by Sheila Musaji (theamericanmuslim.org)
Here is the article that we previously posted on TAM on this issue:
The Currency of Words, or the Coin of the Realm?
by Mikey Weinstein
On Tuesday, April 24th, 2012, the nation’s top soldier, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) General Martin Dempsey, initiated a truly seminal message. He finally generated the long-overdue, mandatory edict that all training and educational materials throughout the U.S. military must be immediately reviewed within one month’s time to ensure that no anti-Muslim or anti-Islam references or content remain. Henceforth, officers and enlisted members will no longer be taught and institutionally indoctrinated that “the United States is at war with Islam and we ought to just recognize that.”
According to reports, this unprecedented top-down review is the result of a belated discovery at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) in Norfolk, VA. In the elective class “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” officers from all four branches of the military were indoctrinated with vile Islamophobic programs masquerading as “anti-terrorist” education. In June 2007, Islamophobic extremist and shady Lebanese fundamentalist Christian, Brigitte Gabriel, delivered a lecture before the JFSC where she stated that there is no such thing as a “moderate Muslim” and that “America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam.” According to reports, this lecture was presented “as part of the school’s Islam elective.” It is worth noting that Gabriel is a Southern Lebanese Maronite Christian expat and speaker with the pro-Israeli Likudnik Hasbara Fellowships, who has for decades made a career of grossly oversimplifying the contradictions inherent in Middle Eastern affairs as a problem of good people dominated by a monolithic Muslim threat.
In February 2008, self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist,” “ex-Muslim,” fundamentalist Christian minstrels Walid Shoebat, Zachariah Anani, and Kamal Saleem were paid $13,000 to speak before the 50th Annual Academy Assembly at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, CO on the topic of “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence.” At this USAFA conference, as confirmed by many eye witness accounts, Walid Shoebat disgustingly stated “We have to kill Islam.”
Like Brigitte Gabriel, these bigoted stooges have made lucrative careers for themselves by peddling over-the-top, pathologically prejudiced perspectives on understanding the Muslim and Arab world while selling their own fabricated histories as “reformed” terrorist caricatures. Amazingly, they all claim to have abandoned Islam and embraced fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity. To call this heinous crew of dubious characters “con-artists” would be far too kind. Our civil rights foundation, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which represents approximately 10% of all Muslim American service members, responded by demanding equal time to counter these transparent frauds. This ultimatum resulted in speaking appearances at USAFA for MRFF Advisory Board Member and renowned Islam Scholar Reza Aslan, MRFF Board member and former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, and myself, MRFF founder and President Mikey Weinstein.
What JCS Chairman Gen. Dempsey seeks to investigate is a heinous curriculum of systemic, anti-Muslim hatred that has warped the cultural competence of United Staes service members, leading to grim results in combat theaters within which the U.S. has been engaged since 9/11. In 2012 alone there have been reports of bodies being urinated on by U.S. Marines, the proud and brazen display of the Nazi Waffen-SS banner by U.S. Marines, soldiers posing with corpses, and most insultingly, the burning of copies of the Qur’an at Bagram Air Field. Most recently, the Beaufort, South Carolina-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) renamed themselves the “Crusaders” (a phrase which literally means “taking up the cross”) and adopted the iconography of the crusading, medieval Knights Templar. In a poor, strife-ridden nation such as Afghanistan, people have little to hold on to beyond strong familial and tribal bonds and a firm sense of national, ethnic, cultural and religious dignity. Sadly, racist and dehumanizing indoctrination by America’s own war machine has transformed all too many American war fighters into arrogant, marauding crusaders.
The long-overdue review of the appalling Islamophobic materials used to train our servicemen and servicewomen is a classic case of the proverbial closing of the barn door long after the farm animals have left. President Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 starkly illustrated this fact. The ink had barely dried on the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by himself and Afghan President Hamid Karzai before car bombs and gunfire rattled Kabul in a daring Taliban attack centered on the high-security Green Village compound. The faux triumphalism of Obama’s visit, meant to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the killing of archfiend Osama Bin Laden, was meant to prop up the illusion of impending “victory” in strife-torn Afghanistan. The foreboding warning of Rudyard Kipling presciently echoes through history and seemingly confounds present American efforts as it damned all others heretofore; “Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.”
