WILLIAMS: Death by political correctness

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OPINION/ANALYSIS:

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is now conscious and being nursed back to health by hospital staff, just days after opening fire on crowds of unarmed American soldiers at the Fort Hood Readiness Center. Maj. Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar!” - a phrase meaning “God is great!”- before discharging 100 bullets at some 300 unarmed U.S. troops who had gathered for pre-deployment processing. By the time his rampage ended, Maj. Hasan had massacred 13 servicemen and women, and injured 29.

In all likelihood, this tragedy would have been avoided if political correctness hadn’t led military and government officials to turn a blind eye to clear signs that Maj. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist. As far back as a year ago, at least three government agencies - the Army, the Department of Defense and the FBI - learned that Maj. Hasan had sent 10 to 20 e-mails to an al Qaeda propagandist, Anwar al-Awlaki.

Al-Awlaki is the radical imam from Virginia, now based in Yemen, who had ties to several of the 9/11 hijackers. In those 2008 correspondences with the imam, Maj. Hasan sought advice about how to reconcile his membership in the armed forces with his increasingly radical beliefs. One can certainly imagine how al-Awlaki prodded Maj. Hasan toward the virulent strain of Islamic extremism that he preaches through his Web site. Indeed, just days after Maj. Hasan’s rampage, al-Awlaki posted an essay on his Web site titled “Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing.” In it, he described Maj. Hasan as a hero and “a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.”

Amazingly, none of the three government agencies that were aware of the communications between Maj. Hasan and al-Awlaki ever opened an in-depth investigation into the matter. How is it that three government agencies could know that a major in the U.S. Army is communicating with an al Qaeda associate, yet do nothing? At least one government official has stated that U.S. officials were scared that an investigation into Maj. Hasan’s activities could be viewed as a sign of bias against Muslims. And so they did nothing. A year later, Maj. Hasan went on a killing spree.

Maj. Hasan’s colleagues ignored similar red flags. Several of Maj. Hasan’s Army comrades have disclosed how, on almost a daily basis, Maj. Hasan interrupted class discussions with volatile rants about “Muslims had a right to rise up and attack Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Over time, Maj. Hasan became increasingly vocal that the war on terrorism was a war against Islam. More than one classmate complained to higher-ups.

Moreover, doctors at the Walter Reed Medical Center, where Maj. Hasan was completing a fellowship, noted that Maj. Hasan’s behavior was becoming erratic and that he delighted in spewing anti-American statements. Fearful of getting embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit, the doctors at Walter Reed had Maj. Hasan promoted and transferred to Fort Hood. Apparently, the administrators at Walter Reed have become so neutered by notions of political correctness, that they ignored the blatant signs that a budding homegrown terrorist was in their midst.

It doesn’t end there. Approximately six months ago, the FBI reviewed Internet postings by Maj. Hasan, which described suicide bombings as heroic sacrifices in defense of Islam: “If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off-guard, that would be considered a strategic victory,” wrote Maj. Hasan.

The FBI never opened a full investigation. Do terrorists now have to hand out business cards proclaiming themselves “terrorists” before the FBI takes action? This thought may have actually occurred to Maj. Hasan, who printed business cards identifying himself as “SOA,” a jihadi acronym for “Soldier of Allah.”

Still, no one did anything.

Even now, after the full extent of this tragedy has sunk in, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey has warned the public against making any connections between Maj. Hasan and Muslims.

“As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty, as well,” said Gen. Casey. It is true that this tragedy should not become an excuse to nurture irrational fear and loathing of Muslims. But we cannot become so neutered by political correctness that we ignore the facts. Maj. Hasan’s killing spree was the most deadly act of terrorism on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The military must state, in no uncertain terms, that it endorses a zero-tolerance policy for Islamist extremism. Certainly, if Maj. Hasan had been a white supremacist spewing forth racist vitriol, he would have been booted from the military. If Maj. Hasan had been a domestic terrorist spewing forth Timothy McVeigh-esque rhetoric about a tyrannical federal government, the government would have launched an in-depth investigation. Yet, apparently we have become so fearful of offending the Muslim community that we overlook it when a U.S. soldier exhorts violent Islamist extremism.

Even now, The Washington Post and the New York Times are running profiles on Maj. Hasan that depict him as a displaced and impoverished Muslim who suffered for his religious beliefs. For obvious reasons, neither piece mentioned that Maj. Hasan earned approximately $90,000 a year and had no school loans to pay back. This is impoverished? I think not.

Let’s hold off on the sympathy pieces and deal with the hard truth: This tragedy could have been averted if we hadn’t been so scared of offending the Muslim community that we ignored a jihadist in our midst. We need to open our eyes, and say never again.

• “The Armstrong Williams Show” is broadcast weeknights on XM Satellite’s Power 169 channel from 9 to 10 p.m.

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