AROTC uses cutouts of Muslims as targets
Army ROTC cadets carried M249 light machine guns during lab exercises Feb. 20 that involved the use of props portraying concealed Muslim men on Zimple Quad.
One cut-out prop depicted a man crouched behind a sheep, while the other represented a man standing behind an oil barrel. AROTC held the laboratory exercises two blocks from the campus Al-Rahma Mosque.
Master Sergeant Thomas Lewis of Tulane AROTC said the props served as part of a procedure aimed at improving communication through the chain of command.
“These props bring cadets to different angles where they have to then report back what they see,” Lewis said. “We verify what they saw or explain to them what they should have reported.”
Ahmed Siddiqui, president of the Tulane Muslim Students Association, said he found the use of props representing stereotypical Muslims offensive and that these laboratory policies portray a negative image of the AROTC.
“Overseas terrorists use photographs of President Bush as targets during militant training, but the [AROTC] is using pictures of generalized people, not a specific insurgent,” Siddiqui said. “The depiction of a Muslim man in traditional Arab clothing hiding behind a sheep and an oil barrel is a stereotype that portrays all Arabs as being enemies of the state.”
The use of props during AROTC lab exercises at other programs varies by university. Representatives of Arizona State University, University of California Santa Barbara and San Diego State University all said they do not use props representing people during their laboratory exercises.
Lieutenant Leone Campbell, however, a representative of the University of California Los Angeles AROTC, said its lab exercises have involved the use of props in addition to cadets dressing up as foreigners.
“We’ve had cadets build bunkers and dress up as mock Afghanis,” Campbell said. “They’ve had to wear something on their head or a robe — dress up to not look like a cadet.”
Major Bill Pola, a representative of the University of Washington AROTC, said his program uses cut-out props representing people. When asked to describe the props in greater detail, Pola declined to comment.
Master Sergeant Lewis of Tulane said these props help cadets learn to identify people or objects present in the environments they are placed in.
“We are training to defend our nation and produce future officers,” Lewis said. “Cadets have to be able to physically identify in order to eliminate a threat or identify it as not a threat.”
Sophomore Kelly Barry, who watched the exercises from across the street, said the AROTC’s use of the props on campus and visible from Broadway Street was offensive.
“The cut-outs seemed racist,” Barry said. “Not only were they depicting Muslims, but they were crouching behind sheep and oil barrels. I don’t understand why it had to be like that.”
Lewis said the AROTC did not intend to offend students on campus.
“My apologies to anyone who was offended,” Lewis said. “I would encourage them to talk to cadets and get their perspective on it. Maybe they will then see it in a different light.”