Source: Black & White, Birminghams City Paper
The Hole at the Heart of Our Strategy
The attack at Fort Hood illustrates a fundamental flaw in the war against terrorism.
by Mark Steyn
November 12, 2009
Thirteen dead and 31 wounded would be a bad day for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and a great victory for the Taliban. When it happens in Texas, in the heart of the biggest military base in the nation, at a processing center for soldiers either returning from or deploying to combat overseas, it is not merely a "tragedy" (as too many people have called it). It's a glimpse of a potentially fatal flaw at the heart of what we have called, since 9/11, the "war on terror." Brave soldiers trained to hunt down and kill America's enemy abroad were killed in the safety and security of home by, in essence, the same enemy—a man who believes in and supports everything the enemy does.
And he was a U.S. Army major.
Also, his superior officers and other authorities knew about his beliefs, but seemed to think it was just a bit of harmless multicultural diversity. Apparently, his believing that "the Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor" (i.e., his fellow American soldiers) and writing internet paeans to the "noble" "heroism" of suicide bombers and, indeed, objectively supporting the other side in an active war is to be regarded as just some kind of alternative lifestyle that adds to the general vibrancy of the base.
When it emerged early on the afternoon of Thursday, November 5, that the shooter was Nidal Malik Hasan, there appeared shortly thereafter on Twitter a flurry of posts with the striking formulation: "Please judge Major Malik Nadal [sic] by his actions and not by his name."
Concerned tweeters can relax. There was never really any danger of that—and not just because theNew York Times' first report on Major Hasan never mentioned the words "Muslim" or "Islam,"
What a strange reaction. I suppose what she means is that, if his name were Smith, we could all retreat back into the same comforting illusions that allowed the bureaucracy to advance Nidal Malik Hasan to the rank of major and into the heart of Fort Hood while ignoring everything that mattered about the essence of this man.
Since 9/11, we have, as the Twitterers recommend, judged people by their actions—flying planes into skyscrapers, blowing themselves up in Bali nightclubs or London Tube trains, planting IEDs by the roadside in Baghdad or Tikrit. On the whole we're effective at responding with action of our own—taking out training camps in Afghanistan, rolling up insurgency networks in Fallujah and Ramadi, intercepting terror plots in London and Toronto and Dearborn.
However, we're scrupulously non-judgmental about the ideology that drives a man to fly into a building or self-detonate on the subway, and thus we have a hole at the heart of our strategy. We use rhetorical conveniences like "radical Islam" or, if that seems a wee bit Islamophobic, just plain old "radical extremism." Yet we never make any effort to delineate the line that separates "radical Islam" from non-radical Islam. Indeed, we go to great lengths to make it even fuzzier. Somewhere in that woozy blur the pathologies of a Nidal Malik Hasan incubate.
An army psychiatrist, Major Hasan was an American, born and raised, who graduated from Viriginia Tech and then received his doctorate from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, which works out to the best part of half-a-million dollars' worth of elite education. But he opposed America's actions in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and made approving remarks about jihadists on American soil. "You need to lock it up, Major," cautioned his superior officer, Colonel Terry Lee.
He didn't really need to "lock it up" at all. He could pretty much say anything he liked, and if any "red flags" were raised, they were quickly mothballed. Many people are "anti-war."
Yet why be surprised? Azad Ali, a man who approvingly quotes such observations as "If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier's uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation" is an advisor to Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (the equivalent of the U.S. Attorneys office). In Toronto last week, the brave ex-Muslim Nonie Darwish mentioned in passing that, on flying from the U.S. to Canada, she was questioned at length about the purpose of her visit by an apparently Muslim border official. When she revealed that she was giving a speech about Islamic law, he rebuked her: "We are not to question Sharia."
That's the guy manning the airport security desk.
In the New York Times, Maria Newman touched on Hasan's faith only obliquely: "He was single, according to the records, and he listed no religious preference." Thank goodness for that, eh? A neighbor in Texas says the major had "Allah" and "another word" pinned up in Arabic on his door. "Akbar" maybe? On the morning of Hasan's rampage, he is said to have passed out copies of the Koran to his neighbors. He shouted in Arabic as he fired. But don't worry: As the FBI spokesman assured us, there's no terrorism angle.
That's true, in a very narrow sense: Major Hasan is not a card-carrying member of the Texas branch of al-Qaeda reporting to a control officer in Yemen or Waziristan. If he were, things would be a lot easier. But the same pathologies that drive al-Qaeda also beat within Major Hasan, and in the end his Islamic impulses trumped his expensive Western education, his psychiatric training, his military discipline—his entire American identity. One might say the same about Faleh Hassan Almaleki of Glendale, Arizona, arrested two weeks ago after fatally running over his "too Westernized" daughter Noor in the latest American honor killing. Or the two U.S. residents—one American, one Canadian—arrested a few days earlier for plotting to fly to Denmark for the purposes of murdering the editor who commissioned the famous Mohammed cartoons. But Noor Almaleki's brother shrugs; that's just the way it is. "One thing to one culture doesn't make sense to another culture," he says.
Indeed. To infidels, Islam is in a certain sense unknowable, and most of us are content to leave it at that. The vast majority of Muslims don't conspire to kill cartoonists, murder their daughters, or shoot dozens of their fellow soldiers. But Islam inspires enough of this behavior to make it a legitimate topic of analysis. Don't hold your breath. We would rather talk about anything else—even in the army.
What happened to those men and women at Fort Hood had a horrible symbolism: Members of the best trained, best-equipped fighting force on the planet gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously. Therein lies the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy—in Afghanistan and in Texas. &
Internationally syndicated columnist Mark Steyn is the author of America Alone.