Sunday, November 08, 2009

What do we know about Nidal Malik Hasan?

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know. -- Donald Rumsfeld

Q: Is he a jihadist or just a nutcase?
A: Why can't it be both?

To those who want to treat the two as mutually exclusive ... no can do.

The guy is a devout Muslim who screamed "Allahu Akbar" as he gunned people down. Unless you think he drew the phrase out of a hat, it's reasonable to conclude that, whatever other or additional reasons he might have had for doing what he did, one of those reasons was that he considered it (or, if he wasn't flying completely solo, was told to announce it as) an act of jihad.

That doesn't mean that he couldn't also be batshit insane, or in some other way a "broken person," though.

For one thing, the whole martyrdom thing tends to attract the mentally unstable from the get-go.

For another, jihadist groups in the Middle East and Central Asia have been known to press "developmentally disabled" -- to grab a politically correct term -- individuals into service as suicide bombers.

They've also been known to grab poor kids and promise to provide for their impoverished families if the kids are willing to make the big sacrifice. With 72 virgins on tap on the back side of things for the kid as well, of course.

If I had to bet, I'd bet it's gone the other way, too ("nice family you got there ... be a shame if anything happened to them. Hey, let's get your measurements -- I'm going to have a very special vest tailor made for you").

Q: Did he act alone, or was he part of a conspiracy?
A: We don't know.

He was certainly part of a "bigger picture." He obviously didn't originate the idea of jihad or suicide attack himself.

He may have had co-conspirators. If so, we don't know whether they wussed out on this attack, or whether there's a plan in motion which includes followup attacks.

He may have had a handler or handlers telling him what to do and when, where and how to do it.

In a way, conspiracy and/or subjection to a chain of command would actually be comforting. They imply the necessity of interactions which put an enterprise like Hasan's at risk of exposure by informants, communications intercepts, etc. The lone actor who makes his own plan, works on his own timetable and consults / takes orders from no one is -- if he's smart, anyway -- less likely to be discovered in advance of his attack.

What's exceedingly unlikely is that he was some kind of long-term "sleeper agent." Bloviations from the crazy corner ("He is a devout Muslim who joined the army with a purpose. ... Al Qaeda directed Muslims to infiltrate the military for these very attacks") aside, the guy served 8 years as an enlisted man, then went to med school and got a commission ... and until recently was not only stationed in the DC area but attending events with political and "Homeland Security" VIPs. Yeah, I'm sure he was told "wait ... wait ... we've kept you in place for 15-20 years because we want something more low-profile, like gunning down some enlisted types at a base in Texas."

Q: Is he dead or alive?
A: We don't know.

He was initially reported as killed -- shot four times by base police Sgt. Kimberley Munley -- at the scene of the Fort Hood attack. That report quickly changed to "he's alive." Now he's allegedly in ICU at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Why would the authoritahs say he's alive if he's dead? Why would they say where he is if he's alive?

Simple: If he had any co-conspirators, they're probably more likely to out themselves -- make a run for the border or the airport, or even try to get to him and either rescue him or finish him off, for example -- if they think he's alive. If he's dead, he can't talk; they can lay low and hope they aren't discovered, or proceed with whatever nefarious plans they have in the reasonable hope that those plans remain unknown. If he's alive, maybe he can talk ... maybe he will talk ... maybe he's already talked ... and nervous people panic and do stupid things.

Q:Could Hasan's attack have been prevented or mitigated?
A: Oh, yeah.

How's this for the height of insanity?

Lt. Gen. Cone added that soldiers are not armed on the base: "As a matter of practice, we do not carry weapons — this is our home.”

Last time I checked, the body count was at 13, with dozens of non-fatal (yet) casualties. The guy apparently fired more than 100 rounds from two handguns, at TROOPS in the middle of a MILITARY BASE ... and nobody had the tools to fight back until the police arrived. Pardon my French, but that's just fucking stupid.

And it wasn't like Hasan hadn't skylined himself long before the attack. Preaching fundamentalist Islam instead of talking medicine during grand rounds at Walter Reed, for example. Retaining a lawyer to get him out of the military for another. And, apparently (no verification yet that this is actually him), favorably comparing suicide bombers with people who throw themselves on grenades to save others, etc. ("If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory").

Even if the guy hadn't been trying to get out of the military, he should have been shown the door quite some time ago.

Q: So all the Bushevik yahoos who love to crow about "no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11" -- forgetting the anthrax attacks, the LAX attack, etc., etc., etc. -- are either going to shut up or blame it all on Obama now, right?
A: Presumably so (and about a 99.9% chance that it will be the latter). But they were idiots then and they're idiots now, because ...

This was not a terrorist attack.

Terrorism subsists in violence against civilians for the purpose of influencing political opinion through terror.

This was an attack on US military personnel at a US military base.

In point of fact, it was arguably at least as legitimate as, and probably less "terroristic" than, any given US drone attack undertaken in Pakistan or Afghanistan without due diligence as to whether or not there are civilians in the targeted area.

That doesn't make it any less horrific, of course ... but let's not just go making shit up in order to turn it into something other than what it is.

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