Veterans activists have condemned The New York Times for publishing a commentary connecting war vets to white supremacist groups to help explain attacks on Jewish communities in Kansas this week.
"How could the New York Times publish such a hurtful piece?" Paul Rieckhoff, director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Military Times
. "Veterans deserve answers from the Times — and an apology."
Frazier Glenn Cross is alleged to have killed three people outside a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home in Overland Park, Kan., a Kansas City, Mo., suburb, on Sunday.
It’s since been revealed that Cross, who also goes by the last name Miller, is a former Ku Klux Klan leader and served for 20 years in the Green Berets, with two tours of Vietnam, but was discharged as a master sergeant in 1979 for distributing racist materials.
In her opinion piece in the Times
, Kathleen Belew wrote that veterans have a history of joining white power groups. Citing a Department of Homeland Security report, she wrote, "The return of veterans from combat appears to correlate more closely with Klan membership than any other historical factor."
According to Belew, the report said, "Military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists carrying out violent attacks."
Belew, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, also noted that the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 that killed 168 people was carried out by Timothy McVeigh, an Army veteran, at the height of the white power movement.
The commentary was "sensational, slanderous and incredibly offensive to veterans," Rieckhoff said in a statement to the Military Times. "After more than a decade of sacrifice, no veteran should have to open the newspaper and read an op-ed linking them to hate groups."
Phillip Carter, a former Army captain who directs the veterans research program at the Center for a New American Security, told the Military Times that Belew’s argument was "unsupported by the evidence."
Carter, who did a tour of duty in Iraq, said in an email, "Belew’s piece also omits lots of important facts, like the U.S. military’s success in promoting diversity and racial integration within its ranks, so much so that it’s considered the leading large organization in the country in this regard.
"Belew also fails to mention the massive effort in the late 1990s to root out extremism from the U.S. military, an effort which took place after the time window (1975-1995) that is the basis for her research."
Kerry Patton, a former Air Force staff sergeant who writes for Ranger Up’s blog "The Rhino Den," said Belew’s opinion piece reflects a growing problem of how the media incorrectly view veterans.
"As veterans, we need to be concerned that this is unfolding, that people are talking like this, in this nature, about us when the great majority of us are the epitome of upstanding citizens," he said.
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