Any casual observer with even a rudimentary understanding of modern military history understands how the Commander-in-Chief’s Kabul pep talk is in stark opposition with the gritty combat reality on the ground. Insurgent Taliban forces, in addition to wearing down the U.S. military in a steady process of attrition, are flat out winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Additionally, attacks on U.S./NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel by allied Afghan soldiers and police officers have been consistently on the rise despite deliberate and pernicious underreporting by NATO officials, with the deaths of 19 ISAF service members this year alone due to “fratricide-murder incidents”. In hindsight, the Department of Defense-sanctioned anti-Muslim training programs have proven to be a quintessentially formidable propaganda asset in the Taliban fight against the “Crusading” NATO forces. Indeed, they provide grist for the mill of regional resentment and strain alliances to a breaking point. Far be it from the graceful and idyllic exit strategy fabricated by the Pentagon and championed by Obama just days ago in Kabul, many of us anxiously anticipate an Afghan departure that, at best, will resemble the Soviets’ feckless abandonment of its puppet “allies” in 1988. At worst, the U.S. exit may yet resemble the humiliating, frenetic scramble to evacuate the U.S. embassy during the Fall of Saigon in 1975.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the old adage “better late then never” still applies. Those who allowed for these egregious violations of DoD-sponsored Islamophobia to take place must face stern and swift discipline for their complicity in the dissemination of bigoted disinformation that has placed American lives at dire risk. It is too late to regain lost ground on the Afghan war front. By ordering this comprehensive review for “taught hatred,” General Dempsey is signaling that within the Department of Defense he is apparently and allegedly serious about defending Constitutionally-guaranteed American civil rights and values. The General so signals with the easy currency of words. It’s yet to be seen whether these mere words will be followed, as is rarely the case in these “religious” matters at the Pentagon, with the substantive and true coin of the realm; deeds.
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein is president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. He previously served as White House Counsel in the Reagan administration and general counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corp. He is the author of the recently released book, “No Snowflake in an Avalanche: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Its Battle to Defend the Constitution and One Family’s Courageous War Against Religious Extremism in High Places” (2012, Vireo). Source: Alternet
UPDATE May 10, 2012
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) just sent this update after the information from Spencer Ackerman at Wired was released:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/ ) is disgusted by the shocking revelation that officers from all four branches of the U.S. Military were instructed at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) in Norfolk, VA, that the “option” of waging total war on civilian populations of the Muslim faith in a manner similar to the “historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” should be openly embraced and explored. The suggestion that the norms of international humanitarian law, as enshrined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, are no longer relevant is a reprehensible and criminal concept that has no place in U.S. military doctrine.
U.S. Military Taught Officers: Use ‘Hiroshima’ Tactics for ‘Total War’ on Islam: WIRED Danger Room, May 10, 2012: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/total-war-islam/
“We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam’…This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”
Such phrases, as uttered by JFSC faculty member Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, constitute openly genocidal hate speech—the likes of which have led to some of the worst horrors in modern history. What is most troubling, however, is the fact that such abhorrent sentiments were allowed for years to permeate the lecture halls of the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) in Norfolk, VA (see below link for an Op-Ed on Anti-Muslim course content at JFSC, written on 5/08/12 by MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein). MRFF has long been aware of Islamophobic content taught at JFSC, including the use of pathologically bigoted and sectarian figures such as Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel, who were allowed to pass off their poisonous hatred as “expertise.” In spite of the recent cancellation of such content, as ordered by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. William Dempsey, the gravity of these new revelations makes one wonder how the culture within the U.S. military’s institutes of higher learning could become acclimated to such murderous concepts as the waging of total war against approximately 1.57 billion Muslim men, women, and children around the globe. Such sufficiently advanced incompetence is completely indistinguishable from willful malice.
MRFF calls on the Pentagon to expeditiously take concrete steps towards purging itself of exceptionalist, Christian supremacist, and sociopathic ideologies that have been allowed to bewitch influential figures within the highest echelons of military leadership. Firm countermeasures must be put in place to prevent the further propagation of criminal tactics and military strategies, as exemplified by the hypothetical destruction of Mecca and Medina (the paramount holy cities of the Muslim faith), and the reduction of Islam “to cult status” at the hands of a global “anti-Islamist” coalition bizarrely envisioned by JFSC faculty member Lt. Col. Dooley. Warped and racist perspectives which fail to distinguish between peaceful, civilian practitioners of religious faiths and the militant extremist adherents thereof must be decisively rooted out of U.S. military culture and academia. MRFF calls for the immediate dismissal of Lt. Col. Dooley, as well as an immediate condemnation, deeply probing investigation, and swift trial by courts-martial of those responsible for allowing content advocating genocide to be used to indoctrinate future leaders within the U.S. armed forces. It is high time that bloodthirsty, amoral, and nation-destroying concepts be stamped out of the educational institutions of our nation’s military, and that the time-honored, lofty traditions of our armed forces be restored to their proper place.
