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January 17, 2008

Is DoD Outsourcing National Security to The Enemy?

Consider this scenario:

The year is 1942. The place, the Pentagon. A Berlin-born aide to the U.S. deputy secretary of defense has learned that a military intelligence officer has not only read Hitler's Mein Kampf, but is lecturing senior officers about Hitler's heretofore unexamined goals of world domination.

This schweinhunt must go. At least, that's what the German-born staffer thinks. Did I mention he's fluent in German? That's partly why the Deputy SecDef relies so heavily on his aide's judgment on all things German, particularly when it comes to the War on Nazism's German outreach program. This program brings Nazi apologists into the inner sanctum of the American war machine...

Sound crazy?

Travel forward to 1973. The Deputy SecDef's Soviet-born, Russian-speaking aide is gunning for the one intelligence officer who has boned up on Marx, Engels and Soviet military doctrine. Why? Because the officer refuses to "soften" his brief on communist ideology, and is presenting it to the military leadership — now hearing it for the first time since the Cold War began. If communist plans for global domination become common knowledge, the aide realizes, gazing thoughtfully at a poster-size photo of Soviet mouthpiece Vladimir Posner on his office wall, the Pentagon will change strategy and halt the U.S.S.R. outreach program, which gives commie symps Pentagon access...

Totally outlandish, right?

Once upon a time, yes. But this month, this newspaper's Bill Gertz reported on a not entirely dissimilar real-life version of such fictions, the termination of Maj. Stephen Coughlin (USAR). Mr. Coughlin, a lawyer and reserve military intelligence officer, has been the Pentagon's sole specialist on Islamic law charged with lecturing senior officers on jihad doctrine — military leaders who have been fighting the so-called war on terror for years without an inkling of Islamic ideology. His contract with the Joint Staff will end in March, Mr. Gertz wrote, because Mr. Coughlin "had run afoul of a key aide" to the Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.

That "key aide" is Cmdr. Hesham Islam (USN ret.), an Egyptian-born, Arabic-speaking Muslim whom Gordon England describes as "my interlocutor" and "personal, close confidante." According to Mr. Gertz, Mr. England's interlocutor and confidante confronted Stephen Coughlin seeking "to have Mr. Coughlin soften his views of Islamist extremism."

Various reasons are being given for the decision not to renew Coughlin's contract. Some say he is being terminated for speaking to the press without authorization, others that budget cuts are to blame for the move. His supporters dismiss these explanations, pointing to Cmdr. Islam's characterization of Coughlin as "a Christian zealot with a pen" as evidence of what they suspect is the real reason for his dismissal:

......critics, like Mr. Islam, want him sidelined because they oppose his hard-to-refute views on the relationship between Islamic law and Islamist jihad doctrine. Those views have triggered a harsh debate challenging the widespread and politically correct view of Islam as a religion of peace hijacked by extremists.

The troublesome part of Coughlin's 333 page thesis is here:

Coughlin, in a subsection entitled, "A Doctrinal Basis Exists for the Jihadi Threat," demonstrates how mainstream Islamic publications-an appendix to Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur'an in the English Language ("The Call to Jihad"), written by Saudi Arabia's Chief Justice, and a 2005-2006 12th grade Saudi school textbook, as well as a standard text of Islamic Law, the Al Azhar-sanctioned non-Saudi, non-"Wahhabi", Reliance of the Traveller-make clear the obligatory requirement, sanctioned by Islamic Law, to wage jihad when non-Muslim forces enter Muslim lands. He then asks, logically,

So how does one explain the prevailing assumption that Islam does not stand for such violence undertaken in its name with the fact that its laws and education materials validate the very acts undertaken by "extremists" in Iraq?

Moreover, Coughlin observes,

... the first "radicalizing" lesson that Saudi youth receive that motivates them to travel to Iraq and fight Coalition forces does not come from "extremists" groups like Al Qaeda, but rather is taught as part of Saudi Arabia's standard secondary school curriculum.

....Hence, groups like Al-Qaeda can reasonably claim that they are simply executing the same legal requirements that Muslim governments require their students be taught. An analysis that relied on Islamic law to assess bin Laden's claim that Islamic law supports his 1996 fatwa would most likely have generated different results than an analysis that ignored it.

START_Apr07_graph5.jpgCoughlin backs up his thesis with a chilling summary:

Because Islamic law matters to Muslims, in the WOT, it should also matter to us.

And there is evidence that Islamic law is extremely important to Muslims worldwide:

Most significantly, large majorities approve of many of al Qaeda’s principal goals. Large majorities in all countries (average 70 percent or higher) support such goals as: “stand up to Americans and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people,” “push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” and “pressure the United States to not favor Israel.”

Equally large majorities agree with goals that involve expanding the role of Islam in their society. On average, about three out of four agree with seeking to “require Islamic countries to impose a strict application of sharia,” and to “keep Western values out of Islamic countries.” Two-thirds would even like to “unify all Islamic counties into a single Islamic state or caliphate.”

