"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

No "tragedy"

I'm back from the first of what will be many week-long sojourns up at 29 Palms, having successfully completed TACP school and achieved a new MOS as a FAC. The firing exercise itself saw some good training with a wide variety of aircraft and weapons; I was a tad disappointed that we didn't get an AC-130 or A-10 to show up with their various calibers of hate and discontent, but we had a never-ending stream of F-18s, AV-8s, and AH-1s, and they brought plenty of fireworks with them (and I certainly enjoyed being the only student who got to control a live Hellfire shot).

It felt good to wrap things up on Thursday; as we say in military parlance, a lot of learning occurred for me in the last four weeks, as I struggled to understand the nuances of a side of aviation that was completely foreign to me (most people in the class were either TACAIR pilots i.e. they've dropped ordnance for ground units before, or ground-pounders who'd been in situations where CAS was required. As assault support, we're generally told to hang out somewhere else until all the bomb-dropping is done and it's relatively safe for us to bring our fat asses in). This course was no joke, but hey, at the end everything clicked and that's what's important. Our class' collective elation at finishing, however, was sobered when we came back from the range Thursday night to learn that a dozen more American soldiers were dead and several dozen wounded in a bloodbath that took place not in some remote outpost in Afghanistan, but in our own back yard.

The name of Major Nidal Malik Hasan will doubtless live in infamy in Army history well beyond the day he finds himself on the wrong end of a firing squad or is hung from the yard-arm until dead (I don't know if we still have yard-arms but I think it's a tradition worth reviving for him). Equally infamous will be the enduring knowledge that Hasan exhibited enough disturbing behavior over a long period of time that his actions may well have been prevented at any number of points had anyone in the Army's bureaucracy shown some stones. As it is, an attitude of political correctness and fear of repercussions for alleged 'discrimination' by people in Hasan's chain of command deserve at least some of the blame held by the trigger-puller himself.

That attitude, unfortunately, seems to pervade the current investigation into what drove Hasan to gun down the soldiers he was supposed to be helping. Various explanations are floating around, all apparently designed to support the head-in-the-sand notion exemplified by one army wife who lamented that she wished the gunman's last name had been Smith. There's the cure-all theory of post-traumatic stress syndrome, always a favorite to explain irrational violence by vets returning from Bush's unjust wars; yet Hasan had never deployed. There's the story that Hasan felt - evidently very deeply, judging by his actions - that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wrong and that he really, really, really didn't want to go, to the point where he hired lawyers to help him avoid deploying. Well, there are many legitimate courses of action for conscientious objectors to take (first and foremost: not joining the military to begin with), and in the past eight years military personnel have taken them (as well as not-so-legitimate choices, like fleeing to Canada). Yet within the ranks of objectors, no one else ever decided to express his opposition by murdering his comrades. Finally, of course, there's the argument that Hasan was on the receiving end of that always-just-over-the-horizon anti-Muslim 9/11 backlash that CAIR insists will arrive tomorrow. There are recourses for that too, from bringing such discrimination to the attention of the Equal Opportunity officer resident in each military unit (yes, I'm not making that up, we all have one) to using the rank of major he held to tell the offending party to STFU.

All of these straw men are currently employed in obfuscating the clearest explanation, which is that somewhere along the way, Major Hasan's Muslim beliefs became increasingly radicalized to the point where he turned into a free agent for the opposing team. This means that his actions Thursday afternoon were not a "tragedy" - as if this were an earthquake or wildfire - but a pre-meditated example of jihadist terrorism at its vilest. Everyone is going to great lengths to say that his religion had nothing to do with murdering a pregnant mother just returned from combat duty, a nurse who wanted to join the Army after 9/11 despite being over 50 years old, a PFC from a family of military service stretching back to Vietnam, a female sergeant who vowed to personally take on Osams bin Laden, and half a dozen other fine men and women. Yet all the evidence points to just such a motive. As early as 2001, Hasan attended the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, VA, at the same time two 9/11 hijackers were receiving 'spiritual guidance' from an imam who was an ardent al-Qaeda supporter. His fellow medical students frequently heard him erupt in 'anti-American' rants (though, notably, did not report them for fear of being considered discriminatory). Hasan's local imam in Texas reports that the gunman had reservations about fighting fellow Muslims (evidently lost on Hasan was the irony of seeking support for his radical views from an imam who was a retired first sergeant and Desert Storm vet); the imam did not report this to Hasan's superiors presumably because as a former first sergeant, he assumed that the Army would discipline Hasan if they knew about it (which they did, but did not act). Hasan allegedly posted rants on the Internet equating suicide bombers with soldiers who throw themselves on grenades to save their comrades. And, finally, as Hasan rose from his desk, looked his fellow soldiers in the eyes, and started shooting, he shouted "Allahu akbar" - "God is great", a cry I have heard on countless jihadist videos right before an IED shreds a convoy, a missile plucks an aircraft out of the sky, or a suicide bomber wipes out a marketplace. Claiming that Hasan's religion had nothing to do with his actions is like claiming that when it came to the Final Solution, Hitler's anti-Semitism was beside the point.

