Last night my wife and I turned on the news to get caught up on what was happening. The news story that has been consuming the news services is the murderous attack on our soldiers at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. The news people were making various vacuous comments about the motivations of the shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. The debate continues as to whether this Army officer is a terrorist, or just mentally deranged, or both. My wife’s verbal response to the television was Major Hasan’s actions are the worst kind of terrorism. She is correct.
From the moment I heard of this shooting, I had little doubt that this was an act of terrorism. Just so that we’re on the same page, terrorism, by definition, means, “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” This definition is taken from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms.
This act of terrorism is of the worst sort primarily because it was performed by someone who was purportedly “one of us.” That is to say, an American faithfully serving his country. Military people do not serve a political, religious, ideological, or philosophical entity. Instead, we obey the civilian head of the nation. This is why the president is the Commander-in-Chief of all branches of the military. Military members are non-political. That is not to be confused with not holding a personal political view on the way things should be handled in our country. You will find a wide variety of opinions held among military members. However, these views and opinions are to have no bearing on the performance of one’s duties.
I experienced a great sadness when I heard about this shooting. The reason for this was obvious on the surface, but there was much more that affected me. The part that is obvious is the wanton killing of military people on their own base – a place that should be safer than anywhere else in the world. The second reason I was saddened has to do with a loss of innocence. You see, when you live on a military base the way my family did for many years, you have a tremendous sense of security. You’re living alongside of the people you work with every day, the people who wear the same uniform, who have sworn the same oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Only now the enemies who are domestic are those very same ones who wear the uniform and have obviously sworn a false oath of allegiance, as with Major Hasan. How do you fight against that?
Having grown up in the 1950s, I had a lot of fun, never fearing for my safety, or the safety of my community. Sure, we took the precautions associated with an aggressive Soviet Union, but that was far away, and our leaders were strong, and our military was ready. As I watched the world change from what I had known, I longed for my own children to have an experience like mine. When I came back into the military as a Navy chaplain in 1983, we moved on base at Camp Pendleton. I couldn’t imagine any place being safer. I told my daughters, “This is as close to my experience of growing up in the 50s you will ever have.”
Because of the actions of one man, that has now changed!
So, allow me to make some observations. First, Major Hasan is a terrorist. Is he also mentally disturbed? No more so than any other terrorist who commits such hideous cowardly acts against innocent people. His actions were premeditated. He knew exactly what he was doing. Second, I suspect that the Army chain-of-command saw this guy as a hot potato and no one wanted to be the one to take any action against him for fear of becoming an instant front page story, along with being branded as an Islamiphobe. That is the extent to which political correctness has taken us. Third, this man was in communication with radical Islamic groups. Supposedly, the FBI was on to him. Granted, he hadn’t done anything other than arouse a lot of concern and suspicion as to where his loyalties lay. But he is a commissioned officer in the United States Army and should have been, at the very least, removed from his duties as a psychiatrist working directly with our men and women returning from the war zone. Fourth, if he didn’t like the way the war was being handled by the United States, he had the option of resigning his commission. This, more than anything else, confirms to me that he was very intentional in his actions. I believe he was surprised when he was not killed in the process.
In October of last year I wrote a two part series for Roots in Ripon on “What Terrorists Say.” In the article I mentioned the author of the book, “Out of the Mouth of Bombers,” Ruthie Blum. Here’s an exchange between her and Aaron Klein, an Israeli newspaperman. Ruthie Blum asks Klein, “What makes terrorists tick?” “That’s a good question,” Klein says. “A lot of people think that terrorism is about pieces of territory. Others think that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the whole alphabet of Palestinian terrorists simply want to destroy Israel or that al Qaeda wants America out of the Middle East. But one thing that has really been driven home to me in all my talks with terrorists – which is the thesis of all my work – is that they are looking to serve Allah by spreading Islam around the world. That’s what makes them tick.” Blum then asked, “It is often said of terrorists that desperation and poverty – sometimes mental illness – is at the root of their actions. Is there truth to that?” “About a year and a half ago, I met with a 22-year-old Palestinian who had been recruited to become a suicide bomber for Islamic Jihad and his recruiter in Jenin, and I specifically asked them whether they were carrying out their operations because of poverty and desperation. Their response was to get offended and to call it Zionist propaganda. They explained that suicide is forbidden in Islam, and that blowing oneself up in the midst of innocent men, women and children does not constitute suicide, but rather jihad for Allah – that therefore it is not only allowed, but it is the creed.”
Did you pay attention to that last sentence? Just as I was finishing this article I saw on the news that an investigation of Major Hasan’s apartment revealed material which implicates him in as a “Soldier of Allah.”
Make no mistake - Major Hasan is a Muslim terrorist. The sooner we quit pretending he isn’t, the sooner we’ll be able to protect ourselves as a nation against such reprehensible characters as Major Nidal Hasan.