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I was a pro-Saddam protestor, was called a ‘camel jockey,’ but I AM an American soldier

Stashed in: Art of War

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This stuck with me:

It was only when I joined the military did prejudice and racism begin to personally impact and upset me. I think this is because as a soldier, my ethnicity has sometimes became a target of derision. At one point when I was boarding a plane to Kuwait, a Sergeant requested that I refrain from blowing up the aircraft. He was probably joking, but I took that comment to heart. While taking cover from incoming Scud missiles in Kuwait, I was told that there was no room for me in a bunker filled with American personnel. Although there was obviously room in the bunker, my fellow soldier was not going to allow me the safety provided to him. Frequently, I would be referred to as a “Hajji” or “Taliban” while serving in Iraq, while other soldiers would jokingly ask, “Are you wearing a bomb?” When I expressed an opinion about the enemy, they would observe, “You should know, since you trained with them.” Once when I called home and was speaking to my mother in Arabic, I was interrupted by my company commander, who asked if I was giving instructions to my cousins. Although I was his driver, and he was only joking, his comments have always lingered in my mind.

This was a very good point.

The truth is that the Muslim community can offer much in the fight against terrorism and can assist the American military in many ways. Muslims can serve the American military extremely well and they can excel but only if given the chance to do so and are protected from prejudice and racial comments. Muslim Americans must stop being regarded with derision or suspicion. They must be looked upon as Americans with unique skills and talents that can serve their country with honor. Throughout my career in the Army I met many Arabic- and Persian-speaking soldiers who have incredible potential to serve in intelligence or linguistic jobs, but instead have been relegated to menial jobs in the Army because they are not trusted.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu states, “Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear of 100 battles. Know yourself but not your enemy, find level of loss and victory. Know thy enemy but not yourself, wallow in defeat every time.” Until U.S. military forces and U.S. citizens understand and respect the cultures of others, many of whom are U.S. citizens and serve in the U.S. military, we will wallow in defeat.

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