The New York Times Magazine has offered its take on the recruit abuse and hazing scandal that surfaced following the death of a Muslim recruit at Recruit Depot Parris Island.
The lengthy piece, authored by investigative journalist Janet Reitman, is an examination of the Corps’ relationship with violence — in recruit training, and as part of the Marines’ larger culture — and a profile of former recruit Raheel Siddiqui, 20, a Muslim-American of Pakistani descent who died March 18, 2016, after a nearly 40-foot fall on Parris Island.
Siddiqui — whose death and subsequent investigation thereof spawned a hazing probe that led to courts-martial for several Marines — was, at least physically, an unlikely candidate for recruit training, Reitman writes. He went to college in his home state of Michigan before enlisting, but the academic transition was stressful, and the job he worked on the side to help with the family finances caused his grades to suffer.
He ended up withdrawing from classes one semester, a decision with potential financial implications — he was on scholarship at the time, and might have had to pay back some money — and after completing another term, suddenly announced his intent to join the Corps.
The move — and his sudden interest in using the Corps as a path to the F.B.I. — was a surprise to his parents, Reitman writes.
Later, on Parris Island, he was a recruit who might have thought too much about orders, according to platoon-mates Reitman interviewed, and who may have garnered the attention of drill instructors as a result.
One of those drill instructors was Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who had been previously investigated for hazing another Muslim recruit by stuffing him in a clothes dryer and interrogating him about his faith and loyalty.
Felix’s alleged actions — and those of other Parris Island personnel — are explained through the lens of culture that prizes physicality and is rooted in, according to Reitman, a “reverence for suffering that Marines believe set them apart from civilians and all other military branches.”
“Boot camp,” she writes, “is meant to create the ‘warrior spirit,’ as the Corps puts it, over three months of group indoctrination intended to strip recruits of individuality and, through repeated exposure to pain and physical challenge, condition them to accept and perform violence.”
Reitman’s piece also examines the role of Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, who could soon face court-martial for failing to sideline Felix, and the command climate that existed during Siddiqui’s time on Parris Island.
Wade Livingston: 843-706-8153, @WadeGLivingston
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