Pamela Geller and other Islamophobes are offended that the military is reconsidering such training and that Gen. Dempsey found it inappropriate. Geller goes so far as to say that she sees the pulling of this course as “Islamic supremacist groups and their operatives have infiltrated the senior level of DoD, DoS, DoJ. They are disarming our military and law enforcement, and deceiving the American people through their operatives in the media.”
Geller’s partner (and fellow leader of SIOA which was designated as a hate group by the SPLC), Robert Spencer is also unhappy that the military is re-evaluating its’ training materials, but his real gripe seems to be with the fact that his name has come up as one of those spewing anti-Muslim hatred disguised as scholarship. Spencer finds no problem with the training material (although he says he hasn’t read it) but is angry that Spencer Ackerman made it public.
And, if anyone has any doubts about the effect such training materials have on those exposed to it, here is a comment under Spencer’s article:
“They hate everything you stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit,” the instructor, Army. Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, said in a presentation last July for the course at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va. The college, for professional military members, teaches midlevel officers and government civilians on subjects related to planning and executing war.
This is as accurate statement as any ever made about Islam. Muslims refuse to accept any non-Allah made law, explaining why no Muslim should ever be allowed to become a citizen or serve in the military because each such person is required to take – and mean from the heart – an oath to the US Constitution. Muslim hate for everything we stand for is riddled throughout all of their (Muslim) dealings with us infidels”.
If anyone has “infiltrated” the military and law enforcement it seems to be the Islamophobes, and they are spreading exactly the same message as al Qaeda. For far too long the military and government have relied in many of their training programs on a veritable who’s who of Islamophobes in America to provide innaccurate and biased information. Gen. Dempsey is correct, such training is “totally objectionable”.
Devon Chaffee discussed today on the ACLU blog why such anti-Muslim rhetoric aids no one but the real enemy – al Qaeda:
This is why Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense, had no patience for members of Congress who pressed him to articulate a so-called “Islamist Extremist Threat” at a hearing last December. Instead Secretary Stockton made clear that any articulation of U.S. enemies as Islamic was harmful to U.S. security stating:
“I’ll make it as clear as I can. We are not at war with Islam. [ ] Al Qaeda would love to convince Muslims around the world that the United States is at war with Islam… That is a prime propaganda tool. And I’m not going to aid and abet that effort to advance their propaganda goals.”
Given the blatant disconnect between the materials’ teachings about “total war” with Islam and Secretary Stockton’s strategic analysis, we have to ask: what are government agencies doing to reverse the impact of the anti-Muslim disinformation campaign that infiltrated their training? One would think that it would be in the United States’ interest to take immediate and effective action to remediate the counterproductive effects of biased training.
Yet, yesterday, FBI Director John Mueller defended the FBI’s recent review of its training materials before the House Judiciary Committee. Mueller minimized the scope of the problem and noted the creation of a new screening process. But for hundreds if not thousands of personnel already subjected to the biased training, the damage has already been done and continues to spread because the FBI has refused to withdraw intelligence products that further the same flawed concepts. Still Mueller, like Pentagon officials, has made no reference to whether he will pursue corrective training to counteract the impact of anti-Islam dogma.
Nor has any agency undertaking the White House-mandated review of training materials yet indicated that it will take steps to hold those responsible for biased trainings to account. In fact, there are some members of Congress urging agencies to get the bias put back into training materials. If there is no accountability, how will the relevant agencies ensure that trainers who were paid government funds only to propagate racial stereotypes aren’t awarded more training contracts in the future?
As more and more information about the biased trainings is made public, U.S. officials need to acknowledge that pulling the problematic materials is not, on its own, sufficient to repair the damage these trainings have caused. Corrective training and accountability are needed if these damaging past mistakes are to be remediated and avoided going forward.
Richard Bartholomew also published an article today that neatly lays out the history of how we got into this situation with anti-Muslim training, and provides numerous links to the original sources. He says
Dempsey ordered a review of teaching materials last month. The story is now being reported widely – it’s even made its way onto the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (with input from Lawrence Kolb of the Center for American Progress - go to 2hr 46m 25s).
Yesterday, Wired reported on some of the material included in the course:
…For the better part of the last decade, a small cabal of self-anointed counterterrorism experts has been working its way through the U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement communities, trying to convince whoever it could that America’s real terrorist enemy wasn’t al-Qaida — but the Islamic faith itself. In his course, Dooley brought in these anti-Muslim demagogues as guest lecturers. And he took their argument to its final, ugly conclusion.
