AROTC uses cutouts of Muslims as targets

By Max Coll | Section: Feb 26th, 2010 Featured Articles, February 26th Print Edition, Issues, News

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.”

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  1. The fact it, the Army trains as it fights, and it’s fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., where Army units train in preparations for overseas deployments, has literally hundreds of men and women, clad in traditional mid-east clothing, who serve as ‘human’ props that range from ‘good civilian’ to ‘deadly insurgent’ to ‘religious extremist’ because that’s what our Soldiers will face in Iraq and Afghanistan. And guess what, they all dress about the same. Replicating what Soldiers expect to see, by no means, is meant to degrade or attack the Muslim faith. I’m also certain that the more information they are exposed to regarding weather, demographics, religion, society, etc., through training, the more culturally aware they become, which is critical to their success in both kinetic and nonkinetic operations.

  2. This seems like someones partisan views were used in writing this article. You should never confuse a partisan views with the military. It is a neutral organization which has every ethnic background of the U.S. represented, which it should. I agree with Michael, Middle Eastern attire is the same for most. Arabs include: Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. The article states the clothing was Arab attire and the author of the article tagged the attire as being Muslim. Shame on you…

  3. First, I saw the props being used, and they had circles on top of their cloaks that are where Muslim men place their turbans. Second, the fact that these practices were done from view of Broadway, not to mention close to the campus mosque, seems to be a poor decision. If it is necessary training, then do it away from the campus mosque.

  4. Well this is great!..lets teach these cadets how to be bigots from the start. Lets foster attitudes of ignorance, racism, and bigotry so they can fight the ‘war on terror’. I can’t believe instead of trying to mediate people’s and cultures, they are learning how to fuel the war even more and more. No wonder some of these men and women are idiots coming out of the army. Their training dogs better than these people.

  5. Jordan, the military is “neutral”? Since when? Is that why every single war that has been fought since WW2 the military uses slurs against the people they are fighting:

    Krauts: Germany
    Gooks, Chinks: Vietnam, Korea
    Skinnies: Somalia
    Rag/Towel Heads, Hajis, Camel Jockeys: Everywhere in the Mid-East

    This is unfortunately “Institutionalized Racism” and it comes from the top-down.

  6. When I was in AROTC at Tulane, I spoke against Usama Bin Laden and was called a racist (anti-muslim)…..I sided with Lt Col Oliver North and his claim that Bin Laden would attack the US. Now, Osama Bin Laden is a household name. Speak up classmates of the mid-1980s>>>>>>>>>>>>>>I’ve been to asia!!!!!!!!!

  7. It saddens me that the author only included quotes from one member of AROTC and peppered the rest of the article with negative feedback of the perfectly innocent pop-up targets. To address the aforementioned “concerns”:

    1. Army ROTC conducts all of its physical training exercises, Leadership Laboratory activities, and other on campus events in accordance with university policy and requests special permission to use any of the space it occupies. Campus officials knew what to expect of the training that was conducted on Zimpel quad and were free to discuss any aspect of the training with us beforehand.

    2. Army ROTC operates under a very small budget. Again, had the article researched this article further he could have inquired about funding for the program which is severely limited for training events. They receive materials that the active army no longer has use for, such as old “BDU’s” which were phased out of the active army long ago. In fact, it is quite possible that these targets (which were made as a standard issue training aid and not a product of this particular ROTC detachment itself) were the only training aids available to effectively depict a target.

    3. Having personally laid eyes on the pictures themselves as well as the remainder of the obstacle course, I can say that the article above does not tell the full story. The first target showed a cardboard cut out of a sheep by itself. I don’t think we need to call PETA in to solve this one. The second target showed a man in traditional Arabic attire pointing a weapon at the location of the tested cadet throwing the grenade which was also adjacent to a sheep. This target was the most difficult throwing position so the multiple cut outs were simply placed to increase the size of the target. I’m sure they in no way meant to imply that terrorists are cowardly enough to hide behind livestock. The third target featured a similar human target with his thumb on a detonator. Again, it’s been stated above, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the pictures of the 9/11 conspirators on the news, but this is a pretty accurate pictorial representation. I didn’t see any red bearded Irishmen in those photos unless every major news outlet in America is racist.

