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THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVESKnowing the Enemy, Speaking the Truth & Choosing to Win the War Against Radical Islam
By William J. Bennett Seth Leibsohn
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFort Hood and the Crisis of Will
In the early morning of November 5, 2009, U.S. Army major Dr. Nidal Hasan left his apartment in Killeen, Texas, to attend morning prayers at his mosque. Several hours later, he walked into the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood, he sat down, he bowed his head, and then he stood up and shot and killed thirteen of his fellow Americans, plus an unborn child—fourteen in all. He wounded thirty more, emptying some hundred rounds into his victims. As he fired, he shouted, "Allahu Akbar [Allah is Great]!"
This, the second-worst terrorist attack on America in eight years, took place at a medical facility—at a U.S. Army fort—in the middle of Texas. If September 11 were not a strong enough wakeup call to the terrorist threat against us, if all the other attacks and attempted attacks failed to rouse us, then surely this attack should have jarred us to attention once and for all: there is no such thing as a safe place from Islamic terror, not abroad, and not anywhere in America.
How did it happen? How did we get here, eight years after September 11, 2001?
After September 11 there was little doubt in any quarter, here or abroad, that the United States would go to war. After all, that beautiful fall day almost ten years ago ended with the deaths of more than 2,900 people, a greater number than were killed by the Japanese in their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—the attack that led to America entering World War II.
One day after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt told a joint session of Congress, and the American people, "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again." We knew we were at war that December day in 1941, just as we knew we would be at war after the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost immediately, "Let's roll" became our call to arms.
But now, ten years on, the lead instigators of the 9/11 attacks remain at large while the United States of America appears unsure, uncertain, full of self-doubt about the continued prosecution of this war. And how to treat the perpetrators we did catch. And what to call the war we are in—if we are indeed in a war, which at present seems open to question.
In the clearing smoke of 9/11, almost none of this could have been predicted. Almost. Most Americans assumed we would make short work of Afghanistan and then strengthen our domestic vulnerabilities while closing sleeper cells and targeting terrorists around the world, if not terrorist regimes. There were places where that assumption did not hold, for example, on our nation's college campuses and in certain other quarters of the intelligentsia. Seeing the need there, we started Americans for Victory over Terrorism with former CIA director James Woolsey and others, including Charles Krauthammer, Jerry Bremer, and Walid Phares. We hoped to build the case for war and fortify public opinion. At the time political leadership seemed resolute enough, but if the public followed the intelligentsia—and the further away from the tragic events of 9/11, the greater that likelihood—the political leadership would eventually crumble.
That is, of course, what happened.
In early 2002, as our men and women were fighting in Afghanistan, polling for support of that effort showed public support exceeded 90 percent. Fast-forward to the present. As of this writing, the latest polling reveals support for our Afghani efforts to be the minority position; some 58 percent of Americans oppose the war.
As the polls have changed over any number of responses to terrorism, the political leadership has crumbled. The position of the Obama administration is hopelessly confused and confusing. There is little certainty about the immediate tactical issues raised by the president's proposed withdrawal timetable and even less about the many larger strategic issues that transcend this particular conflict. Other terrorist groups and states have their sights trained on America, but from high to low this concern is downplayed while those groups and states are appeased.
The administration did not birth this confused and confusing view. One must be honest and admit that the doubts and self-doubts about America, her role in the world, and her vulnerability to it, have been building for some time. Americans for Victory over Terrorism—as with so many similar organizations and efforts—has, thus far, not succeeded. While we believe we are in the fight of our lives right now, the fight for our very survival, the fight for Western democracy, there is grave doubt as to whether the American leadership believes it.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the governors and the governed in a democracy; the American people voted in the current administration. But we don't believe that the electorate voted for military and national security surrender, not as such. Our concern is that, as things are trending, the next vote could very well be for such surrender —that is, if the present ethic of dismissal and appeasement continues. And with an enemy made bold by our dismissal and appeasement, the chances of another attack on the United States do nothing but increase.
