Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, right, talks to reporters alongside Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon in April. Commenting on a military training class containing anti-Islam sentiments, Dempsey on Thursday called the course "totally objectionable."
Emerging details of inflammatory anti-Islam materials used in U.S. military training have prompted a chorus of outrage from civil rights and American Muslim groups, and growing demands for the dismissal of military leaders associated with the course, and for other actions to address the issue.
The materials, first detailed by Wired.com, used in an elective course at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., promoted "total war" against Muslims in order to stave off terrorism. The course, "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism," raised the option of "taking war to a civilian population," in disregard of the Geneva Convention of 1949, and possibly destruction of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites.
"This is Abu Ghraib by power point and lectern," said Mikey Weinstein, president of the nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), referring to the scandal that erupted in 2004 after the surfacing of torrid pictures of U.S. troops abusing prisoners in Iraq. "It’s even worse than Abu Ghraib. What they are talking about is essentially genocide," of Muslims.
The military announced a review of its training materials and canceled the "Perspectives" course in late April. The action came after an FBI review resulted in the elimination of reams of materials that were found to be discriminatory against Muslims, treating the whole population with suspicion.
The details coming to light from the the 8-week course at an elite military institution — taught to officers since 2004 — have shocked even those who have long complained about discrimination against Muslims.
Instructor Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, the main focus of the criticism, taught that the Geneva Conventions that set standards of armed conflict are "no longer relevant."
"This would leave open the option once again of taking war to a civilian population wherever necessary (the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki being applicable...)."
Dooley’s materials mock the notion of "moderate Muslims." He taught that the growing number of mosques and Islamic centers in the United States would generate more adherents to use "violent jihad" in pursuit of Islamic domination.
The course materials admit that the actions and views included will not be seen as "politically correct."
Indeed, the courses contradict U.S. government positions — as represented internally and to U.S. allies in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere — that while the country is fighting Islamic extremists, it is not at war with the religion or its adherents as a whole.
On Thursday, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey called the course "totally objectionable" and "against our values."
Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon that Lt. Col. Dooley was no longer teaching, but has kept his job at the college, a top post-graduate professional military institution that serves students from around the world.
Among the organizations calling for Dooley’s dismissal from the college is the Council on American Islamic Relations.
"It is imperative that those who taught our future military leaders to wage war not just on our terrorist enemy, but on the faith of Islam itself be held accountable," wrote CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad in a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. "These shocking revelations are completely out of line with the longstanding values of one of our nation’s most respected institutions."
The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee is urging the Pentagon to recall and retrain military personnel who have been subjected to the anti-Islam material.
"It’s very troubling,” Abed Ayoub, ADC legal director, told msnbc.com. "You’re sending American soldiers overseas with these trainings and these biases ... I think there definitely should be a study as to what impact these trainings have had on their actions."
Weinstein, from MRFF, asserts that Dooley and others in his chain of command who knew about the course materials or should have known about the material should face court-martial.
"MRFF calls for the immediate dismissal of Lt. Col. Dooley, as well as an immediate condemnation, deeply probing investigation, and swift trial by courts-martial of those responsible for allowing content advocating genocide to be used to indoctrinate future leaders within the U.S. armed forces," he told msnbc.com.
MRFF has filed request under the Freedom of Information Act seeking to surface all communication and documentation about the Perspectives course. Weinstein, a former Air Force judge advocate general, or JAG, and lawyer in the Reagan White House, believes the course is merely a symptom of a larger problem. In recent years he has campaigned against the military’s invitation of speakers that are known for virulent anti-Islam views.
"This is simply a small cancer cell that is rapidly metastasizing," he said. "This is representative of a larger more sinister force which is fundamentalist Christianity."
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