    4. The targets were facing The Boot, a place where heinously offensive things go down every single night. In fact, as we were walking by the place, my friend was telling me a story about how she’d seen a girl throw up on her boyfriend’s shoes the previous night. I’m pretty sure those who frequent the Boot can handle just about anything.

    Overall, this disappointing article makes a bare minimum effort to tell both sides of the story and proves once again how the agenda of a media outlet can cast a shadow over an otherwise harmless, charitable organization for an utterly selfish reason. Way to go.

  8. Crazy #7 February 26th, 2010 9:15 pm SAID:
    “I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the pictures of the 9/11 conspirators on the news, but this is a pretty accurate pictorial representation.”
    Michael Negard # 1 Said: The fact it, the Army trains as it fights, and it’s fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan
     —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  — -
    Crazy - Just one thing, if you are using 911 to justify a war on Iraq, then your mentally out of shape. 911 and Iraq have only two thing in common, a quest for petroleum products and planes that use petroleum product so stop mentioning 911 with the beginning of this war in Iraq. And as for your other statement: “on red bearded Irishmen”- for that you need to speak to Irish Republican Army.

    Give me a break. You need to be modeling this soldiers to be professionals and not brain wash in to think they are fighting a certain culture. I bet you without the traditional clothing the ROTC couldn’t tell the difference between a jew and arab. You are digging this beautiful in a deeper trench.

  9. The story revealed in this article is truly disturbing. As an Arab-American minority who was raised Muslim residing on this campus, I already find it somewhat difficult to assimilate with my peers. Knowing that our own university’s students are spending their time shooting cut outs of stereotypical-looking Arab/Muslims in order to be prepared for “fighting for our freedom” is appalling and for me, frightening. If I walk down McAlister place, will an ROTC person look at me and say, “Oh she looks like our cutouts! What is she doing here?” Even if they don’t, which they probably won’t, I still look like an Arab, look a cutout, look like a shooting target which they are told to be prepared to look for and shoot in the battlefield.
    The fact that these cutouts are used to prepare the ROTC kids to recognize the enemy is extremely unpractical. Your enemy isn’t going to be wearing the same uniform as you, plain and simple. And what’s more, an Afghan/Iraqi/Pakistani soldier or “enemy” probably isn’t going to be wearing traditional Arab garb, as it hangs down to the ankles and inhibits mobility. Hiding behind a sheep? Come on.
    Also, the armed forces of this country are stationed all over the world, not just in the Middle East.
    I wonder how the Tulane community would act if these targets were other stereotypical ethnic/religious groups, such as being Africans, all Orthodox Jews, Asians, etc. I understand that the ROTC isn’t fighting a “war” against directly against any of the aforementioned groups, but how would Tulane’s students feel if they identified with one of those groups who were a target for shooting? Like myself, they would probably be horrified on many different levels.

  10. Does it occur to anyone supporting this practice of using these kind of cutouts that such a garb that the cadets are being taught to identify as the enemy’s, is also worn by those who are our allies as well and are helping us in our fight?

    Maybe it is these kinds of target practices that are the cause of the high number of civilain casualties that we see in afghanistan perpetrated by our soldiers who are taught to fire instinctively at a person whom he has been trained to identify as an enemy based on his dress. Not that it matters, for after all they are Muslims and its okay to kill them, but unfortunately it might lead to the murdered man’s relatives to join up with the taliban or the al qaida which they otherwise may not have.

    So if its not the morality that bothers the red blooded Amarican in us, the impracticality should.

