Why was the US military teaching 'total war' on Islam?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey speaks during a press briefing 10 May 2012
Image caption Martin Dempsey has ordered an investigation into how the class was approved for teaching

America's top military officer has condemned a course taught about Islam at one of America's top military schools as "totally objectionable".

It is not surprising. The story, first broken by Wired, is fairly astonishing, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, must be furious.

The course taught officers there was no such thing as moderate Islam and that they should consider the religion their enemy.

It advocated "total war" against all the world's Muslims, including possible nuclear attacks on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the wiping out civilian populations.

The Pentagon has confirmed the course material found on their website is authentic.

'Something weird'

As far as I can see this is not intended in any sense as a rather sick academic exercise in stretching the bounds of what could be thought. It is actually what the officer teaching it believes.

In other words: completely nutty stuff that would disgrace the wilder fringes of the blogosphere.

So, not surprisingly, Gen Dempsey has ordered a full investigation into what other US military schools might be teaching about the religion.

The voluntary course aimed at senior officers was taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, for a year.

Gen Dempsey described the course as "counter to our values of appreciation for religious freedom and cultural awareness" and "just objectionable, academically irresponsible".

It came to light when one of the officers on the course complained last month. There is now an investigation into how the course was approved and why it was part of the curriculum.

A lieutenant colonel has been suspended from teaching, but for the moment keeps his job. The Pentagon hopes a full report will be out by the end of the month.

What does seem rather surprising is that all those commanders, captains and colonels must have sat through the course and not felt the need to tell someone that something rather weird was going on.

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