Last week, news broke that in late April the Pentagon had suspended a course called “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” offered as an elective at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.
The suspension came about as a result of a complaint by a student. The course itself is offered five times a year, with each course having around twenty students. Since 2010, it has been taught by Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley. The story broke after a copy of the presentation was obtained and posted online by Wired.com and, while the college has refused to respond to requests for copies, a spokesperson for the Pentagon confirmed the authenticity of the documents.
The presentation doesn’t so much offer a tantalising glimpse of extreme right wing views and evangelical Christianity in the military — it’s more of a “caught-red-handed-with-his-pants-down” moment. The course material is crammed full of anti-Islamic ideology, suggesting that the entirety of Islam is America’s enemy and that the U.S. might have to destroy the holy cities of Mecca and Medina if it is to ultimately triumph.
One of the most disturbing arguments made by Dooley is the idea that the Geneva Convention no longer applies in the war against Islam.
This model presumes Geneva Convention IV 1949 standards of armed conflict… are now, due to the current common practices of Islamic terrorists, no longer relevant or respected globally. This would leave open the option once again of taking a war to a civilian population wherever necessary (the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki being applicable to the Mecca and Medina destruction DP in Phrase III).
Amongst Dooley’s many suggestions of how to combat the spread of Islam are statements such as:
Go to the local mosques and ask them if you can speak at Friday prayers and share the Gospel with the attendees.
Remember — we are at war. Act like it. You are part of a resistance movement, not a social club.
The course material has been strongly condemned by the Pentagon. General Martin Dempsey said that “It was just totally objectionable, against our values, and it wasn’t academically sound. This wasn’t about pushing back on liberal thought; this was objectionable, academically irresponsible.”
The Pentagon has since launched a full investigation and ordered all service branches to review their training materials.
What concerns me is that the course runs five times a year and has been taught by Dooley for the last two years. Why hasn’t this been picked up on before? Potentially, a couple hundred students have completed the course — why has no one complained until now?
I do think this illustrates just how insidiously embedded extreme right wing views are in the U.S. military, and how the culture of fear prevents people from speaking out more readily. Granted, Dooley is probably (one would hope) on the fringes, but hundreds of people must have tolerated his opinions until now.