…Dooley lays out a possible four-phase war plan to carry out a forced transformation of the Islam religion… International laws protecting civilians in wartime are “no longer relevant,” Dooley continues. And that opens the possibility of applying “the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” to Islam’s holiest cities, and bringing about “Mecca and Medina[‘s] destruction.”
Improper training on Islam for military and law-enforcement is a subject that has come under increasing scrutiny over the past year and a half: a critical article appeared in the Washington Post in December 2010, and there was a lengthy article in the Washington Monthly in March 2011 which prompted an expression of concern from Joe Lieberman, in his capacity as Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman. A report by the progressive Political Research Associates also appeared in spring 2011, while the summer saw critical pieces on CNN and NPR, as well as an earlier report in Wired. Wired also ran a second piece in October. This year has seen troubling stories involving the NYPD and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department in Tennessee.
The latest Wired piece has details of some of the guest lecturers used by Dooley, with links to original sources:
Shireen Burki declared during the 2008 election that “Obama is bin Laden’s dream candidate.” In her Joint Forces Staff College lecture, she told students that “Islam is an Imperialist/Conquering Religion.” (.pdf)
Stephen Coughlin…. suggested [link] that al-Qaida helped drive the overthrow of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi. It was part of a scheme by Islamists to conquer the world, he added. And Coughlin mocked those who didn’t see this plot as clearly as he did, accusing them of “complexification.”
…Former FBI employee John Guandolo told the conspiratorial World Net Daily website last year that Obama was only the latest president to fall under the influence of Islamic extremists… Guandolo’s paper, titled “Usual Responses from the Enemy When Presented With the Truth“ (.pdf), was one of hundreds of presentations, documents, videos and web links electronically distributed to the Joint Forces Staff College students. Included in that trove: a paper alleging that “it is a permanent command in Islam for Muslims to hate and despise Jews and Christians“ (.pdf). So was a video lecture from Serge Trifkovic, a former professor who appeared as a defense witness in several trials of Bosnian Serb leaders convicted of war crimes, including the genocide of Muslims. A web link, titled “Watch Before This Is Pulled,” supposedly shows President Obama — the commander-in-chief of the senior officers attending the course — admitting that he’s a Muslim.
Most of these names are familiar: in 2010, Coughlin took part in an unofficial “Fort Hood Memorial” event alongside Gen “Jerry” Boykin, Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem, and Robert Spencer; Guandolo was the focus of last summer’s NRP piece, which focused on police training in Ohio. In 2009, Trifkovic took part in a “Preserving Western Civilization” conference organised by Dr Michael H. Hart, an astrophysicist who claims that human history should be interpreted by considering differences in racial IQs – I discussed this here.
Eurasia Review notes that
For the better part of the last decade,
a small cabal of self-anointed counterterrorism experts has been working its way through the U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement communities, trying to convince whoever it could that
America’s real terrorist enemy wasn’t al-Qaida — but the Islamic faith itself. In his course, Dooley brought in these anti-Muslim demagogues as guest lecturers. And he took their argument to its final, ugly conclusion.
As an American Muslim who loves America and loves Islam, I can only pray that the voices that are heard are those of people like Gen. Dempsey, and the Elected Representatives & Government Officials Who HAVE Questioned Islamophobia, and not Islamophobic voices like Ret. Gen. Boykin or Pamela Geller and her fellow bigots. The extremist voices on all sides need to be marginalized. As an American Muslim I am fully committed to a war against al Qaeda, but refuse to participate in a war against Islam. In fact, I see a war against Islam as a war against Muslims, myself included.
After Rep. King’s hearings on Muslims in the military, I said
Put this sort of accusation together with:
— the possible indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens,
— Halliburton’s push to outfitFEMA and U.S. Army camps or internment/detention centers around the United States,
— the fact that our law enforcement agencies and personnel have been fed a steady diet of anti-Muslim propaganda,
— the fact that many of our elected representatives have expressed anti-Muslim views including the possibility that Muslims are not protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution,
— and Rep. Rick Womick’s call to ban Muslims from the military.
All of these developments taken together are particularly alarming as they might relate to the American Muslim community.
I am not only concerned but frightened. It is difficult to maintain any sense of humor with all of this going on, but my husband suggested to me that perhaps we don’t need to worry so much about our retirement as the government may be developing an “American Muslim retirement plan”.
I am certain that I will not be the only one in the American Muslim community who will be watching how all of this plays out to see just how frightened we should be.