This week's syndicated column:
Uncle Sam is getting a little weird. Make that a lot weird. Having dumped hundreds of billions of dollars into a sinkhole called Afghanistan – populated by misogynistic, pederastic, tribalistic and religiously supremacist primitives – to no avail, he has hit on a new plan for winning those ever-elusive Afghan "hearts and minds."
Uncle Sam has decided that the answer lies in the latrine with the U.S. Marine Corps. No kidding. When nature calls, Uncle Sam has decided he wants every U.S. Marine equipped with a map and compass, or some other way of knowing direction. This is to ensure that no U.S. Marine in Afghanistan urinates in the direction of Mecca ever again.
Now, there's a winning strategy.
It's still OK, of course, to spread baksheesh (payola) indiscriminately, chase jihadis into twisting mountain gorges, clear any road laced with improvised explosives – blow up, even, and bleed all over the place. Just make sure your sense of direction is sharp when it really counts.
Take spitting. According to an article in the North County Times, the word is: Ix-nay on itting-spay toward ecca-May, guys. If there's a pinch between teeth and gum while you're hiding out in a cold valley, figure out where Mecca is (2,000 miles away) before letting anything out of your mouth. Oh, and when it's time to catch some shut-eye "when sharing a base with Afghan army troops" – if you can sleep, given the frightening odds an Afghan National Army soldier might turn his gun on you – don't, whatever you do, let your combat boots point toward you-know-where.
That would be "culturally insensitive" and, therefore, it seems, worse than anything Afghani (or Pakistani) jihadist butchers might do (beheadings, rape) because they, as Muslims, are automatically "culturally sensitive." Apparently to compensate, senior Pentagon brass created something called the USMC Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning to teach Marines to exist in the Islamically approved fashion.
When Marines learn not to excrete in the direction of Mecca – home of the black cube known as the Kaaba – and not to sleep with their boots toward Mecca, what are they really learning? They are learning to become intensely sensitized to the whereabouts of Mecca; how to be guided by that magnetic north for Muslims as a matter of the most personal habits and hygiene, all in accordance with Shariah (Islamic law). They are learning to act like Muslims.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?
Such "culture learning" blends seamlessly with an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) guidance to all troops in Afghanistan to revere the Quran and its teachings. That's the unmistakable message of COIN Advisory #20100924-001, which I found on the ISAF website.
"Never talk badly about the Quran or its contents," says the guidance, a no-nonsense formulation of Islamic prohibitions against any criticism of Islam. Touching it is out, too. "It is considered culturally insensitive for any non-Muslim to touch a copy of the Quran," ISAF explains. Why that is indeed the Islamic case, ISAF doesn't explain. Presumably, it might upset troops to learn that this injunction exists because Muslims consider non-Muslim "najis," or unclean, and thus unfit to touch their religious book. Before searching people, ISAF advises, "ask them if they have a Quran or religious item present. If so, ask them to remove it or put it in a suitable place before conducting the search."
Think the Navy SEALs who zapped Osama bin Laden asked him to put his Quran in a "suitable place" first? We can only hope.
Of course, there's more: "Additionally," ISAF continues, "verbal disrespect for Islam and/or the Quran is considered as inappropriate as physical desecration of the Quran. Insulting the Quran is an act of blasphemy."
The way Islam treats women stinks = verbal disrespect for Islam. The verses of the Quran that call for jihad against infidels are heinous = insulting the Quran. But ISAF, veritable mouthpiece of the coming caliphate, deems such talk "inappropriate" and outright "blasphemy." This might win the generals an extra cushion at the foot of the caliph's throne, but, as the Marines are learning in their Culture Learning classes, they'll have to drink all their chai and finish their goat, first.