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Fort Hood Tragedy Sparks Islamophobic Response
Fort Hood Tragedy Sparks Islamophobic Response
By Stephen Lendman
A personal note. This writer was stationed at Fort Hood in summer 1956, a quiet time, post-Korea and pre-Vietnam, when terrorism and Islamophbia weren't issues, and shooting only happened on firing ranges to learn and improve marksmanship.
On November 5, The New Times headlined, "Mass Shooting at Fort Hood, saying:
"the Army confirms that the gunman (thought to be killed) was Army Major Malik Nadal Hasan. Reports said 12 were dead (raised to 13, including one civilian) and 31 others wounded from an incident at the base Readiness Processing Center where troops prepare for deployment. Two other soldiers were detained as suspects. Another was believed at large. The shooting began about 1:30PM after which Fort Hood was locked down."
CNN reported over 100 rounds fired. Some military retirees were skeptical, calling it bogus. An unidentified Army captain said it's impossible for a non-combatant like Hasan to fire that much with two pistols without being subdued. He'd have had to reload giving someone a chance to do it. Others said the same thing.
Sergeant Donald Buswell called the official story illegitimate saying a room full of combat veterans wouldn't let one shooter do this kind of damage. "Multiple shooters is the only plausible scenario. This sounds like Major Hasan has been used, and perhaps is a patsy." Vietnam veteran Michael Gaddy said the Army's version doesn't compute. "People on the ground have told me cell phone towers were jammed to prevent unauthorized dissemination of information after the shooting."
Citizens for Legitimate Government said "Hasan's neighbors, medical trainers, colleagues, friends, cousin, uncle, grandfather - even the store owner where he bought his food - all....praise(d his) temperament. This appears to be a psy-ops, six ways to Sunday." His grandfather called the act "impossible. He is a doctor and loves the US. America made him what he is."
Early November 5, the day of the incident, "he showed no signs of worry or stress when he stopped at (a) 7-Eleven for his daily breakfast of hash browns, said Jeannie Strickland, the store's manager....(there was) nothing weird, nothing out of the ordinary."
The FBI and Pentagon investigated alleged contacts he had with a "Yemen-based militant" over the past year after intelligence agencies reported emails he exchanged with imam Anwar al-Awlaki, known for his anti-American teachings. Al-Awlaki was once spiritual leader at the suburban Virginia mosque where Hasan worshipped. The communications suggested nothing out of the ordinary. Yet Charles Allen, former Bush administration Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, described Al-Awlaki (with no proof) as an "al-Qaeda supporter..who targets US Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen.
Members of two Joint Terrorism Task Forces contacted Hasan's superiors, reviewed his military records and computer for suspicious activity and found nothing. Yet Senator Joe Lieberman told Fox News (Sunday, November 8) that "strong warning signs" showed he was an "Islamic extremist," and two officials said on ABC News that intelligence authorities knew he tried to contact suspected al Qaeda members. On November 11, Senator John McCain called the tragedy an "act of terror."
Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R. MI ranking House Intelligence Committee member) plans an investigation on "homegrown Jihadism." He sent a preservation order to the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DNI chiefs directing them to save relevant documents for his committee's review.
A November 7 UK Telegraph report linked Hasan to three 9/11 "hijackers" because Al-Awlaki was their "spiritual advisor." The FBI will now check if he met them. Telegraph writers Philip Sherwell and Alex Spillius said "the army missed an increasing number of red flags that Hasan was a troubled and brooding individual within its ranks." It quoted an unnamed source warning military officials that he was a "ticking time bomb" after he allegedly defended suicide bombers, expressed anti-Jewish sentiments, and claimed the "war on terror" is a war against Islam. So do many others.
ABC News said Hasan "wanted out of the Army after being constantly harassed by others in the military and was called a 'camel jockey,' his family said. As (he) was about to be deployed to (Afghanistan), he was suffering from some of the same stresses that he was trained as an Army psychiatrist to treat." As a result, he hired a lawyer to help him get out of the Army.
A London Guardian article cited base commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, saying Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) before shooting. One of his colleagues, Col. Steven Braverman, said he did his job well. There were no signs of trouble. "We had no problems with his job performance while he was working with us." But he was "mortified by the idea of" deploying to Afghanistan, according to his cousin Nader. "He had people telling him on a daily basis (about) the horrors they saw over there."
More from The New York Times
On November 5, writer James Dao headlined, "Suspect Was 'Mortified" About Deployment....because he knew all too well the terrifying realities of war," according to his cousin Nader Hasan.
Earlier, the FBI "became aware of Internet postings by a man calling himself Nidal Hasan....but the investigators were not clear whether the writer was Major Hasan. In one posting (he) compared the heroism of a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect fellow soldiers to suicide bombers who sacrifice themselves to protect Muslims." The emailer said:
"If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory."
