Friday, February 15, 2008

WWII and Japanese Americans, the War on Terror and Muslims: Learning the Wrong Lesson

The Pentagon may have fired Islamist expert Stephen Coughlin because high-level Muslim military aide Hesham Islam fingered him as "a Christian zealot with a pen."

Or, Stephen Coughlin's contract may have been dropped because the Pentagon couldn't afford to have someone on the staff who knew so much about Islam. (An anonymous "Pentagon insider" presumably said that Coughlin is "... brilliant, and he knows his stuff, but he couldn't teach it," according to a journalistic blog post. "It went over everybody's head.")

Maybe there's an element of truth in both claims.

Since Hesham Islam's resume 'didn't add up,' after the Pentagon got around to checking into his bona fides, I'm inclined to put more weight on the first version of the Coughlin story. Especially since America's military only bothered to look into Islam's background after bloggers and non-PC journalists started raising questions: questions which should probably have been covered before he became a "high-level military aide."

Japanese Americans and WWII War Relocation Camps:
Learning the Wrong Lesson

There's no reasonable question that the American government's treatment of American citizens with Japanese ancestry was appalling and unconscionable. I am not defending the confiscations of property and unwarranted imprisonments which were committed sixty-some years ago.

However, I'm very concerned that many people in decision-making positions learned the wrong lesson from the shameful 'war relocation camps.'
  • What should have been learned:
    The nation someone's ancestors came from does not determine that person's loyalties
  • What seems to have been learned:
    Sensible, even routine, inquiries into a person's background and allegiances must be limited to people whose ancestors come from northwestern Europe
These days, accusations of "racism" can put a severe crimp in a person's career. (Remember Don Imus and Kelly Tilghman?)

Genuine prejudice based on ethnicity, religion, or hair color for that matter, is wrong. Also stupid: consider the way that the cosmetics industry denied itself a huge share of the market, back in the day, by ignoring the one in five or so Americans with dark skin.

But that does not mean that non-WASPs should be exempt from background checks, when they are considered for sensitive positions in the American military - or any government position.

The strange case of Hesham Islam, Stephen Coughlin, and the Pentagon's hiring standards, is disturbing in two ways.
  1. The Pentagon seems to follow politically correct standards in hiring and firing
  2. Traditional news outlets ignored - and continue to ignore - the possibility that an enemy agent was influencing vital decisions at the Pentagon
The firing of an expert - presumably because he knew too much about his field - and the hiring of an influential aide who may be connected to terrorists and terrorist organizations isn't just a matter of national security: it's news. Why America's journalists, for the most part, ignored this human drama set against a background of international intrigue and crisis, is a troubling question.

Some guardedly good news to wrap up this post. Thanks to Information Age technology and freedom of speech in the blogosphere, non-PC bloggers and journalists raised enough of fuss. As a result, Hesham Islam is leaving his Pentagon post. Given the alternatively-stringent standards applied to Mr. Islam's hiring, I think there's a good chance that he wasn't alone.

More about Hesham Islam, Stephen Coughlin, and the Pentagon:

Blog posts News and Op Ed Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.