Stephen Coughlin Sacked: What Can The Sinjar Records Tell Us?

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 8 months ago

Bill Gertz with the Washington Times is reporting that a specialist on Islamic law has been fired from his position at the Pentagon.

Stephen Coughlin, the Pentagon specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism, has been fired from his position on the military’s Joint Staff. The action followed a report in this space last week revealing opposition to his work for the military by pro-Muslim officials within the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

Mr. Coughlin was notified this week that his contract with the Joint Staff will end in March, effectively halting the career of one of the U.S. government’s most important figures in analyzing the nature of extremism and ultimately preparing to wage ideological war against it.

He had run afoul of a key aide to Mr. England, Hasham Islam, who confronted Mr. Coughlin during a meeting several weeks ago when Mr. Islam sought to have Mr. Coughlin soften his views on Islamist extremism.

Mr. Coughlin was accused directly by Mr. Islam of being a Christian zealot or extremist “with a pen,” according to defense officials. Mr. Coughlin appears to have become one of the first casualties in the war of ideas with Islamism.

The officials said Mr. Coughlin was let go because he had become “too hot” or controversial within the Pentagon.

Misguided Pentagon officials, including Mr. Islam and Mr. England, have initiated an aggressive “outreach” program to U.S. Muslim groups that critics say is lending credibility to what has been identified as a budding support network for Islamist extremists, including front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr. Coughlin wrote a memorandum several months ago based on documents made public in a federal trial in Dallas that revealed a covert plan by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian-origin Islamist extremist group, to subvert the United States using front groups. Members of one of the identified front groups, the Islamic Society of North America, has been hosted by Mr. England at the Pentagon.

After word of the confrontation between Mr. Coughlin and Mr. Islam was made public, support for Mr. Coughlin skyrocketed among those in and out of government who feared the worst, namely that pro-Muslim officials in the Pentagon were after Mr. Coughlin’s scalp, and that his departure would be a major setback for the Pentagon’s struggling efforts to develop a war of ideas against extremism. Blogs lit up with hundreds of postings, some suggesting that Mr. England’s office is “penetrated” by the enemy in the war on terrorism.

Kevin Wensing, a spokesman for Mr. England, said “no one in the deputy’s office had any input into this decision” by the Joint Staff to end Mr. Coughlin’s contract. A Joint Staff spokesman had no immediate comment.

I have always reported the truth, whether popular or not.  Using some open source references and an intelligence source, in Anbar, in Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq, I reported on the high concentration of indigenous fighters within the insurgency in Anbar, contrary to the popular notion of a fight exclusively against al Qaeda.  I was discussing co-opting the insurgents before discussion of “concerned citizens” became current and popular.  However, contrary to Dave Kilcullen who argued against the idea of a single fighter engaging for religious reasons, I argued that there was a strong international element within Iraq functioning as terrorists due to religious motivation.  See:

Religion and Insurgency: A Response to Dave Kilcullen
Smith Responds
More on Dave Kilcullen vs. Smith

I also have made it clear from my coverage of Operation Alljah in Fallujah that the primary enemy were foreign fighters: Chechens, Africans, men of Arab descent, and men of Far Eastern descent.  These men, some of whom came from thousands of miles away to conduct jihad against America, fought for religious reasons.  The primary aim in this accuracy and truthfulness, while rising above political talking points for either party, is to understand the makeup of the insurgency and thereby be able to craft a strategy against them.

There are the typical vacuous accolades for the Pentagon over the ejection of Coughlin – statements such as “As far as I’m concerned, this is a good sign, particularly in combination with the Pentagon’s consideration of an Iraq “Marshall Plan”. (sic) It means that they’re abandoning the “Islam is evil” mindset that has pervaded the White House and the Pentagon for most of the war in favor of a more moderate position which includes reaching out to the vast moderate Muslim community; something that must happen if we are to win the Long War.”  This sentiment betrays its lack of observation of the press coverage of the global jihad over the last five years.  The current administration refuses to use terms like this, and present leadership has even jettisoned the monicker “long war” set in place by General Abizaid, who should know about this given his background and knowledge of the Middle East.

