by Bob Barr
As America celebrates another Memorial Day, remembering and honoring those who gave their lives in defense of our country and our freedoms, it is appropriate that we reflect also on the state of our armed forces, not so much in terms of where and how our forces are deployed (itself a timely and critical exercise for the Congress to deal with), but from the perspective of freedom within the military. In other words, are the men and women who serve, and who have served in our armed services, in both military and civilian capacities, having their individual liberty constrained simply by being associated with the military?
This might seem an odd question to be asked of our military, but considering the strange priorities reflected in actions taken by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during his first four months in office, it is a very relevant inquiry; the answer to which is deeply troubling.
In his 2003 book on the history of secret police – The Unsleeping Eye – Robert Stove quotes a passage written by Napoleon Bonaparte’s notorious Minister of Police, Joseph Fouché, to describe the situation by which new governments solidify their hold on power:
“Every government at its dawn usually takes advantage of a danger it has created, either to make it more firm, or to extend its power; all it needs is to escape a conspiracy to acquire more strength and influence.”
Joe Biden was sworn into office just two weeks after the Jan. 6 violence that took place on Capitol Hill following a speech earlier that day by then-President Donald Trump. This “insurrection,” as liberals and the mainstream media have come to call it, became the centerpiece for much of what the new administration claimed was the need for a crack-down on “extremism” and “white supremacy.” Indeed, to this day, nearly six months after Jan. 6, national guard troops remain stationed in Washington, D.C. and “temporary” fencing remains on the Capitol ground.
In his role as defense secretary, Lloyd Austin has taken hold of the “extremism” ball passed to him by Biden, and continues to run with it as a primary, if not the main focus of his job. First, he highlighted the “danger” posed by “extremists in the ranks” to be a fundamental, if not existential threat to the good order and performance of America’s military, and on Feb. 5 issued an unusual, military-wide “stand down” to “address extremism.” He followed this on April 9 by issuing a Defense Department order to establish a “Countering Extremism Working Group (CEWG)” with jurisdiction to include all military service members, civilian DOD employees and even retired military.
At the helm of this wide-ranging but vaguely defined “working group,” is Bishop Garrison, appointed by Austin to be his “Point of Contact.” Mr. Garrison’s position is not subject to Senate confirmation, and whether Republicans in either the House or the Senate will proactively inquire into what exactly he and his working group will be up to in the months ahead, remains to be seen. Republicans, however, should be concerned – very concerned – about where this is leading, insofar as it clearly conveys a plan to identify, intimidate, and remove civilians and military personnel with whatever Mr. Garrison and Secretary Austin consider to be “extremist” views.”
For Garrison, what he considers “extremist” views is obvious from his own social media postings, some dating back two years: anyone associated with or who supported Donald Trump is an extremist and a “racist.” Notwithstanding his having graduated from West Point and serving with distinction in the Army, Garrison’s deeply leftist and anti-Trump views are widely known, and are well-tailored to fill the role of chief Political Officer in today’s Defense Department. His duties as Lloyd Austin’s right-hand man in this regard, as detailed in Austin’s April 6 memo, include:
- Ensuring that potential recruits not harbor any current or “previous” extremist views or behavior.
- Setting up a system by which veterans can report on any contacts by an extremist group, after they have left the military.
- “Monitoring” social media activity for extremist views that might be held by current and potential Department positions.
- Watching for persons who might simply have been “following” or “liking” extremist views, even if they did not actually subscribe to such views or engage in extremist activities.
Austin cleverly did not designate Mr. Garrison as his “Political Commissar,” but in his new role as the Secretary’s Point of Contact for Extremism, that is precisely what he will be doing.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.