Rep. Dan Crenshaw has begun publicly releasing whistleblower complaints from service members who object to recent military training initiatives which they say incorporate critical race theory instruction.
The Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL officer received the complaints through a whistleblower site he launched in late May in partnership with Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican and former Army infantry officer.
“Make no mistake about it, our military is still the strongest in the world,” Mr. Crenshaw said in a video posted on Instagram Friday. “But wokeism, identity politics, critical race theory, and blatant political activism have indeed seeped into this critical institution.”
Friday’s video is part of a series he calls “The Whistleblower Files,” through which he said he plans to release a portion of more than 400 complaints he received and determined to be credible over the following weeks.
The complaint released Friday details required training in which members of an Air Force squadron were separated physically by “points of privilege” such as race and sex in an exercise known as a “privilege walk.”
“So let’s point out the obvious: this is meant to shame people,” Mr. Crenshaw said in the video. “And shame people for something they have no control over. It also literally creates manufactured divisions in an environment that requires camaraderie, and puts down certain service members over others not on merit, but on skin color or gender.”
The complaints follow Pentagon efforts to stamp out extremism in the ranks after current and former troops were identified in the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In February, the Pentagon directed military units to hold a one-day “stand-down” to address extremism within the ranks.
“We want to have a reasonable discussion over these issues so we can keep these problems from compounding,” Mr. Crenshaw said in the video, and said all of the complaints released will preserve the confidentiality of the service member.
Mr. Crenshaw said the complaints point to growing politicization within the ranks of a notoriously apolitical institution.
“We’ve seen what it’s done to our college campuses,” Mr. Crenshaw told The Washington Times. “We’ve seen what it’s done to corporations, where people are walking on eggshells constantly, always worried about some kind of complaint being levied against them, always worried about what’s the next insane anti-racism training they’re going to have to go through. And the military is taking that on.”
The release comes amid mounting pushback by conservative lawmakers and cable news hosts against the “woke” culture they say is spreading throughout America’s schools, workplaces, and government.
Military leaders have been peppered by lawmakers in defense budget hearings over the past few weeks with questions on military training and reading lists that incorporate critical race theory.
Earlier this month, Sen. Tom Cotton revealed several service member complaints while questioning Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
“One Marine told us a military history training session was replaced with mandatory training on police brutality, White privilege, and systemic racism. He reported that several officers are now leaving his unit citing that training,” Mr. Cotton said. “Another service member told us that their unit was required to read ‘White Fragility’ by Robin DiAngelo, which claims ‘White people raised in Western society are conditioned in a White supremacist world view.’”
Mr. Cotton asked Mr. Austin whether he believes the military is fundamentally racist and whether service members should be treated differently based on race or sex. Mr. Austin answered no to both questions, and he said he welcomed service members to make complaints through their chain of command or the inspector general.
“I would also say that diversity, equity, and inclusion is important to this military now, and it will be important in the future,” Mr. Austin said. “And so we’re going to make sure that our military looks like America and that our leadership looks like what’s in the ranks of the military.”
Rep. Michael Waltz, Florida Republican, and former Army Special Forces officer pressed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley during this week’s House Armed Services Committee hearing after receiving a letter from the superintendent of West Point, stating that the Army’s service academy hosts a course which includes critical race theory as part of its syllabus. He also pointed to a West Point seminar cadets attended entitled ‘Understanding Whiteness and White Rage.’
“I cannot think of anything more divisive and more destructive to unit morale,” Mr. Waltz said. “I want to be very clear, the military needs to be open to all Americans. Absolutely. That is the strength of the United States Military. But once we’re in, we bleed green and our skin color is camouflage. We’re worried about that American flag on our shoulder. That’s the only thing our enemies are worried about.”
Mr. Austin agreed with Mr. Waltz that the teachings, as Mr. Waltz described them, should not occur but said he would need to understand the specifics in more detail.
Later in the hearing, partially in response to Mr. Waltz’s question, Gen. Milley pushed back against the lawmakers for the compounding criticism.
“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military — general officers, commissioned and noncommissioned officers — of being ‘woke’ or something because we’re studying some theories that are out there,” he said.
The General also said that it is important for service members to be open-minded, and to form a greater understanding of phenomena, such as “white rage,” that have led to events such as the attack on the Capitol.
“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States?” What caused that? I want to find out,” he said.
The episode has not only deepened the divide between the left and right in Congress and the media, but it has also begun to expose a divide between the lawmakers, many of whom are veterans, and veteran groups who say that the lawmakers are going too far.
“Our military is under attack,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America tweeted Friday. “Not from ISIS or Al Qaeda. From our own. Cowards, hacks and weasels in Congress and the media.”
But Mr. Crenshaw told The Times he is an advocate for maintaining a diverse and inclusive military, and that the lawmakers raising questions over critical race theory agree with senior military leaders on core principles.
“We agree on these basic principles of how one should be judged, how one should be promoted, and how the military should manifest,” he said. “If we agree on that, then how is it that these trainings are happening, and what are we going to do to stop that?”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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