- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Army chief of staff said Sunday that he is concerned that speculation about the Muslim faith and the motives of the accused Fort Hood gunman could spark retaliation against Muslin soldiers and hurt diversity within the branch’s ranks.

“I think that’s something else we need to be very careful about, and I think the speculation could potentially heighten backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers,” said Gen. George W. Casey Jr. on ABC’s “This Week.”

Gen. Casey said he has instructed his commanders to be on the lookout for that reaction to the killings at the Texas post.

The general said that while what happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, “I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.”

“And it’s not just about Muslims,” he said. “We have a very diverse Army. We have a very diverse society. And that gives us all strength. So again, we need to be very careful with that.”

He said he doesn’t believe there is discrimination against the 3,000 Muslims who serve as active Guard and reserve soldiers.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim Army doctor, is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 29 others in a shooting rampage Thursday at Fort Hood, a Texas military base.

A U.S.-born Muslim of Palestinian heritage, Maj. Hasan voiced dismay over U.S. wars in Islamic countries and was distraught that he was about to be deployed to Afghanistan.

He reportedly said the U.S. struggle against terror threats was a “war on Muslims,” while his family alleged he was the target of prejudice and harassment over his Islamic faith.

Gen. Casey said the investigation will focus in part on whether Army personnel ignored warning signs regarding Maj. Hasan’s mental stability and loyalty to the Army. “That will be all part of the investigation, and we are encouraging soldiers and leaders who may have information relevant to the information about the suspect to provide that information to the criminal investigation division and to the FBI,” Gen. Casey said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“But we have to be careful, because we can’t jump to conclusions now based on little snippets of information that come out.”

Gen. Casey said the Army “will take a very hard look at ourselves and ask ourselves the hard questions” on whether more could have been done to prevent the shooting and what changes the Army should make as a result.

“We’ll learn from this incident,” he said on CNN, but “it’s way too early to draw any kind of specific conclusions from it.”

• Sean Lengell can be reached at slengell@washingtontimes.com.

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