Probe: Bad judgment in military school Islam class

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Associated Press

Posted on June 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 20 at 1:31 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Poor judgment and poor oversight led to the teaching of anti-Islamic material at a military school for officers, the Pentagon said 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 school to see if they also should face discipline, the Defense Department said in a statement. A second military officer will receive counseling.

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 in Saudi Arabia 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 suggested that the Geneva Convention, which guides behavior toward prisoners, was "no longer relevant" and 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 new findings come from a report sought by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey. He 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 report itself has not been released, but the conclusions were described by Dempsey's spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan, in a written statement to the media and later in a conversation with Pentagon reporters.

Lapan said the intent of the inflammatory material was to be provocative — "to be something to stimulate discussion and challenge people's beliefs and generate academic discussion," he said. But briefing slides used in the class, for instance, did not explain that.

"The flaw was that it didn't clearly define that it was meant to be provocative," Lapan said.

The recently completed review found that issues with approving curricula, presentations and guest lecturers only existed at Joint Forces Staff College, and only in that particular course, Lapan.

The inquiry into the 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.

Guest lecturers were increased, materials were added and that inadvertently created the problem, Lapan said. He stressed that it "was not purposeful," adding that a better system of student feedback might have caught the problem sooner.

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. The report suggested changing the school's system for reviewing and approving course curricula.

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