"It could not be confirmed, however, that the writer was Major Hasan."
On November 8, writers James McKinley Jr. and James Dao headlined, "Fort Hood Gunman Gave Signals Before His Rampage," saying "relatives and acquaintances (said) tensions that led to the rampage had been building for a long time....In recent years, he had grown more and more vocal about his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tortured over reconciling his military duties with his religion."
He was "a troubled man full of contradictions (who) complained bitterly to people at his mosque about the oppression of Muslims in the Army. He had few friends, and even (some who knew him said he was) a strange figure...."
On November 9, writers David Johnston and Scott Shane headlined, "US Knew of Suspect's Tie to Radical Cleric....known for his incendiary anti-American teachings....Given (his) radical views," Congress will likely investigate potential links to terrorism.
The Times' David Brooks said political correctness clouded the reporting, portraying Hasan:
"as a victim of society, a poor soul who was pushed over the edge by prejudice and unhappiness....This response was understandable. But it was also patronizing. Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking certain impermissible and intolerant thoughts."
On November 10, writers Peter Baker and Clifford Krauss headlined, "President, at Service, Hails Fort Hood's Fallen (in assuming) the role of national eulogist (and leading) the country in mourning...."
In shamelessly promoting America's imperial wars, ahead of new troop deployments, Obama referred to:
"....trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we are working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for." Fort Hood's fallen soldiers "reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for (to give) others half a world away the chance to lead a better life."
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder said it's "The Best Speech Obama's Given Since....Maybe Ever. Today, at Ft. Hood. I guarantee: they'll be teaching this one in rhetoric classes. It was that good."
The New York Times called it "soaring rhetoric." Political Wire.com said it's his best speech ever. Attending politicians from both parties agreed that he touched all the right points. Other media comments expressed strong undertone support for America's imperial wars and need to fight terrorism.
More Islamophobic Response
On November 6, in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters headlined, "Fort Hood's 9/11" calling it "the worst act of terror on American soil since" that day. "This was a terrorist act. When an extremist plans and executes a murderous plot against our armed forces to protest our efforts to counter Islamic fanatics, it's an act of terror. Period."
From the Wall Street Journal:
- On November 10, Evan Perez and Keith Johnson headlined, "Hasan, Radical Cleric Had Contact (but it) Didn't Raise Red Flags to US Authorities; and
- editorial writer Dorothy Rabinowitz's same day op-ed saying, "His (Hasan) terrorist motive is obvious to everyone but the press and Army brass."
The press? Apparently Rabinowitz doesn't read her own paper that wreaks with innuendoes and accusations. From the dominant media as well.
From the Washington Post:
- lots of inflammatory reporting and a November 12 editorial headlined, "In plain sight?" It mentions the same "red flags" saying, "In isolation, they may have appeared less than actionable. Unfortunately, (the Fort Hood) tragedy....linked the puzzle pieces. (So) it's fair to ask whether red flags should have become red alerts." The editorial's conclusion - "A serious investigation must probe these issues, among others."
On November 10, Newsmax.com's Ronald Kessler said "10% of US mosques preach jihad," according to FBI estimates. "That sums up the problem facing us as we ponder the meaning of (Hasan's) slayings of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas. Given his association with a pro-al-Qaida imam in northern Virginia and his preoccupation with radical Islamic Web sites, it's clear that the radical element of Islam influenced Hasan."
From right-wing ideologue Michelle Malkin:
- The "military's blind pursuit of diversity allowed Fort Hood shooting" to happen. "Fort Hood jihadist Maj. Nidal Hasan made his means, motive and inspiration clear for those willing to see and hear."
On November 9 on The 700 Club, Pat Robertson used the tragedy to vilify Islam, calling it:
- a "violent religion," then adding, "Islam is not a religion, it is a political system....bent on world domination;" and added
- "Muslims should be treated like "members of the Communist Party (or) some fascist group."
On November 10, CNN's Lou Dobbs said:
"Tonight, the government faces tough questions. Intelligence agencies now (admit) they knew (Hasan) had terrorist ties almost a year ago. Why were there no investigations....Warning signs (were) ignored. Red flags (were) missed."
He referred to a December 2008 "bombshell" revelation that he was communicating with a Yemeni cleric and other "red flags ignored....Could the Fort Hood massacre have been prevented?"
Under pressure from critics, Dobbs announced his resignation on November 11. According to New York Times writers Brian Stelter and Bill Carter:
Months ago CNN president Jonathan Klein "offered (him) a choice. (He) could vent his opinions on radio and anchor an objective newscast on television, or he could leave CNN."
