Book review by William Kilpatrick published in Crisis Magazine:
If you’ve ever noticed that U.S. policy in regard to the war on terror is confused, you’ll appreciate Stephen Coughlin’s just released book, Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.
The confusion is no accident, says Coughlin, but is the result of a deliberate Muslim Brotherhood plan to influence decision-making at the highest levels of the government and the military. Coughlin is an attorney, intelligence officer, and an expert on Islamic law and ideology. He is well-known for his “Red Pill” briefings to the security and defense establishments and to members of Congress. The “Red Pill” is a reference to the pill which allowed the characters in The Matrix to see reality as it is and to leave behind the false virtual reality that had been constructed for them.
Coughlin discusses the Muslim Brotherhood’s penetration of the government, the military, the security establishment, transnational bodies, and even the interfaith community. Just as importantly he explains the overall strategy which guides the Muslim Brotherhood’s various influence operations. A major component of the strategy is deception. Thus, in America, Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups-who are anything but moderate-present themselves as the moderate experts on Islam who possess the knowledge to counter the radicals.
Of course, they don’t advertise themselves as the Muslim Brotherhood. But when American security agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security consult with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, or a dozen other such groups, they are in effect dealing with the Brotherhood. The connections between these organizations and the Brotherhood are well-established, but for various reasons our agencies ignore the evidence. One reason is that many in the government believe that the Muslim Brotherhood-the progenitor of almost all terrorist groups-is genuinely moderate. Another reason is that the Brotherhood-linked groups are practically the only game in town. They are well-organized, well-funded, and have been ingratiating themselves with successive administrations for decades.
Whatever the reason, these are the groups our security leaders turn to for advice. And, according to Coughlin, it’s not just input that is sought, but also direction. In effect, he says, we have outsourced our understanding of Islam to groups who do not have the best interests of America at heart. The other side of the coin is that the advice of other competent experts is ignored. When the advice of the Muslim experts contradicts the advice of non-Muslim experts, the Muslim advice is favored and the non-Muslim expert might well find himself out of a job.
Why does Muslim expert advice consistently trump non-Muslim expert advice? According to Coughlin, the security-intelligence establishment is in thrall to the same multicultural and relativist dogmas that afflict the rest of us. One of these dogmas, elaborated in Edward Said’s 1978 book Orientalism, is that no culture can ever explain another culture. Each culture is the final arbiter of its own meaning. For an outside culture to try to explain Islam is therefore tantamount to an act of cultural imperialism. Thus, says Coughlin, Muslim cultural experts are not even required to provide evidence for their assertions: “Often, all that is required to halt an inquiry or analysis are the words, ‘Islam does not stand for this’ from a cultural expert.”
The upshot, says Coughlin, is that many of our critical decisions on homeland security and on military and foreign policy are guided by groups whose main objective is to turn all societies into Islamic societies.
According to Coughlin, a prime instance of a Muslim Brotherhood influence operation occurred in 2012, when the White House purged more than one thousand documents and presentations from counterterror training programs for the FBI and other agencies. This was done in response to a letter to John Brennan, then Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. The letter, which was signed by dozens of leaders of Muslim activist groups, complained about the “use of biased, false, and highly offensive training materials about Muslims and Islam.” After the FBI training program was made Islam-compliant, the Department of Defense followed with what Coughlin describes as a “Soviet-style purge of individuals along with disciplinary actions and re-education.”
Coughlin contends that a similar kowtowing to Islamic interests has undermined our war efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Rules of engagement that subordinate the safety of our troops to the overriding principles of “respect for Islam” have a profoundly demoralizing effect on soldiers and make them think twice about a career in the Army. Coughlin cites a survey of West Point graduates showing that nearly half of young officers think the current military leadership is weak, while 78 percent think that the high exit rate of good officers threatens national security.
According to Coughlin, such demoralization is among the chief aims of Islamic strategists. “The Islamic way of war,” he writes, “places substantial effort on the preparation stage, the object of which is to induce a collapse of faith in the cultural, political and religious institutions underpinning the target.” As an example of this strategy he cites The Quranic Doctrine of War, a book by Pakistani Brigadier General S.K. Malik. Malik stressed that the chief effort prior to actual warfare should be to “dislocate” the enemies’ faith:
To instill terror into the hearts of the enemy [it] is essential in the ultimate analysis to dislocate his faith. An invincible faith is immune to terror. A weak faith offers inroads to terror…. Terror cannot be struck into the hearts of an army by merely cutting lines of communication or depriving it of its routes to withdraw. It is basically related to the strength or weakness of the human soul. It can be instilled only if the opponent’s faith is destroyed.
