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.”