Pentagon Suspends Anti-Islamic Course

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.

(via Wired.com)

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.

General Martin Dempsey (via Wired.com)

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.

About Mark Turner

Mark Turner was born and raised as a Catholic in the North East of England, UK. He attended two Catholic schools between the ages of five and sixteen. A product of a moderate Catholic upbringing and an early passion for science first resulted in religious apathy and by mid-teens outright disbelief.

@markdturner

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    You know, I might not be a fan of Islam, but the fact things like this: 
    http://www.facebook.com/hateislam exist worries me. And this is only one of probably hundreds more. And only one subject of thousands. I suppose it’s too much to hope that one day we’ll all be a perfect species and love each other and the world will be in Peace?

    • Sagrav

      Yup, it’s too much to hope.  We evolved as tribal creatures, and this whole “My God is the biggest and bestest god, and your God is poo!” style of conflict is just an extension of that tribal instinct.  Even if you could someone make all of the world’s current religions and superstitions disappear today, people would invent a whole new series of religions and superstitions tomorrow.  Or they’d fight over something else.  If you doubt it, just go look at any forum where people argue about the “best” sports team, computer brand, car brand, nationality, martial art, brand of soap, etc.  

  • Mitchell Hayden

    Mark, I’d just like to point out that the caption underneath the picture says that is Lt. Col. Dooley, but that is General Martin Dempsey. Wouldn’t want people to confuse the face of the man condemning the class with the man who taught it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Whoops! My fault. Fixed.

      • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

        Thanks Hemant!

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Living near Colorado Springs, and seeing first hand how the Air Force Academy and other types of military “education” work, it surprises me not in the least that several hundred officers could pass through a course like this and no complaints come forward.

  • Kirby_G

    “Go to the local mosques and ask them if you can speak at Friday prayers and share the Gospel with the attendees.”

    Wow.

    Just…. wow.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

       I know quite a few muslims and some may be welling to listen to a christian as a guest speaker on why they believe what they do versus believing in Allah, but this idea that you need to go in and convert them all. come on people in america wake the fuck up.

  • Onamission5

    My paranioa that the religious right is trying with all its might to conscript US citizens into a holy war seems to be well founded.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

    The prospect of a global religious war is just getting closer. We have extremist Muslim’s who most of the world including Muslims think our bat shit crazy numb nuts. than on the other side we have a group of mindless sheep who cant even realize that policies are being designed to put down all Muslims not just the extremest. The more we put down all  Muslims the more will join the extremest in the view that the west is evil. Why? cause bills like this do make the west evil.

    We are going to die in a nuclear war over which God has the biggest cock.

    To quote Pat Condell
    “peace, yea that will be the day.”

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    This is sad because when I used to work for the DOD (as a civilian) back in the late 1980′s, I attended a class on Islam taught in the DOD that was very fair and balanced without any of the current right-wing paranoia. It presented Islam theologically as falling somewhere between Christianity and Judaism which meant that theologically, Christians actually had more in common with Muslims than Jews. I took this class just before Iraq invaded Kuwait and before the whole defense establishment jumped on board with the idea that fighting Islam would replace fighting communism.  I guess when you are in the business of war, you need to have an enemy.  I’m at least glad there has been some pushback on that one instructor.

  • T-Rex

    Why not just have a course on the rediculousness and dangers of all religions? That way they are all represented equally, as they should be.

  • http://twitter.com/ErnestValdemar Ernest Valdemar

    “U.S. might have to destroy the holy cities of Mecca and Medina if it is to ultimately triumph”

    Makes sense to me. After all, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, and today there are no Jews, and the Roman Empire is as strong as ever. Ave Caesar!

  • jdm8

    “Go to the local mosques and ask them if you can speak at Friday prayers and share the Gospel with the attendees.”

    Since when is that any kind of a standard?  Go into any house of worship and ask to preach a religion that goes against the house’s religion and see how far that gets you.  Sure, some places will humor you, but I just don’t think it will get you very far.

  • Keulan

     I don’t consider anything to be holy or sacred, but even I know better than to advocate attacking cities that religious people consider holy. That course was actually supporting nuking Mecca and Medina? Are they nuts? Doing something like that would turn pretty much all Muslims and many of our closest allies against the United States. Nevermind the religious aspects of such an action; doing that would kill (in all likelihood) millions of innocent people. I find it appalling that some officers in the U.S. military think that would be a good idea.

  • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

    This actually is exactly why I think that Sam Harris is right to try to have a conversation about Islam in the atheist community.

    We have to wrest the conversation away from the insane right wing who thinks that nuking Mecca is a righteous thing. It’s lunacy to the point of genocidal mania, and it’s not doing us any good to let them dominate the conversation.

    I’m absolutely glad that this program was shut down and that there will be an investigation. Casting Muslims as the enemy and evil is completely and utterly wrong. It is literally no different than the fundamentalists on the other side casting all others as inherently evil and deserving to be slaughtered with acts of terror. I wonder what this Lt. Colonel thinks of the Muslims who fight in our own armed forces, risk their lives, and lose them in defense for our liberties.

  • Infidel

    You all sit in your comfortable western flats professing your self-righteous without reading history?  For 1,400 years Islam has brought death, depravation and degradation everyone it has invaded.  Read some history.  Live in a Sharia state.  Then practice your moral equivalence.

    Fools.  


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