Friday, November 06, 2009
Oct. 5, 2009: A Massacre at Ft. Hood
A tragedy has happened.
Almost 24 hours later, a good many details have become clearer. We now know that a U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire at Ft. Hood, killing at least 13 people and wounding over 30 more. He himself was wounded in a belated exchange of fire. It is believed he was working alone. It is known that he is a devout Muslim, and that he shouted "Allahu Akbar" before he started shooting. CAIR has already come to his defense, after the obligatory condemnation of the shooting.
A few things are still unclear to me. This shooting was only possible because it happened in a 'gun-free zone'. Can anyone explain to me why 'gun-free zones' exist on an Army base? (I suspect base commanders will be rethinking that decision pronto.) For if I understand this correctly, the man was armed with handguns. He must have had time to reload, several times, before he was taken down. That's beyond unacceptable.
It also appears that Maj. Hasan had a troubled past, including violent online postings and speeches; he may have been under investigation, particularly given that he was supposed to be posted overseas today, and apparently was not happy about it. If so, some investigators (and some of my former colleagues in the Military Police) have some serious explaining to do.
Finally, there has been some shock and outrage about President Obama's initial response to the incident -- continuing on with business as usual, announcing that he'd make some sort of statement at a pre-arranged press conference, and then taking over two minutes to cover cheerful trivia before getting to the shooting. As someone or other said, when NBC is criticizing President Obama harshly, you know something is seriously wrong. (Update: and now even the Boston Globe is doing it. Mr. President, you're in trouble here.)
I heard the President on radio last night, and the commentators were all breathlessly awaiting an important pronouncement from him. He did indeed say a lot of the right things, but it seemed to take him forever to get to it.
Some are now calling this Mr. Obama's "My Pet Goat" incident -- in reference to the children's book President Bush continued reading after being informed of the 9/11 attacks. As has been pointed out, however, this comparison doesn't make sense -- the immediate reaction of President Bush, who had no warning and needed to stay where he was for the time being anyway, as compared to President Obama, who'd had more than three hours to digest the news, and who could respond in any way he wished -- and chose to give a personal "shout-out" first.
I don't see this as anything sinister; call it another example of this Administration of Amateurs. Just as President Obama should have aides to tell him that the language of Austria isn't Austrian, he should also be told -- or should know by himself -- that the murder of American military personnel takes precedence over just about any other news. (He should also know the difference between the military Medal of Honor and the civilian Medal of Freedom... and that one can be a "recipient" of the Medal of Honor but not a "winner". This isn't a foot-race we're talking about.)
Oh, and one more thing: my hat's off to Sgt. Kimberly Munley, who responded within three minutes and brought the gunman down, sustaining wounds herself in the process. A lot of people owe their lives to her today. (Later -- let's make that kudos to Sgt. Munley and Senior Sgt. Mark Todd, her partner; it's not yet clear which of them, if either, was more responsible for bringing Hasan down.)
UPDATE: This report (quoting something I haven't been able to find yet) says that Maj. Hasan had an FN Five-SeveN automatic pistol and a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver. (It is unclear if the revolver was used in the shooting.) It also says that he fired over 100 times, over the course of five minutes, before he was taken down by Sgt. Munley.
Assuming he was using the standard 20-round magazines, he would therefore have had to reload multiple times.
So my question still stands: why on Earth should a U.S. Army base, of all places, be a 'gun-free zone'?
I realize that there's a culture of publicly unarmed soldiers in the United States, but I don't understand it. When I wore the uniform in Israel, we were expected to carry our weapons with us at all times, on duty or off, on base or at home. It wasn't uncommon to see soldiers in civilian clothes, on their way to a movie, carrying their rifles with them. The weapons were always unloaded in civilian areas... but we were required to carry the ammunition with us.
Maybe the United States isn't ready for that. But I might mention that Israel, compared to the United States, has its share of crime... but almost no violent crime. Armed bank robberies and the like are almost unheard of. Is this because the bank robber is quite likely to be outgunned by the people waiting in line? Or is this a correlation without causation? You tell me.
Let me add: if I were a U.S. soldier serving at Ft. Hood today, I think I'd rather carry a firearm concealed -- and answer for it to my commanding officer if I had to -- and thus be ready if this sort of thing ever happens again.
UPDATE 2: Others are asking more interesting questions. And Richard Fernandez has his usual concentrated analysis:
ABC News reports that US Intelligence had been aware for months that Major Nidal Hasan was attempting to get in touch with al-Qaeda. It is not known what role the “Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia” played in subsequent events. But the circumstances are suggestive. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the mosque once had prayer leader Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar al-Awlaki had been the spiritual adviser of two September 11 attackers. He is now in Yemen and is certainly pleased at Hasan’s actions...Mr. Fernandez's point -- and I think it's a vital one -- is that, when people urge us not to "jump to conclusions" about Maj. Hasan's motives, they're speaking nonsense. We know all we need to know, and more, about his motives, in terms of his antipathy to America and to the American military in which he serves. More to the point, he's a cold-blooded murderer 13 times over, and deserves to be treated as one; end of story.
Mr. Fernandez gets off a few more great comments:
Barry Rubin recently spoofed the “jumping to conclusions” phrase by writing a satirical piece retelling historical incidents in modern politically correct style. Why he asked, should John Wilkes Booth have been suspected of Confederate sympathies simply because he expressed them?By all means, read the whole thing.
Political correctness may have the long term effect not of shielding Muslims from suspicion but making it universal.
The effect of political correctness has been to destroy the contrast between dissent and actual criminal behavior.
UPDATE 3: As a postscript to President Obama's confused priorities in re the Ft. Hood tragedy, several people have noted that a Commander in Chief visited the Ft. Hood wounded over the weekend. Not the current Commander in Chief, though, who was relaxing in Camp David... it was his predecessor who made the visit.
Let's think for a minute about what that means. President Obama, who should have done that, didn't; he probably thought that it wasn't part of his job, to the extent that he thought about it at all. Former President Bush, on the other hand -- who has no official job anymore -- felt it was part of his duty, and did go.
Job vs. duty. That's a distinction between Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush that speaks volumes.