The XX Factor

Maybe the Military’s Problem Is Ineptness, Not Political Correctness.


When you say: “Surely the general doesn’t mean that in our quest for diversity in the military, we embrace fanatics in our midst,” you’re surely not suggesting, are you, that military generals would purposely sacrifice the lives of dozens of soldiers, simply for the sake of political correctness? I mean, there is a middle ground between withholding judgment and “embracing fanatics in our midst,” isn’t there?

I don’t believe for a minute that these generals would risk the lives of 1.3 million U.S. military personnel on active duty (another 1.1 million serve in the National Guard and Reserve forces.) if they thought Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan , or any of the 10,000 to 20,000 Muslims who serve in the U.S. armed forces , posed a terrorist risk. The “quest for diversity” that you, and the others you quote, think may have driven military brass to protect this “jihadist,” is a weak justification. The military is one of the most diverse institutions in this country and its policy of intolerance, at least on paper, toward racial and religious bigotry is a good thing and should be upheld, not criticized and discredited because of one crazy shooter. The policy is in place to keep cohesion among people of various races, religions, and cultures who have to work together, fight wars together, protect each other’s back and protect us back home-together.

This rush to judgment, and willingness to accept bits and pieces of information as a whole picture of a fractured man we have yet to fully know, is just plain wrong. Maybe in the end we’ll learn that Hassan was indeed motivated, in part or in whole, by terrorist sympathies, but it still would not prove that the military was protecting him for diversity’s sake.

Just because someone spews religious, racial, or gender-based hatred while committing a despicably violent act doesn’t mean they aren’t certifiably crazy. In fact, some of the most virulent anti-Semites and other racists are in fact motivated by mental illness and irrational psyches. No one who has read the online rants of James von Brunn, the white supremacist who killed the black security guard during an attack on the holocaust museum in D.C., could ever argue the man is sane. Same goes for those who’ve bombed abortion clinics and killed abortion doctors.

Major Hassan is said to have complained about anti-Muslim slurs hurled at him by fellow servicemen. Maybe these alleged insults were all imagined in his head, maybe they really occurred and drove his actions. I don’t know. (None of us knows for sure.) What I do know is that all this speculation about religious zealotry being his sole motivation is irresponsible and hypocritical.

When Steven Green, a young, mentally ill soldier shot and killed an Iraqi family and, along with four fellow soldiers, repeatedly raped the family’s 14-year-old daughter before killing her too, the word “terrorist” was never attached to Green’s name even though military psychologists said he harbored deep-seated hatred for Iraqis. He was the ringleader among the group, all of them in their early 20s. No one called for barring all young Christian men from serving in the military because they might all turn out to be gun-happy sociopaths on a mission to kill and rape as many innocent Iraqis as possible. Yet many people are now saying Muslims should be barred from serving.

Green was sentenced in May to life in prison without parole. According to the NYT :

In the sentencing phase of the trial, the Army stress counselor, Lt. Col. Karen Marrs, a mental health nurse practitioner, testified that Pvt. Green was disturbed by deaths in his unit and had expressed a desire to hurt Iraqi civilians. But Colonel Marrs also said such sentiments had been expressed by other members of the unit and were not uncommon among troops in combat. On questioning from the prosecution, she also said that she thought Private Green clearly understood that hurting civilians would be wrong and that he had no plans to act on his anger.

The defense argued that the Army should have provided stronger leadership to Private Green’s unit and should have removed Private Green from front-line duty for more intensive mental health care.

The prosecution strenuously rejected that argument, saying that many combat troops faced the same kinds of trauma and stress as Private Green and his platoon but that few committed atrocities.

So what do these incidents tell us? That maybe the military’s problem is ineptness and not political correctness. Given that the U.S. military is engaged in two wars and is stretched to the limits, is it any wonder that some mentally troubled soldiers fall through the cracks?