  11. I don’t see the reason for all the fuss, the Military is being trained at far deeper levels in fear and hate of Islam and Muslims, but we do not seem to say anything there. The US Naval War College has a prof who uses the notoriously hate- and fiction-filled video “Obsession” to teach his students how evil Islam is. USAF Academy’s Gen. Born (again) tries to puch Christianity on its cadets and has invited people whose message is that Islam and Muslims are incorrigibly filled with violence and hate of the “Judeo-Christian West”. Our US Army in Afghanistan drives around passing Bibles in Dari, hanging crosses on the barrels of tanks and raising high crosses that can be seen from afar.
    In case that is not enough, our law-enforcement officers are being trained to fear and hate Islam and Muslims, in counter-“terrorist” training which includes a major portion of the sty of Islam, Muslim religious rituals and” Muslim naming conventions”…presumably so we can be recognized during a traffic stop, by our names.
    Brace up fellows, this country is going down the path drawn of Der Fuhrer unless the people of good will can find their voices against such “training”.

  12. You’d think that after the disgraceful Abu Ghraib incident the military would be more conscious of how important their image is. THe enemy is feeding off of American ignorance to fuel the passion of their fighters. We will fail without the Muslim community’s support, internationally and domestically. Regardless of the effectiveness or practicality, the use of these props alienates Arabs/Muslims. It apparently isn’t an isolated incident either. Upsetting news.

  13. Leo, since when is the United States at war with the IRA? Did I miss something? And if you’ve heard the president talk, Iraq is coming to an end with a planned withdrawal. 9/11 may not have anything to do with Iraq but it is Afghanistan that is going to be the major forward area for the near future. Again, isolating one part of the argument to try to discredit someone with a legitimate point is a Junior High debate tactic.

  14. Also, may I please point out, (before this gets totally out of hand), that no actual shots were fired that day? It seems to me like some of you think there were actual weapons on campus this past Saturday. Rest assured, that is far from the case. The rocket launchers and hand grenades used for the course were “dummy” weapons. As I previously stated, Army ROTC gets the bottom of the barrel as far as training aids go- you couldn’t fire one of those rocket launchers if you tried. The grenades were fakes and painted orange so it was obvious that they were fakes. They amounted to nothing more than big metal balls. These courses were designed to teach new cadets how to properly operate these weapons and learn their history. Had any of you sat in on one of the classes you’d have seen that this was the case. With the spooky nature of these comments you’d think there was a bunch of rabble rousing going on that day- that’s simple not true.

    There were actual M249’s on the field but again, what the author fails to mention is that they were not loaded, not even with blanks. The class on the M249 was designed to show how to break down and change the barrel of the weapons, not to mow down members of any ethnic or religious group. I suppose to understand that this is what was going on, however, you’d have to actually talk to the people who were running the training instead of making gross generalizations and stereotyping the very people you yourselves accuse of being stereotypical.

  15. Crazy, that is a bogus argument and yo are likely aware of the fact.
    If you hang a noose by a tree not far from where Blacks may be seen, it would not fly if you were to insist that “there were no Blacks hanging by the noose, heck, the noose wasn’t even a full noose, you couldn’;t hang someone on it if you tried!”

    I will accept that the ROTC cadets probably had no idea of the impliactions of the figures they were training on. However, there is absolutely no question that the figures would generate latent biases against us “ragheads”; I would not fault the cadets, but I sure would ask some very sharp questions of the people who designed the profiles.

    Psychological imprinting occurs at bery young ages and once imprinted, it can take a couple of generations to eradicate…ask the Blacks if they still feel equal in today’s “free” society. Each and every one of us has to actively oppose all aspects of bias and bigotry in order to keep this country a nation of equals. They say, “Freedom isn’t free”, well fighting bias is part of the cost of living in a free society.

    Wake up.

  16. Jafar, what a tasteless and rude example. The Army’s equal opportunity program has made it one of the most racially conscious on the planet. You cannot even begin to make a case that a noose (a symbol of racial intolerance, intended to offend) is a fraction as significant as a simple training aid. You come off like your rights have been infringed upon. They haven’t. You’re no less free to live your life in America than the day you were born. Stop trying to infringe on the rights of others.

