My Congressman, Walter Jones (R-NC), blew it on this one.

Yesterday I learned that an Air Force Chaplain was receiving a Bronze Star for creating a Powerpoint about Muslim Cultures. I became aware of this thanks to my Facebook link to my elected representative Walter Jones (NC).  His Facebook post wasn’t just about this, though. Along with a link to his press release (that was really about a piece of legislation he had submitted in January about allowing  military chaplains to close prayers as they see fit) he posted the following status to draw attention to the press release:

“Yesterday I spoke out against the Air Force’s decision to reward one its chaplains a Bronze Star for preparing a PowerPoint presentation on how to respectfully handle Islamic materials.”

He based his Bronze Star outrage on a blog post from the National Review Online. It was a real stretch, though, to connect this to a piece of legislation he had recently submitted (House Bill 343) to allow military chaplains to close all prayers, even prayers outside of services, in the manner in which they choose.  For example, closing the benediction to a retirement ceremony or change of command with “In Jesus name” would be allowed.

I actually don’t have anything against most of the arguments individually, but I believe my Congressman made a poor decision to try to roll all this up into one bag. I don’t know what the primary issue is here.  Is it award inflation?  Is it HR 343? Is it a fight against political correctness? Aside from a little bait and switch with the headlines, Representative Jones also didn’t seem to have the whole story.

There absolutely has been award inflation over the past ten years.  Starting in about 2003 those of us in the military quickly learned that there was a difference between a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor and a Bronze Star without a “V”.  The majority of Bronze Stars awarded are awarded for administrative acts while in a theater of war and are frequently given as “end of tour” awards to senior members of the military.  We in the military have all learned that any award with a “V”, even a lesser medal, is cooler than a Bronze Star without one.walter jones

Also of importance, awards of this stature go through multiple levels of the Chain of Command before approval. This is why they take so long to be awarded.  This is the operational chain, by the way, not the administrative chain, so instead of being mad at the Air Force, perhaps he should question those at CENTCOM.

In regards to HR343; I believe this is a fine bill and see little to be offended by in it.  It’s short and to the point.  I assume no one would be offended if their unit was assigned a military rabbi for a chaplain who wanted to close a change of command ceremony with a plea to Yahweh for guidance and blessing.  I also think most military chaplains would have the professional courtesy to ask the guest of honor how they would like their ceremony to go.  So overall, I have no issues with HR 343, aside from the fact Rep. Jones is linking it to an issue that is both incomplete of all the facts and based on a small bit of xenophobia.

Walter Jones has impressed me in the past with his stance on some unpopular ideas, such as being against the continued expansion of drones, as well the war is Afghanistan.  Not an easy stance for a Republican, particularly one whose district includes Camp Lejeune, NC.  He’s also lost committee assignments due to taking a stance against his own party.  This why, despite my poor opinion of Congress as a whole, I continue to vote for him.

The original reporting about this Chaplain has come out with a clarification of the story to the point that the author now says regarding the traffic on the internet about this that, “Lt. Col. Jon Trainer, a NRO reader, has been in touch and convinced me that this isn’t quite fair”. They concluded stating that although there was nothing inaccurate in the original news story or the subsequent blog post, per se, they create “a misimpression about the centrality of the PowerPoint to Trainer’s Bronze Star.” And that they “wanted to provide this fuller context and take the opportunity to salute Trainer for his service to our country.”

Judging by the amount of “likes”, “shares” and “comments” of the Facebook post by Representative Jones, it would be nice to see him also come out with some sort of clarification.  Judging by the comments, it doesn’t appear his Facebook post did much to advance the cause of HR 343 anyway. It did strike an anti-Islamic nerve in many though.  If that was the intent of the post, mission accomplished.  If it was NOT the intent, but merely a “by product” or “unintended consequence”, it should be addressed. Silence on things like this is consent.

The fact that his Facebook post and press release highlight the medal and the correlation to Islam, as opposed to actual the actual meat of the press release (support of HR 343), indicates to me that Mr. Jones may have been more interested in reaching people through headlines and Facebook posts than in engaging in rational thought on this one.  The terms “low-information voter” and ‘Sheeple” like to be used by those on the far right to describe people they disagree with with.  In this case, it seems the shoe is on the other foot. People need to question the stuff that fits their particular cause as much as they question things that do not.  It’s true, there are a lot of low-information “sheeple” in this country…..and lots of different shepherds.

Maybe Representative Jones wasn’t really going for the bait and switch, maybe he was counting on people to just read the headline as way to validate their previously held beliefs. This is the kind of thing that leads to our tribal culture when it comes to politics.  It feeds into the us-vs-them attitude and plays on peoples emotions instead of their intellect.  I expected better from Representative Jones.

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