U.S. military spokesmen denied Tuesday that American troops were prohibited from displaying the U.S. flag on their uniforms to avoid offending the Saudi government.
They said that in a recent incident the commanding officer of a Florida National Guard unit had asked his troops to remove the flag in error.All troops bound for Saudi Arabia are briefed on the cultural sensitivities in the strict Moslem nation, which bans the mingling of the sexes in public and bars alcohol. In the past, strong ties with the United States have never been emphasized publicly because of Washington's links to Israel.
One military spokesman said that some commanding officers take the warnings further than the regulations.
"In trying not to offend someone, in being sensitive . . . they err on the side of caution," said Capt. Mike Sherman of the U.S. military's Joint Information Bureau. "It was just a bad word that the commanding officer got."
U.S. military positions in Saudi Arabia are barred from flying the American flag, according to a policy by the Central Command in Riyadh.
"They are encampments rather than bases on the sovereign territory of Saudi Arabia," said Lt. Cmdr. David Knox, a spokesman for Central Command.
Troops may, however, display the flag on the walls of their living quarters, in offices, on their uniforms or anywhere else if their commanding officer approves, he said.