Pentagon Mysteries: The Coughlin Case and Who Is Hesham Islam?

Controversy has been growing over the Pentagon's decision not to renew the contract of Stephen Coughlin, who made it his mission to take an unblinkered look at the roots of jihad, and the ways and means -- both violent and nonviolent -- of the spread of Islamic extremism. While most of the mainstream press has not yet picked up on the Coughlin story, it has touched off a firestorm in the blogosphere. One name that keeps turning up in this tale is that of a top aide to the number two man at Defense, Deputy Secretary Gordon England. That aide is Hesham Islam, a retired U.S. Navy commander with 20 years service under his belt, born in Cairo, schooled in Iraq and an influential special assistant to Gordon England. The Pentagon denies he had anything to do with the cashiering of Coughlin. Bill Gertz, national security correspondent for the Washington Times, says otherwise.

Either way, for whatever it tells us about the Pentagon's take on strategy and advice regarding Islamic extremism, Stephen Coughlin is on his way out, and Hesham Islam has the ear of Gordon England -- who has described him as "my personal close confidante," and says: "I take his advice, and I listen to him all the time."

Last October, the Armed Forces Press Service featured a glowing profile of Hesham Islam, describing among other things his experiences as a youth, huddling in terror of Israeli bombs, surviving the sinking of a cargo ship torpedoed by the Iranians... But did it happen this way? I am still looking for straightforward corroborating details, which the Pentagon for whatever reason -- after more than a week of promising to "look into it," just can't seem to come up with. Who's running this show? Here's a link to my article today on NRO: "Questions for the Pentagon: Who Is Hesham Islam?"