Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) kicked off his Investigation into the Fort Hood shootings this morning.
Because, really, what we need at this point is some Senate grandstanding. That’ll sure help matters.
Thirteen people died at Fort Hood, several times that were maimed and injured. A terrible thing, yes. But where, I wonder, was Lieberman’s outrage, where were the Senate investigations, when thousands of us died because of substandard equipment from shoddy defense contractors, where was the outraged congressional committees when the last White House jackass and his band of cronies sent us into combat ill equipped and undersupplied and without the numbers needed to hold the ground we had taken? Where was Lieberman then? No glory in that I guess, too bad some of those defense contractors weren’t Muslim owned, eh? Then we’d have had a show from old Joe.
But, hey, I digress.
Lieberman declared Hasan’s actions as definitely terrorism.
He did that without any investigation at all. Joe knows terrorism when he sees it, apparently. Terrorism. See, it sounds good, Mighty Joe fighting the evil terrorists (as opposed to some crazy git in uniform) and by calling it terrorism, Lieberman gets to take charge. Joe is on the Congressional Cuba Committee, I’m surprised he didn’t declare Hasan Cuban too.
"The purpose of our investigation is to determine whether that attack could have been prevented, whether the federal agencies and employees involved missed signals or failed to connect the dots in a way that enabled Hasan to carry out his deadly plan," Lieberman said. "If we find such negligence we will make recommendations to guarantee, as best we can, that they never occur again."
Allow me to help you out, Senator, and maybe save us taxpayers some time and money:
1. Sure the attack could have been prevented, if we want to live in a totalitarian society where every citizen is watched and analyzed and tracked and investigated at all times – or maybe we should just do that to Soldiers (or maybe just Muslim soldiers, good luck finding any willing to enlist as linguists though). The manpower required would certainly go a long way towards solving the unemployment problem – and since the Big Brothers would all be federal employees they’d all have healthcare to boot. Win/Win.
2. Federal Agencies and Employees did indeed miss signals and did indeed fail to connect the dots. Including you, Mr. Honorable head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. QED. But hey, nice use of the time honored abuse of power to hide your own culpability there. Really. Nicely done.
3. Despite whatever recommendations you make, it will happen again. And again. And again. Your guarantee that it won’t is as worthless as the rest of your posturing.
4. Thanks for coming, meeting adjourned
I mean, seriously here, what do you expect the answers to be?
Hasan wasn’t exactly driving through the base gate every morning on a camel dragging a burning American flag and wearing a robe and Taliban headdress with an autographed picture of Osama clutching his AK-47. Yes, he did exhibit a number of disturbing actions. If we had tracked him closely we might have been able to put those things together – and by closely I mean if the FBI or Army CID or the Joint Terrorism Taskforce and Homeland Security had crawled up his ass with a microscope and a pack of bloodhounds they might have put the lousy evaluations, the bad job performance, the Islamic proselytizing, his gun purchases and practice, and his attempted contact with known terrorist sympathizers together. Sure. If they had a crystal ball and unlimited time and assets and access and not one other damned thing to do like track real known actual terrorists and criminals and so on – and they still probably would have gotten it wrong, still most probably would have failed to connect the dots.
That is NOT a condemnation of the FBI or CID or any of the various security and intelligence outfits.
It’s simply how it is.
Really, think it’s so damned easy? You try it. I worked intelligence for twenty years, through two damned wars, and across six continents and seven seas. Go on, tell me how it should have been done. Tell me how you would have seen it, figured it out, picked Hasan out out of a background of literally tens of thousands of similar or much worse indicators, and how you would have known, known, he was going to snap with murderous intent. Known it well enough and convincingly enough to pull limited and thinly spread assets off other targets. Go on, make me laugh.
Hell, I can’t with any kind of reasonable accuracy predict what my wife will do from one day to the next, and I know more about her, and I have tons of solid information about her and eighteen years of solid observational experience with her, than any other human being on the planet – and I still can’t predict what she’ll do from moment to moment.
I can, however, with a great deal of accuracy, predict everything my wife has done in the past.
Here’s the secret to counter-intelligence: Hindsight is twenty-twenty Baby, anybody can predict the past. Rush is damned good at it, Dick Cheney is too, and so is Lieberman.
Anybody who claims that they can predict with 100% certainty the future actions of another human being is full of shit. Expecting any person or organization to predict with 100% accuracy the future actions of any human being is utterly unrealistic. Many people in the military get disgruntled at one time or another – there isn’t a Navy Sailor alive who hasn’t entertained the notion of dumping an asshole officer over the stern on a dark and stormy night. Many military folks embrace fundamentalist religions, the Air Force officer corps is notorious for being full of evangelical Christians – I’ve never been proselytized by a Muslim in uniform, but I have been repeatedly witnessed by Christians to the point where I was ready to nail their sanctimonious asses to a fucking cross and light them on fire.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, certainly, Hasan displayed warning signs.
Which in retrospect appear as glaringly obvious predictors of the tragic events at Fort Hood.
