Tragedy or Scandal?
We weaseled and equivocated and appeased.
By Mark Steyn
Shortly after 9/11, there was a lot of talk about how no one would ever hijack an American airliner ever again — not because of new security arrangements but because an alert citizenry was on the case: We were hip to their jive. The point appeared to be proved three months later on a U.S.-bound Air France flight. The “Shoebomber” attempted to light his footwear, and the flight attendants and passengers pounced. As the more boorish commentators could not resist pointing out, even the French guys walloped him.
But the years go by, and the mood shifts. You didn’t have to be “alert” to spot Maj. Nidal Hasan. He’d spent most of the last half-decade walking around with a big neon sign on his head saying “JIHADIST. STAND WELL BACK.” But we (that is to say, almost all of us — and certainly almost anyone who matters in national security and the broader political culture) are now reflexively conditioned to ignore the flashing neon sign. Like those apocryphal Victorian ladies discreetly draping the lasciviously curved legs of their pianos, if a glimpse of hard unpleasant reality peeps through we simply veil it in another layer of fluffy illusions.
Two joint terrorism task forces became aware almost a year ago that Major Hasan was in regular e-mail contact with Anwar al-Awlaqi, the American-born but now Yemeni-based cleric who served as imam to three of the 9/11 hijackers and supports all-out holy war against the United States. But the expert analysts in the Pentagon determined that this lively correspondence was consistent with Major Hasan’s “research interests,” so there was no need to worry. That’s America: Technologically superior, money no object (not one but two “joint terrorism task forces” stumbled across him). Yet no action was taken.
On the other hand, who needs surveillance operations and intelligence budgets? Major Hasan was entirely upfront about who he was. He put it on his business card: “SOA.” As in “Soldier of Allah” — which seems a tad ungrateful to the American taxpayers who ponied up half a million bucks or thereabouts in elite medical-school education to train him to be a Soldier of Uncle Sam. In a series of meetings during 2008, officials from both Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences considered the question of whether then-captain Hasan was psychotic. But, according to at least one bigwig at Walter Reed, members of the policy committee wondered “How would it look if we kick out one of the few Muslim residents?” So he got promoted to major and shipped to Fort Hood.
And 13 men and women and an unborn baby are dead.
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