Until the matter has been investigated it is impossible to know why Coughlin's contract has not been renewed, but the facts (as presented) are troubling. It has been pointed out before in this space that there is a fine line between the optimal amount of transparency in government and that which results in paralysis. Some openness is needed to guard against corruption, yet too much subjects even the simplest decisions to endless second guessing by parties with no stake in the outcome. Too much 'sunlight' can lead to the politicization or criminalization of policy differences, as John Yoo recently found to his detriment. The author of this piece asks, "Why shouldn't Jose Padilla have the right to sue the government officials whose actions (taken within the course and scope of their employment) led to his imprisonment and alleged torture? After all, he is asking only $1 from defendants such as John Yoo. Don't we want them to be careful about the way they do their jobs?"

On the face of it, that sounds like a reasonable argument, but there are good reasons for the qualified immunity extended to governmental employees. One very good reason is that this immunity helps shield them from frivolous lawsuits used as a means of blackmail or political pressure. But John Yoo brings up an even more compelling reason: sometimes doing a job well requires taking risks, advocating (or simply raising) new and unpopular positions, challenging the conventional wisdom, ruffling feathers. In an open and litigious society, do we really want the Department of Defense to tailor national security policy to the whims of lobbyists and special interest groups?

Think about what it would mean if Padilla were to win. Government officials and military personnel have to devise better ways to protect the country from more deadly surprise attacks. Padilla and his lawyers want them, from the president down to lowest private, to worry about being sued when they make their decisions. Officials will worry about all of the attorneys' fees they will rack up to defend themselves from groundless lawsuits.

My situation is better than most, since I am a lawyer with many lawyer friends (that is not the oxymoron it seems). I can fend for myself; fine attorneys have volunteered to represent me, and the government may defend me. But what about the soldiers, agents and officers who have to respond to the next 9/11 or foreign threat? They will have to worry about personal liability, hiring lawyers.

Would we have wanted President Abraham Lincoln to worry about his personal liability for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves (done on his sole authority as commander-in-chief)?

If so, then we will have a government that will avoid any and all risks, shun making any move that is not an exact repetition of locked-in procedure of 20th-century vintage, and keep plodding along the same path regardless of contemporary circumstances. These are exactly the conditions that make a nation susceptible to a surprise attack, whether a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11.

It's a chilling thought, isn't it?

And the truly frightening things is that authors like Emily Bazelon don't appear to see anything wrong with the idea. After all, it's a free country.

Coughlin story via Candace de Russy

Posted by Cassandra at January 17, 2008 06:44 AM

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When I first read the story of Maj. Caughlin, I could only shake my head in amazement.

If we are so eaten up with PC that the appearance of the motivation behind this dismissal is indeed the reality, then IMHO we need a good house cleaning in more than a few areas. Starting with Monsieur Deputy SecDef England and the adviser he rode in on.

P.S. Milady, you craft yet another commentary that deserves a large audience and a wide exposure. Do you submit your thoughts to the folks over at Pajamas Media? If not, as Larry might say, Yeaughto. =8^}

Posted by: bthun at January 17, 2008 01:52 PM

No. I don't mind doing that once in a while.

If I ever write anything I feel particularly strongly about, that will be different. But the truth is that I do not follow the daily news all that carefully. Usually I don't much care what other bloggers are writing about, nor what is timely; only what interests me. Since I don't watch TV it is often hard for me to tell whether a story has already saturated the airwaves. For all I know, by the time I get around to it, it is old news.

I try to content myself with thinking about things and jotting down my meandering thoughts. I can't (or don't wish to) compete with people who are always trying to be first with a story. I don't have time. And what I do (longer posts) doesn't lend itself well to knee-jerk reactions anyway.

Also I have no particular desire to attract a lot of attention. How many times have I wrecked this place since you've known me? It would be a lot bigger by now, had I just kept at it. I prefer to keep what little privacy and freedom I have in my little corner of the Internets ;p Otherwise it will get to the point where I can't do this at all.

Posted by: Cass at January 17, 2008 08:46 PM

Sharia Law is what's in store for us if the Dhimmicrats take over...

Posted by: camojack at January 18, 2008 01:15 AM

Sometimes I think Shakespeare was right when he wrote, "Kill all the lawyers."

Posted by: Mark at January 18, 2008 12:12 PM

Sometimes I think Shakespeare was right when he wrote, "Kill all the lawyers."
I have to assert a Tommy Smothers here, "oh, oh yeah"!?

While I'll agree that at times it seems as though we have an over abundance of attorneys, I can't help but think that the problem, at its root, is the citizen. Our attentiveness, or lack of, to the actions of those who govern in our name is IMO the problem.

