Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Some Pentagon and military leaders, along with lots of working-level officials, are quietly rallying to support ousted Joint Staff counterterrorism analyst Stephen Coughlin.
Pentagon officials said a number of generals and admirals who share Mr. Coughlin's well-reasoned assessment of the Islamic-law underpinnings of Islamist terror are voicing support for the lawyer and former military-intelligence official.
Mr. Coughlin was fired as a Joint Staff contractor after his confrontation with Hasham Islam, a special assistant to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, was reported here last month.
Mr. Islam, a Muslim, referred to Mr. Coughlin as a "Christian zealot with a pen" during the meeting several weeks ago, a slur rejected by Mr. Coughlin's supporters.
Critics of Mr. Coughlin are spreading word - falsely - that he is being let go because he talked out of school to the press. One official suggested the action was due to budget cuts.
But defense and military officials supportive of Mr. Coughlin said the real reason is that 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.
"Steve Coughlin is the most knowledgeable person in the U.S. government on Islamic law," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney. "The secretary of defense should ensure that he stays at DOD."
Another booster is Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Corps, who said in November that Mr. Coughlin's briefing for Marines bound for Iraq "hit the mark in explaining how jihadists use the Koran to justify their actions."
"Your presentation has armed service men and women with more intellectual ammunition to take the fight to the enemy," Gen. Helland said in a letter.
A U.S. Central Command analyst, Neal Harper, stated in an e-mail to friends that if Mr. Coughlin is allowed to become a casualty in the war of ideas "then I'm deeply concerned about the future course of the war on terrorism."
"Ignoring Steve Coughlin's honest assessments and terminating his contract sets a dangerous and disturbing precedent," Mr. Harper stated. "We struggled for many years to get our heads around radical Islam, and Steve has been a leader in the effort."
Mr. Harper said Mr. Coughlin should be promoted, but instead "Hasham Islam is allowed to insult him publicly."
"How is it that he is allowed to call anyone a Christian zealot?" he asked. "This alone exposes his bias, his poor perception of Christians, and a complete lack of professionalism, at best. Should we instead be asking who is this guy and how did he get inside? Is he representative of those who are leading this Muslim outreach? Does Muslim outreach mean that we are not allowed to question or confront those we are trying to communicate with and the doctrine upon which they stand? When speaking the truth gets one fired, we all should be concerned and at the very least need to ask why."
Army Lt. Col. Joseph C. Myers, commandant's Army adviser at the Air Force Air Command and Staff College in Alabama, said in a letter posted on the Internet that the Joint Staff is losing its only Islamic-law scholar if the firing stands.
Col. Myers said Mr. Coughlin should continue to educate the military for the war on terrorism. "If we don't understand the war and the enemy we are engaged against, we remain vulnerable and we cannot win," he stated.
Unlike during the Cold War, when Soviet war-fighting doctrine dominated his education at West Point, "can anyone show me where the equivalent of the Soviet threat doctrine series for the global war on terror is published? …