A University of Arizona instructor is facing criticism for claiming that the U.S. military is "a greater threat" than the Islamic State (IS) and for portraying American soldiers as anti-Muslim rapists who commit crimes on par with—or even worse than—IS itself.
University of Arizona instructor Musa al-Gharbi—who also serves as an academic affiliate at the university's Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC)—drew the controversial comparison between IS (also known as ISIL or ISIS) and U.S. soldiers in a recent column arguing that America's moral outrage at IS's crimes is hypocritical.
Al-Gharbi's comments, published in the online publication TruthOut and several other places, attracted outrage from experts who said that taxpayer funds should not be supplementing a university that encourages such dialogue about current events.
"It would not be a stretch to say that the United States is actually a greater threat to peace and stability in the region than ISIS—not least because U.S. policies in Iraq, Libya, and Syria have largely paved the way for ISIS's emergence as a major regional actor," al-Gharbi wrote in an October column entitled, "How Much Moral High Ground Does the U.S. Have Over ISIS?"
Al-Gharbi goes on to argue that U.S. soldiers commit atrocities, including rape, that are on a level with the crimes committed by IS's radical militants.
"Many of the same behaviors condemned by the Obama administration and used to justify its most recent campaign into Iraq and Syria are commonly perpetrated by U.S. troops and are ubiquitous in the broader American society," al-Gharbi wrote.
U.S. soldiers and contractors have "repeatedly used rape as a weapon of war" and have committed crimes similar to those perpetrated by IS militants, al-Gharbi maintains in the article.
"The initial driver of U.S. involvement was the outrage over ISIS' capture of thousands of Yazidi women and the sexual violence subsequently exercised against them—horrors which provided moral credence to the war against ISIS in much the same way that the 2001 U.S. war against the Taliban was justified in part by highlighting the plight of Afghan women living under their rule," he wrote.
"However, over the course of that war, and the subsequent 2003 war in Iraq, U.S. soldiers and contractors repeatedly used rape as a weapon of war, both against prisoners and the local civilian population," al-Gharbi writes. "But perhaps more disturbing than the crimes committed by U.S. personnel against Iraqis and Afghans were the atrocities committed by servicemen against their fellow soldiers."
Instances of beheadings and even cannibalism by IS militants also are reminiscent of how U.S. soldiers "torture their enemies," according to al-Gharbi.
"U.S. soldiers and contractors have and continue to torture their enemies, often taking obscene photos to brag about and reminisce upon their acts," al-Gharbi writes.
He also goes on to claim that the U.S. military has been "heavily infiltrated by white-supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups."
Critics of al-Gharbi's inflammatory comments said that the University of Arizona should immediately condemn his views.
"It is a crime that my tax money in Arizona is going to fund [al-Gharbi's] radical ideas," M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), told the Washington Free Beacon.
Jasser, who engaged in a lengthy back and forth with al-Gharbi about the article, said that the University of Arizona must be "held publicly accountable" for its scholar's views.
"The University of Arizona must answer to Arizonans as to how that fits within the American mission of the state-funded university," Jasser said. "Is the University of Arizona proud of having a professor who is helping disseminate ideas which radicalize American Muslims against our own troops?"
SISMEC distanced itself from Gharbi's writings in an email.
"SISMEC is a consortium of researchers, instructors and intellectuals who work both collaboratively and independently on critical issues related to the MENA region," a spokesman said. "We stand behind all work published on the SISMEC website, to include the research of al-Gharbi. However, those works published externally represent the views of the author and do not represent the initiative."
Al-Gharbi defended his writings when reached Monday by the Free Beacon.
The goal of the article, al-Gharbi explained, was to scrutinize U.S. priorities on hot-button issues.
"I think the sexual violence perpetrated on our servicewomen (and to a lesser extent, servicemen) is an abomination which has reached epidemic levels," al-Gharbi explained via email. "And unfortunately, the rates of sexual violence in America are high in general, as I point out in the piece."
The goal, al-Gharbi explained, "was not to draw a 1-1 comparison, but to ask where our priorities should be. When America is facing tens of thousands of rapes which go largely unprosecuted, when in fact the victims often face various forms of retaliation for complaining—why is this not covered in the media?"
Al-Gharbi said he is trying address tough questions in provocative ways.
"The goal of all of my work is to render U.S. policy more effective, efficient, and beneficent," he said. "I do this work out of my commitment to challenge America to grow better and stronger."