After the tragedy at Fort Hood, we hear calls for action to explain how a military "Columbine" could happen. Investigating the background of the accused attacker, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, Monday-morning quarterbacking suggests the signs were clear - a malcontent, a loner, a man driven by religious conviction that his country was wrong to be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, his giving away all his personal possessions, his donning religious garb hours before the attack, etc. It was only after the fact that we wondered how such obvious signs of a man determined to do harm to others, fulfilling his destiny in doing so, were ignored.
"Hasan" is proving to be a foreboding Muslim name for Americans. In 2003, we were visited by "Hasan Past" in Kuwait. We have now been visited by "Hasan Present" at Fort Hood. And, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad forewarns, we are to be visited by "Hasan Future" before 2013. And, Mr. Ahmadinejad tells us, he will be the one to pave the way for Hasan Future's arrival. The Iranian president firmly believes the arrival of Hasan Future spells doom for both America and Israel.
Mr. Ahmadinejad clearly exhibits signs that he intends to wreak violence upon the world - he is only awaiting the tool that will enable him to do so. Ironically, of all the signs he exhibits, the most telling is also the most subtle.
"Hasan Past" was U.S. Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar. On March 23, 2003, as U.S. forces prepared to invade Iraq, he callously tossed a grenade into a tent where his superiors lay sleeping and then opened fire on his victims. Two officers were killed and 14 were wounded.
"Hasan Present" was U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who left 13 dead and dozens wounded in a similar jihadist attack against unsuspecting Americans.
But it is "Hasan Future" whom Mr. Ahmadinejad most eagerly awaits.
Mr. Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to set the stage for the return of Ibn-al-Hasan - known variously as the "Twelfth" or "Hidden" Imam or "the Mahdi." As such, Mr. Ahmadinejad and fellow Shi'ite believers of the same ilk are known as "Twelvers."
Twelvers believe Ibn-al-Hasan, born in 869, disappeared at age 5 when he was hidden by God. They further believe this Hasan to be the ultimate savior of mankind, destined to bring peace and justice to the world. But it will be a world ruled under Shariah law. Most ominous, they believe his return can only be triggered by world chaos.
Twelvers are a minority among Muslims. Sunnis, who comprise 90 percent of all Muslims, do not believe Ibn-al-Hasan to be the Mahdi. Even among many Shi'ites composing the remaining 10 percent, this is not believed. But Mr. Ahmadinejad distinguishes himself as a minority within a minority within a minority. While most Twelvers believe the world chaos necessary to trigger the Mahdi's return must be allowed to evolve naturally, he - as a member of a semisecret religious group known as "Hojatieh" - believes otherwise.
If one understands Mr. Ahmadinejad's belief that man must be a catalyst in causing the world chaos necessary to trigger the Mahdi's return, one should be very concerned about this religious zealot possessing a nuclear weapon.
One must closely examine Mr. Ahmadinejad's words and actions during the past decade to understand where his beliefs are taking him and where, if not stopped, they will also take us.
First, it is important to understand Hojatieh member beliefs are considered extreme even among extremists. Their fanaticism caused Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1980s to ban their political activity.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's belief in the Mahdi's return is unshakable. In 2005, he advised a group of religious leaders, "Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam. ... Today, we should define our economic, cultural and political policies based on the policy of Imam Mahdi's return."
Mr. Ahmadinejad served as Tehran's mayor before taking office as president. As such, he secreted funds to be used to widen city streets to accommodate throngs of well-wishers who will witness the Mahdi's return. He also committed funds to renovate the mosque housing the well where the Mahdi is to make his reappearance.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's success in moving Iran's nuclear program forward despite efforts by the international community to curb it has led him to believe in the divine nature of his cause. In his mind, nothing else can explain the international community's inability to unite against Iran.
As further evidence of his belief in this divine destiny, Mr. Ahmadinejad returned home after his 2006 speech before the United Nations to tell religious leaders he saw an aura surround him as he spoke, mesmerizing listeners with his words. Despite the public outcry of fraud after the presidential election in June that kept him in office, Mr. Ahmadinejad believes his re-election is Allah's will for him to fulfill his destiny. He has told other world leaders the Twelfth Imam will return while he is president. And, he promises supporters, "the wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world."
Mr. Ahmadinejad has stated his intention to wipe Israel off the map and to destroy the "Great Satan" (the United States). These are not idle threats. They are the words of a man who truly believes Allah is guiding his hand in effecting the destruction of his enemies and the subordination of all the world's religions to Islam. To effect this new world order and create the chaos necessary to pave the way for the Mahdi's return, Mr. Ahmadinejad believes it must be his hand that lets loose the nuclear destruction to come.
There is a subtle reality to Mr. Ahmadinejad's beliefs. History has borne witness to many rogue leaders in the world. Whether socialist or communist, all have promoted the lie that their leadership is the vehicle for improving the lives of their people - as they raid the public treasury to support their own lavish lifestyles.
Mr. Ahmadinejad is the exception. Living a pious life, he rejects most benefits and earthly pleasures of office his predecessors enjoyed. He does so as he firmly believes his reward will come with the Mahdi's return.
Just before he began killing unarmed victims at Fort Hood, Maj. Hasan reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great!") - the battle cry of jihadists fulfilling their destiny. Those words will be uttered once more as Mr. Ahmadinejad, sometime before his term as president expires, releases a nuclear weapon against either Israel or the United States. But, just as with Maj. Hasan, it again will be too late for us to do anything about it.
James Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf wars, writes often on national-security and defense issues.
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