Opinion

Failing at force protection: The misguided Pentagon report on the Ft. Hood massacre

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Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser
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      Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser

      M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D. is the President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). A devout Muslim, Dr. Jasser founded AIFD in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States as an effort to provide an American Muslim voice advocating for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, and the separation of mosque and state. He is leading the fight to shake the hold that the Muslim Brotherhood and their Network of American Islamist organizations and Mosques have on organized Islam in America.

      A former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, Dr. Jasser served 11 years as a medical officer. His tours of duty included Medical Department Head aboard the U.S.S. El Paso which deployed to Somalia during Operation Restore Hope; Chief Resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital; and Staff Internist for the Office of the Attending Physician to the United States Congress. He is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal.

      Dr. Jasser is a nationally recognized expert in the contest of ideas against political Islam and American Islamist organizations. He has spoken at hundreds of national and international events including colleges and universities, places of worship, government venues and many other public functions. On October 1, 2009, Dr. Jasser briefed members of Congress on the threat of Political Islam. He regularly briefs members of the House and Senate congressional anti-terror caucuses. In 2007 and 2008, Dr. Jasser lectured on Islam to deploying officers at the Joint Forces staff college. In 2007, Dr. Jasser was part of a select group that briefed Admiral Mike Mullen on the “Contest of Ideas with the Muslim World.” Dr. Jasser was presented with the 2007 Director’s Community Leadership Award by the Phoenix office of the FBI and was recognized as a “Defender of the Home Front” at the annual Keeper of the Flame Dinner of the Center for Security Policy.

      Dr. Jasser is one of the moderate, anti-Islamist Muslims featured in the controversial PBS film, Islam v Islamists produced by ABG Films, Inc. in 2007. This film was initially banned from distribution on PBS stations as originally intended in the Crossroads program, but was then aired in a limited distribution to some affiliates. Dr. Jasser was also recently featured in The Third Jihad, produced by PublicScope Films. Dr. Jasser narrates this documentary about the threat of radical Islamism to the West.

      Dr. Jasser is a respected physician currently in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona specializing in internal medicine and nuclear cardiology. He is the recent Past-President of the Arizona Medical Association.

“On November 5, 2009, the United States Army was viciously attacked from within by an ideologue bent on pursuing an agenda of Islamist extremism. This ideologue fell under the separatist influence of political Islam while serving as an officer. It is incumbent upon our force to begin to understand this theo-political ideology that threatens our soldiers internally and externally.”

These critical lines are completely missing from the Pentagon’s 84-page report reviewing the massacre of 13 U.S. soldiers and contractors at Fort Hood. Yet this is only one of many omissions that the Pentagon should pursue from this incident.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire on Nov. 5 because his adherence to extreme Islamism overrode his allegiance to his country and his sworn oath to protect it against all enemies. While issues of post-traumatic stress will surely be pursued by his defense team, Hasan’s defense is not the job of the Pentagon. The Pentagon has a duty to honestly assess the root of the attack and to ensure that the military is adequately protecting our forces from the threat from within and without.

As a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, I know the culture of the U.S. military. While I served my 11 years pre-9/11, the culture of political correctness was pervasive. This travesty of a report is front and center evidence of that paralyzing culture.

As a Naval physician and former chief resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital, I can also speak to the inadequacies in the counterterrorism, counter-radicalism and insurgency training of commanders like those being held to blame for Hasan’s promotion and movement up the chain of command. Studying theo-political internal threats is simply not part of the training of any military physician. Hasan’s superiors are medical professionals trained to evaluate his abilities as a physician and a psychiatrist. As we have all heard, his commanders were seriously concerned about his actions and the role his faith played in his everyday interactions with patients. Had they brought those concerns to his review process, they would have been vilified as Islamaphobes. Even had Hasan’s superiors appropriately identified his behaviors, a military discharge is light years down the path of administrative counseling and punishment he would have received. Which begs the question, would a demoted Hasan have been any less of a threat?

As a Muslim, I am most fearful that our entrenched mindset of victimization and political correctness is precluding a vitally necessary open discussion of faith-based issues both inside and outside of the military. The current military and governmental culture precluded Hasan’s superiors from questioning anything relating to his faith.

At a Jan. 15, 2010, press conference Secretary Robert Gates himself confirmed this state of affairs:

“Current policies on prohibited activities provide neither the authority nor the tools for commanders and supervisors to intervene when DOD personnel {are}at risk of personal radicalization.”

