Senior U.S. General Orders Top-to-Bottom Review of Military’s Islam Training

Spencer Ackerman, Wired, April 24, 2012

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday ordered the entire U.S. military to scour its training material to ensure it doesn’t contain anti-Islamic content, Danger Room has learned. The order came after the Pentagon suspended a course for senior officers that was found to contain derogatory material about Islam.

The extraordinary order by General Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. armed forces, was prompted by content in a course titled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” that was presented as an elective at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. The course instructed captains, commanders, lieutenant colonels and colonels from across all four armed services that “Islam had already declared war on the West,” said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, Dempsey’s deputy for training and education.

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The strong response by the Pentagon brass illustrates growing sensitivity around the issue since Danger Room’s investigation of anti-Islam material in the FBI’s counterterrorism training last September. That story sparked strong condemnation of the training material from the U.S. Attorney General on down, and prompted the White House to order a review of U.S. counterterrorism training last October.

Despite that White House order, the “Perspectives” course, taught since 2004, not only evaded review, but had defenders in the Joint Forces Staff College that taught it.

Danger Room first learned about the course last month, and determined that one of its guest lecturers was Stephen Coughlin, who has taught FBI and U.S. Army audiences that Islamic law is a danger to U.S. national security. We sought comment from a representative for the Joint Forces Staff College, who defended the propriety of the course.

Feedback from students has been “mostly positive, usually around the 90% range,” Steven Williams, a spokesman for the college, e-mailed Danger Room on Mar. 14. “Students generally appreciate thought-provoking discussion and the freedom to consider critical perspectives.”

The Pentagon, though, told a very different story Tuesday. Flynn disclosed that since an unspecified “revision” of the course in the summer of 2011, multiple officers who attended the course had raised internal objections about its presentation of Islam and Muslims. {snip}

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Accordingly, Dempsey has issued a letter to the chiefs of all four military services and the leaders of the military’s regional commands to make extra-sure that their own educational and training materials “are consistent with our values,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Gross, Dempsey’s senior legal adviser.

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