While watching news of the violent insurrection on TV last week, retired General Vincent K. Brooks, a four-star general and former head of U.S. forces in Korea, was struck by the apparent number of veterans he witnessed storm the Capitol in real time. “All of those things were evident in that crowd,” he told VICE News, noting the military badges and symbols he saw attached to the jackets, shirts and hats of the Trump supporters, especially when coupled with military grade tactical equipment. “It was disconcerting.”
“So many of these people that we saw were apparently former military who have taken a very extreme view of the security of the United States and the political dynamics that are impacting it,” he said. “Far too many of them were veterans. And that was so disappointing.”
As the FBI warns of armed groups threatening state capitals across the country and the National Guard is deploying to Washington D.C. in preparation for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, accelerationist neo-Nazis who supported last week’s President Donald Trump-incited insurrection are calling for targeted killings and advocating for members of the military—charged with protecting one of the most fundamental events in American democracy—to turn to their side.
Posts circulating on Telegram, the online ecosystem of choice among militant neo-Nazis, urge followers to locate the addresses of politicians in Congress and assassinate them.
“Strike the iron while it's hot. The rats have addresses,” reads one post, viewed over a thousand times from a popular account with over 4,000 followers. Broadly speaking, the accelerationist movement believes acts of violence, like the events on Capitol Hill last week, will hasten the collapse of the U.S. government and force it into a standoff with an emergent insurgency led by far-right terrorists.
“You know of some in your area. Do your bit. It will snowball,” reads the post.
These posters hope that active-duty service members deployed to protect the inauguration and the various state capitals in the coming days switch sides. The same Telegram account—which VICE News will not name to avoid amplification—is trying to appeal to the National Guard, imploring members to join the cause.
Another Telegram account, with well over 2,000 subscribers, urged people to murder the families of Congresspeople and to target state capitols with localized, armed militias. “Do not meet up with ‘internet friends’ for this,” said a post viewed by users over 7,000 times. “Gather your local trusted militia and do what you must to save this country and our people from their hellish claws that clamp down on the souls of us all.”
An FBI spokesperson said they would not comment on the threat of turncoat guardsmen or threats of assassination to lawmakers, but “as a reminder, the FBI takes all threats seriously.”
Do you have information about service members involved in the far right? We would love to hear from you. You can reach Ben Makuch and Leah Feiger by contacting 267-713-9832 on Signal or @ben.makuch and @leahfeiger on the Wire app.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon signaled that it was worried about the allegiances of service members deployed to the nation’s capital, as a rare internal memo to all service members from the Joint Chiefs of Staff condemned Wednesday’s violent insurrection and reminded service members of their oath to the Constitution. “We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection,” read the statement. “As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”
The calls for service members to join the ranks of far-right terrorists come after several current and former servicemen were identified as participants in the violent invasion of Congress last week that killed five people, including a police officer who was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher. Emily Rainey, an active-duty psychological warfare captain, led a group of protesters into Capitol Hill. Jake Angeli, the infamous “Qanon Shaman,” is a Navy veteran; Ashli Babbitt, a protester who was shot and killed storming Congress, was an Air Force veteran; a masked man carrying zip ties was later revealed to be Texan Larry Brock, a highly decorated Air Force combat veteran.
“There will be a clear, deep investigation into each service of what the cultures are that made it possible for so many veterans to go to the Capitol,” said Brooks. “It will reaffirm the importance of having discussions about diversity and inclusion, not the acceptance of extreme views that are counter to the constitution.” The beginnings of this investigation have already started, as the Army has said it is examining Rainey’s “presence at the Capitol,” and the other branches of the military have indicated they would cooperate with law enforcement.
In September, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that banned the military’s diversity training programs and forbids courses from teaching that the United States is fundamentally “racist or sexist.” It indicated to many the administration’s disinterest in a diverse and conscientious force. While the veterans who stormed the Capitol weren’t necessarily impacted by the order, the ban’s implications have concerned former members of the military disquieted by reports of servicemembers affiliated with the insurrection.
On Wednesday, General James C. McConville, the Army chief of staff, issued a statement to the Army saying, “The Nation expects all members of the United States Army to follow the law and do the right things the right way, whether we are in or out of uniform. To maintain the sacred trust of the American People, it is important that all those who represent the Army, in any capacity, remain models of professionalism, character, and integrity.”
“Regardless of ops going on across the country in different places, the goal of those in DC should be to make turncoats of all those national guardsmen,” reads a Telegram post from earlier in the week. “Many have anonymously expressed their support. Take advantage.”