In one of the most disgusting developments imaginable, a unit of US soldiers in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan proudly waved Nazi flags.
Please take a second to puke if you need to. I know I did.
In February 2012, Mother Jones published a story titled “Marines Sport Nazi SS Flag in Afghanistan.” It noted that only “weeks after news broke that one elite unit of the forward-deployed Marines urinated on the corpses of dead Afghans, a photo has surfaced of another unit posing proudly beside a flag of the” Nazi SS.
Marines officials pleaded ignorant, claiming the troops didn’t know what the symbol meant. Walter Plywaski, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz concentration camp who later became a US citizen and military veteran, remained skeptical, writing “I wish I could really believe that these sniper teams innocently combined the view of the United States flag with the central symbol of the murderous SS!”
The Marine Corps Times, who broke the story, pokes a hole in these claims of ignorance. It indicates that the “Corps has addressed the use of the SS logo before, however. A PowerPoint presentation posted on a Marine Corps website said it should not be used in any tattoos.” This US Marines PowerPoint presentation (the web link to which now appears to be dead) informed troops that the symbol was “used by neo-Nazis and graffiti to characterize anti-Semitism, white supremacy and facism [sic].” Apparently the US troops had no problem associating themselves with such vile ideologies as anti-Semitism, white supremacy and fascism.
The Marine Corps Times also notes that this Nazi logo appears on the sniper rifles used by this unit. The metadata embedded electronically within the image proves that it was released by the Marine Corps in 2004, confirming that this grotesque logo has been used for several years.
You would think that, if they truly cared, Marine brass would have noticed at some time in at least eight years that a unit of snipers was proudly bearing Nazi insignias.
A Nauseating Trend
Although the US military may feign ignorance in a PR campaign to clean up their image, this is, unfortunately, by no means a limited example.
British investigative journalist Matthew Kennard meticulously documented “How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror” in his 2012 book Irregular Army.
Kennard first reported on the despicable development in a 2009 Salon article “Neo-Nazis are in the Army now.” He explains that, although military regulations prohibit soldiers from participating in racist groups, this ban is only bureaucratic and cosmetic. Nazis, fascists, and racists say they just “ma[k]e up some stuff” in the review process. One neo-Nazi, Forrest Fogarty, recalled “They knew what I was about. But they let it go because I’m a great soldier.”
Fogarty served in the military police for two years, escorting officers, including generals, around Iraq, where he came to “hate Arabs more than anybody.” He was granted top-secret clearance and access to battle plans. He regretted that he “never had any kill counts.”
Because of his tattoos and his racist comments, most of his buddies and his commanding officers were aware of his Nazism. “They all knew in my unit,” he says. “They would always kid around and say, ‘Hey, you’re that skinhead!’” But no one sounded an alarm to higher-ups. “I would volunteer for all the hardest missions, and they were like, ‘Let Fogarty go.’ They didn’t want to get rid of me.”
Clearly the US military doesn’t care what kinds of grotesque racist ideas inspire their soldiers, as long as they follow orders and kill people of color around the world.
Examples like this demonstrate why, as Steven Salaita has eloquently argued, we should not dogmatically “support the troops.” Not only does “compulsory patriotism” do “nothing for soldiers who risk their lives,” only propping “up those who profit from war,” it also supports an institution that actively encourages fascists and racists to fight for it.
I don’t know about you, but I will never support any political entity, individual, or institution that tolerates Nazism. No one ever should.