Domestic Security, Terrorism, and Hasan

Addressing a recent post on Small Wars Journal:

The massacre at Fort Hood is a reminder that the War on Terror is not fought just in south Afghanistan or Mosul. It is a global war also fought in an office building inside a military base in Texas. Many counter-terror analysts focus on the Pakistan connection and preventing The Big One that could top 9/11. But the real problem may well be the self-motivated “small ball” players like Major Hasan or a future disciple of DC Sniper John Allen Muhammad. “Small ball” terrorism won’t have the economic, political, or strategic impact that 9/11 did. But if there is enough of it, the public will eventually find political leadership that will provide an adequate response to the problem.

I enjoy reading Small Wars Journal to get a different and supposedly more learned aspect about how military functions and is changing and about the wars we are fighting. I found this post by Robert Haddick a bit of a stretch though.

For one, it has not been proven by anyone that Hasan was acting as a terrorist, even a ‘small ball’ one. So far, it continues to look like a workplace shooting under the guise of someone’s religion. If a Christian shooter had done the same would people be screaming terrorism? Doubtful.

He does mention John Allen Muhammed which I will give him points for as everyone else in the media, upon his execution the other week, ignored that Muhammed was a terrorist in the true sense of the word. For three weeks, Muhammed and Malvo coldly targeted innocent people to spread fear throughout a region over a broad area. People were scared to go to the gas pumps, to shopping centers, and other open spaces. In contrast, Hasan was seen as a troubled loner having troubles at his workplace, which happened to be a military base, and went into that workplace and committed actions comparable to those of most workplace shootings (such as that of the Florida man the day after).

Haddick goes further to explain that maybe it’s time to revisit a book titled Terror and Consent in which the author, Philip Bobbitt, advocated that “more law authorizing more surveillance and more foreign intervention would be the only way to protect basic liberties.”

Clearly, we reached this point with the Patriot Act in the US and the Terrorism Acts in the UK (in 2000 and updated in 2006). The UK has further reaching security and surveillance appartus already enforced than the US and is not hesitant to use it.

A few more points raised:

Many want to know why the electronic surveillance over Hasan was not used to stop him in advance of his rampage. A fair question.

Probably because in the US we actually have rights. People trolling forums and posting crazy stuff on the web is rather common place. Our surveillance and tracking didn’t stop the Virginia Tech shooter, despite a classroom and online history that might point to things. This isn’t Minority Report – you can’t prosecute crimes that have not been committed yet.

Further, whose shoulders should it be on? The data crunchers at the NSA, DIA, or FBI or the military that trained and advanced him to major while pointing out performance problems. What about all those other highly trained psychiatrists around him? Didn’t they get a free ride at university to be able to diagnose such personality problems? It makes me wonder how bad the evaluations are troops are getting.

Are there other Major Hasans who have similarly self-radicalized and are preparing to strike? Or about to self-radicalize even if they don’t know it yet?

This gets a ‘WTF’. Because really, WTF? How does one self-radicalize? By sitting in a room and driving yourself crazy with religious texts? In what sense is he a radical vs a disturbed, yet unfortunately commonplace, spree killer?

In the US, there are myriad elements that are driving people to assault the state or other persons or institutions. Why did Bruce Ivins, a noted scientist, send anthrax letters after September 11th? Why haven’t there been as large an investigation into the firebombing of houses in California by the Animal Liberation Front? This country has a history of violence that goes above and beyond the current ‘war on terror’.

When doing some basic research online, most of those arrested for plotting terror attacks since September 11th have been inspired to do so by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you look at actual attacks, that have been committed, they are by extremists of all sorts, many of which are conservative elements, such as white supremacists and abortion clinic shooters and bombers. Why are do these people not receive the immediate accusations of terrorism as well? They are targeted specific groups of people in hopes of instilling fear in the population at large to change a policy or the peoples’ actions.

Our media feeds these fears as best they can because that seems to be their job now – not news reporting but rampant speculation and fearmongering, as was evidenced the day of and right after the Ft. Hood shooting. It’s not wholly their fault though. It’s out current culture and populace which, as reflected in the media and reported lawsuits, seems to be full of, well, scaredy cats.

We should learn something from our brothers-in-arms across the pond, Britain. Not the panopticon surveillance society they have going on now but the ideas from WWII and after about keeping calm and carrying on through whatever the Germans could drop on them (43,000 civilians killed in less than a year of the Blitz) or the low-level terrorism of the IRA in the years after the war.

