EDITORIAL: Too scared to recognize terrorism

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was declared “not a terrorist” before the facts were out - even before officials were sure whether the attacker was alive or dead. Failing to honestly name a terrorist attack despite the evidence is as destructive and dishonest as leaping to call an attack terrorism without the facts to support that.

Apparently, the claim was based largely on the fact that Maj. Hasan appears to have been a lone gunman. However, terrorism is defined not by the number of people involved, but by the motivations and intentions of the attacker. If reports about him are true, Maj. Hasan clearly was a terrorist.

He reportedly was upset about the activities of the United States in the Middle East and purportedly had made postings about suicide attacks on jihadist forums. He told an associate that “maybe the Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor”; he was videotaped on the morning of the attack wearing traditional white clothing in the manner of someone about to martyr himself. The same day, he divested himself of belongings and handed out Korans, and he shouted the battle cry of the jihadists, “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire. If these reports are true, this was not just terrorism; it was Islamic jihadist terrorism.

It is unclear whether Maj. Hasan acted alone or others were involved in this attack. It would not come as a surprise to learn more people were involved. If so, it will constitute a major counterterrorism failure.

Troubling questions are emerging. What diverted authorities from doing a more thorough job of investigating Maj. Hasan six months ago, when he was suspected of jihadist tendencies? Why was he allowed to remain on active duty in the Army, live amongst the troops and prepare for deployment to a combat zone? Those who claim that such an investigation would be some form of discriminatory profiling are simply wrong. It is not profiling to investigate someone based on probable cause. The fact that Maj. Hasan is a Muslim would not be reason enough to open an investigation. However, a Muslim in uniform openly discussing violence against the United States and posting his views on suicide attacks to jihadist forums should at least get a second look.

Those who want to explain this away as the result of stress, workplace violence or the “stretched force” are willfully blind. Condemned Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad, scheduled for execution this week for his role in killing 10 people and wounding three in October 2002, petitioned for clemency on the basis that he suffers from severe mental illness and Gulf war syndrome. Surely someone who hunts down and murders strangers is not in his right mind, but the primary motive in both Muhammad’s case and Maj. Hasan’s was jihadism.

The refreshing candor of someone like Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the shooter in the June attack on the Army recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., is rare. Reportedly, he said he was a practicing Muslim angry with the U.S. military for its crimes against Muslims and would have shot more than the two soldiers he killed if more had been available. This incident also was called “not terrorism.”

The United States is engaged in a global struggle with violent adherents to an extremist Islamic creed. It does not besmirch the Muslim faith - or the vast majority of American Muslims - to admit that fact. The politically correct tendency to define attacks as something other than terrorism simply to avoid addressing the motives of the attacker is dangerous. Anyone who shouts “Allahu Akbar” and opens fire on a crowd of unarmed people is a terrorist. If Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is not a terrorist, no one is.

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