Yet the secretary has recommended Secretary of the Army John McHugh “take appropriate action” with regards to the report’s recommendations for “personnel responsible for supervising Major Hasan.” Those recommendations include career-ending reprimands for several of his superiors.

How can we hold these soldiers responsible for not preventing Hasan’s actions if we aren’t giving them the environment and the tools they need to confront Islamist radicalization? The military cannot allow the mantra of victimization of Muslims to dominate how it handles force protection. Islamist radicalization is real and it cannot be confronted unless we are honest about the threat it represents. Hasan is not the first soldier to be radicalized and he won’t be the last if we do not address the real issues.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who is a colonel in the U.S. Army and does quite a bit of force training. He had an interaction with one of the active-duty military imams, which concerned him, but because of political correctness he had nowhere to go with those concerns. So he bounced it off me.

He asked an active duty imam what he would say to a soldier who came to him asking if it was against “our faith” to fight against Muslims. The imam replied that he would tell the soldier that, “I am not qualified to answer the question.” The imam felt that the question was asking for an official fatwa, a legal ‘religious opinion or ruling.” The colonel was dumbfounded and pressed the Imam further asking him, “then who is qualified and who would he send the soldier to for an answer.” The Imam replied that he would refer the soldier to the Islamic Society of North America who is the outsourced certifying agency of Muslim Chaplains in the U.S. military. Unfortunately, ISNA is also a political Islamist organization that has been overly critical of the United States wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

ISNA glorified Imam Zaid Shakir’s response to the Fort Hood massacre as an example for their entire membership. As an American Muslim, I was frankly offended by his first paragraph demonstrating his and thus ISNA’s disdain for our military. Shakir opens his pathetic response by saying,

“There is no legitimate reason for their deaths, just as I firmly believe there is no legitimate reason for the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians who have perished as a result of those two conflicts. Even though I disagree with the continued prosecution of those wars, and even though I believe that the US war machine is the single greatest threat to world peace, I must commend the top military brass at Fort Hood, and President Obama for encouraging restraint and for refusing to attribute the crime allegedly perpetrated by Major Nidal Malik Hasan to Islam.”

This is the organization that an active-duty imam uses for guidance?

It is ridiculous that our military would be “outsourcing” spiritual guidance for our force members. It is insane that they would utilize ISNA when they are part and parcel of the problem. ISNA’s roots are in the global project of the Muslim Brotherhood. They were listed as an unindicted coconspirator in the successful Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial of 2008. They refuse to recognize the separatist influence of Islamist ideology. The Imam’s use of ISNA is akin to the Trojans bringing the Greek’s horse inside the fortress. Our military should never farm such deeply essential counseling out.

As to the answer the imam should have given. He should have told the Colonel that he would counsel the Muslim military member that not only does his oath to this country and the military take precedence over any other oath, but the concept of the ummah (as Islamic nation) is dead and no longer relevant or competing for his allegiance from a spiritual perspective. There have been many wars fought between Muslims and this war is not a war against Muslims or Islam, but rather one to free the Iraqi and Afghani populations from their despots. If our active duty Muslim imams cannot confer such advice upon our Muslim soldiers they are a significant liability to our force protection.

When we are unable to discuss complex issues like this and Hasan without the fear of reprisal or labels, we create a vacuum where no discourse is taking place. In that vacuum, we allow the seeds of discontent to grow. For Nidal Hasan that culminated in his superiors ignoring his behaviors and eventually sending him to Fort Hood, where his fate was sealed.

The Pentagon’s review should be revised to look at the broader picture of Hasan’s path to radicalization through political Islam. They should analyze the warning signs that were visible and determine how the military could have better protected its soldiers. They should look at the threat that political Islam and its forms of radicalization have upon American Muslims and contractors that we employ abroad, like the informant who killed seven CIA officers last December.

The protection of our forces requires a better understanding of the enemy we face. An honest assessment of the Fort Hood massacre would not limit the scope of the review. It would also not allow the scapegoating of soldiers instead of fighting the root theo-political problems. Hasan’s victims deserve a full revision of how the United States military handles Islamist radicalization within its ranks. Without it we will see many more Nidal Hasans and in the end a weaker force and a weaker nation.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is a former lieutenant commander in the United States Navy where he served 11 years as a medical officer. He is the President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to preserving the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. For more information please visit www.aifdemocracy.org.