Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pentagon suspends class on Islam, reprimands instructors for teaching "anti-Islamic material"

WASHINGTON (AP) - Poor judgment and poor oversight led to the teaching of anti-Islamic material at a military school for officers, according to a Pentagon report Wednesday.

Though an Army lieutenant colonel who taught the class has been relieved of his teaching duties, investigators recommended reviewing the actions of two civilian officials at the Virginia school to see if they also should face discipline, the Defense Department said in a statement.

Materials in a course for military officers at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., portrayed the U.S. as at war with Islam. That's an idea counter to repeated assertions by U.S. officials that the war being fought by America is one against terrorists.

Some of the material suggested the U.S. ultimately might have to obliterate the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina without regard for civilian deaths, following World War II precedents of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Japan, or the allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany.

The teacher, Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, also taught that the Geneva Convention, which guides behavior toward prisoners, was "no longer relevant" and instructed officers that Muslims "hate everything you stand for."

The Pentagon suspended the course in late April when a student objected to the material. The FBI also changed some agent training last year after discovering that its curriculum, too, was critical of Islam.

The report comes from the office of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who had ordered all service branches to review their training to ensure that other courses don't use anti-Islamic material and that procedures are in place to screen course content.

The two-part review found that such issues with approving curricula, presentations and guest lecturers only existed at Joint Forces Staff College, said a statement from Dempsey's spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan.

The inquiry into the Norfolk elective course, called "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism," found there were "institutional failures in oversight and judgment" that allowed the course to be modified over time in a way that left out instruction on U.S. counterterrorism strategy and policy. Somewhere along the line, it adopted "a teaching methodology that portrayed Islam almost entirely in a negative way," Lapan said.

Dooley was removed from his teaching job this year. Lapan said he is due for a routine transfer to another assignment in August.

Among other recommendations are that the course should be redesigned to include aspects of U.S. policy, and that the course should rely less on outside instruction, which included guest speakers. The report suggested changing the school's system for reviewing and approving course curricula.