The article said Dobbs met with Fox News head Roger Ailes in September. Perhaps that's where he's headed.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was one of his most vocal critics. On November 12, it issued the following statement:
"Last night, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs announced his departure from the network. As you know, we've been highly critical of (him) because he has used his platform to spread myths and propaganda - poisoning the debate over immigration reform and inciting fear and hate against Latinos.
The SPLC was one of the first groups to bring public attention to Dobbs' use of false information provided by racist hate groups....we took a stand (to fire him), and our actions made a difference."
On November 10, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly's "Talking Points" featured "The Truth About Major Nidal Malik Hasan's (attempt) to contact associates of Al Qaeda. If true, that's huge. Why would the Army allow any soldier to serve under those circumstances?" Later in the broadcast he added: "I have the highest rated show. I've decided it was an act of terrorism."
On November 9, Fox News' Sean Hannity asked what the tragedy says "about Barack Obama and our government."
The same day on Fox News, right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer said:
"Surprise, surprise, that somebody who shouts Allahu Akbar (God is great) as he shoots up a room of soldiers might have Islamist motives in doing that. I think the real moral scandal....is trying to medicalize mass murder."
On his November 9 radio show, Rush Limbaugh also blamed Obama for the Fort Hood shootings saying:
"We could almost say this is Obama's fault, because this guy (Hasan) said he believed Obama was going to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama hasn't done it, and that's one of the reasons why the guy cracked....I am sure they're not going to call this (a) hate crime....but let's not forget this man had no problem with killing people. (He's) not a pacifist (or) a conscientious objector. He didn't like Americans in Afghanistan or Iraq."
AP headlined, "Who knew of Fort Hood suspect's radical contacts (in suggesting) opportunities were missed to head off the massacre in which 13 died and 29 others wounded last Thursday."
National Public Radio's (NPR) Daniel Zwerdling called Hasan "cold (and) unfriendly," according to a fellow psychiatrist "who worked very closely with (him) and knows him very well....the medical staff was very worried about this guy....He did not do a good job in training, was repeatedly warned, you better shape up, or, you know, you're going to be in trouble....more relevant (was that) he was very proud and upfront about being Muslim....he seemed almost belligerent about (it), and he gave a lecture one day that really freaked a lot of doctors out....he was the kind of guy who the staff actually stood around in the hallway, saying: Do you think he's a terrorist, or is he just weird?"
NPR's Steve Inskeep called Hasan "disturbed" and "disliked."
On Public Broadcasting's (PBS) News Hour, Gwen Ifill discussed his "extremist" views and "ties" to a "radical cleric" with Washington Post writer, Dana Priest. Focusing on her November 10 article titled, "Fort Hood suspect warned of threats within the ranks," she explained his late June 2007 Power Point presentation to supervisors and other physicians and mental health staff expressing "a quite radical view of Islam and the Koran, with warnings throughout that Muslims (will be conflicted) if they are asked to fight and kill other Muslims...."
Titled, "The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the US Military," Priest stressed elements like:
- guilt feelings and religious conflicts facing Muslims in the military;
- offensive jihad, or holy war;
- Hasan saying: "If Muslim groups can convince Muslims that they are fighting for God against injustices of the 'infidels;' ie, enemies of Islam, then (they) can become a potent adversary; ie, suicide bomb(ers), etc;
- another comment saying: "We love death more than you love life;" and
- under conclusions, writing: "Fighting to establish an Islamic State to please God, even by force, is condoned by Islam (and) Muslim soldiers should not serve in any capacity that renders them at risk to hurting/killing believers unjustly."
Not addressed in Priest's article was the following:
- Muslims' objections to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars;
- out-of-date Pentagon information about Muslim attitudes in the military;
- over 4,000 armed forces members are Muslims, not the media-reported 2,000 - 3,000 number;
- most are African Americans, so it raises troubling implications about extending imperial wars to Africa using black Americans to fight them; and
- more than 3,000 armed forces members converted to Islam while stationed in the Persian Gulf in the 1990s.
Priest mentioned Hasan's recommendation urging the Defense Department to release Muslims as conscientious objectors "to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events."
Reporter Ray Suarez painted a "conflicting portrait (of the) accused Fort Hood gunman," devout, quiet, hardly known or understood by his neighbors, disenchanted with the military, and eager to get out. He cited the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Ibrahim Hooper saying his BlackBerry buzzed with hostile messages, "one calling for all-out war on Islam."
BBC highlighted Hasan's "contact with a radical cleric (known to be) sympathetic to al-Qaeda (and for) run(ning) a website denouncing US policy. It praised Major Hasan's alleged actions at Fort Hood as heroic."
