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Published: Thursday, 7/13/2006

Hate in the ranks

HOMOSEXUALS in the military have long had to deal with Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Gays and lesbians are shown the door the second their sexual orientation is known.

The military has been consistently ruthless in this regard, even when it meant thinning the ranks of capable translators and intelligence operators for an inconsequential factor like sexual identity.

But when it comes to the Pentagon's zero-tolerance policy for hate groups, recruiters appear more committed to making monthly quotas than ensuring the values of a racially diverse military. While the Iraq war grows more unpopular, recruiting shortfalls have allowed undesirables to fill the ranks.

Sensing an opportunity for mischief, white supremacists are enlisting and volunteering for battle assignments so they can get training in light infantry tactics they'll need for what they see as the coming race war in America.

According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, large numbers of neo-Nazis and white supremacist skinheads, possibly in the thousands, are on active duty in the U.S. military.

When a Defense Department investigator positively identified 320 racist extremists in the past year, only two were discharged, according to the New York Times. This reflects the "see no evil, hear no evil" stance the military has adopted in a time of unmet recruitment goals.

A warm body, even if it resorts to Nazi salutes, is still a warm body to anxious recruiters. A volunteer military that tolerates a racially intolerant fifth column in its midst has decided that scraping the bottom of the barrel for recruits makes tactical and military sense. This is a shortsighted policy that will prove disastrous in the long run.

A military that frets over the presence of gays while turning a blind eye to racist malcontents is in no position to win wars with outsiders when it can't defeat evil closer to home.

A return to zero tolerance for hate groups is the only way to guarantee that today's Army won't be training tomorrow's Oklahoma City bomber.

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