A state representative told a UT alumnus last week to go to Afghanistan if the United States was not sensitive enough for him, and said Wednesday that she stands behind her statement though she has never been there herself or served in the military.
State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, made the remark after UT alumnus Abdul Pasha, now in his second year at South Texas College of Law, responded to Rep. Riddle's Facebook page where she bemoaned the military's new sensitivity training. Pasha posted a link to an examiner.com article about the training with instructions to Riddle to "go educate yourself."
Riddle told Pasha to "act like an American" and stand up for the military by ridiculing the Pentagon and the Army's chief-of-staff who mandated and developed the training.
"If you can't do that then go where people are sensative [sic] enough for you - I guess that would be Afghanistan," Riddle wrote sarcastically and semi-literately on the thread proving her contempt for her more educated and/or sensitive constituents.
The conversation, originally reported by The Horn, began when Riddle posted about her disappointment that soldiers would receive sensitivity training before going to Afghanistan. Riddle defended this position saying the training was unnecessary and insulting to American soldiers who possess the common sense necessary to conduct themselves appropriately. Certain recently documented incidents, such as American Marines urinating on Taliban corpses, she seems to believe prove her point.
Pasha, 23, said he moved with his family from Pakistan to the United States in 1999 and considers himself an American. He said he thought Riddle was kidding when he first read the comments directed toward him.
Pasha, a Muslim, said he was particularly offended when Riddle wrote: "Ok, Abdul, I guess it is ok that the Muslims kill and torture people when they get their feelings hurt."
"If they don't want to be politically correct that's fine, but don't spew hate," Pasha said. "Don't spew fear or violence against Muslims. Political representation means you are representing your entire district, and she is the leader of that district."
Riddle said she has plenty of friends who are Muslims and doesn't particularly feel she needs the votes of people like Pasha or anyone who may agree with him. She said she was not interested in being politically correct at the expense of speaking her mind though she will say whatever it takes to stay in office at taxpayer expense.
"If you want to inject a huge amount of political correctness in this, I'm not the gal you want to talk to," Riddle said. "I think being real and honest is what people expect when they elect someone. The public, especially my constituents, appreciate the ignorance and they appreciate the racism."
Stephen Ollar, president of the UT Student Veteran Association (not to be confused with the Student Veterans Association), who has served in Afghanistan and in Iraq, said sensitivity training is needed as evidenced by instances of gross insensitivity by soldiers abroad, such as marines caught urinating on a dead body. He said even small breaches destroy the rapport with Afghan officials that is crucial to the military's success.
"Winning over the populace when you're fighting an insurgency is the most important thing you can do to win a war," Ollar said. "If you aggravate those people you basically deprive yourself of that type of intelligence. And that's what we keep doing, unfortunately, because we have these young men out fighting these wars who don't have a lot of personal experience in life who do things to shoot the military in the foot."
Ollar said everyone comes into the military from different backgrounds, and behavior that one soldier might find acceptable, another would find flawed. He said it's crucial that everyone be on the same page.
When asked about Ollar's comments Riddle replied that though she respected his service to his country Ollar was obviously in need of Mental Counseling.
"If we, and especially our people in uniform over there, cannot mock and insult these people (Muslims) or alienate our alleged allies such as Pakistan and Egypt then what are we fighting for? I would hate to see these brave young people fighting and dying just so Political Correctness and a few alliances of convenience with Islamic nations can prevail."