DOD Woke Agenda

The GOP’s ‘war on woke’ forced the Pentagon to axe its ‘countering extremism’ initiative

A “Countering Extremism Working Group” formed by President Joe Biden’s administration was “abandoned” within two years due to Republican lawmakers’ attack on “wokeism,” CNN reports.

Bishop Garrison, a black veteran who originally led the working group, according to CNN, “came under withering attack in 2021 by GOP lawmakers and right-wing media personalities, including one Fox News host who described him as a ‘MAGA purge man’ for criticizing former President Donald Trump in a tweet,” prior to taking the position.

Although backed by senior Pentagon officials at first, the criticism and pressure from right-wing lawmakers eventually pushed Garrison out.

A defense official said, “He was deemed to be a distraction. He was one of the early casualties in the war on ‘woke.'” . . . (MSN/Alternet)

How GOP attacks on ‘wokeism’ helped lead the Pentagon to abandon its effort to combat extremism in the military (CNN, 20 MAY 23)
. . . .CNN interviews with multiple sources familiar with the working group reveal that the Pentagon largely abandoned the effort to combat extremism in its ranks, as senior officials folded under political pressure from Republicans who lashed out at the initiative as an example of so-called wokeism in the military.

Of the six recommendations the working group made at the end of 2021, only one has begun to be implemented across the Defense Department, a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters on May 18.

The working group’s since-departed leader, a Black combat veteran named Bishop Garrison, came under withering attack in 2021 by GOP lawmakers and right-wing media personalities, including one Fox News host who described him as a “MAGA purge man” for criticizing former President Donald Trump in a tweet prior to assuming the extremism adviser role at the Pentagon.

Though senior officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, privately and publicly backed Garrison for a few months, multiple sources tell CNN the sustained GOP criticism eventually eroded internal support for him.

As a result, Garrison and his work were quietly pushed aside, several current and former defense officials said.

“He was deemed to be a distraction,” one defense official said. “He was one of the early casualties in the war on ‘woke.’”

As Garrison became a lightning rod for Republican criticism, ultimately making him “politically toxic,” the official said . . . .

. . . . Another reason the working group failed was that its task was nearly impossible to implement, sources told CNN.

The Pentagon has long struggled with how not only to define extremist activity but also how to police it without violating the rights of troops.

Though the definition of extremist activity was updated as a result of the working group, sources told CNN it has had no measurable impact. For all of the ceremony around its release, one defense official described the new definition as a “zero-ripple pebble in the pond.”

Said another official of the difficulty in trying to define extremist activity, “It’s like saying something is bad, but not being able to say what’s bad in the first place.” . . .

. . . .In an April 9, 2021 press release, Austin officially announced the creation of the Countering Extremism Working Group and announced it would be led by Garrison.

Among its objectives were updating the military’s definition of extremism, standardizing screening questionnaires to solicit specific information about current or previous extremist behavior and commission an independent study on extremist behavior within the entire force.

Before the end of the month however, it became clear that Garrison had his work cut out for him.

In a congressional hearing on April 20, two four-star military commanders testified that the US military did not have problems with extremism in its ranks.

The next day, speaking at seminar on White supremacist violence, Garrison pushed back on that testimony and contradicted the military commanders. “It would be remiss if we didn’t admit that there is a problem with extremist behavior in the military. That is to say that one extremist is one too many,” Garrison told a Center for American Progress think tank seminar.

Garrison quickly drew Republican criticism as GOP lawmakers and right-wing media personalities seized on tweets he had previously sent criticizing then-President Trump.

In May, then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson described Garrison as a “lunatic” for a 2019 tweet calling Trump a “racist.”

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch Trump ally, claimed during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that month he was “deeply troubled” by a tweet Garrison wrote in January 2020, as Trump’s impeachment trial was underway, which read: “Calls for civility, rather than shouting down falsehoods and misinformation, shall be the death of this nation.”