We are a nation of laws. We are a nation who peacefully (depending on your definition of peacefully I suppose) changes our leadership on a regularly scheduled basis via the vote.
We are a nation which does not deny her citizens the inalienable right to arm themselves. Both figuratively with free and open access to information(speech and press), the right to gather, to petition the government(more 1st amendment) and literally with the right to keep and bear arms(the 2nd amendment) - as a bulkwart against tyranny and crime.

That so few value our freedoms, or understand the cost of eternal vigilance, such that they are willing to expending the time and effort to pay attention and act - if only to send an opine-a-gram to their elected reps when needed, is not the fault of the attorneys...

Attorneys derive their power from our legal system, from our government and ultimately from the people. At least IMHO.

Family, career, hobbies, all these matter in a balanced life, but the duty to the whole, the civic duty of every citizen is important too.

But back to the topic, (apologies for the rant, it, just, slipped) I hope that there will be ongoing scrutiny on the dismissal of Maj. Caughlin and if the perception is the reality, remember the players and write your elected reps with a polite but firm WTF request.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney, nor do I play one in any circumstance, but a few of the ones that I do know are good people. This comment does not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of either myself, my company, or any creature (human, insect, cephalopod or other) currently living on this side of the galaxy; don't quote me on that; in fact, don't quote me on anything; it is quite possible I don't know what he hell I'm talking about; Furthermore, some quantum physics theories suggest that when the consumer is not directly observing this comment, it may cease to exist or will exist only in a vague and undetermined state. So there.

Posted by: bthun at January 18, 2008 01:30 PM

Attorneys derive their power from our legal system, from our government and ultimately from the people. At least IMHO.


Plus, some of my absolutely favorite people are attorneys. Go figure.
Obviously there is no accounting for tastes, but there it is :)

My world, at least, would be a far drearier place without the Scourge of Lawyers.

Posted by: Cass at January 18, 2008 01:41 PM

Without attorneys I bet we'd see conflict resolution via lead/copper-smokeless_powder arbitration.

Posted by: larry at January 18, 2008 01:54 PM

I am both amused and pleased my tongue in cheek quote elicited the responses it did. The quote is absurd on its face, but represents an animus for unscrupulous lawyers, idiotic laws and governmental actions.

bthun states the case eloquently. I will post more outrageous quotes if he will answer them so! Bingo, indeed.

I have several close friends who are attorneys and know others, the majority of whom are decent people. There are attorneys on VC whom I both like and respect. So, I share Cass' affection for some of the tribe of lawyers.

When worms like Stanley Cohen represent Hamas and CAIR, and other terrorist fronts launch nuisance suits and seek to intimidate its opposition through our own courts and laws, we move closer to arbitration by gunfire. In an earlier day these vermin would be tried for sedition and treason.

As far as I am concerned, making any accommodation of Sharia in America is a huge mistake. It is de facto sedition and flies in the face of nearly all the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Treat it like Communism and Nazism. The practice of some non-virulent form of Islam is guaranteed under the Constitution, nothing preaching the overthrow of the US government and killing of its citizens is. Arrest the malefactors and jail or deport them.

Dessecrating the flag or a bible is "protected speach". Tossing a Koran in the toilet is a "hate crime". Give me a break.

And,no, America does not take it's security seriously. We will rue the day.

Posted by: Mark at January 18, 2008 05:43 PM

Mark, I know you too well to have taken you seriously :p

It is just that I am very loyal.

Posted by: Cass at January 18, 2008 05:50 PM

Wait a minute! I resemble that remark.

Posted by: Mark at January 18, 2008 06:05 PM

Heheh. Mark I am sorry for the rant, seriously I am. I know you were joking... as you've always been reasonable, at least in my estimation, FWIW =;-}.

I am tagged by many who know me as a right wing lunatic. I know, hard to believe =8^} The Hun label came from some of my RW buds after some spirited discussions on money and the military. But in the interest of balance, I am an equal opportunity irritation in that I usually tilt at windmills whenever the topic of trial lawyers and attorneys in general comes up among the RWLuntaics Anonymous members.

As Larry mentions, conflict resolution via lead/copper-smokeless_powder arbitration is something many of us good ole country boys might be able to abide in a world gone mad, but I'm not sure that most of our 21st century folk would be so prepared if their wish for no attorneys -and extrapolating- no law were to come to pass. Or, stated another way, careful with that wish Eugene.

Posted by: The redneck formerly known as bthun at January 18, 2008 07:21 PM

bthun, No reason to be sorry, your post was especially good. You are a bright guy and your posts are often excellent. I enjoyed the earlier one very much. It was definitely 10 ring stuff, ah, throw in some X's.

Yeah, the lead vs. law is appealing until the results appear. Look at dueling. Many great and valuable men were lost to stupidity - Alexander Hamilton, Pushkin....rule of the jungle is not pleasant, nor desireable. But there are specific cases.....

Posted by: Mark at January 18, 2008 08:18 PM

Some say he is being terminated for speaking to the press without authorization

I might buy that if DoS and FBI and CIA people were fired for leaking national secrets.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at January 21, 2008 07:58 PM