officially a terrorist plot,” quipped one Twitter user. The Debt Collective, meanwhile, drew attention to famous socialists, revered by many around the nation and world, all of whom the U.S. military would now demonize as terrorists, assuming they weren’t already targeted for such abuse under McCarthyism.

The military’s apparent attempt to portray the champions of policies like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and other initiatives aimed at creating a more just and sustainable society as equivalent to well-armed reactionaries who seek to overthrow the federal government flies in the face of the national security state’s own evidence about the key sources of political violence.

As Klippenstein wrote:

Both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have identified white supremacists as the deadliest terror threat to the United States. In October 2020, the Department of Homeland Security issued its first annual “Homeland Threat Assessment” report, stating that white supremacists were “exceptionally lethal” and “will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.” In September, FBI Director Christopher Wray, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that white supremacists “have been responsible for the most lethal attacks over the last decade” and that they comprise “the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Klippenstein asserted, the corporate media has largely overlooked how the government’s effort to neutralize “domestic terrorism” opens the door for widespread violations of leftists’ constitutional rights—with legitimate calls for the downward redistribution of wealth and power, an end to police brutality and killings, and greater development of renewable energy at increased risk of being suppressed in the name of anti-extremism.

“While the right has been vocal with its concerns about being unfairly targeted for political opinions,” Klippenstein wrote, “media coverage of the Biden administration’s focus on domestic extremism has paid considerably less attention to what it might mean for movements on the left, including Black Lives Matter, antifa (short for anti-fascists), and the environmental movement.”

Pointing to The Intercept‘s recent series, “The Threat Within,” Klippenstein stressed that “the Justice Department’s handling of domestic extremism can often be arbitrary and disproportionate to any threat its targets may pose.”

Liberal lawmakers have also downplayed the risks of a new war on domestic terror, Klippenstein argued. Although then-Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), now a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, criticized the FBI director over the agency’s “Iron Fist” program targeting so-called “Black Identity Extremists” in 2019, such concerns—common during the Trump administration—”have waned under the Biden administration, despite an intensified focus on domestic extremists that could include groups on the left, as the Navy document suggests.”

A senior Defense Department official familiar with the development of the military’s anti-domestic terrorism initiative admitted that it has been “exceptionally difficult” to define “extremism” in a way that does not infringe upon civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights, Klippenstein reported. He noted that “an internal Pentagon draft document proposing language to define extremism, reviewed by The Intercept, is three pages long, the tortured language reflecting attempts not to violate First Amendment rights, according to the senior Defense Department official.”

In response to Klippenstein’s reporting, trade unionist and journalist Joe Emersberger argued that “the U.S.A.’s terrorist campaign against socialism abroad has always existed side by side with a (comparatively) far less murderous one at home.” The Navy’s new counterterrorism training document is “disturbing,” he added.

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