A military college course taught by a decorated Army officer “was overtly negative with respect to Islam” and used “extreme” hypothetical situations to discuss war options, says a Pentagon report sent to Capitol Hill.
The report aims to justify the Pentagon’s firing of Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, an Iraq combat veteran, in September as a teacher at the National Defense University’s Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took an active role in having Col. Dooley investigated, and publicly excoriated the officer for the course “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” after a student brought it to the Pentagon’s attention.
Col. Dooley, a highly rated officer who was on a career path to command a combat battalion, ultimately received a bad performance review that likely will end his career.
His attorney, Richard Thompson, who heads the nonprofit Thomas More Law Center, noted that all of Col. Dooley’s training materials had been approved by the university.
Mr. Thompson said the correct course of action should have been to counsel Col. Dooley to change the material, which he would have done, instead of wrecking his career.
“They threw him under the bus,” the lawyer said.
The Pentagon report was prepared by Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who directs the Joint Staff, which answers to Gen. Dempsey. It was sent this month to Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Thomas J. Rooney of Florida, both former military officers who had questioned Gen. Dempsey on the severity of Col. Dooley’s punishment.
“It’s still not clear why it was necessary to take such overreaching disciplinary action when there are other corrective options, assuming that’s even necessary,” Mr. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Washington Times. “If there is a need to correct some of the course information, then do it. But what we tend to see time after time are examples being made of certain individuals, for the wrong reasons, thinking somehow messages are sent to others.”
The armed services have been under pressure from the White House to remove what some Muslim groups perceive as anti-Islamic course material.
Although the National Defense University guarantees academic freedom and says no topic is taboo, Gen. Scaparrotti said Col. Dooley’s course “did not meet appropriate academic standards” because it shunned more balanced views of Islam contained in official military strategies.
The course contained a “teaching methodology that portrayed Islam almost entirely in a negative way,” Gen. Scaparrotti wrote. “The course methodology included an overreliance on external instructors whose teachings [were] overtly negative with respect to Islam.”
He accused Col. Dooley of “poor judgment.”
The report also criticized the university for approving the course materials, saying it was guilty of “institutional failures in oversight and judgment.”
The university suspended the course, pending a makeover.
Mr. Thompson said that the university reviewed all its courses a year ago, as mandated by the White House. It sent a December 2011 memo to the Joint Staff vouching for its courses and mentioned the need for academic freedom.
“Everything he had done up to this point had the approval of the chain of command of the National Defense University, and he had gotten the highest marks as an instructor,” Mr. Thompson said. “All the external instructors had been pre-approved before he used them.”
The Army this month transferred Col. Dooley from the university to the nearby Army Capabilities Integration Center, where he is chief of the lethality branch.