Critics See Crusaders in New US Military Medal
The Department of Defense announced a new medal to be worn by members of the US military who have participated in Operation Inherent Resolve:
The medal is retroactive to June 15, 2014, and is for service members based in Iraq or Syria, those who flew missions over those countries, and those who served in contiguous waters for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days, officials said.
Writing at The Atlantic, Uri Friedman takes issue with the medal as “too crusadery” in a passive-aggressive missive demonstrating a lack of awareness of the US military:
The medal features a mail-cloaked hand clutching a sword—a curious image for a campaign that largely consists of air strikes and support for local ground forces.
More importantly, it’s surprising because ISIS, in its propaganda, often depicts the Western participants in that campaign as modern-day Christian Crusaders invading the Middle East once again.
It turns out, though, Friedman wasn’t the first to find religious connotation in the imagery. He cites Thomas Gibbons-Neff at the Washington Post, who said:
It is unclear why the hand is wearing what appears to be medieval armor. Imagery of that sort could be construed to imply religious zealotry — insignia and call signs that invoke armor-clad crusaders have embroiled the U.S. military in controversy before. Last year, two Army units were criticized for using crusader names, shields and imagery in their unit logos.
The military is in somewhat of a Catch-22. Imagery that might be somewhat related to knighthood is prevalent in the military’s “martial” iconography. References to knighthood are a common allusion to honor, strength, and courage, and have been for centuries — yet, they apparently leave plenty of room for Monday-morning “experts” to presume the military is hinting at a religious crusade.
Like any large institution, it is possible that despite its best efforts the DoD might inadvertently produce imagery that was offensive or communicated a message it never intended. That said, the nit-picking of every possible permutation of artistry in everything the military produces — and then implying an international travesty out of said nitnoid minutiae, based on the potential offense of America’s violent adversaries — has reached a fever pitch in ridiculousness.
Sometimes a spade is just a spade.
As an aside, note the Washington Post made a reference to complaints about crusader imagery in the US Army last year. Those were, of course, from Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who was apparently late to the party on this latest hypersensitivity.