Washington Markup

More Anti-Muslim Training Materials Uncovered

By Devon Chaffee, Legislative Policy Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 7:16pm

This morning, Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman continued to shock readers by exposing some of the most vehemently anti-Muslim training documents used by the U.S. government that have come to light to date. (See our past analysis of biased FBI materials.) The newly released military training materials not only contained erroneous stereotypes and derogatory remarks about Muslims and Arabs, they included a four-phase plan for transformation of Islam that would reduce Islam to a “cult status” and possibly result in “total war” against Islam.

The recently revealed military course—which has since been cancelled—included: offensive caricatures of Muslims; repeated false assertions that all Muslims are inherently in violent conflict with non-Muslims; and assertions that the Geneva Conventions are no longer relevant. The trainers responsible for the materials assert that “Islam IS an Imperialist/Conquering Religion” and that “Ultimately, we can do very little in the West to decide the matter short of waging total war.”

The biased rhetoric contained in the military course is not only offensive and erroneous, it is in direct contradiction to U.S. military strategy and interest.

This is why Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense, had no patience for members of Congress who pressed him to articulate a so-called “Islamist Extremist Threat” at a hearing last December. Instead Secretary Stockton made clear that any articulation of U.S. enemies as Islamic was harmful to U.S. security stating:

“I'll make it as clear as I can. We are not at war with Islam. [ ] Al Qaeda would love to convince Muslims around the world that the United States is at war with Islam… That is a prime propaganda tool. And I'm not going to aid and abet that effort to advance their propaganda goals.”

Given the blatant disconnect between the materials’ teachings about “total war” with Islam and Secretary Stockton’s strategic analysis, we have to ask: what are government agencies doing to reverse the impact of the anti-Muslim disinformation campaign that infiltrated their training? One would think that it would be in the United States’ interest to take immediate and effective action to remediate the counterproductive effects of biased training.

Yet, yesterday, FBI Director John Mueller defended the FBI’s recent review of its training materials before the House Judiciary Committee. Mueller minimized the scope of the problem and noted the creation of a new screening process. But for hundreds if not thousands of personnel already subjected to the biased training, the damage has already been done and continues to spread because the FBI has refused to withdraw intelligence products that further the same flawed concepts. Still Mueller, like Pentagon officials, has made no reference to whether he will pursue corrective training to counteract the impact of anti-Islam dogma.

Nor has any agency undertaking the White House-mandated review of training materials yet indicated that it will take steps to hold those responsible for biased trainings to account. In fact, there are some members of Congress urging agencies to get the bias put back into training materials. If there is no accountability, how will the relevant agencies ensure that trainers who were paid government funds only to propagate racial stereotypes aren’t awarded more training contracts in the future? 

As more and more information about the biased trainings is made public, U.S. officials need to acknowledge that pulling the problematic materials is not, on its own, sufficient to repair the damage these trainings have caused. Corrective training and accountability are needed if these damaging past mistakes are to be remediated and avoided going forward.

Statistics image