arabic, uncategorized

Infidel Redux


Without question, my short post last year on why it’s a bad idea for troops to embrace the term ‘infidel’ has been my most popular. It has garnered the most comments and is usually the post that attracts the most viewers per day. Judging by the comments, people get very emotional about this topic and have strong, mostly unshakeable and extreme opinions. Those who are ardent advocates of the brand cannot be convinced otherwise and in many cases, take to insulting me, my writing ability, or my credentials to make or punctuate their argument.

The point I was trying to make in that post was to say that while troops are entitled to their right to free speech, it is unprofessional to embrace the term infidel for the reasons I outlined. In reaction to my opinion, in the comments section, I have been accused of being a sympathizer of the enemy, an incredible dumbass,” a poor writer, an empathizer, one who has a hidden agenda,” dishonorable, a fobbit, an embarrassment to our military and country,” someone who needs a kick to the balls with a spiked combat boot,” and most recently, a traitor.

There is something deeper underlying that kind of defensive behavior that has led me to re-examine this phenomenon.

When I wrote the post, I knew it might attract some opposing views. I had no idea, though, that it would be so pervasive, persistent, and filled with hate.

Now, over a year later, I’d like to revisit the topic to see what has changed – if anything.

There is nothing outright “wrong” in displaying an infidel bumper sticker or getting it tattooed on the body. The word ‘infidel’ or it’s Arabic counterpart, kafir (كافر), is not in and of itself, extremist. This is not to say that those who brandish the term are or are not extremist. Some might just like the pretty Arabic script and others might just enjoy how ‘cool’ the word sounds. But I think some use the fact that the word is not considered a ‘hate word’ in the same way as a racial or ethnic slur to barely hide an extremist viewpoint.

Now, seeing the response and having thought harder on the subject, and having dug a little further into the regulations which cover extremist behavior, I think there may be a case for a closer examination as to whether this is appropriate behavior for service members.

The relevant portions of DoD Directive 1325.06Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces:


a. Military personnel must not actively advocate supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang
doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal
discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.


a. Commanders should remain alert for signs of future prohibited activities. They should
intervene early, primarily through counseling, when observing such signs even though the signs may not rise to active advocacy or active participation or may not threaten good order and discipline, but only suggest such potential. The goal of early intervention is to minimize the risk of future prohibited activities.
b. Examples of such signs, which, in the absence of the active advocacy or active
participation addressed in paragraphs 8.a and 8.b are not prohibited, could include mere
membership in criminal gangs and other organizations covered under paragraph 8.b. Signs could also include possession of literature associated with such gangs or organizations, or with related ideology, doctrine, or causes. While mere membership or possession of literature normally is not prohibited, it may merit further investigation and possibly counseling to emphasize the importance of adherence to the Department’s values and to ensure that the Service member understands what activities are prohibited.

According to the directive, a service member does not have to be using direct hate speech or be an active member of an extremist group in order to warrant a command action, but merely be ‘in the orbit’ of such speech or behavior. I’d argue, given the vitriolic comments to my infidel post and the ease in which you can find extremist views just beneath the surface of a Google search for ‘major league infidel,’ that displaying these things just might warrant command action.

While free speech for service members is protected, hate speech or extremist views are not.

To quote Army Pamphlet 600-15Extremist Activities, “Our soldiers do not live in a vacuum.” Individual soldiers have a responsibility to understand the things that they do and the potential consequences, on and off duty.

I do not think that everyone that slaps an infidel bumper sticker on their car is an extremist or holds extremist views. But I know some of them do. It’s evidenced right here on this blog, by those who said as much in the comments. While soldiers have a responsibility to know what they’re getting themselves into when they start marketing an idea on their body or property, commanders have a responsibility to remind their soldiers that we are a military with values, and that extremist behavior is not compatible with those values. Additionally, given DoD Directive 1325.06, commanders have the authority to lean in if they suspect a soldier of being in the orbit of extremist activity. The way that the term ‘infidel’ is slung around, there is a good argument that brandishing it puts a person in that orbit.

Lastly, the thing that really bothers me about this theme is how it looks like it will endure longer than the actual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a brand, an image. They sell ‘infidel’ shirts at the PX. What value is their as self-identifying as an ‘infidel’ if you go fight in some other war? It’s troubling to me, because a soldier should not be self-identifying as anything but a soldier (or marine, airman, what have you).

And with that, bring on the hate.


The Hunger Games of the Dead

Moving quickly across the field I spot a house about a hundred meters ahead. In a full sprint I aim for the door. Just steps from the door I pick up a flash of movement to my right. I stop, turn, take a knee, and let a wooden arrow fly. It smacks him right in the chest and he’s out.

I enter the house, quickly taking in the scenery and decor. It’s nice, but furnished to be displayed, not lived in. In this first room, which I suppose would be the living room is another tribute. He’s an archer like me, and he turns to face me in a panic. My toy bow is already drawn, his is on the floor. He must have felt safe in here.

“Alliance” I say wasting no time and with a foolish confidence gained from actually taking one of them out moments before.
“Yes” he replies, as if he really had a choice.

He is tall and lean, and looks remarkably similar to a college professor I once had. He’s probably in his early forties. I get the impression that he is a better archer than I, but there is no way for me to know this.

We start preparing our defense, barricading doors and windows with whatever furniture we can move. Out there, roaming around, are the others. I know instinctively that some have formed groups, and we will be relatively safe in this house for awhile. Maybe even a few days.

After what must have been hours, but what felt like moments, our preparations were complete. Now we could relax, maybe talk a little.

But that wasn’t going to happen. Outside, in the near distance came a swarm of brightly clothed – tributes? No. These were just people, but something was different.

In this state of innate intelligence, it clicked.

“That tricky bastard. He’s using zombies.”

One of the other tributes figured out a way to marshal these people against us as zombies. They crashed into our young home in a weak wave, tearing at the doors and windows. My partner and I – what is his name? – prepared ourselves near what would be the first breach point. As they began to slip through, we both let the arrows fly in what became a montage of death. In the aftermath, the things were repelled, we were exhausted, and our defenses were destroyed. I felt exhilarated with victory, and knew we had to begin rebuilding our defenses immediately if we wanted to survive. I reached down to pick up some arrows and caught another wave of them in the distance heading this way. My heart sank at the thought of having to do it again, exhausted and with nothing between us and them. My partner readied himself like a champion, but I couldn’t.

“I can’t” I said weakly.

He was on a knee inside the house, facing the coming horde through a gaping hole, his head turned towards me and a face that communicated his horror in my betrayal.

I took off out of the house and started running as fast I could, but slowly because of fatigue. The things were already around me. They looked like children. About ten of them were swarming me. I weaved in and out of them, desperately delaying the inevitable. I had already given up.

“Please, you don’t have to do this” I pleaded. They looked at me quizzically, knowing there is nothing they can do to stop themselves, and nothing I can say to make them stop. The thought of their tiny mouths chomping terrified me. And for what? What is this anyway?

They looked at each other, confirming one last time that this is what needed to happen, and then they devoured me.