  17. Oh and how quaint of you to throw the word “raghead” into the conversation to try to drag on a fight. Remember which one of us initiated that word into the conversation because I don’t use it.

  18. Crazy-

    I don’t think it matters if you actually used REAL weapons or not, the fact that you were throwing fake weapons or learning how to use them on targets that happen to look like Arabs/Muslims is the problem. And I feel as if my rights COULD have been infringed upon by you guys using Arabs/Muslims as targets, considering the fact that my people are now deemed as enemies that you must learn to recognize and kill in order to fight for my freedom. So yeah, to say the least, I don’t feel that comfortable with the whole situation. Imagine how you would feel if you saw people using cutouts of a group that you identify with… it’s not a very comfortable situation to find yourself in. I just don’t understand why ya’ll couldn’t have used cutouts of figures that have the shape of humans, without any details, like a shadow or something, painted a solid color. But I guess that’s because I’m ignorant when it comes to training and war tactics. Sorry.

  19. First off, I agree that the use of cardboard cut-outs depicting people wearing traditional middle eastern garb as targets could be found offensive by some. However, the cut-outs in dispute are quite obviously not friendly targets. Crazy has given a very accurate description of them, and has pointed out that they are aiming weapons towards the Cadets being trained. Leila seems to feel that we should be using cut-outs depicting Iraqi or Afghani Soldiers. Well Leila, as it turns out we aren’t currently fighting the traditional Iraqi Army. In fact, we are currently working to train these people so that they can, in the future, defend themselves without the help of other nations. If we were fighting uniformed combatants, this debate would never occur. If we were fighting uniformed combatants, U.S. forces would train with cutouts and training aids dressed in foreign uniforms. If we were fighting uniformed combatants, the conflict in the Middle East could quite possibly be over already. The simple fact of the matter is that we are fighting a completely unconventional force that does not conform to any set guidelines. They dress in garb depicted by the cutouts, they use unconventional weapons, and they hide among civilians while fighting.

    There is a fact that most critics tend to not take into consideration when criticizing the U.S. armed forces. The stereotype that most service members serving in the military are not the smartest citizens always comes to the surface in debates. Although it hasn’t been directly stated, this stereotype has, once again, surfaced in this debate. The Cadets using these cut-outs as targets attend the same university as most likely each and every person who has read and responded to this article. These Cadets sit next to you in class, study the same material, and take the same tests as each and every one of you. So how, then, can we criticize them for lacking the mental capabilities and judgment to make the decision of who to engage and who not to. You imply that Soldiers are robots who are only trained to kill without thought or the consideration of ethical decision making processes. Sadly though, you have not undergone the intense tactical and cultural awareness training that each service member who deploys receives. Yes, there are isolated cases in which a Soldier makes a poor decision and engages and kills civilians, but that is uncommon. The issue at the forefront of the minds of Soldiers is ensuring the safety of their buddy or subordinates. This is clearly my opinion, but if I had to choose between keeping foreign civilians safe and keeping my battle buddy alive, I would undoubtedly choose my battle buddy’s safety. Even further, though, deployed troops are held to strict adherence of the Rules of Engagement. This means that the useless destruction of civilian life and property must be avoided at all costs. The failure to follow these rules can result in criminal prosecution. So, the use of the cut-outs, albeit offensive to some, provide realistic training aides that cause the Cadets to use judgment capabilities that will most likely be used on future deployments. Before criticizing them, stop and think that these Cadets are the ones that are willing to stand up and defend this country which allows debates like this to exist. Stop and think that maybe you should get their opinions on matters before assuming they are robots. Stop and think that maybe the use of cut-outs, no matter what they are, could someday possibly save your life. Who knows what the future holds for our nation, but I’d much prefer to have an army of Soldiers willing to stand and fight for our country rather than an army of critical bystanders always willing to throw in their two cents.

