Posts Tagged ‘profiling’

As the U.S. Army, the soldiers at Fort Hood, and the American population in general come to grips with the catastrophe that occurred at Fort Hood with the murder of thirteen people and the wounding of twenty-nine others, it is only natural to try to see if we can draw some sort of lesson from this tragic incident. Is there something that can be done to try to insure that this sort of assault won’t happen again or must the army live with the knowledge that this sort of thing might just reoccur again and again? And beyond the army, is there a lesson here for the American public too?

The facts, as we know them today, seem to indicate that the perpetrator of the massacre, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was indeed an Islamic radical and that his sympathies lay with the enemies of America. For whatever reasons, the army failed to take notice of the abundant evidence that indicated that the loyalties of this man were very questionable.  Instead he was treated as a trusted American citizen-soldier, and it was assumed that his complete and utter loyalty was to the United States and its people – his fellow citizens. However, the army was completely wrong in their assumption. Why?

Why, indeed.  Today’s army is certainly a lot different from the army of World War II when Japanese citizens were not even allowed to join the army.   Most Japanese Americans were confined to internment camps because, as a group, they were simply not trusted. It didn’t matter whether they were citizens or not. Eventually, Japanese men, mostly from Hawaii, were allowed into a couple of mostly Japanese units , like the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  The 442nd performed heroically, earning 21 Medals of Honor. This was a unit that had something to prove – their loyalty to America – and they proved it indeed.

The issue, of course, during World War II was whether Japanese Americans could be trusted.  In today’s much more politically correct world we do not dare to wonder whether Muslim-Americans can be trusted.  We like to think we have moved beyond the simple racial prejudices of the 20th Century. We like to think that we can follow the ideal of  “all men are created equal” and therefore we don’t want to discriminate based upon race, religion, and so forth.  The interesting thing is that the government does discriminate all the time when it comes to protecting classified information. Try to get a very high level security clearance if you have an uncle who is a leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan. I guarantee it won’t happen.  Let’s suppose your father is a citizen and still lives in North Korea, do you think the government will allow you access to our most secret nuclear technology? Not in a million years.  Is this discrimination or is it just common sense?

We’ve been dealing with this issue since 9/11. The issue is profiling.  Is it right to be suspicious of someone just because they have similar beliefs, appearance, citizenship, and language as the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks? Or must we follow our ideal of “all men are created equal and everyone is innocent until proven guilty”?  Is that what the army does in Afghanistan when they see someone who appears to be a member of the Taliban? Or is the army a bit more cautious in these circumstances? What does common sense say to do?

The evidence so far indicates that red flags were flying in the face of the army, but the army stubbornly ignored them. More investigation is, of course, still needed, but the facts are the facts: Major Hasan shouted Allahu akbar!  Then he opened fire and mercilessly killed and wounded a lot of U.S. soldiers.  If there was ever an obvious lesson to be learned it is this: army security is insufficient. The question is what should be done to fix it.  It would seem that more thorough background investigations of Muslim members of the Army is needed.  I know that this is distasteful to some, but consider this: suppose we were at war with Australia, wouldn’t we want to take a closer look at Australian members of our army? I know we are not at war with Islam – although Osama bin Laden would love it if we were – but even so, common sense dictates that Muslims in the army be given more careful scrutiny – just in case. Doesn’t that make sense?  Would the Muslim community be outraged over that, and if so why?  Everyone who gets into a very trusted position in the U.S. government has to prove their loyalty by undergoing a very through background investigation.  People who work in these very sensitive positions simply accept that. They aren’t insulted. They know that you can never be too careful.

The lesson of the Fort Hood massacre is this: we don’t need to go back to World War II style internment camps, but the military does need to do more thorough background checks on some people. Perhaps being Muslim is reason enough to trigger a closer background investigation, perhaps not. It needs to be looked into. Our government has always used profiling when handing out top-level security clearances – that is only common sense.  The army also needs to take a common sense approach – not an idealistic approach – reality is seldom ideal.  This isn’t the world of Pollyanna.  The U.S. military used to know that, I wonder when they forgot?

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