Institutions we thought invulnerable to softheadedness in war, such as the U.S. military, are already causing concern. It is difficult to say why, whether the leadership actually believes that dismissal and appeasement will work or whether it is merely trying to cope with the softheadedness of the political leadership in America. General George Casey's comments after the Fort Hood slaughter—"Our diversity, not only in our army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse"—as well as many of the events leading up to the slaughter, are as emblematic as they are frightening.
To understand the danger we are in, we must revisit the nightmare of Nidal Hasan. We know much about Hasan and his kind of devotion today. To our shame, much was also known before the shooting. But it was consistently swept under the rug as eyes and ears were averted.
HE LOVED DEATH MORE THAN LIFE
Born in Virginia to Palestinian parents, Nidal Hasan was educated in Roanoke and joined the army right after graduating from public high school. The army paid for his college degree at Virginia Tech and then medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He was trained as a psychiatrist, and from his medical school graduation in 1997 until his transfer to Fort Hood in 2009, he worked at Walter Reed. Along the way he was promoted to the rank of major. He never served abroad. He was known by his peers to be a devout Muslim.
While he was at Walter Reed, Hasan began to speak out against the war on terror then waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. Reports indicate that he worried about being deployed, but more than fear motivated Hasan. His allegiance to Islam sparked his resistance. Following the massacre the New York Times reported:
A former classmate in the master's degree program said Major Hasan gave a PowerPoint presentation about a year ago in an environmental health seminar titled "Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam." He did not socialize with his classmates, other than to argue in the hallways on why the wars were wrong.... [S]ome students complained to their professors about Major Hasan, but [a fellow graduate said] that no action had been taken.
What of the PowerPoint he delivered to fellow officers and students? As the Washington Post described the event, Hasan "was supposed to discuss a medical topic during a presentation to senior [a]rmy doctors in June 2007. Instead, he lectured on Islam, suicide bombers and threats the military could encounter from Muslims conflicted about fighting wars in Muslim countries."
That presentation provides a window into the events of November 9. Hasan defined the word Islam not—as many now do—as synonymous with or a derivative of "peace," but correctly, as "submission." The PowerPoint continued for several slides with statements from Hasan such as, "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," and quotes from the Quran, such as, "And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send his wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement."
The presentation contained several other quotes from the Quran as well, including many that he labeled as "Punishment Verses," such as, "Surely, those who disbelieve in our Ayat [verses, signs, etc.], we shall burn them in Fire. As often as their skins are roasted through, we shall change them for other skins that they may taste the punishment." His PowerPoint concluded with a quote from Osama bin Laden: "We love death more than you love life."
Hasan's behavior at Walter Reed did not go unnoticed, and several of his colleagues at Walter Reed became concerned. A group of fellow physicians met in 2008 to answer whether they thought Hasan might be psychotic. "Everybody felt that if you were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, you would not want Nidal Hasan in your foxhole," said one staffer at Walter Reed familiar with those meetings.
Another Walter Reed report emerged shortly after the shooting, revealing that "fellow students and faculty were deeply troubled by Hasan's behavior," which they described as "disconnected, aloof, paranoid, belligerent, and schizoid." If those descriptions were not troubling enough, Hasan publicly expressed and shared what the report calls "extremist Islamic views." He was hardly a person you would want as a psychiatrist, even less so as an officer in the military. But Hasan was not disciplined, and no action was taken— except to transfer him to Fort Hood.
Hasan did no better at holding his tongue when he arrived at Fort Hood. His record there includes telling his medical supervisor that "she was an infidel who would be 'ripped to shreds' and 'burn in hell' because she was not Muslim."
Hasan attended a mosque in Killeen, Texas, where he was befriended by and counseled a young Muslim convert who was fascinated with and spoke on behalf of violent jihad. After the massacre, that same convert told the press that he could not condemn what Hasan did. "In the Koran, it says you are not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christians," he said, "and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell."