  20. First, I would like to address that these Cadets, who will lead Soldiers on tomorrow’s modern battlefield, are not racist. They are young men and women who have put service to this country ahead of themselves. Most who object to their training would not ever consider putting themselves in harm’s way to defend or help another. Some who object will find themselves in the future seated as a congressman/woman or senator and send Soldiers to fight battles that they themselves have not the nerve to attempt. They then will criticize as they sit in the safety of their lush homes as the Soldiers are living in boxes in a foreign land with their hands tied as not to offend anyone. The fact is that the attire displayed in the cutouts represents what the non-uniformed combatants are wearing on both fronts; heck, I would go for having the enemy as cartoon cut outs of Snoopy or Charlie Brown. During the Cold War the OPFOR uniform was that of the Soviet Military, not the Russian people as the military wore a specific uniform. Don’t turn your attitudes of ignorance, racism, and bigotry onto the military as the military didn’t choose the uniform the enemy would wear. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are the ones who decided to wear the attire of the people instead of being in uniform. As to the innocent casualties in a combat zone, that again is the decision of the enemy forces as they choose to hide themselves among the populace and use the innocent as cover.
    Second, reality is much more difficult to accept than idealism; it would be great if we could train those who will be charged with making difficult decisions in the harshest environments by having them play a card game, chess, intramural sports or sitting in PJs discussing all the world’s problems(Idealism). However, just as the professor teaches accounting by having his student do just that, the future leaders must prepare themselves by simulating some sights and sounds he will face on the battlefield. Doctors do not learn their discipline by working on plastics bodies but working on cadavers (Reality).
    I have a great deal of respect for everyone’s opinion but respect doesn’t equate that your opinion is right. Just as I don’t give business, accounting, political science, pre-med majors, etc. advice on the best way to present their classes, as I am not an expert in any of those fields. I have been doing this for over two decades. I have sat over the body of a Soldier who had his head partially blown off by an IED waiting on the MEDIVAC Helicopter to come for him and another who lost both legs. I have had those who we had assisted to get water to their village attempt to kill my men that very night with AK-47 and RPGs. So please forgive me if I tire of hearing those who have made the long trip to Tulane University insist that the academic teaching have given them much more insight. I assure you I have a modest bit more experience than those whose furthest trip from home is Tulane University, and who get information from the media which is looking to increase ratings or sell papers and without question slants that information toward their agenda.
    Finally, it saddens me when the Tulane Hullaballoo writers quoted those passing by but failed to ask those who were outraged why they didn’t voice their concerns with the AROTC. Is it because the story is better if someone looks victimized? The facts are that no ethnicity, race, religion or gender was attacked, harmed, or threatened. These cutouts are just that, cutouts. They are training aids used to develop future leaders of America’s sons and daughters.

  21. Okay, first of all, the cutouts don’t have to be Muslim, regardless of what they’re wearing. Secondly, there was no terrorist hiding behind a sheep. It was a sheep we were attacking. Third, the other two cutouts were depicted with guns, pointed in our direction. I don’t care what you look like, that’s enough justification to consider you an enemy. Lastly, it’s not brainwashing, it’s relevance. Will we be fighting along side people dressed in that kind of clothing? Probably. But odds are, if they’re our allies, they won’t be shooting at us. And if they do, that would probably indicate they weren’t really our allies. And I’m not saying this is the rule, but I imagine anyone in the ROTC program is smart enough to differentiate between practicality and prejudice. Going through the course myself, I didn’t ONCE consider their religion (Although I may have been thinking I wanted some lambchops for dinner when attacking the sheep). I was given a situation, the enemy, and the method in which to carry out my mission, all that was left was to do what was told.

  22. I understand where you guys are coming from, and although I don’t agree with it, your point about how the cutouts need to resemble an enemy were made clear. However, as an Arab, I feel extremely uncomfortable with this practice. There is no arguing in that.
    Understandably, our ideas about the necessity of war in general are on two completely different ends of the spectrum.
    I will never stop questioning what my moral conscious tells me is right and wrong. I am still shocked and horrified because you might as well use a cutout of me to shoot at!

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