WAR ON TERROR: by John MillerNews Weekly
Grim lessons of the Fort Hood massacre
, November 28, 2009
In August this year, a number of Australian citizens were arrested by the authorities and charged under anti-terrorism legislation. The object of their attack was the Holsworthy army base in New South Wales. Because the matter has yet to come to trial, little can be said about the case except that the putative attackers were allegedly seeking religious sanction from Somalia for their actions.
On November 5, US army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who was due to be deployed in Afghanistan, suddenly produced two weapons and embarked on a killing spree, leaving 13 dead at the Fort Hood army base, Texas.
Fort Hood is the largest active duty armoured post in the US. It plays a major role in troop-training and the testing and development of new equipment and tactics.
It is the home of the US Cavalry Division and 4th Infantry Division. Its population, according to the US Army, is 53,416 active duty military, 217,402 retirees, veterans and family members, and 14,558 civilians and contractors. The Killeen, Fort Hood and Temple metro area is home to about 300,000. In short, the whole complex is bigger than many Australian cities.
President Barack Obama, in two speeches intended to defuse growing public anger, pledged that there would be a full investigation of the incident and cautioned people against prematurely jumping to conclusions. Needless to say, his restrained language has infuriated many in America. He has called the incident a "disaster", not terrorism. Some columnists have been angered by the fact that Obama has also refrained from identifying the perpetrator as a Muslim.
The facts are straightforward and well attested. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old army psychiatrist of Jordanian background, set out on a killing rampage that left 13 dead, including, tragically, a young, pregnant female soldier who had recently returned from Afghanistan. Major Hasan in turn was shot four times and injured by police officers on the base. He is now under guard in hospital, possibly paralysed from the waist down. He has since been charged with the killings.
Those killed were fairly representative of what you would expect at an army base and included officers from the rank of major down to soldiers with the rank of private. Ten were male, and three were female. Certain Muslim extremists in the American community have been praising Major Hasan for his actions. I wonder what they would say if US citizens repaid their incitement to violence by turning on them with guns blazing?
Despite the measured words of President Obama, it is extremely difficult not to draw some conclusions, which are very unpalatable.
Major Hasan was a practising Muslim and has been captured on video dressed, not in the attire of the Middle East where his roots lie, but in traditional robes worn in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The media have reported that Hasan had been attempting to contact al Qaeda and, more disturbing perhaps, had delivered a presentation on the role of Muslims in the US armed forces during which he concluded that Muslims should not be deployed against their co-religionists in Afghanistan or Iraq. Rather, Hasan argues, they should be allowed the option of being treated as conscientious objectors "to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events". (Washington Post, November 3, 2009).
Perhaps even more ominously - and seeming to confirm that his November 5 killing rampage was not an aberration of behaviour but a premeditated act - he had given away his possessions on the day of the shooting. Later, he was heard to yell "Allahu Akbar!" (Arabic for "God is great!") before cutting loose with his Belgian-made, high velocity FLN 5.7 pistol, purchased locally and known as the "cop killer", given its characteristic of being able to penetrate body armour.
My initial reaction was that, once again, the vast US intelligence community did not know enough in advance or, to be more precise, had apparently failed to collate and flag crucial evidence that would have identified Hasan as a potential problem case. The FBI was reportedly aware of some of the major's activities, but its jurisdiction does not extend to the military. But surely any ecking out the motives and intent of this military psychiatrist should have been raised at the appropriate levels.
This horrific incident, believed to be the worst recent attack on a US military installation in history, has thrown into bold relief the problem of deploying Muslims in Western armed forces.
It would be only human nature, after the Fort Hood massacre and the foiled terrorist attack earlier this year on the NSW Holsworthy army base, to be extremely concerned if you found yourself hitting the ground running in Afghanistan and discovering there were Muslims in your platoon.
The ramifications are profound because they undercut everything the US, and by extension Western societies, believe in terms of multiculturalism. Major Hasan would have sworn allegiance to the US at least twice, as a citizen and as a military officer.
Major Hasan is reportedly still being paid his full military salary and allowances, while lying in hospital. It is a sickening counterpoint to the 13 funerals of his innocent victims now being held across America.John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.