If sirens weren't screaming with all this, there was more. Hasan made personal business cards. They mentioned no affiliation with the United States military, but underneath his name on the cards, he listed his affiliation—his profession—as "SOA," or "Soldier of Allah," an acronym frequently used on jihadist Web sites, sites on which he was a regular visitor. And finally, Hasan was in frequent e-mail contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who had already been implicated in at least two other terrorist attempts in America and had since fled to Yemen.
We need to pause to explain just who Anwar al-Awlaki is. Aside from having long ties to Hasan, whom al-Awlaki called a "hero" after the Fort Hood rampage, the American-born cleric also led mosques in San Diego and Virginia where three of the September 11, 2001, hijackers frequented and prayed. Amazingly at one point, just after 9/11, he was a "go-to" Muslim cleric for many in the media. Searching the news from the months following 9/11 reveals several interviews with al-Awlaki, someone the press considered moderate and reasonable. Al-Awlaki spoke variously about the attacks, against the terrorists, and about the need for justice. It should be noted that he also criticized the U.S. position on Israel and talked about the difficulty Muslims in America had in being loyal to the United States given the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan.
Not that he had any intention of being loyal himself.
Al-Awlaki has been implicated in several terrorist attacks in the United States before Fort Hood and several others since, including the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. The FBI was aware of, and concerned with, some of his activities and interviewed the cleric on several occasions prior to his fleeing, though nothing more was done, providing him opportunity to flee. Al-Awlaki is now on both the lam and the National Security Agency's "capture or kill" list.
That al-Awlaki could be taken seriously by the media in the days and weeks after September 11, 2001, is a great irony today, but less difficult to explain than the fact that he could be interviewed several times by the FBI and let go unmonitored, and that he could be seen as a mainstream Muslim leader in America for so long.
And all of this is just a little less disturbing than the fact that once he was known as a terrorist leader, he could engage in multiple overseas e-mails with a Muslim officer in the U.S. military with seeming impunity and little investigation of that officer, even knowing of that officer's odd views (to say the least) about America and Islam. For all the Sturm und Drang about the violations of civil liberties of Muslims in America—or the monitoring of overseas conversations by the NSA—Muslims in America enjoy and enjoyed civil liberties like nowhere else. And there seems to be no better proof of Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson's worry that our Bill of Rights not become a suicide pact.
Despite the many red, glaring, and electrified warning signs, Hasan perpetrated the Fort Hood attack, and no one stopped it until it was too late.
THE LEADING BLIND
Few of Hasan's relevant activities or statements were hidden events or private conversations; almost all of them were in the open. Indeed, short of calling a radio show or taking a megaphone to the top of Walter Reed, these statements were as public as Hasan could possibly make them. And yet, even after the massacre, his motives remain a strange curiosity at the highest levels of government. Even today.
On the Sunday following the attack, army chief of staff General George Casey was asked by Meet the Press host David Gregory about the possible "backlash against our Muslim soldiers, who are in the [a]rmy." Said Casey in response, "Our diversity, not only in our army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse." Loss of diversity is worse than a horrific slaughter—the deliberate killing of fourteen innocents—according to an American four-star general, the army chief of staff, no less.
For years, many conservatives, and indeed many liberals, have been concerned about academic notions of diversity, particularly the political and social assumptions the word has been made to carry. In education admissions, as in corporate hiring, the term has come to stand for a crude notion of sampling—to admit or hire people from races or gender other than white and male.
To be sure, a goal to achieve a mixed education system and workforce in a multicultural and multinational America makes its own sense, despite appropriate complaints and questions about how we achieve such a goal. But here, the head of the army had taken this liberal notion, applied it to the military, to American safety and national security, and then elevated it above the very purpose of the military. Worse, the army chief of staff put diversity on a higher moral plane than innocent life—something we doubt even most college admission counselors or corporate human resource officers would do.
Excerpted from THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES by William J. Bennett Seth Leibsohn Copyright © 2011 by William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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