Janet Napolitano

Napolitano apologizes to veterans

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized to veterans during an April 16 interview on CNN, after The American Legion and other veterans service organizations objected to a report about right-wing extremism, issued by her office. The report claimed that extremist groups may try to attract veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein responded with an April 13 letter to Secretary Napolitano, writing “I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are.” Napolitano apologized Thursday morning during an appearance on CNN’s “American Morning.” “I know that some veterans groups were offended by the fact that veterans were mentioned in this assessment, so I apologize for that offense,” she said. “It was certainly not intended.” The same day, Rehbein issued the following statement: “I am glad that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has apologized for the language used in the report about ‘Rightwing Extremism.’ I look forward to meeting with her next week, putting this behind us and discussing critical issues involving Homeland Security and The American Legion.” The full text of Rehbein’s letter to Secretary Napolitano follows: Secretary Janet Napolitano Department of Homeland Security U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, DC 20528 April 13, 2009 Dear Secretary Napolitano,On behalf of the 2.6 million-member American Legion, I am stating my concern about your April 7 report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence and Recruitment.” First, I want to assure you that The American Legion has long shared your concern about white supremacist and anti-government groups. In 1923, when the Ku Klux Klan still yielded unspeakable influence in this country, The American Legion passed Resolution 407. It resolved, in part, that “ ... we consider any individual, group of individuals or organizations, which creates, or fosters racial, religious or class strife among our people, or which takes into their own hands the enforcement of law, determination of guilt, or infliction of punishment, to be un-American, a menace to our liberties, and destructive to our fundamental law ....” The best that I can say about your recent report is that it is incomplete. The report states, without any statistical evidence, “The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” The American Legion is well aware and horrified at the pain inflicted during the Oklahoma City bombing, but Timothy McVeigh (mentioned in the Homeland Security report) was only one of more than 42 million veterans who have worn this nation’s uniform during wartime. To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical “disgruntled military veteran” is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam. Your report states that “rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages.” Secretary Napolitano, this is more than a perception to those who have lost their jobs. Would you categorize union members as “right-wing extremists”? In spite of this incomplete, and, I fear, politically biased report, The American Legion and the Department of Homeland Security share many common and crucial interests, such as the Citizen Corps and disaster preparedness. Since you are a graduate of New Mexico Girls State, I trust that you are very familiar with The American Legion. I would be happy to meet with you at a time of mutual convenience to discuss issues such as border security and the war on terrorism. I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are.