I had an interesting experience the other day. I was responding to a poster on a forum who was arguing that we should deal with Somalia by killing everyone in the country. I posted that this solution was stupid, racist, and genocidal, making sure to refer to the poster as 'Adolph'. That's when things went comedic.
Adolph invoked 'Godwin's Law'.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Godwin's Law states that, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." True enough. But when most people invoke Godwin's Law, they generally mean this; "There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically 'lost' whatever debate was in progress." You might understand why I laughed for about a half an hour - a genocidal racist had just invoked Godwin's Law. I'm pretty sure that actual nazis are exempt.
I wonder what Godwin would make of this news coming from the Southern Poverty Law Center (more extreme right weirdness; I once had a nutjob tell me that SPLC was a 'hate group' - because they don't like racists):
Under pressure to meet wartime manpower goals, the U.S. military has relaxed standards designed to weed out racist extremists. Large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the armed forces.
Department of Defense investigators estimate thousands of soldiers in the Army alone are involved in extremist or gang activity. "We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," said one investigator. "That's a problem."
Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen urged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding racist extremism among members of the U.S. military.
So we've got nazis in Iraq and Afghanistan, surrounded by people who aren't white, including fellow soldiers - does that seem like a good idea to you?
In 1995, neo-nazi paratroopers at Ft. Bragg shot a black couple. Timothy McVeigh had also distributed racist literature while serving. There's a lot more in a PDF format letter SPLC has sent to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, here. Because of these incidents, the Dept. of Defense has a zero tolerance policy. It's just not being enforced.
According to the letter, "We recently discovered a web page maintained by Robert Lee West, an airman stationed at Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. The site pictures West standing in front of a swastika and Iron Eagle neo-Nazi banner holding twin AR-15 assault rifles, West states, 'My mind and spirit shall ensure life for my people, and death for yours. I shall fight until I have achieved victory. Just remember when you speak to me that I don't play by ZOG rules and I will not hesitate to sever your... artery." ZOG stands for 'Zionist Occupation Government' - a racist conspiracy theory that jews run the world and the US government is merely a front.
A larger problem may be that racism and war go hand in hand. It's very easy to come to hate the entire race of the enemy, whether or not they're actually military. The racist song, Hadji Girl is a modern example of the racism that can grow within the troops, while the WWII era War Dept. pamphlet, How to Spot a Jap, demonstrates institutionalized racism in war. Not all sodiers in war will become racist - I'd hope it's only a few. But it does happen.
If soldiers in war are already prone to racism, how wise is it to expose them to organized racism? Most of them are going to come home, eventually.
Which is what the skinheads realize, even if the military doesn't. The New York Times:
...the report said [a Defense Department investigator, Scott] Barfield, who is based at Fort Lewis, Wash., had said that he had provided evidence on 320 extremists there in the past year, but that only two had been discharged. He also said there was an online network of neo-Nazis.
"They're communicating with each other about weapons, about recruiting, about keeping their identities secret, about organizing within the military," he said. "Several of these individuals have since been deployed to combat missions in Iraq."
The report cited accounts by neo-Nazis of their infiltration of the military, including a discussion on the white supremacist Web site Stormfront. "There are others among you in the forces," one participant wrote. "You are never alone."
An article in the National Alliance magazine Resistance urged skinheads to join the Army and insist on being assigned to light infantry units.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identified the author as Steven Barry, who it said was a former Special Forces officer who was the alliance's "military unit coordinator."
"Light infantry is your branch of choice because the coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman's war," he wrote. "It will be house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and 'cleansed.' "
He concluded: "As a professional soldier, my goal is to fill the ranks of the United States Army with skinheads. As street brawlers, you will be useless in the coming race war. As trained infantrymen, you will join the ranks of the Aryan warrior brotherhood."
So there you go. We're hiring terrorists to fight terrorists. And, one day, they'll come home.
(Photo courtesy of Southern Poverty Law Center)