In the weeks and months to come, we'll get the full story. No doubt Hasan himself will have something to say; either he'll tell us that his fellow soldiers were a bunch of infidels about to make war on innocent Muslims and deserved to die, or if he decides to manipulate the legal system for all it's worth, we'll hear that he was suffering from 'pre-post traumatic stress syndrome' and was so terrified by a deployment he didn't want to go on that he just snapped and in a fit of despair killed and maimed those who happened to be around him, reloaded, and killed and maimed some more. My guess is he'll get a lawyer who will go with the latter (and though it makes me sick to my stomach, I'll also go out on a limb and guess that he'll have a long line of America-hating opportunists looking to represent him, as all our buddies in Gitmo do). And we will have to endure further obfuscation as attorneys claim that everything from redneck discrimination to the fundamental injustice of American foreign policy around the globe is responsible for thirteen people lying on slabs, while the perverse ideology that justifies the murder of the innocent and unarmed in the name of Allah goes unchallenged. Maybe I'll be wrong and prosecutors will get to the heart of the matter (not getting my hopes up, though, when our wishful cultural ignorance goes up to the top, with the head of Homeland Security warning against an anti-Muslim backlash in the wake of the shooting. Well, Janet, in your quest to assuage the world that Americans won't go all ig'nant and start getting pissy at 'towelheads', I'd point out that, based on Thursday, non-Muslims have more to fear from Muslims than vice versa. Surely even you can count: after Thursday, Muslims killed = 0; non-Muslims killed = 13. Who should fear who?). Either way, at least there's no chance that Hasan will ever walk the streets of this fair country again. Let's get down to finding that yard-arm . . .

6 comments:

The Accidental Blogger said...

Hasan's a whackjob-period. On an unrelated note, I think I'll be visiting Gettysburg on Veterans Day (think its fitting)-any suggestions on things to see?

Cincinnatus said...

They have an excellent visitor's center (at least they did the last time I was there in '04). Personally I'm most impressed by the areas of action on the second and third day, at the left wing and center of the Union line. If you have time Culp's hill on the right flank is also worth a visit, it had all the carnage of Little Round Top and Devil's Den but is less well known

The Accidental Blogger said...

Thanks, I was thinking about the left wing locations (NH had a regiment that was involved in a decent amount of fighting on the 2nd day-12th or 2nd I think?). Hadn't thought of Culp's hill. The folks I'm going with aren't big on military history so I'm guessing we'll check out the Vistor Center first.

Cincinnatus said...

NP. Also worth noting are the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield sites on the left flank as well, which saw very bloody fighting on the second day as well.

Cincinnatus said...

Incidentally, as I was somewhere preoccupied yesterday trying to teach Aaron that you THROW the football with one hand and CATCH it with two hands and not the other way around, I'd like to revisit the original topic quickly and say this: it's a disservice to the dead and wounded to dismiss Hasan as a whackjob with no greater motive beyond his own mental instability. Something made him gun down his fellow soldiers and we owe it to the dead to have the integrity to find out what it was (and use the lessons learned to prevent this from happening again and taking more lives). All the signs point to an ideology shared by men like Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 hijackers, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The more we know (like this: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/fort-hood-shooter-contact-al-qaeda-terrorists-officials/story?id=9030873) the more likely this becomes. A whackjob is a man who kills women and wears their skin because he hates his mother - hard to guard against those. Hasan demonstrated all the symptoms of a jihadist (including, incidentally, his proclivity for strip clubs; in their hayday, AQI types enjoyed a variety of forced adult entertainment in their strongholds); we're quite capable of guarding ourselves against those precisely because they tend to leave a paper trail before they act, if only we find the will to do so.

Winefred said...

Have a hard time believing I'm thinkin' this, but I've been thinkin' how, ...well, STUPID it seems that the Army has time to drive out qualified Arabic translators for being gay, but can't get it together to purge the blatantly America-hating homicidal extremists. There. I said it.