The U.S. military's just-released report into the Fort Hood shootings spends 86 pages detailing various slipups by Army officers but not once mentions Major Nidal Hasan by name or even discusses whether the killings may have had anything to do with the suspect's view of his Muslim faith. And as Congress opens two days of hearings on Wednesday into the Pentagon probe of the Nov. 5 attack that left 13 dead, lawmakers want explanations for that omission.
John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 commission and Navy Secretary during the Reagan Administration, says a reluctance to cause offense by citing Hasan's view of his Muslim faith and the U.S. military's activities in Muslim countries as a possible trigger for his alleged rampage reflects a problem that has gotten worse in the 40 years that Lehman has spent in and around the U.S. military. The Pentagon report's silence on Islamic extremism "shows you how deeply entrenched the values of political correctness have become," he told TIME on Tuesday. "It's definitely getting worse, and is now so ingrained that people no longer smirk when it happens."
The apparent lack of curiosity into what allegedly drove Hasan to kill isn't in keeping with the military's ethos; it's a remarkable omission for the U.S. armed forces, whose young officers are often ordered to read Sun Tzu's The Art of War with its command to know your enemy. In midcareer, they study the contrast between capabilities and intentions, which is why they aren't afraid of a British nuclear weapon but do fear the prospect of Iran getting one.
Yet the leaders of the two-month Pentagon review, former Army Secretary Togo West and the Navy's onetime top admiral, Vernon Clark, told reporters last week that they didn't drill down into Hasan's motives. "Our concern is with actions and effects, not necessarily with motivations," West said. Added Clark: "We certainly do not cite a particular group." Part of their reticence, they said, was to avoid running afoul of the criminal probe of Hasan that is now under way. Both are declining interview requests before their congressional testimony, a Pentagon spokesman said.
But without a motive, there would have been no murder. Hasan wore his radical Islamic faith and its jihadist tendencies in the same way he wore his Army uniform. He allegedly proselytized within the ranks, spoke out against the wars his Army was waging in Muslim countries and shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great) as he gunned down his fellow soldiers. Those who served alongside Hasan find the Pentagon review wanting. "The report demonstrates that we are unwilling to identify and confront the real enemy of political Islam," says a former military colleague of Hasan, speaking privately because he was ordered not to talk about the case. "Political correctness has brainwashed us to the point that we no longer understand our heritage and cannot admit who, or what, the enemy stands for."
The Department of Defense Independent Review Related to Fort Hood, ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is limited in scope. Despite the title of its report Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood there is only a single page dedicated to the chapter called "Oversight of the Alleged Perpetrator." Much more space is given to military personnel policies (11 pages), force protection (six pages) and the emergency response to the shootings (12 pages).
Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said he was "disappointed" because the inquiry "does not adequately recognize the specific threat posed by violent Islamist extremism to our military," and added that the homeland-security panel he chairs will investigate. The Congressman whose district includes Fort Hood agrees. "The report ignores the elephant in the room radical Islamic terrorism is the enemy," says Republican Representative John Carter. "We should be able to speak honestly about good and bad without feeling like you've done something offensive to society."
The report lumps in radical Islam with other fundamentalist religious beliefs, saying that "religious fundamentalism alone is not a risk factor" and that "religious-based violence is not confined to members of fundamentalist groups." But to some, that sounds as if the lessons of 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, where jihadist extremism has driven deadly violence against Americans, are being not merely overlooked but studiously ignored.