THE PLANK NOVEMBER 9, 2009
I appreciate (and share) John's concern that calling the Fort Hood shootings terrorism
arouses fears of a Jihadist conspiracy in our midst that may not exist, or that may be containable by the same means we are presently using.
But that's ultimately why I think it's not a good idea to shy away from using the word terrorism. I agree that the definitive piece of evidence that Nidal Hassan was, in fact, committing a terrorist act would be his own admission that he was doing so (and that may yet be forthcoming now that he's reportedly awake and able to talk). But, with so much other evidence out there about Hassan's increasingly radical political and religious views, I think it's looking increasingly unlikely that his actions weren't motivated, at least in part, by those beliefs. After all, he didn't shoot up a 7-11; he went on a shooting rampage on an Army base. The symbolic statement made by killing soldiers on an American millitary base is certainly consistent with other statements (both oral and written) Hassan had made in recent months about the injustice of America's wars and the justice of suicide bombings and what not. Given that consistency, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to conclude these things are related. Just like it wasn't a leap for the press to immediately (and correctly) conclude that Scott Hoeder killed George Tiller because Hoeder, based on his previous oral and written statements, held extremist views on abortion.
John thinks "we need to know a little more than we do." And that's a sentiment I would usually share. But this time, the debate over Fort Hood is moving so quickly and some of the loudest voices involved in that debate are saying such hyperbolic and vile things that I think to deny what common sense suggests is to give these voices the upper hand in the debate.
I, for one, don't think Fort Hood suggests there's Jihadist conspiracy in our midst or that, short of maybe getting the Army to do a better job of evaluating the mental health of its soldiers, there's much that should--or even can--be done to prevent other incidents like this. (That is, assuming Hassan acted alone in the belief he was acting on behalf of some larger movement or ideology, which is what, barring any evidence of links to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, appears to be the most likely case.) And I think it's important that people start making these points, in order to push back against the unfair, irresponsible, and ultimately counterproductive things some people are saying should be done in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings. But if, in making these points, you continue to deny what, to most fair-minded people, would seem to be an increasingly likely fact, then those fair-minded people are going to discount everything else you say; and Malkin et al will sound more convincing than they are, if only because they're acknowledging what's becoming fairly apparent.