By NSJ Staff Writer
The November 8th shootings at Ft. Hood are less than a week old, and yet investigators and pundits are already interpreting what they see to be their deep-seated meaning. Officially, after two days of investigation, the FBI and the Army Criminal Investigation Command have come to the tentative conclusion that the attacks were not part of a terrorist plot. However, they have also suggested that U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan “acted out under a welter of emotional, ideological and religious pressures,” and “have not ruled out the possibility that [Hasan] believes he was carrying out an extremist’s suicide mission.” In looking at Major Hasan’s computer records, as well as interviewing family members, co-workers, and neighbors, investigators have learned that Hasan was an emotionally troubled individual who logged on to radical Islamist websites, where he exchanged e-mails with like-minded people. While some of those messages contained language justifying suicide attacks, no evidence has been uncovered indicating that Hasan ever had contact with known terrorists or anyone else encouraging him to launch the attack.
That Hasan was not directly influenced by Islamic terrorists, but may have been indirectly motivated by their ideology, provides potentially fertile ground for commentary and debate. Indeed, pundits have already started to draw far-reaching conclusions on the matter. Over at National Review, Mark Steyn posits that the cautious reaction thus far to the shootings is indicative of an American public that is “scrupulously non-judgmental about the ideology that drives a man to fly into a building or self-detonate on the subject.” Steyn goes on to opine that the refusal to acknowledge that “Islam inspires enough of this behavior to make it a legitimate topic of analysis” represents a “hole at the heart of our strategy.” He cites the absence of the word “Islam” or “Allah” in the initial mainstream reporting on the topic as evidence that the ideology of “multicultural diversity” has handicapped America in addressing head on the problem it faces with Islamist terrorism.
To the contrary, Glenn Greenwald of Salon blasted the mainstream media for reporting, without adequate verification, several “glaring errors” implicating Hasan’s Islamic background. Greenwald contends that “particularly in a case like this–which, for obvious reasons, has the potential to be quite inflammatory on a number of levels–having the major media ‘report’ completely false assertions as fact can be quite harmful,” because “[i]t’s often the case that perceptions and judgments about stories like this solidify in the first few hours after one hears about it.”
That Steyn and Greenwald are both able to look at the media’s coverage of the Hasan shooting and pick out examples of what they find deplorable in “the country’s” or “the media’s” reaction to the event is not surprising. But with an event such as this–treading, as it does, on so many sensitive issues–such polarization may prove more troubling. Already, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey Jr. has expressed concern that the rampage could “cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.” “It would be a shame,” General Casey cautioned, “if our diversity became a casualty as well.” At the same time, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut called the shooting spree “the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11” and urged a further investigation into Major Hasan’s motives, as well as the Army policies that “missed warning signs that should have led them to essentially discharge him.”
That investigators have unearthed evidence lending credence to both concerns–Hasan received counseling and legal advice concerning continuous anti-Muslim harassment he experienced in the Army, and for years espoused controversial views that raised eyebrows among those with whom he came in contact, including the nation’s intelligence agencies–only serves to reaffirm the incident’s place as a sort of Rorschach test for one’s views on the underlying issues.