Senator Joe Lieberman, head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is calling for hearings on whether the army should have picked up on signs that Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan had become dangerously unhinged before he went on his rampage. For once I agree with Lieberman, but the good senator goes on to describe the incident as terrorism because Hasan had become an “Islamist extremist.” The Lieberman attempt to slap a political label on what was clearly an irrational act carried out by a man who undoubtedly had serious mental problems will be popular in certain circles, but it will make many Muslims, including 6 million American citizens and the 10,000 or so who serve with US forces, uneasy.
As near as I can tell from the press coverage, Hasan believed that the “global war on terror” was little more than a war against Muslims and he was opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also said that he was a Muslim first and an American second. Many contributors to this site, including myself, would agree to all of the above if you were to replaced Muslim with Christian and limit that final qualification to moral issues. I personally know a number of serving army officers who would also agree.
That said, Hasan’s open hostility to the military culture, his expressed views on suicide bombers, and his contributions to jihadi websites, if true, should have sent up red flags. Hasan should have been seriously investigated and considered for a general discharge to get him out of the service. Against that, the army had invested a large amount of money in Hasan’s education and would have been disinclined to let him go. His superiors might also have reasoned that Hasan’s unwillingness to deploy to a combat zone was just tough luck for him. No active duty officer can refuse to be assigned anywhere at any time.
So where does that leave us? As somewhat of a historian I am more than a little familiar with Islam’s bloody borders and the intolerance that is all too common in how the religion is practiced. But I have also lived in Islamic countries and know that the overwhelming majority of Muslims is extremely kind, hospitable, and charitable to a fault. I also know many Muslims personally and find it hard to see anything of Hasan in them, so to me a Lieberman type campaign to categorize an Islamic threat is both wrong headed and only bound to make everything worse because it will create a category of Americans “who are not to be trusted.”