The pitfalls of political correctness
The Fort Hood shooter and the enemies within
The pitfalls of political correctness
Dick Polman, Inquirer National Political Columnist
This was the key passage yesterday in President Obama's Fort Hood eulogy: "It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know - no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice -- in this world, and the next."
Finally, after days and days of political correctness in high places and in the press, we got an acknowledgement, from the president himself, that the alleged killer was driven to his misdeeds not because he was mentally batty or because he was lonely and troubled or because he was stressed by the issue of overdeployment, but because he was an Islamic jihadist.
Obama didn't specifically say that, of course - he obviously wanted to keep the focus on the terrorism victims, and avoid saying anything that might compromise the federal probe - but his line about "faith" clearly refers to Maj. Nidal Hasan's misbelief that he was acting as a true Muslim. Although Obama could have been more explicit in his condemnation (more on that below), he at least signaled that PC Americans should now dispense with the ritual pussyfooting and call out Hasan for what he really is.
Ever since the shootings, too many smart people have preferred to ignore the mountain of evidence about Hasan's true motives, because (a) they don't want to be viewed as "anti-Muslim" or intolerant of religious freedom, (b) they don't want to say anything that might help trigger a backlash against the Muslim-American community, and/or (c) they don't want to believe that we have, living in our midst and even within the military, religious extremists who want to murder us. To cite just one example, respected New Republic thinker and author John Judis was still insisting yesterday that "we don't know yet what motivated Nidal Hasan...I am reluctant to call him a terrorist, particularly because doing so arouses fears of a jihadist conspiracy in our midst that may not exist."
His argument misses the point; it's now clear that extremists like Hasan can terrorize without being part of any organized conspiracy. Yes, he acted alone...but he didn't think alone. This murder spree proves that jihadist thinking is a clear and present danger, in isolated pockets of the Muslim-American community. And we should be able to say that, out loud - without it being misinterpreted as a slur against the peaceful Muslim-Americans who constitute the overwhelming majority, or somehow as an invitation to round them all up and ship them to Guantanamo.
We have enemies among us. Hasan was apparently one of them. The warning signs were clear for a long time, even though the military preferred to look the other way (for many of the same reasons that made people so reticent after the shootings). As an Army shrink, he gave two lectures, complete with PowerPoint, about how America's war on terror was really just a war on Muslims; about how all Muslims should "fight those who do not believe in Allah"; about how suicide bombings are a way of "fighting for God against injustice of the 'infidels'"; and about how "we love death more than you love life!"
Hasan delivered one of these lectures to a Pentagon medical audience; hia topic was supposed to be environmental health, but the course director chose to indulge him. One military officer, speaking on background to Time magazine, says that people in uniform these days are reluctant to challenge people like Hasan "because they're afraid of getting an equal-opportunity complaint that can end careers." This probably explains why nobody on the intelligence side was able to connect all the dots - which included Hasan's contacts with a radical Islamic cleric (who has since praised Hasan), and his reputed attempts to contact al Qaeda. And if yelling "Allahu akbar" as he opened fire isn't enough for the federal investigators, what is?
Obama took steps yesterday to confront the truth yesterday - tentatively so. He referred to the shooter's "twisted logic," but the grim reality is that those who think like the shooter do not see their logic as twisted. Obama said that "no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts," but those who sympathize with the shooter sincerely believe that their faith does justify such acts. Obama said that no God "looks upon them with favor," but, as Hasan himself insisted in his lectures, God absolutely does.
Obviously, this is highly sensitive stuff. Diversity, freedom of religion, and civil liberties are cornerstones of our creed. And, as a practical matter, the military has a dire need for more Muslim-Americans in the ranks - not just as soldiers, but as language specialists who can help us communicate better in hostile settings. At the same time, the Fort Hood shootings are proof that we can ill afford to ignore warning signs in name of political correctness, or to delude ourselves about a domestic danger.