When the history of the George W. Bush administration is written, one of the most important questions to be addressed will surely be: Why did a president who repeatedly talked about the ideology animating our enemies in this “War on Terror” do so little to wage an effective “War of Ideas” against it?
The good news is that historians — and the rest of us — have just been given an insight into that highly consequential disconnect. The bad news is that the incident suggests a problem of such ominous proportions that it raises questions as to whether our government is being rendered incapable of fighting successfully an ideology best described as Islamofascism at home, to say nothing of abroad.
The incident involves the firing last week of the Pentagon’s foremost authority on the Islamofascist theo-political-legal code known as Shariah. According to reporting by Bill Gertz, The Washington Times’ intrepid national security correspondent, Stephen Coughlin, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves who has served as a civilian lawyer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, fell “afoul of a key aide to [Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon] England, Hasham Islam.”
Unnamed Pentagon sources told Mr. Gertz that the latter, employed by the deputy secretary to help with Muslim outreach, “confronted Mr. Coughlin during a meeting several weeks ago when Mr. Islam sought to have Mr. Coughlin soften his views on Islamist extremism.” At issue evidently was Maj. Coughlin’s fastidious chronicling of the true nature and activities of organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). In briefings prepared for the U.S. military, he had concluded that ISNA is one of a number of front organizations for the Muslim Brotherhood — a particularly insidious wing of the Islamofascist movement that shares with its ideological soulmates a commitment to imposing Shariah worldwide, albeit putatively through nonviolent means.
Interestingly, the Justice Department arrived at a similar conclusion, as evidenced in its designation of ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator in the recent trial of the Holy Land Foundation. The latter operated as an Islamist “charity” in Houston until it was shut down by the government after September 11, 2001, and charged with providing funds to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization. While the lengthy proceeding resulted in a mistrial (due, it appears, to misconduct by a self-professed Hamas-sympathizing juror), documents placed in the record by prosecutors are damning with respect to connections between Saudi-financed influence operations like the ISNA and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on the one hand and various bad actors around the globe on the other.
Evidently, however, the Islamic Society of North America is one of the organizations with whom Hasham Islam has encouraged Pentagon outreach. When Steve Coughlin refused to modify his assessment of the organization, Mr. Islam reportedly accused him of being “a Christian zealot with a pen.” Such a description calls to mind the terms “racist” and “bigot” used to silence others who have raised alarms about efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood and its fellow-travelers to penetrate our government and society.
Thus branded, Maj. Coughlin has become “too hot” for the Joint Chiefs and is now what Mr. Gertz calls “a casualty of the War of Ideas.” Perhaps he will receive its first Purple Heart.
If allowed to stand, the effect of Maj. Coughlin’s dismissal would be a surgical strike on a man who is arguably one of the most knowledgeable opponents of Shariah — not only in the Defense Department, but inside the entire U.S. government.
Sadly, it was but the latest of a series of successes for our enemies in the undeclared war against Islamofascism, including the following:
• Karen Hughes, President Bush’s close friend and, until recently, his point-person in the War of Ideas as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, reportedly considered as her “guru” a professor at Georgetown University whose program is underwritten by a $20 million grant from a Saudi prince.
• Unsurprisingly, Mrs. Hughes’ first public appearance after assuming her responsibilities at State was an address to the annual ISNA conference in 2005. While there, she told the organization’s members she considered them “the front-line in public diplomacy because you are more credible than I am.” Interestingly, a survey of her “frontline” troops, found that, by a 3-to-1margin, ISNA’s members believe the U.S. government had advanced knowledge of the September 11, 2001, attacks and allowed them to happen.
• Muslim chaplains and lay leaders for the U.S. military were recruited, trained and credentialed by an organization that the Wall Street Journal described as “part of Saudi Arabia’s state-run university system.” At the time, that institute was operated by Aburahman Alamoudi, the godfather of the Islamist apparatus in America who is now serving a 23-year prison sentence for terrorism financing and related charges.
• FBI personnel continue to receive “sensitivity training” from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, even though the Justice Department has also designated it an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land case.
Many more examples of Islamist penetration and influence operations could be cited. Suffice it to say that, as long as such activities are allowed — and those like Steve Coughlin who challenge them are fired or cowed — neither Mr. Bush nor his successors will be able to properly comprehend, let alone prevail in, the War of Ideas and the larger War for the Free World of which it is a central front.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.