First farting. Now peeing. What’s next? Pooping?
Last month, the North County Times published a thoughtful story highlighting the cultural training that Marines receive before deploying to Afghanistan. However, two points from Shafiq Mubarak, a trainer with the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning, have gained traction on the blogosphere. They appeared in these paragraphs:
Mubarak also said the Marines should never spit or urinate to the west, the direction of Mecca that Muslims in Afghanistan face when they pray.
In addition, when sharing a base with Afghan army troops, Marines shouldn’t sleep with their feet pointed west, because that also is considered offensive, he said.
The points have been criticized on the Web in pieces like this one, which ridiculously suggested that the Corps’ cultural learning center was “created to teach Marines to exist in the Islamically approved fashion.”
A newspaper in Colorado, the Greeley Gazette, followed up this week, reporting that Lt. Col. George Robinson, operations officer for COACL, said Murabak’s statements do not reflect Marine Corps doctrine.
“Mubarak is a private contractor, and an Afghanistan civilian. He was simply expressing a personal opinion regarding his dealings with locals,” Robinson said. “The training is simply meant for Marines to learn about the area from trainers using personal anecdotes.”
And therein lies the rub. At its best, the training and other cultural awareness efforts teach Marines new ways to understand their surroundings on deployment, potentially preventing some problems. No orders have been put in place, but the training has provided suggestions that may or may not help in Afghanistan on a given day.
At its worst, the training is taken too seriously and spun into a justification for online vitriol. “Look what they’re making Marines do!” critics scream, frothing at the mouth. “This politically correct B.S. has gone too far!”
Much like the recent flap over Marines being advised to fart carefully in Afghanistan, the message has spiraled from what it was originally.
The best-case scenario is that we find a little humor in the situation, and learn something about another culture in the process. Then, like anything else, the Marines on the ground can apply it — or ditch it — as common sense dictates.
Crazy idea, isn’t it?