Darren Hutchinson's Dissenting Justice blog asked why Hasan wasn't fired for his views when gay and lesbian soldiers are on grounds of their sexual orientation, saying:
"Apparently, the military retained a person who suffered from known (or reasonably discoverable) psychological problems and who attempted to contact an anti-US terrorist group. Meanwhile, the military continues to enforce Don't Ask, Don't Tell and to discharge mentally fit and loyal gay and lesbian service members...Hasan's religious views were prominent, if not exclusive factors for why he slaughtered fellow American soldiers. The motives appear as clear as any could be."
Real Clear Politics' Debra Saunders referred to an "unstable person (immersed) in extremist ideology before he turned his rage on his fellow man."
On November 11, an Islamophobic NEFA Foundation Alert headlined, "Afghan Taliban Celebrate Ft. Hood Massacre," saying it:
"issued a new official communique in response to the massacre at Ft. Hood....titled, 'The Attack in Texas Is A Proof On The Disagreement Among American Soldiers Over The War,' the Taliban celebrated the 'fight and trance and enormous fears within the military and civil circles in America' caused by the incident."
Referring to Hasan as a "hero," it warned that if the US doesn't withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, "it will become normal for (similar) incidents and attacks (to) expand to the Pentagon and the rest of the American military bases...."
Instances of Violence in the Military
On November 9, New York Times writers Michael Moss and Ray Rivera headlined, "At Army Base, Some Violence Is Too Familiar," citing past examples from combat stress:
- after returning to Fort Hood in 2008, Sgt. Gilberto Mota shot his wife Diana, an Army specialist, and took his own life;
- in July, two returning First Cavalry Division members were at a party when one killed the other; and
- the same month, Sgt. Justin Lee Garza, over-stressed from two deployments, shot himself in a friend's apartment outside Fort Hood four days after being told no therapists were available for counseling.
The article said "Reports of domestic abuse have grown by 75 percent since 2001, (and) violent crime in (adjacent) Killeen has risen 22 percent...." Other stresses showed up in 76 Fort Hood suicides, 10 in 2009. Overall, record numbers of them are occurring, likely more than officially reported, as well as on average 10 failed attempts for each lost life. The reasons - extended, repeated combat zone deployments causing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression.
In January, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) reported 178,483 Iraq and Afghanistan vets diagnosed with mental illness between 2002 and September 2008. Included were cases of PTSD, depression, neurotic disorders, and psychoses, as well as drug abuse and alcoholism. A 2008 RAND Corporation study estimated that 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets (or 350,000 people) suffered from PTSD, nearly double the VA figure. In addition, up to 18 US veterans of foreign wars commit suicide daily - over 6,500 annually. The numbers are troublesome and unreported by the major media supporting calls for more troops.
The Times said interviews with Iraq and Afghanistan vets and with family members of those killed in Texas show that the Army hasn't dealt with this crisis. "Even some alarm bells rung by the Army leadership have gone unanswered." Open-ended billions go for militarism and imperial wars. Appallingly little helps the young men and women fighting them when they most need it.
The Fort Hood tragedy is a profound "red alert" indictment of America's imperial wars and the immense human cost to soldiers and non-combatants alike.
Fragging in Vietnam
War-induced stress sparks violence in the ranks. Fragging was the Vietnam term for rank-and-file soldiers killing NCO and officer superiors by fragmentation grenades, shootings, and other means. According to Texas A&M historian, Terry Anderson, the Army knew of at least 600 officer cases from 1969 - 1973, plus "another 1,400 who died mysteriously." He believes that late in the conflict, the Army was more at war with itself than the Vietnamese.
Congressional hearings in 1973 estimated that from 1961 - 1972 up to 3% of NCO and officer deaths were from fragging by fragmentation grenades alone. Many others were by "handguns, automatic rifles, booby traps, knives, and bare hands (by) increasingly pissed off enlisted men."
Writing in 1971, a Col. Heinl said:
"The morale, discipline and battleworthiness of the US Armed Forces are....lower than anytime in the century and possibly in the history of the United States. By every conceivable indicator, our Army that remains in Vietnam is in a state of approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having....refused combat, murdering their own officers and NCOs, drug-ridden and dispirited when not mutinous."
Despite today's all-volunteer force, the longer America's wars go on, the closer a similar state approaches critical mass because of declining moral, repeated deployments, combat stress, battle fatigue, and what Vietnam vet Steve Hesske wrote in 2003 on newdemocracyworld.org:
the "negative universals in all warfare. Lousy nutrition. Cramped, dirty, awful living conditions. Terrible weather. Unreasonable often senseless demands made by superiors. And what Michael Herr describes in DISPATCHES (as) 'long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror.' "
Leaving Iraq occupied, letting conditions there fester, and expanding the Afghan-Pakistan theaters promise enough growing resentment in the ranks to perhaps cause the type Vietnam breakdown Col Heinl described. One no Islamophobic media response can hide or prevent.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.