For a country that likes to see itself as resilient (the new meme since 9/11) we tend to be rather fragile and hysterical. The day after the bombings in Madrid in 2004, 11.4 million people (30% of the population) marched in cities throughout the country, 1.5 million in the wounded city itself. What did we do after September 11th?

We were encouraged to go shopping.

2 Comments

  1. Ian

    Hey, that duct tape will come in handy some day.

    First let me say good post, and I agree with you on almost everything there.

    “When doing some basic research online, most of those arrested for plotting terror attacks since September 11th have been inspired to do so by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    I know this isn’t what you were talking about, but it is something I would like to talk about since its an idea often posted on this blog: that our actions around the world create terrorists. I don’t think you can “create” people willing to blow themselves or others up. You don’t turn normal, peaceful, reasonable human beings into murderers. I think those people come pre-disposed to these types of things and merely latch on to whatever cause seems justified. Like dominoes, all they require is a push in the right direction and they fall down.

    One example illustrating what I am getting at is what happened when the movie “The Matrix” came out. There actually started to be people reporting to psychologists who thought they were living in a “Matrix” like in the movie. Now, certainly seeing the movie didn’t make these people suddenly lose their grip on reality. Its just a movie, and one that falls apart with any sort of critical thought, I might add. How can a movie create a disorder? More than likely, the disorder existed beforehand, and people thinking about how they live in a “Matrix” is merely the manifestation of the disorder. This is the same idea of whether seeing violent movies, violent video games, or listening to music with violent themes makes teenagers violent. I don’t believe that it does. They may in fact be fuel for the fire, but they aren’t the spark.

    I’m not saying that suicide bombing is genetic. I believe that culture plays a very large role in this. Think about how different our foreign policy might be if we as a society had a true distaste for war. If our military could not recruit a large army of volunteers, and society thought poorly of war, then we probably wouldn’t be trying to boss around the world right now. War is part of our culture. We are conditioned in this country, from the moment you enter elementary school to support the troops, love your nation, and understand that freedom takes sacrifices. Because of this, it isn’t surprising that people sign up for the military when there is the slightest whiff of international conflict. I’m not saying this is bad or good, it is what it is and people can decide for themselves how they see it.

    Take this back to terrorism. These people are culturally predisposed to doing these things. All it takes is a perceived offense to provoke it. Who knows what exactly sent John Allen Muhammed over the edge. He was obviously insane. Killing people when not threatened is not the act of someone who is all together. If he didn’t lash out like he did, he might have done it some other way at a later date. Statistically speaking, you can’t ensure that there won’t be a bunch of people who have the wrong combination of nuttiness and culture. This is just something, like crime, that is simply bound to happen when you have people living in civilization.

  2. Jordan

    I’ll just cut this down to your first statement:

    I know this isn’t what you were talking about, but it is something I would like to talk about since its an idea often posted on this blog: that our actions around the world create terrorists. I don’t think you can “create” people willing to blow themselves or others up. You don’t turn normal, peaceful, reasonable human beings into murderers. I think those people come pre-disposed to these types of things and merely latch on to whatever cause seems justified. Like dominoes, all they require is a push in the right direction and they fall down.

    I have to agree and I probably should have said that the arrested potential terrorists (and some of the actual ones) stated that our wars are why they were committed to these actions, rather than saying they were inspired by them. I tend to think that’s only a superficial excuse – you can get very angry about something but I would agree that there has to be something to push you over into the realm of violence vs seeking other actions to try and stop that which you disagree with.

    That’s why I say, whether Christian or Muslim, committing an act against innocent people under the guise of religion is just an excuse, not a justification. There’s probably something more behind it. Our current society is set up in a way where it is probably a) easier to commit these acts and b) draws more attention than they did in the past. I think it’s a murky area of psychological and sociology (because they are societal problems) of how and why people commit some of the acts they do. Some people may be pure sociopaths and feel little empathy for others, some (like the Mumbai attackers) might be monetarily driven.

    That’s why I took issue with Haddick’s point about self-radicalization since it sounded like utter BS but something I think people would like to believe.

    There’s always a different path one can take and those who choose extreme violence show selfishness and narrow-mindedness in their actions, whether you are ALF, Hezbollah, or an abortion clinic bomber.