What Fresh Hell Is This?

November 16, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

I never thought Jack Kelly would be so anti-US Military. But check out this week's column.

After a gratuitous slap at "America's self-anointed elite" Jack heads straight towards the US Army (Note: Jack thinks that The Army is "America's self-anointed elite"??)

The column starts out about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Ft Hood shooter and winds up indicting the Army as "PC." His argument is that because there were so many "red flags" in Hasan's record, there was a "willful blindness" and a "gross negligence by his superiors permitted him to be in the position to do so much harm."

Perhaps. But let's look at the evidence that Jack presents to see if all his dots connect. Here it is:
Maj. Hasan produced a pro-jihadi slide show which he inflicted upon fellow physicians at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He had "SoA," an abbreviation for "Soldier of Allah," printed on his business cards. He attended mosques where radicals preached, and he tried to get in touch with radicals linked to al-Qaida. As he was gunning down the defenseless soldiers around him, he was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great"). His motive couldn't be clearer.
Let's start with the slideshow. I want to point out that the slideshow occurred in June of 2007. If that's evidence of a "PC" Army, then it was Bush's PC Army.

Anyway, this is how the Washington Post characterized the slideshow:
The Army psychiatrist believed to have killed 13 people at Fort Hood warned a roomful of senior Army physicians a year and a half ago that to avoid "adverse events," the military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors instead of fighting in wars against other Muslims.

As a senior-year psychiatric resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan was supposed to make a presentation on a medical topic of his choosing as a culminating exercise of the residency program.

Instead, in late June 2007, he stood before his supervisors and about 25 other mental health staff members and lectured on Islam, suicide bombers and threats the military could encounter from Muslims conflicted about fighting in the Muslim countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a copy of the presentation obtained by The Washington Post.
While it is kinda weird that he was supposed to lecture on a medical subject and he gave a lecture on Islam in the military. The WaPost, however, reports that:
Hasan's presentation lasted about an hour. It is unclear whether he read out loud every point on each slide. If typical procedures were followed, his adviser would have supervised the development of his project, said people familiar with the practice.
Watch the slide presentation and judge for yourself how "pro-jihadi" it is. If your frame of reference is "anything not profoundly anti-jihadi is, of course, pro-jihadi" then you'll find it "projihadi." But to me, while it's clumsy and obviously self-serving and slanted, it's not "pro-jihadi." Certainly not the way Jack intends it.

And the business cards? ABC News reported:
United States Army Major Nidal Hasan proclaimed himself a "soldier of Allah" on private business cards he obtained over the Internet and kept in a box at his apartment near Fort Hood, Texas.
Know what's missing from the reporting? Whether the Army knew about the business cards. If they didn't, how could it have been a missed red flag?

The next two pieces of evidence are actually the same story. Jack writes:
He attended mosques where radicals preached, and he tried to get in touch with radicals linked to al-Qaida.
First, note the use of the plural - each time it's wrong. We'll get back to that in a second. This story comes from Brian Ross at ABC. Watch what happens:
U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with an individual associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.
Ooo. "An individual associated with al Qaeda." Who would that be then? A few paragraphs down we read:
Investigators want to know if Hasan maintained contact with a radical mosque leader from Virginia, Anwar al Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen and runs a web site that promotes jihad around the world against the U.S.

In a blog posting early Monday titled "Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing," Awlaki calls Hasan a "hero" and a "man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."

According to his site, Awlaki served as an imam in Denver, San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Major Hasan attended the Falls Church mosque when Awlaki was there. [emphasis added.]
See? It's the same story - and it's only one person, singular. Now take a look at how Gawker deconstructs Ross:
Ross' report yesterday that Hasan had attempted to "make contact with people associated with al Qaeda" took over the internet yesterday and sparked a furious round of speculation that Hasan's attack was part of an Islamic terrorist plot. The headline, "Officials: U.S. Army Told of Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda," said it all. The far more mundane truth emerged today in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post: Hasan had communicated via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric living in Yemen who formerly served as the imam of a mosque Hasan had attended in Virginia.
And here's more reality-based reporting from the NYTimes:
Counterterrorism and military officials said Monday night that the communications, first intercepted last December as part of an unrelated investigation, were consistent with a research project the psychiatrist was then conducting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington on post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There was no indication that Major Hasan was planning an imminent attack at all, or that he was directed to do anything,” one senior investigator said. He and the other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying the case was under investigation.
Last December, huh? That would be before the Inauguration, right? Anyway the FBI has something to say, too:
In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, “At this point, there is no information to indicate Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had any co-conspirators or was part of a broader terrorist plot.” The statement concluded that “because the content of the communications was explainable by his research and nothing else was found,” investigators decided “that Major Hasan was not involved in terrorist activities or terrorist planning.”
Jack, is the FBI PC, too? Anyway, Gawker comes to a conclusion:
Ross' stock response to these complaints is that he only reports what his sources tell him. "We reported what we knew, when we knew it," he says. "I'm comfortable with the story." His problem, as we've said before, is that he has shitty sources. And he just repeats what they tell him. Which is how you get from "Hasan sent e-mails to his former imam, who now preaches in support of Al Qaeda. We don't know what the e-mails were about, but they didn't raise alarms at the FBI" to "Hasan tried to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda" to the headline's blunt, and thoroughly unsupported, reference to "Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda." It would have been a good story if Ross had stuck to the first, accurate, formulation.
Not saying the guy wasn't the shooter or that his actions should be excused or that he was anything but fulltilt crazy. But please, this is a big story. Spinning it into further a two-minute hate doesn't do anyone any good.

