I am a Burmese exile taking a near-permanent refuge in New York and Sydney. Here are my essays about Burma and anything else I feel like writing about. And posting the articles I like from selected sites. Bridging Burma to the world this Blog is more of a Politically-Oriented Literary Blog than a Plain News Blog or a Sophisticated Thoughts Blog.
The trial of U.S. Army major Nidal
Hassan finally began on July 9th, four years after he carried out an Islamic
terror attack that he is actually continuing. That is largely because he is
representing himself at his trial, apparently so he can further publicize his
belief that he was acting to defend Islam.
In response the U.S. government continues to insist that the Hasan
attack had nothing to do with religion but was simply a case of workplace
Many of the 32 surviving victims of the
2009 attack in Ft. Hood are complaining, without success, that they are
receiving less attention (and money) for their injuries because they did not
get a Purple Heart medal because of the incident. The Purple Heart medal is the
U.S. military award for combat wounds and it entitles soldiers to higher
compensation and more prompt medical attention.
The decision not to award Purple Hearts to the Ft. Hood victims is at
the center of a controversy between politicians (Left-wing Democrats) who are
trying to play down the presence of Islamic radicalism in the United States and
military leaders who want recognition for American troops killed or wounded by
While victims of domestic terrorism can
receive the Purple Heart, the U.S. government has several times refused to
categorize the November 5, 2009 attack in Ft Hood as a terrorist action. It is
expected that this will become even more difficult to defend as the Hasan trial
Some victims of Major Nadal Hasan.
During the 2009 attack Nidal Hassan, a
psychiatrist and army officer, shot and killed 13 people at a clinic and
wounded 32 all the while yelling "God is great" in Arabic. It was
later revealed that Hasan had a long history of Islamic radicalism, which his
army superiors ignored.
In an apparent effort to not offend
Moslems, the U.S. government refused to designate Hasan's murders as terrorism.
As a result the victims of Hasan’s attack feel they have been betrayed multiple
First by Hasan’s military superiors who
did nothing when confronted with years of Hasan’s quite public radicalization.
Then the victims were betrayed by Hasan himself, a military officer and
physician who took oaths to protect his fellow soldiers.
There is also the justice denied
aspect, with American soldiers being prosecuted much more quickly if they kill
civilians than Hasan is for killing Americans. The Hasan trial was delayed
several times before it finally got started.
Finally, the victims feel betrayed by their own government which,
despite a post attack official investigation that found Hasan’s superiors
guilty of ignoring clear signs of Islamic radicalization, now insist that
Islamic terrorism had nothing to do with Hasan’s shooting of 45 people in an
army health clinic.
Carnage at Fort Hood.
This “is it terrorism” controversy has been going on for over two years.
The latest round saw members of Congress introducing a bill that would force
the Department of Defense to follow its own regulations regarding military
victims of terrorist attacks and give the Purple Heart to the Ft Hood dead and
In response to this Congressional
effort the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense had a “position
paper” prepared that opposed the new law on the grounds that it would deny the
attacker a fair trial.
The U.S. Army has reacted in other ways to Nidal Malik Hasan's 2009
attack. Although this was obviously the act of an Islamic terrorist, the U.S.
government sought, in the immediate aftermath of the attack to explain it as
just the act of a lone madman that had nothing to do with terrorism.
But here is where the situation gets
really bizarre. The subsequent investigations (army, FBI and so on) of Nidal
made it clear that this is what terrorist attacks often are. The investigations
recovered communications between Hasan and other Islamic terrorists in which he
was told that acting individually would still be “jihad” in the name of global
Nadal Hasan in full Muslim garb just hours before shooting.
Meanwhile, the investigations also
revealed that he had not made a secret of his beliefs, and that many of his
peers, subordinates and superiors had complained about his Islamic radical
beliefs and actions. But nothing was done because official government policy
was to play down anything that could put Moslem military personnel, or Islam in
general, in a bad light.
Eventually several officers were
punished, or investigated, for their role in allowing Hasan to do what he did.
But the army also realized that there were institutional problems, and these
were addressed, at least on paper, with some new rules. First, the army is
conducting more thorough background checks.
Not just to catch actual or potential
Islamic radicals, but also gang members or radicals of any sort. This has
already caught some questionable recruits, and, based on the few who got into
the news, kept some dangerous, although otherwise qualified, applicants out of
The army is also attempting to deal
with the atmosphere of political correctness that underpinned most of the bad
decisions that enabled Hasan to stay in uniform, and even get promoted.
In the army, as in any large
organization, all the rules are not written down. In the army, many of the
unwritten rules come in the form of "the commanders' intent."
Sometimes this "intent" is spelled out, but in many cases, subordinate
commanders have to figure it out.
In the Hasan case, the commanders'
intent was that Moslem officers, especially doctors, were to be kept happy and
in uniform. When in doubt, look the other way, and hope for the best. In the
case of Hasan, no one expected the guy to turn into a mass murderer.
But, then, Hasan's superiors were
encouraged to be optimistic about their Moslem problem child. So Hasan's
radical rants and abusive behavior towards non-Moslems was, if not ignored,
certainly played down.
Commanders have now been ordered to pay
attention to religious or political activities of their subordinates, and sound
off if radical or dangerous behavior appears to be in the works. This is a lot
to ask from officers who know that some bad publicity not only makes the army
look bad, but damages career prospects of officers in the vicinity of the
Would any of this have caught Hasan
before he went at it with his murderous intentions? Probably. Hasan made no
secret of his Islamic radical attitudes. Some of his fellow soldiers reported
the threatening behavior, but nothing came of this.
Now, at least on paper, something
should happen. But, already there are complaints about medical personnel being
required to report troops who indicate potentially violent behavior. Civil
rights groups are questioning whether the army can punish, or even investigate,
troops exercising their constitutional right to free speech or practicing
religion as they choose to.
Commanders are caught between stopping
another massacre or getting accused (especially in the media, which loves stuff
like this) of violating the civil rights of soldiers, and their civilian
dependents living on base.
Officers will be tempted to back off,
rather than risk their career on a hunch. Commanders closest to the potential
problem are supposed to pass their findings up the line, with the FBI now
sharing this information. But the media will head for the source, and the
officers in the line of fire know it.