National Guard under fire for anti-Islam display
Mercury News Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO - Already under scrutiny for setting up a controversial new intelligence unit and keeping tabs on a Mother's Day anti-war protest, the California National Guard is taking new heat for an anti-Islamic flyer that was hanging in its Sacramento headquarters.
Islamic groups and anti-war activists criticized the Guard on Monday after learning that one Guard soldier had a historically suspect flyer touting World War I General John J. Pershing as a hero for executing Muslim terrorists with bullets dipped in pig's blood to deny them entry to heaven.
``Maybe it is time for this segment of history to repeat itself, maybe in Iraq?'' states the flyer that was posted outside a cubicle in the Guard's Civil Support Division. ``The question is, where do we find another Black Jack Pershing?''
The flyer, which has circulated since Sept. 11 as a hard-line tale for fighting Islamic terrorists, raised concerns for some activists about the mind-set of Guard soldiers.
``It's troubling to see a governmental organization dedicated to the security of our country promoting culturally and religiously insensitive ideas,'' said William Youmans, media relations manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Santa Clara. ``It's very possible to combat terrorism without offending the cultural values of a major world religion.''
Initially, a Guard spokesman defended the flyer Monday as ``historically accurate,'' but called back later to say that it had been removed because of concerns raised by the activists.
``Evidently,'' said Lt. Col. Doug Hart, ``somebody didn't like it so they took it down.''
Below the Pershing tribute is a second flyer with the wings and tail of a bomber forming the legs of a peace sign with the slogan: Peace the old fashioned way. There's also a cartoon from a Web site known as www.stopislam.com that depicts a Red Crescent ambulance stuffed with weapons and a cartoon figure that looks like the late-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat unloading the cargo.
The flyers came to light after a group of anti-war activists were invited to tour the Guard headquarters last week to allay their concerns about a new intelligence unit that has been given wide latitude to set up new anti-terrorism projects in California.
State Sen. Joe Dunn is investigating the program, first reported last month by the Mercury News, as well as the Guard's monitoring of a Mother's Day anti-war rally near the State Capitol.
During the tour, CodePink activist Jackie Thomason snapped a quick photo of the display and said she was shocked to read the Pershing tribute.
``It makes it sound like what we are doing is some sort of religious war,'' said Thomason, who is also a volunteer on the GI Rights Hotline, a coalition of nonprofit groups that offers advice and help to soldiers.
The Pershing flyer recounts a tale -- which may have been embellished or entirely woven of legend -- that resurfaced after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. According to the tale, Pershing captured 50 Muslim extremists before World War I while stationed in the Philippines. He tied 49 of the men up, slaughtered two pigs in front of them, dipped bullets in the pig's blood and had the men executed, believing that by doing so they would doom the men to hell.
The extremists were then buried in pig's blood and parts while one survivor was set free to relate the horrifying tale. For the next 42 years, the flyer states, there were no Muslim terrorist attacks in the world.
Whether the story is true remains unclear. Pershing is said to have threatened to bury Philippine rebels in pig skins and splatter pig's blood on their houses, but some historians have been unable to verify the story of Pershing overseeing the controversial execution.
The Guard incident is not the first time the tale has raised a protest. Two years ago a Massachusetts state senator distributed the same story to colleagues and later apologized after Islamic groups voiced outrage.
Since Sept. 11, the United States has had to defend itself against several incidents in which the military used degrading efforts to humiliate Muslims, including forcing prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison to masturbate and smearing faux menstrual blood to get an inmate at Guantanamo Bay to talk. Most recently, a now-retracted report that guards at the island prison flushed a Koran down the toilet sparked deadly riots in Pakistan.
On Monday, Islamic, Arab-American and anti-war groups called the Pershing flyer reprehensible. They praised the Guard for taking the flyer down, but said more may need to be done to educate the citizen soldiers.
``Muslims are not our enemies,'' said Ruth Robertson, a member of Raging Grannies who saw the flyer. ``I'm sure some Muslims are members of the National Guard.''
Contact Dion Nissenbaum at email@example.com or (916) 441-4603.