Let's at least try to stay close to reality, OK?


Dave said...

So far, the best reporting I've seen, read, or heard on this has been from NPR. Rather than so-called "political correctness", it was typical military red tape that kept Nidal in the Army even though a number of his colleagues at Walter Reed thought he was psychotic.

According to a report that aired on the 11th (you can read the transcript here), the process for dismissing a doctor is very time-consuming and cumbersome so, sadly, the people at Walter Reed decided to pass on their problem to Ft Hood.

Joy said...

A childhood friend is visiting me. She has occasionally worked as a civilian contract doctor in military setting stateside over the last few years. (I'm being vague here on purpose--it wasn't at Ft. Hood, not that it's relevant.)

She was telling me a long story about a military dentist (or I should say, a long time civilian dentist who joined the military recently) who got into insubordination problems for letting his superiors know that they were a decade behind in dental advances. They sat him in a chair in a bare room for 8 hours a day, not seeing patients, for over a year, because that's how long it took to process the paperwork to release him.

My friend was horrified that he wasn't at least seeing patients (because no-one had ever questioned the guy's technical prowess, just his mouthing off.) This was a guy who had willingly and intentionally joined up, wanting to help soldiers in need of dental surgery.

So, yeah, there's a lot wrong with the military process, but an excess of PC is probably not the biggest issue. And if it is an issue, it's based largely on ignorance and xenophobia within the military.

Sure, it's probably harder for someone raised in a cultural monoculture to tell what's "normal" and what's "freaky" in someone from a different culture. But that's also why we so consistently misread the cultural responses of people in the countries where we're fighting! "Less diversity" won't cure that problem.

EdHeath said...

I read the Kelly column and I thought to myself, he is not getting it right. Now, before I forget, Glenn Greenwald had what I think is a pretty good column on what motivates radical Islamic terrorists, in turn based on interviews conducted for The Independent (http://www.salon.com/news/terrorism/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2009/11/16/terrorism).

The thing is, as Dayvoe says, the military and all its policies have been under the control of Republicans (Bush) until earlier this year. Now, Hasan did attack all these soldiers On Obama’s watch, but he had, I believe, been trying to exit the army for some time. The rules that controlled his time in the army are somewhat PC, but much more complicated than what Kelly is trying to say. If Hasan had claimed, publicly, to be gay, he would have been licked out of the army quite quickly. Otherwise, I am sure that minorities in the military enjoy the same kind of inconsistent protection other federal agencies extend toward minorities, that if they are fired, for example, prejudice is assumed and therefore superiors are likely willing to give minorities more latitude.

Meanwhile, though, looking at the Greenwald article, if you believe what he says (and I think it may well be at least partially true), then declaring war on radical Islam is exactly the thing we do not want to do. First of all, until we invaded Iraq, it was unclear how large radical Islam was. Any bump in recruitment they got from pulling off 9/11 was tempered by sympathy for American citizens. If we had treated Al Qaeda not as a part of a systemic threat to our existence but rather as individuals we wanted to arrest and bring to justice for their actions, we could have kept the goodwill of the world. And what has “declaring war on radical Islam” gotten us? We have not sacrificed as we did in previous wars, in fact President Bush seemed to suggest we should spend more to fight the recession. We have not been asked to reduce our driving or drive more efficient cars or even drive 55 on the highway. The only benefit to having a war on radical Islam is that Republicans could accuse Democrats of being traitors because we are at war.

Meanwhile, if you believe the Independent (and I do, at least partially), the upshot of Guantanamo and torturing prisoners (excuse me, detainees) and bombing civilians is that we have designed and drawn the recruiting posters for radical Islam. When we (us, me and you) march in a peace rally, if it gets national (and therefore international attention) it provides Al Qaeda with aid and comfort. NO NO NO NO NO It apparently causes those who have embraced radical Islam to rethink their position.

I know, can that actually be true? Normally I scoff at peace rallies, because I assume our politicians ignore them; they assume them to represent only a lunatic fringe. But if people in Egypt and Pakistan are watching and they actually change their behavior because Americans are protesting the conduct of the American government, well, then, let’s march. Maybe those polar bear heads at the G20 did accomplish something.

By the way, I think the Saturday Post Gazette had a great “This Modern World” cartoon in it. A ROTFL cartoon.

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