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Monday, August 6

Memo to Pentagon: Note this devout Sikh is not wearing a turban

The protocol at this blog is that I don't write about massacres of civilians, whether in a foreign country or the USA, which are carried out by a mentally disturbed civilian or one murdering innocents for the hell of it. I'm breaching protocol because I'm concerned that a CNN producer will notice the same thing I did when the above interview first aired on CNN, then remove the video of the interview from the CNN website.

With that explanation out of the way, I learned of the massacre at the Sikh temple when I turned on the TV late yesterday afternoon. I can't recall the exact time I tuned to CNN but at some point, just minutes before or after the press conference given by Oak Creek officials, CNN featured a young American man, whose name I don't remember, who has a religion or similarly themed blog at CNN.

While I generally don't mention such details about a person, I will note that he was a Caucasian who from his looks was from a European Christian background, whatever his present religious persuasion or lack thereof. The point is that he is not a Sikh or Indian, or from any ethnic background that's traditionally familiar with Sikhism.

The young man proceeded to give CNN viewers a mini-crash course in the Sikh religion. This included explaining that growing their hair long is an absolutely sacred duty for Sikh males because it's an integral part of expressing their devotion to God. Thusly, he explained, the need for wearing a turban, in which the males wrap up their long hair.

He further explained that this sacred duty for Sikh males is just why the U.S. military had allowed an American Sikh recruit to wear his turban while in uniform.

Moments after the young man's lecture concluded, CNN switched to a reporter's live interview with the Sikh male adult shown above, who is named Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka. Mr Kaleka was volunteering at the time as a translator for Oak Creek police who were interviewing Sikh witnesses to the massacre.

Mr Kaleka has been member of the Oak Creek temple since the 1990s, according to CNN's text summary of the interview, and one of his relatives (an uncle, if I recall correctly from the live interview) is a top administrator at the temple. The text version of the interview also makes mention of Mr Kaleka's familial relationship to the temple's president.

In short, Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka is clearly an upstanding member of the Sikh religion, the Sikh community, and a Sikh temple. Here I would direct the Pentagon's attention to the patently obvious facts that Mr Kaleka does not have long hair and does not wear a turban.

It was also mentioned in the CNN interview that the murderer seemed to be targeting adult males in the temple who were wearing a turban. This suggests that Mr Kaleka is not the only devout Sikh male who doesn't grow his hair long enough to wrap in a turban, and doesn't wear a turban.

This is not the proper time for me to berate the Pentagon -- or CENTCOM, for that matter -- for their fascination with the writings of Greg Mortenson, the "Three Cups of Tea" author, a fascination which they imposed on their population-centric counterinsurgency doctrine, which they inflicted on Afghans in the hope of jollying along the kind of Taliban they hope to coax into the fold.

But I will mention that it was left to a British editorial writer at the Guardian to point out that the schools Mr Mortenson claimed he built were in a region that saw no Taliban activity, and which was strongly Tibetan Buddhist.

One implication of these points is that the civilizing influence of schools that Mr Mortenson touted was being tried out on peoples who were already quite civilized and nonviolent, despite their lack of Western-style formal education.

The solemnity of the aftermath of the massacre at the Sikh temple prevents me from saying much more, except to tell the Pentagon -- and CENTCOM -- that you are taking allowances for ethnic and religious diversity too far. And in the process you're making damn fools of yourselves and undercutting the culture and discipline of the U.S. military. Stop shoving political correctness down the throat of the American soldier, and stop inflicting your half-baked ideas about religions on peoples you don't understand.

The same message applies to CNN.

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