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May 12, 2012

Top U.S. Officer: Stop This ‘Total War’ on Islam Talk

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Photo: Department of Defense

America’s top military officer condemned in the strongest possible terms a Defense Department course that taught troops to prep for a “total war” on Islam using “Hiroshima”-style tactics.

“It was totally objectionable, against our values and it wasn’t academically sound,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon press conference on Thursday. The instructor responsible for the course, Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, is “no longer in a teaching status,” Dempsey added — but he is still employed at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.

Dempsey’s comments were prompted by a Danger Room report on Thursday that described Dooley’s course in detail. For at least a year, Dooley taught an optional course at the college for lieutenant colonels, colonels, commanders and Navy captains that proposed taking a war on Islam “to the civilian population wherever necessary,” which he likened to the bombardment of Dresden and nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Guest lecturers in the course encouraged those senior officers to think of themselves as a “resistance movement” to Islam.

Dempsey and his deputy for military education, Marine Lt. Gen. George Flynn, pulled the plug on the course last month. The general said he was “quite thankful” for an unnamed military officer who brought word of the anti-Islam material to his attention. Dempsey and his staff launched an investigation into “what motivated that elective to being part of the curriculum,” as he put it on Thursday, and the general also sent a letter to the heads of every military service and regional command instructing them to jettison any similar material, as per a White House directive issued last fall.

The inquiry, conducted by Army Maj. Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, is scheduled to conclude on May 24. Any disciplinary action against Dooley; the college’s commandant, Maj. Gen. Joseph Ward; or any other officer is contingent on its findings.

“Final judgment should await General Rudesheim’s findings, but it’s not too early to say that these excerpts are offensive (though that word may be a bit mild here),” e-mails Douglas Ollivant, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Iraq veteran who has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “Further, presentations like this do real harm to those trying to carefully distinguish extremism and support for it from otherwise admirable religious devotion.”

The harm perpetuated on student officers “who accepted the implied authority of the instructor,” Ollivant added, “is obvious.”

The military is hardly alone in dealing with anti-Islam instructional material passing itself off as responsible counterterrorism. Over the years, hundreds of documents claiming “mainstream” Muslims are “violent” have made their way into FBI curricula, alongside internal claims that agents working on counterterrorism cases could “bend or suspend the law.”

“Plenty of U.S. military officers and troops were inspired by their service in either Iraq or Afghanistan to learn Arabic or Dari and study the peoples of the region. I left the Army in 2004, as a matter of fact, to pursue a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut,” says Andrew Exum, a retired Army captain who now serves as a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “But plenty of other officers and troops began their own amateurish studies of Islam and now, like Lt. Col. Dooley, peddle claims to know the truth about the violence and hatred at the heart of Islam. Pope’s warning that a little learning can be a dangerous thing is certainly relevant here. These hucksters, like the Robert Spencers of the world, know just enough to make themselves sound credible to an uninformed audience and hide their prejudices under a thin layer of amateurish, ideologically motivated scholarship.”

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First Step to Peace: Conquering Nakba Denial

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Palestine Center Brief No. 231 (3 May 2012)

By Yousef Munayyer

Last week in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Nakba activists group Zochrot (“Remembering” in Hebrew) attempted to recite the names of depopulated Palestinian towns at Israel’s Independence Day celebration.  They were repressed.

On the same day, The New York Times published an article recycling Israeli President Shimon Peres’s narrative of the period:

Israel, mathematically or tangibly, should not have been established…prior to the War of Independence, there was no chance. We were 650,000, they were 40 million. They had seven armies, we had barely 5,000 soldiers… So tangibly we were on the brink of collapse, but we won anyway, thanks to hidden powers. Ever since, for all of my life, I have tried to understand those immeasurable powers.


The founding Zionist myth, reflected here by Peres’s words, echoes the American mantra of “manifest destiny” and fits perfectly into the Evangelical Christian narrative: Israel’s creation was a miracle brought about by divine intervention.

But this narrative doesn’t fit the facts. Had editors of The New York Times read their own reporting from the time, they too may have thought twice before uncritically reprinting Peres’s chimerical story.

In an article entitled “Palestine Jews Minimize Arabs: Sure of Superiority Settlers Feel They Can Win Natives By Reason or Force,” the Times reported in 1947, “whatever their degree of superiority complex, however, the Jews are certainly confident of their ability to bring the Arabs to terms—by persuasion if possible, by might if necessary.”

Then, in a 1948 feature story about the Zionist militias entitled, “The Army Called ‘Haganah,’” the Times reported about the Haganah:

[It] has a nucleus of 30,000 men who served in the British forces. Three thousand of them served in the RAF, including more than forty pilots. More than 300 served in the Commandos and 4,000 in the Jewish Brigade in action in Italy. The British estimate Haganah’s active membership at anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000.


In fact, throughout the war, the Zionist forces outnumbered the combined forces of the Arab armies who were under-armed, undertrained and decentralized in comparison. Prior to the start of the war, the Zionists had mapped out the Arab villages throughout Palestine and amassed a data collection effort that was far ahead of the military intelligence capabilities of any Arab state at the time.

If anything, given the realities of history and the disparity of power, it would have been something of a miracle if the Zionists had not been victorious.

This was not the outcome of a divine intervention or mysterious “hidden powers,” as Peres puts it. Rather, this was the expected triumph of an economically and militarily superior state-like Zionist force over a far weaker, disorganized native population with little means of defending themselves.

Peres, of course, should know better. He was one of the tens of thousands of Haganah members The New York Times wrote about 64 years ago. In fact, among other things, he was responsible for arms procurement! Whatever “hidden powers” Peres is talking about were not so hidden to the journalists of the day.

So why perpetuate this myth? Why tell a fairytale about the foundation of the state of Israel?

The answer is simple: challenging the foundational myths of Zionism shakes it at its core. For this reason there are two main Zionist interpretations of this history. There is that of Peres and others who might call themselves “liberal Zionists,” who bask in the mythology because acknowledging the truth is too troubling. Then there is that of Benny Morris, who knows the history all too well, and is happy to justify it.

Peter Beinart writes, “Acting ethically in an age of Jewish power means confronting not only the suffering that gentiles endure but the suffering that Jews cause.”

This tenet, a central part of the “liberal Zionist” awakening exemplified by Beinart and others, is meaningless unless it can also be applied to the events of 1948, breaking through the Zionist mythology which advances a dogmatic and false Israeli “David and Arab Goliath” dichotomy.

Only at that point can we begin moving forward.

The repressive actions of the State of Israel today toward some of its own citizens who bravely challenge this mythology only highlights its unwillingness to come out of the proverbial cave.

This article originally appeared on Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This policy brief may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the Center. 

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