A clear and honest understanding of the current global situation requires the admission that while there is a large percentage of the Muslim community which doesn’t wish to conduct jihad against anyone, much less the West, there is still another fraction which nurtures a hermeneutic that requires them to do just that, this hermeneutic being a cornerstone of their Muslim faith.  This hermeneutic is as old as Islam.

So what can the Sinjar records tell us about the sacking of Stephen Coughlin?  Not much specifically, but generally, they can tell us a lot about the motivations of the foreign fighters who have travelled to Iraq over the last several years.  The increased participation in jihad by Libyans is well known, and upon incorporation of the LIFG (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) into al Qaeda, senior leadership in the LIFG stated their reason for sending so many fighters to Iraq.

…our  brothers  are  in  need  of  the  backing  and  aid  of  the  Muslim  peoples,  with  their  bodies  and  wealth,  with  shelter  and  prayer,  and  with  incitement….  There  is  no  way  to  establish  and  preserve  states  other  than  Jihad  in  the  Path  of  Allah  and  Jihad  alone….This  is  the  path,  and  anything  else  is  from  the  whispers  of  Satan.

It  is  with  the  grace  of  God  that  we  were  hoisting  the  banner  of  jihad  against  this  apostate  regime  under  the  leadership  of  the  Libyan  Islamic  Fighting  Group,  which  sacrificed  the  elite  of  its  sons  and  commanders  in  combating  this  regime  whose  blood  was  spilled  on  the  mountains  of  Darah,  the  streets  of  Benghazi,  the  outskirts  of  Tripoli,  the  desert  of  Sabha,  and  the  sands  of  the  beach.

Finally, formal changes in doctrine are recommended by the authors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as a result of the Sinjar records, when they state that:

The  Syrian  and  Libyan  governments  share  the  United  States’  concerns  about  violent  salafi-jihadi  ideology  and  the  violence  perpetrated  by  its  adherents.   These  governments,  like  others  in  the  Middle  East,  fear  violence  inside  their  borders  and  would  much  rather  radical  elements  go  to  Iraq  rather  than  cause  unrest  at  home.   U.S.  and  Coalition  efforts  to  stem  the  flow  of  fighters  into  Iraq  will  be  enhanced  if  they  address  the  entire  logistical  chain  that supports  the  movement  of  these  individuals—beginning  in  their  home  countries  –  rather  than  just  their  Syrian  entry  points.

Coughlin was doing his job, and for that he was sacked.  Yet government sponsored institutions such as West Point are operating under the assumption that they need to tell the truth about the jihad that is currently being waged.  As observed by LTC Joseph C. Myers:

“Islam is a religion of peace” is fine for public policy statements, but is not and cannot be the point of departure for competent military or intelligence analysis … it is in fact a logical flaw under any professional research methodology … you have stated the conclusion before you have done the analysis.

The bureaucracy at the Pentagon has allowed political talking points to cloud their judgment.  Coughlin, a needed and highly qualified expert, is the target of this clouded judgment – and the militant jihadists have claimed yet another victim, this time by using stooges at the Pentagon to do their bidding.


Comments

  1. On January 8, 2008 at 7:04 am, davod said:

    I do not understand why it is so hard to listen and read what the ratbags say and take them at their word. What we have now is worse than Chamberlain after Munich.

    At least it seems as if West Point may be coming around.

  2. On January 10, 2008 at 4:18 pm, Brian H said:

    Hope is not a plan.
    The advantage of pessimism here is the usual: you spend your time either being proved right or being pleasantly surprised.

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You are currently reading "Stephen Coughlin Sacked: What Can The Sinjar Records Tell Us?", entry #887 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) al Qaeda,Department of Defense,Jihadists,Religion,Religion and Insurgency and was published January 8th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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