This one earns the coveted Duke University triple facepalm, the highest honor we can award for self-beclowning. An Army Reserve training class attempted to instruct soldiers on the various extremist groups of the world, dutifully noting al-“Quaeda,” with which the US armed forces are at war, and Hamas, which the State Department lists as a terrorist organization. Both of those, however, come below a couple of extremist groups so fringe that only about 60 million Americans count themselves among their ranks:
A slideshow presentation shown to US Army Reserve recruits classifies Christians, including both evangelicals and Roman Catholics, as religious extremists, placing them in the same category as skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, Hamas and Al Qaeda.
The presentation also warned that members of the military are prohibited from taking leadership roles in any organization the Pentagon considers ‘extremist,’ and from distributing the organization’s literature, whether on or off a military installation.
The opening slide warns that ‘the rise in hate crimes and extremism outside the military may be an indication of internal issues all [armed] services will have to face.’
Citing a Southern Poverty Law Center report as evidence that extremism is on the rise, the Army Reserve presentation blames ‘the superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories,the changing racial make-up of America and the prospect of 4 more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.’
A later statement from the Pentagon said that the author of this slide presented this viewpoint without permission, and that the research left much to be desired:
The Archdiocese for the Military Services, a Catholic organization that trains and endorses military priests and chaplains, said in a release that it was “astounded that Catholics were listed alongside groups that are, by their very mission and nature, violent and extremist.”
The AMS called on the Pentagon “to review these materials and to ensure that tax-payer funds are never again used to present blatantly anti-religious material to the men and women in uniform.”
An Army spokesperson said the presentation “was produced by an individual without anyone in the chain of command’s knowledge or permission.” The Army removed the offending slide after receiving complaints.
The person responsible for the presentation, the spokesperson said, “was not a subject matter expert, and produced the material after conducting Internet research.”
“Not a subject matter expert”? No kidding, but that doesn’t explain everything. Why was he or she assigned to train reserves on extremism in the first place? Shouldn’t the lack of expertise prompted the Army Reserves to exercise more supervision over its instructor? Few organizations are as relentlessly hierarchical as the military, and someone in the chain of command appears to have acted … irresponsibly.
Or, as Mark Steyn points out, several someones:
When I first saw the headline, I assumed it must all be a little less obviously bone-crushingly stupid or at any rate more nuanced once you got into the story. But I invite you to look at the accompanying poster for the Equal Opportunity training brief issued by the Army Reserve in Pennsylvania. It lists “extremist” groups, starting with “Evangelical Christianity” at Number One, “Al Quaeda” (misspelled under any Roman rendering of Arabic) at Number Five, “Hamas” at Six, and “Catholicism” rounding out the Top Ten.
Think of the number of people involved in the creation, printing and distribution of this graphic — and along the way not one of them stopped to say, “Hey, this is totally dumb.”
One does have to be amused, however, at the last entry on the list — “Islamophobia”. That follows a half-dozen references to various Islamist groups, including one that the Obama administration is currently attempting to engage (the Muslim Brotherhood), and “Sunni Muslims” — without any other qualifiers. I imagine the Shi’ites appreciate that conclusion, but since there are over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world and Sunnis comprise 75%-90% of them (according to Pew), isn’t that inclusion “Islamophobia” in and of itself?
“Totally dumb” is letting everyone connected to this training seminar off too easily.