Coughlin observes that the object of jihad, of both the stealth and armed variety, is the destruction of faith. Therefore, “jihad is primarily understood in terms of spiritual war … a form of warfare that the Pentagon is not disposed to recognize.”
There is, however, one organization that should be disposed to recognize spiritual warfare. Unfortunately, says Coughlin, the Church has proved no better at recognizing and resisting Islamic influence operations than the government and the military. The appendix to his book contains a sixty-three-page chapter titled “Interfaith Outreach.” While Coughlin’s main concern is the undermining of national security, he maintains that Islamic activist groups have taken the entire culture as their target. In “Interfaith Outreach,” he discusses the Muslim Brotherhood attempt to subvert the interfaith community-a process that parallels the penetration of the military and is likewise intended to result in a “dislocation of faith.”
Coughlin focuses in particular on the interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Catholics. Like the security establishment’s “dialogue” with Muslim representatives, the interfaith dialogue, he claims, is rigged to discourage any critical analysis of Islam. One of the principles that guides the dialogue process is that the participants “speak in a way that people of that religion can affirm as accurate.” This, of course, is simply an extension of Said’s contention that one culture has no business explaining another culture. It means that the Catholic dialogue participants should defer to Islam’s interpretation of Islam. Thus, if a Catholic had the temerity to bring up the subject of Islamic violence, it would be enough for his Muslim counterpart to state that Islam has nothing to do with violence, and perhaps to recite a couple of verses from the Koran, and that would be that.
Full and frank discussion is further inhibited by an overarching emphasis on trust and friendship. The ground rules stipulate that “dialogue must take place in an atmosphere of mutual trust.” Moreover, to quote from Interfaith Dialogue: A Guide for Muslims, dialogue partners must pledge “to remain committed to being friends when the world would separate us from one another.” That sounds nice, but isn’t there a danger that the bonds of friendship might get in the way of objectivity? That friendship might actually undermine objectivity? Thus, writes Coughlin, “persons who undertake a reasonable effort … [of] performing a competent assessment of the ‘others’ religion could be characterized as lacking the requisite trust….” Too deep an inquiry might bring accusations that one is uncharitable, intolerant or Islamophobic. So, in order “to remain committed to being friends,” dialoguers tend to avoid the crucial questions in favor of discussing the common ground between Muslims and Christians.
For my own part, I have been struck by the extent to which Catholic dialoguers have made mutual trust and friendship into an end in itself. Consider this statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on “Dialogue with Muslims:”
Perhaps most importantly, our work together has forged true bonds of friendship that are supported by mutual esteem and an ever-growing trust…. Through dialogue we have been able to work through much of our mutual ignorance, habitual distrust and debilitating fear.
But is it really wise for the bishops to “remain committed to being friends” no matter what? As I wrote in a previous column:
“Habitual distrust” is the last thing the bishops need to worry about. They seem, rather, to suffer from a bad case of habitual trust. Keep in mind that the majority of dialogue partners for whom they feel an “ever-growing trust” are members of ISNA. It’s good that the bishops have managed to overcome “debilitating fear.” But shouldn’t they retain a little healthy fear about an organization with such a shady past?
The shady past of the Islamic Society of North America includes being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a large-scale terrorist funding scheme. And just two years ago, the ISNA Canada Development Foundation had its charitable status revoked on charges that it was providing support to terrorists. Significantly, as Coughlin points out, the bishops’ main dialogue partner is the very same ISNA that for years has been pulling the wool over the eyes of the Homeland Security Department and the Pentagon.
Coughlin contends that the Islamist strategy of dislocating the faith of key Catholic leaders is already well-advanced. Prominent Catholic prelates have signed on to the Muslim Brotherhood claim that “Islamophobia” is the biggest threat to our internal security, and many others seem to subscribe to the dubious notion that violence has nothing to do with Islam. As a prime example of the latter tendency, Coughlin cites paragraph 253 of Evangelii Gaudium, which states that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” Because the violence is obviously connected in some way with Islam, says Coughlin, these denials of reality are bound in the long run to demoralize Catholics and undermine confidence in their leaders.
There is much more to this tightly-argued and thoroughly documented book. The depth of this book and the sheer volume of pages between its covers makes me think that the Proofreading process before it headed to print must have been extensive – especially because of the sensitive subject matter that it deals with. Coughlin’s analysis covers a lot of territory because a lot of territory has been covered over by a carefully laid smokescreen. For those who would like to get re-oriented on our situation vis-à-vis Islam, Catastrophic Failure is an invaluable guide.