Days later, 30 Republican members of the House signed a letter complaining of “creeping left-wing extremism” in the military, citing a report from a conservative media that singled out Garrison’s tweets.

Austin’s public support for Garrison appeared to evaporate later that summer and multiple sources told CNN his work also had also become deprioritized inside the Pentagon by that time. . . . (read more)

From the Senate Committee on Armed Services Hearing, 21 April 2021

. . . . Senator Sullivan: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, gentlemen, thank you for your service and your testimony today.

You know, I was in a hearing last week, an oversight hearing, and one of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle was kind of putting out this number of 10 percent, his estimate of the military was  extremist, racist.

I think in my experience, and I am still serving in the Marine Corps Reserves, that number is absurdly high. It wasn’t based on any data.

That would make about two hundred or 250,000 members of the active force supposedly fitting within that category, which I think is a disparagement of our men and women in the military.

I got a little heated in that hearing last week, because I am really tired of hearing about, you know, what, supposedly is all the bad things about the members of the military, when I think it is some of the finest young men and women in America serving, volunteering to serve.

Is that your experience, 10 percent, 1 in 10, 250,000 active-duty forces are somehow extremist, racist? It is an absurd number, but it gets thrown around in the newspaper. And I am trying to get the men and women, like you, who is served for decades to kind of give me your  view.

Admiral, General, I know that is not the purpose of the hearing, but I think it is really important, particularly for the men and women that you are leading, and that we have oversight of, to let them know that we don’t think a huge majority of the force is extremist; obviously, some of my Senate colleagues do, which I think is absurd.  Can I get your view on that?

Admiral Richard: Let me go first on that one. I am very confident that the number of extremists in my forces is zero and let me explain why I say that.

The Department has made it clear for decades that we don’t tolerate that. My forces are a little bit different. We have certainly done everything Secretary Austin has told us to do. He has made it very clear what the standards are, but it is reiterating a standard.

Every person in my organization has to have a security clearance, for starters, right. And when you fill that form out, and I have been filling it out for 40 years, there is an extensive battery of questions designed to get after that very point. And then somebody goes and investigates you, and then they go talk to all of your references, and then they go talk some more, hunting for that very thing.

We don’t care what the source of extremism was. Those date back to Communism is actually what they were looking for when I first came in, and today they will even go look at your social media. If you can’t pass that part, I don’t even see you.

Then on top of that, in my forces, we have a personnel reliability program for these. So, you now have peer-monitoring brought in and a number of other standards.

So, if there are any extremists in my organization, one, they hide it very well, and, two, it is just a matter of time until I get to them.

Senator Sullivan: So, you are saying that you agree with me, these are some of the best men and women in America and to be besmirched by the media or a senator, 10 percent  is ridiculous.

Admiral Richard: Sir, I will just explain what the standard is that we uphold. It is contrary to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It is essential for good order and discipline. And my forces meet the highest standard of  that, that DOD requires.

Senator Sullivan: Great. General, your view on this? I know you have a lot of experience, given your decades in the U.S. Army.

General Dickinson: Thank you, Senator. So, in my organization, a very similar organization to the U.S. Strategic Command. So, space, as we all understand, and I know we have talked about it many times in terms of the classification or the security clearances that are required within my organization to be able to do the things that we do in the space domain and terrestrially.

And so, we have the same rigor in terms of some of the questions that are asked during their security clearances in terms of getting them to the proper clearance level so they can perform their duties within my command.

I would tell you right now that we have done everything that Secretary Austin has asked us to do in terms of training and awareness, but in my organization, I would say that number is zero.

And we are very keen and aware of these types of activities or what would lead to those, and we understand that very well.

So, in terms of years of experience, yes, I would tell you that in the formations that I have had throughout my career, I have not seen that.

So, I believe that it is close to zero in my organization, if not zero.

Senator Sullivan: Thank you. But nothing nearing 10 percent. Ridiculous, in my view, but, obviously, you guys, you gentlemen would agree.

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