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Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s search for ‘woke military’ complaints draws ridicule — and war movie quotes

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Reports from the field have been grim.

A male soldier wearing dresses at a combat field hospital. Insubordination and the theft of strawberries on a Navy ship. Leaders more focused on teaching history and moral philosophy than killing hordes of alien bug enemies.

These are some of the satirical responses to a call to action from Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), who asked service members to submit whistleblower complaints about liberal policies in the force.

“We won’t let our military fall to woke ideology,” Crenshaw said Friday on Twitter.

Crenshaw’s appeal, co-led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a fellow veteran, is a new front in a Republican attack on Defense Department leaders that was prompted by military policy changes, including those that have focused on weeding out extremist troops and removing barriers that have held back women.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others have pilloried such changes, calling them attacks on conservatives in uniform and evidence of an “emasculated military,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said.

Crenshaw’s solicitation was met with a flood of fake claims that ridiculed his effort.

Many responses posted to Twitter were ripped from popular military movies and books, including “The Caine Mutiny,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “M.A.S.H.” and “A Few Good Men.”

Peter Lucier, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan, landed on “Starship Troopers” for his submission. Channeling Johnny Rico from the book and film, Lucier wrote that the human slaughter on planet Klendathu spurred a decision to become an officer. But now he has to sit through History and Moral Philosophy.

“Kill the bugs,” Lucier stated as his goals in a field on the submission form.

The choice was a deliberate one, he said, given the novel’s themes of a fascist government where might is right and citizenship is drawn from service. “This year, we explored the failure of democracy, how the social scientists brought our world to the brink of chaos,” Jean Rasczak, the class professor, said in the film adaptation.

Lucier, a law student who writes about civil and military relations, said Crenshaw and other conservatives have found new ways to channel rage over old debates within the military. Anger over policies such as women in combat roles and gay and transgender people serving openly had typically been reserved for lawmakers and presidential administrations, he said.

Now Crenshaw and others, in a Trump-like populist move, have targeted commanders and defense officials, he said, dividing the military along partisan lines.

“It seems this new version pits members of the military against each other,” he said.

Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL wounded in combat, said in a statement there has been a “disturbing uptick in cases under President Biden” that point to a political agenda in the military. He became concerned last year after the Navy revised its SEAL ethos to include gender-neutral pronouns, he said, which occurred during the Donald Trump administration.

The Navy said the changes reflected new policies allowing women to serve as operators in Naval Special Warfare.

“I have heard countless stories of commands teaching critical race theory, encouraging neutral pronoun use, promoting liberal activist books. We are asking for whistleblower complaints to obtain more specifics, and more evidence, so Americans know what their military is up to,” Crenshaw said.

The effort launched with a salvo of tweets at Crenshaw’s expense.

Ken White, an attorney and commentator better known online as Popehat, was an early driver of joke submissions. “I’m pretty sure our battle tank is actually an RV. This is not a way to maintain military discipline,” White wrote, recalling the plot from the 1980s screwball comedy “Stripes.”

Others looked to “The Caine Mutiny,” and the paranoid commander Queeg’s quixotic search for a strawberry thief, for inspiration, and to the A-Team.

A spokesperson for Crenshaw said the office is sifting through submissions to vet them but did not say how many appeared to be satirical.

Carlson led efforts in March when he decried Air Force flight suits made for pregnant women as a “mockery” of the military. That prompted an unusually strong response from current and retired military leaders.

The United States Army's animated ad focused on soldier diversity drew condemnation from some conservative lawmakers in May. (Video: GoArmy)

Last month, Cruz blasted an Army recruiting ad that featured a soldier who was raised by a lesbian couple, contrasting it with a Russian military video. Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka called the soldier “repugnant.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defended the policy decisions in the wake of criticism.

“I think we’re doing a great job in terms of recruiting the right kinds of people, providing access to people from every corner, every walk of life in this country,” he told CNN. “As long as you’re fit and you can qualify, there’s a place for you on this team,” he said.