Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Seth Robson, "FBI says U.S. criminal gangs are using military to spread their reach," Stars and Stripes (European edition), December 7, 2006.

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. criminal gangs have gained a foothold in the U.S. military and are using overseas deployments to spread tentacles around the globe, according to the FBI.

FBI gang investigator Jennifer Simon said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes this week that gang members have been documented on or near U.S. military bases in Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Iraq.

“It’s no secret that gang members are prevalent in the armed forces, including internationally,” Simon said, adding that the FBI is preparing to release a report on gangs in the military.

Among the cases:

¶ In Iraq, armored vehicles, concrete barricades and bathroom walls have served as canvasses for spray-painted gang art. At Camp Cedar II, about 185 miles southeast of Baghdad, a guard shack was recently defaced with “GDN” for Gangster Disciple Nation, along with the gang’s six-pointed star and the word “Chitown,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

¶ In Germany, a soldier is being prosecuted this week for the murder of Sgt. Juwan Johnson, beaten to death on July 4, 2005, allegedly during a Gangster Disciple initiation in Kaiserslautern.

¶ In September, Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe warned teachers and parents to watch out for signs of gang activity, including the deadly MS-13 gang. At the time, DODDS-Europe public affairs officer David Ruderman said there had been two incidents in the past 18 months that involved students fighting, wearing gang colors or claiming to be members of gangs. In one of the incidents, a student’s family member may have been a gang member, he said.

¶ Earlier this year, Kadena Air Base on Okinawa established a joint service task force to investigate gang-related activity involving high school teens linked through the Web site

Last year, the U.S. Army conducted 11 felony investigations into gang activity, one of those being the death of Johnson, said Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) in Virginia. Three of the incidents, including the Johnson case, took place in Europe, Grey said.

“We investigate all credible reports of gang activity,” Grey said, adding that CID has programs to combat gang activity in the Army.

Soldiers are reluctant to talk openly about gang problems. However, Spc. Bautista Kylock, 21, of the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment in Vilseck, Germany, said last week that there are gang members within his unit.

Kylock blamed recent violence around Vilseck on soldiers affiliated with the Crips and Bloods street gangs.

Scott Barfield, a former Defense Department gang detective at 2nd Cav’s last duty station, Fort Lewis, Wash., told the Sun-Times earlier this year that he had identified more than 300 soldiers at the base as gang members.

“I think that’s the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

However, Vilseck Provost Marshal Maj. Robert Ray said there is not a big gang problem in Vilseck and he has no information on gang members within 2nd Cav.

“The military comes from all walks of lives, from rich to poor, and with that comes the ‘society,’” Ray said. “Are there members of the military that belong to gangs? No doubt about it. But the military is not rampant with gang members.

“The military chain of commands do not tolerate things like that and do their best to weed out problems,” he said.

There are no official statistics on gang membership in the military, but some experts have estimated that 1 percent to 2 percent of the U.S. military are gang members, Simon said. That compares with just 0.02 percent of the U.S. population believed to be gang members, she wrote.

“Gang membership in the U.S. armed forces is disproportional to the U.S. population,” she added.

Jim Kouri, vice president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, wrote recently that, in addition to the Gangster Disciples, other Chicago gangs such as the Latin Kings and Vice Lords have infiltrated the military along with neo-Nazi groups.

Although there are no numbers to back it up, Simon believes gang member presence in the U.S. military is increasing.

“The U.S. Army has reported an increase in gang-related activity in the military, although their numbers are low,” she said.

Gang-related activity in the military is highly underreported, and the Army is the only branch of the military that collects gang-related statistics, she wrote.

“It’s often in the military’s best interest to keep these incidents quiet, given low recruitment numbers and recent negative publicity. The relaxation of recruiting standards, recruiter misconduct and the military’s lack of enforcement (gang membership is not prohibited in the Army) have compounded the problem and allowed gang member presence in the military to proliferate,” Simon said.

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Jim Terral said...

In "Neither Shall the Sword," a monograph on Fourth Generation War, former USAF Colonel Chet Richards writes that "Private military companies and other non-government security services represent a major source of job growth in the US economy. And gangs like MS 13 and the Aryan Brotherhood are growing in wealth, power, and most disturbing of all, in their ability to harness new technologies such as the Internet to recruit members and plan, then conduct, operations. It seems reasonable that in this new world, the national security apparatus we built starting 200 years ago to protect us from other states - and that we tweaked a half century ago to wage the Cold War - might not be what we need" (Richards Neither Shall Jan 06).

Richards also cites Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld's prediction that "Much of the task of defending society against future warfare, he foretold, will fall to private security companies, with a corresponding decrease in the utility, size and technological complexity of military forces. Armies will shrink in size to be replaced by police-like security forces on the one hand and armed gangs on the other (" … not that the difference is always clear even today")" (qtd in Richards Neither Shall Jan 06).

"As many states in the Third Word decline in influence, their citizens will look to other social structures, such as clans, gangs, tribes, mercenary armies, corporations and even international criminal cartels for sustenance and security. 36 [Not just in the Third World, and not just criminal loyalties. -jlt] We can see this happening today where the state system is weak, such as in parts of Africa, Central Asia, and South America. A recent count suggests that there are eight failed or totally collapsed states in the world, all but one in Africa, and two dozen more that are close" (44). 37 [We can see it happening in the US after Katrina. Note the New Black Panther media advisory. -jlt]

[The reference above is to Robert I. Rotberg and what he calls "this decade's failed states": Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, the DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan.]

The point is re-iterated by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace in their Failed State Index (2005): "Among the 12 indicators we use, two consistently rank near the top. Uneven development is high in almost all the states in the index, suggesting that inequality within states--and not merely poverty--increases instability. Criminalization or delegitimization of the state, which occurs when state institutions are regarded as corrupt, illegal, or ineffective, also figured prominently. Facing this condition, people often shift their allegiances to other leaders--opposition parties, warlords, ethnic nationalists, clergy, or rebel forces. Demographic factors, especially population pressures stemming from refugees, internally displaced populations, and environmental degradation, are also found in most at-risk countries, as are consistent human rights violations" (Failed States Index 05).

"The notion of failed states advanced by US neo-liberals is not accompanied by any notion of failed markets, despite signs of market failure everywhere. Yet a real failed state is one that tolerates, nay, promotes failed markets" (Liu Failed markets Mar 26 02).

[In general, Liu cites monopolies, the underprovision of public goods, negative externalities, incomplete markets, the business cycle, and the uneven distribution of income as market failures. Market failures include black markets (e.g. the one in small arms), smuggling, money laundering, and offshore banking centers. See RT Naylor and Standard Schaefer. There is a significant Canadian black market in rental housing sometimes called "in-law suites." Is terrorism a black market in war fighting? Where does state-sponsored gambling fit? Smuggled cigarettes on Indian reserves are certainly examples of failed markets. They correspond to the highest rate of suicide in the world, solvent abuse, etc. -jlt]

Liu claims that "Failed markets threaten the future of the world much more than failed states. To preserve world peace, the real regime change needs to be on failed markets" (Liu Failed markets Mar 26 02).

The vectors that link the appearance of gangs in the military, job growth among private security companies, shifting loyalties, failed states and market failure do not all flow in the same direction. They are more like a closesly related clot of interrelated themes that feed off one another.