Political correctness is alive in the Pentagon. Witness "Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood," a Department of Defense report released last week on the Nov. 5 shootings that left 13 people dead.
Granted, drafters of the report had to be careful not to say anything that would help the defense of accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who has pleaded not guilty. Even so, if the report's purpose was to craft lessons to prevent future attacks, how could they leave out radical Islam?
"Our concern is with actions and effects, not necessarily with motivations," former Army Secretary Togo West explained to Time magazine.
In that turn-a-blind-eye spirit, the report essentially whited out the many warning signs left by the Army psychiatrist. On the Internet, Hasan compared Islamist suicide bombers with an American soldier who threw himself on a grenade in Iraq to protect fellow troops. As reported in the Times of London, Hasan explained, "Scholars have paralleled this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers. If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard, that would be considered a strategic victory." The Washington Post reported that Hasan gave public talks to his colleagues in which he equated the war on terror with a war on Islam.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which challenges radicalized Islam, also is an internist and former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. As one who went through the same system that trained Hasan, Jasser believes the biggest lesson from Fort Hood should be that a "culture of political correctness" kept concerned officers from reporting Hasan. Yet the report papers over the elephant in the room.
To Pentagon report writers, the shootings have an air of mystery. As in: "Detecting a trusted insider's intention to commit a violent act requires observation of behavioral cues/anomalies." It helps if you can believe that Hasan's cues were observable only to the trained eye.
Ignoring Hasan's pro-terrorist Web postings, the report instead focuses on workplace violence, programs to prevent workplace violence -- such as the Post Office's "Going Postal Program" -- and the stress imposed on military health care providers.
The report does refer to "radicalization," which is good. But it overuses the term "self-radicalization," despite Hasan' contact with Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki before the shootings. Said Jasser: "They are simply trying to exaggerate the fact that these are lone actors. I do not believe they are."
Jasser is especially offended at the notion that Hasan's actions were the fruit of psychological problems -- or, as per the report, "cumulative psychological effects of persistent conflict." (To me, the report read like the first draft of a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea.) To Jasser, the more obvious finding could be that the shooter, like Osama bin Laden, simply decided that the ends justify the means.
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