The Currency of Words, or the Coin of the Realm?
On Tuesday, April 24th, 2012, the nation’s top soldier, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) General Martin Dempsey, initiated a truly seminal message. He finally generated the long-overdue, mandatory edict that all training and educational materials throughout the U.S. military must be immediately reviewed within one month's time to ensure that no anti-Muslim or anti-Islam references or content remain. Henceforth, officers and enlisted members will no longer be taught and institutionally indoctrinated that “the United States is at war with Islam and we ought to just recognize that.”
According to reports, this unprecedented top-down review is the result of a belated discovery at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) in Norfolk, VA. In the elective class “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” officers from all four branches of the military were indoctrinated with vile Islamophobic programs masquerading as “anti-terrorist” education. In June 2007, Islamophobic extremist and shady Lebanese fundamentalist Christian, Brigitte Gabriel, delivered a lecture before the JFSC where she stated that there is no such thing as a “moderate Muslim” and that “America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam.” According to reports, this lecture was presented “as part of the school’s Islam elective.” It is worth noting that Gabriel is a Southern Lebanese Maronite Christian expat and speaker with the pro-Israeli Likudnik Hasbara Fellowships, who has for decades made a career of grossly oversimplifying the contradictions inherent in Middle Eastern affairs as a problem of good people dominated by a monolithic Muslim threat.
In February 2008, self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist,” “ex-Muslim,” fundamentalist Christian minstrels Walid Shoebat, Zachariah Anani, and Kamal Saleem were paid $13,000 to speak before the 50th Annual Academy Assembly at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, CO on the topic of “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence.” At this USAFA conference, as confirmed by many eye witness accounts, Walid Shoebat disgustingly stated “We have to kill Islam.”
Like Brigitte Gabriel, these bigoted stooges have made lucrative careers for themselves by peddling over-the-top, pathologically prejudiced perspectives on understanding the Muslim and Arab world while selling their own fabricated histories as “reformed” terrorist caricatures. Amazingly, they all claim to have abandoned Islam and embraced fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity. To call this heinous crew of dubious characters “con-artists” would be far too kind. Our civil rights foundation, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( MRFF), which represents approximately 10% of all Muslim American service members, responded by demanding equal time to counter these transparent frauds. This ultimatum resulted in speaking appearances at USAFA for MRFF Advisory Board Member and renowned Islam Scholar Reza Aslan, MRFF Board member and former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, and myself, MRFF founder and President Mikey Weinstein.
What JCS Chairman Gen. Dempsey seeks to investigate is a heinous curriculum of systemic, anti-Muslim hatred that has warped the cultural competence of United Staes service members, leading to grim results in combat theaters within which the U.S. has been engaged since 9/11. In 2012 alone there have been reports of bodies being urinated on by U.S. Marines, the proud and brazen display of the Nazi Waffen-SS banner by U.S. Marines, soldiers posing with corpses, and most insultingly, the burning of copies of the Qur’an at Bagram Air Field. Most recently, the Beaufort, South Carolina-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) renamed themselves the "Crusaders" (a phrase which literally means "taking up the cross") and adopted the iconography of the crusading, medieval Knights Templar. In a poor, strife-ridden nation such as Afghanistan, people have little to hold on to beyond strong familial and tribal bonds and a firm sense of national, ethnic, cultural and religious dignity. Sadly, racist and dehumanizing indoctrination by America's own war machine has transformed all too many American war fighters into arrogant, marauding crusaders.
The long-overdue review of the appalling Islamophobic materials used to train our servicemen and servicewomen is a classic case of the proverbial closing of the barn door long after the farm animals have left. President Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 starkly illustrated this fact. The ink had barely dried on the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by himself and Afghan President Hamid Karzai before car bombs and gunfire rattled Kabul in a daring Taliban attack centered on the high-security Green Village compound. The faux triumphalism of Obama’s visit, meant to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the killing of archfiend Osama Bin Laden, was meant to prop up the illusion of impending “victory” in strife-torn Afghanistan. The foreboding warning of Rudyard Kipling presciently echoes through history and seemingly confounds present American efforts as it damned all others heretofore; “Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.”
Any casual observer with even a rudimentary understanding of modern military history understands how the Commander-in-Chief’s Kabul pep talk is in stark opposition with the gritty combat reality on the ground. Insurgent Taliban forces, in addition to wearing down the U.S. military in a steady process of attrition, are flat out winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Additionally, attacks on U.S./NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel by allied Afghan soldiers and police officers have been consistently on the rise despite deliberate and pernicious underreporting by NATO officials, with the deaths of 19 ISAF service members this year alone due to “fratricide-murder incidents”. In hindsight, the Department of Defense-sanctioned anti-Muslim training programs have proven to be a quintessentially formidable propaganda asset in the Taliban fight against the “Crusading” NATO forces. Indeed, they provide grist for the mill of regional resentment and strain alliances to a breaking point. Far be it from the graceful and idyllic exit strategy fabricated by the Pentagon and championed by Obama just days ago in Kabul, many of us anxiously anticipate an Afghan departure that, at best, will resemble the Soviets’ feckless abandonment of its puppet “allies” in 1988. At worst, the U.S. exit may yet resemble the humiliating, frenetic scramble to evacuate the U.S. embassy during the Fall of Saigon in 1975.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the old adage “better late then never” still applies. Those who allowed for these egregious violations of DoD-sponsored Islamophobia to take place must face stern and swift discipline for their complicity in the dissemination of bigoted disinformation that has placed American lives at dire risk. It is too late to regain lost ground on the Afghan war front. By ordering this comprehensive review for "taught hatred," General Dempsey is signaling that within the Department of Defense he is apparently and allegedly serious about defending Constitutionally-guaranteed American civil rights and values. The General so signals with the easy currency of words. It’s yet to be seen whether these mere words will be followed, as is rarely the case in these "religious" matters at the Pentagon, with the substantive and true coin of the realm; deeds.
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