March 19, 1996 in Nation/World

Army Considers Ban On Racial Hate Groups

New York Times
 

A Pentagon investigation of racism in the Army has concluded that while racial hate groups have made few inroads in recruiting soldiers and their families, the military should consider reversing a policy that allows troops to join extremist organizations, officials said on Monday.

The officials said that of more than 7,600 soldiers interviewed at Army bases in the United States and abroad as part of the Pentagon investigation, fewer than 100 were found to be members of white supremacist groups.

The Army inquiry was prompted by the arrest of two white soldiers who were charged with the murder of a black couple in Fayetteville, N.C., in December. The soldiers, who are awaiting trial, were members of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and prosecutors have said the pair were skinheads motivated by racism in killing the couple.

“The conclusions of the report are not comforting because even one extremist in our ranks is far too many,” said an Army spokeswoman. “But I would say that the investigation found that the involvement by soldiers in these groups was minimal. Active involvement is minimal.”

The spokeswoman said the report would probably urge the military to consider revising or overturning a policy that allows soldiers to have “passive involvement” in extremist groups. “There will be corrective measures, and we’re still working those out,” she said. The findings, due to be released on Thursday, were first reported on Monday night by CBS News.

If the final wording of the report suggests that racism is not a major concern in the Army, it will probably meet with skepticism from some civil rights advocates. Many have criticized the military for ignoring evidence of ties between members of the armed forces and white supremacist and other extremist groups.

Since the killings in December, officials at Fort Bragg have insisted that the base is not a haven for racists. A separate Army inquiry in December found that 22 soldiers in the 82d Airborne, or only 0.2 percent of the division’s 14,700 members, were skinheads or held extremist views. The 22 included the two privates arrested for the Dec. 7 murders: James N. Burmeister II, 20, and Malcolm Wright Jr., 21.

The Fayetteville police have said that a search of a room rented by Burmeister turned up a Nazi flag and a variety of white-supremacist literature, including pamphlets on Adolf Hitler.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email