After the assorted forces of the FBI, the House Intelligence Committee, and the Department of Homeland Security have sorted out what went wrong with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, maybe somebody will ask the most pertinent question.
Hasan is the suspect accused of slaughtering 13 people and wounding 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas, last week. He is a psychiatrist and a Muslim, but in today’s political climate it’s Hasan’s religion, not his profession, that has become the issue.
Indeed, there are clues his interpretation of Islam should be an issue. Already news reports have surfaced about a 2007 medical presentation he made at Walter Reed Hospital.
Among his revealing comments, the news reports allege, was this one: “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims.”
If Hasan did indeed make that statement, he must have been living in an alternate universe of his own creation. Muslims engage in war against their fellow Muslims all the time.
The most recent case was the near-genocidal war the Islamic government of Sudan waged against Muslims in the Darfur region of that country. And I remember what a Muslim Sudanese rebel fighting against that same government told me in 1996:
“They feel they have a message to deliver the world and that they are the only ones who can deliver it,” Yousef Makki told me.
He had no use for the Wahabi brand of Islam practiced by Sudan’s misrulers, and I suspect he’d have even less use for Hasan’s.
But let’s get past the issue of Hasan’s religion. Whether the Fort Hood mass murderer was Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist or agnostic, isn’t anybody asking how could something like this happen on a U.S. military installation?
I mean, aren’t these places supposed to be secure? How did this happen? There’s one thing I know for certain: As an Air Force veteran, it would never have happened on a Tactical Air Command (TAC) or a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base.
I joined the U.S. Air Force in late March of 1974. A little over a week later, Atlanta Braves outfielder Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s cherished record.
But none of the guys in my flight – that’s Air Force-ese for “platoon” – got to see it. As airman basics in our first week of training, watching television was taboo.
That was our first lesson in military discipline. We would learn more, and what we would learn most is that there was no stricter military disciplines than those found on TAC and SAC Air Force bases.
TAC was formed in 1946. Its mission includes providing our armed forces with fighters, transports, tankers for mid-air refueling, and reconnaissance planes. It’s still around.
SAC was disbanded in 1992. Formed in the early 1950s, its mission was to control the nation’s nuclear arsenal, and to send bombers armed with nuclear weapons to places like the U.S.S.R. and the People’s Republic of China in case the commies ever stepped out of line.
In fact, a Web site devoted to SAC says that when the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev boasted that the communist world would bury the West, “SAC had over a thousand jet bombers that dared them to try.”
They never did, and Americans have our TAC and SAC bases to thank for it. (Actually, other nations in the West should thank us, too, but don’t expect that to happen any time soon.)
“The Cold War didn’t just end, it was won,” the SAC Web site says.
Military discipline had to be harsher at our TAC and SAC bases, because the mission of those bases required it. And every airman in the U.S. Air Force knew that.
I was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base _– which never has and never will be confused with a TAC or SAC base – here in D.C. for most of my enlistment.
When I got into a row with the brass about my beard – which I wore because of a skin condition known as pseudofolliculitis – it led to some harsh exchanges and my eventual (honorable) discharge.
Before I left, guys in my unit noted that I would have ended up in the brig if I’d tried bucking the brass on a TAC or SAC base.
“Are you kidding?” I answered. “I never would have been crazy enough to try that nonsense on a TAC or SAC base.”
Whatever else Fort Hood is, we know it’s neither TAC nor SAC.
Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.