But you need to understand that what you’re seeing in the press is a trick of perspective. Anybody can predict the past, the proper course of action is always obvious – after the battle has been lost. Example: we in the military have put tremendous resources and assets and training into suicide prevention. We train people, we provide counseling, we actively look for the indicators – but somebody determined to kill themselves will always find a way. Despite decades of sustained and dedicated attempts to detect such actions and prevent the loss of our comrades, it still happens with alarming frequency. Sure Hasan left indicators, and he was investigated, and he was being investigated at the time he finally snapped. Should we have gotten to him sooner? Sure. Obviously. But it’s just not that easy.
Take Hasan’s negative performance reviews – which have recently surfaced in the press and are being picked apart by every non military dipshit from Joe the Plumber to Joe the Senator. A couple of things here: 1) If we cashiered every officer who ever got a negative FITREP, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of officers left in the military. The point of an evaluation is for a superior to give an honest assessment of a subordinate’s performance. Some are great, but some aren’t. Some people are stellar performers who need little guidance and direction, some aren’t. But good officers aren’t born, just as good doctors aren’t. They’re created, trained, grown. That’s the whole damned point of officer training and doctor internships in the first place. I know that “major” seems like a senior rank to the uninitiated, it sounds impressive, but it’s really not, and certainly not in the medical corps. And Hasan was only recently promoted, before that he was a lowly captain – which is a pretty damned junior rank in the military medical profession (remember, Hasan wasn’t a line officer, he was a doctor. He’d spent most of his first years in the military in training. Major is about as junior as it gets for an actual Doctor). The point being that he’d had only recently left his internship and medical training becoming a doctor and then transferred to Fort Hood, his first real posting. It’s not unusual at all for a junior officer to have less than stellar performance evaluations, they’re still learning how to be both a doctor and an officer. As I said above, if we shitcanned every officer, especially every junior officer, who ever got a negative FITREP, we wouldn’t have many officers. We tried the zero defect military once before, it didn’t work. 2) Now, negative performance can’t be ignored, and Hasan’s was not. He was given an opportunity to improve. More than one opportunity, in fact. He did. According to the accounts surfacing in the media, Hasan’s superiors followed proper guidelines, they documented his lousy performance, they gave him counseling and leadership, and they saw an improvement in his performance – not great, but enough to indicate that they were getting through to him. Let me spell that out for you, Hasan’s superiors didn’t like him, but rather than bow to personal bias, they were fair and honest, they followed the guidelines and gave him a chance to get in line. However, if the media reports can be trusted, they also fully understood that Major Hasan would never be either a great officer or a good doctor, not without a lot of mentoring and hands-on leadership. So they sent a letter to Fort Hood when Hasan transferred there upon completion of his training. That letter, and the evaluations, are a code. They ensured that Hasan’s superiors at Fort Hood were fully informed, one officer to another, one professional to another, and unless Hasan showed remarkable improvement those documents effectively ended his career in the military. Making O-4, major, is nearly automatic in Hasan’s field, but beyond that it gets much more difficult. That jump from O-4 to O-5 and then to O-6, ie. Major to LtCol to Colonel is neither automatic nor easy. Hasan would have to seriously shape up to make those promotions. If he didn’t, if he was passed over for promotion a couple of times, he’d be separated from the Army by federal law for failure to promote. That’s how it is, up or out. We don’t have the space for people who squat on a paygrade, the total number of officers is limited by law. If you don’t promote, you hold up the promotion opportunities for dozens of others below you. It’s a way to get rid of the deadwood and it’s used all of the time. It’s part of the system. It places the burden of performance squarely on the shoulders of each individual, do the things necessary to get promoted or get put out. The military is a meritocracy and that system works very well for us. It’s the kind of thing we use to get rid of people who are nonperformers, but haven’t done anything they can be cashiered directly for. That’s a good thing, some folks just aren’t cut out to be a military officer, they’re not shitbags or horrible people, but they can’t lead and they need to find alternate employment. But the system gives the individual the opportunity to see the light, to take charge of their own lives and careers and shape the hell up – and many times they do. Those that don’t, get put out. It takes a while. Most of them don’t do any damage – Hasan is unusual. 3) Yes, say the pundits, exactly. Hasan’s performance was so damning that he should been put out of the service immediately, they say. These people are drawing a curve from one data point, it’s a bad idea in geometry, and it’s a bad idea here. Have you seen any of his other evaluations? Maybe they were much improved. Maybe the superior who penned that letter was a bigoted asshole, maybe he just didn’t like Hasan and was determined to torpedo his career – the officers at Fort Hood would have no way of knowing that without a lot of extra work. One of the best men that ever worked for me was given one of the worst written evaluations I’ve ever seen. The report came from a highly respected navy Master Chief and it was utterly damning. By rights I should have shitcanned that Sailor right there on the spot and if I’d have followed the Master Chief’s recommendation that man would be out of the Navy right now, instead of having been commissioned and becoming one of the Navy’s finest officers. See, upon examination, it turned out that that Sailor had once slept with not one, but both of the Master Chief’s daughters (not at the same time, so far as I know. And both of the women in question were Sailors themselves at the time). What I’m saying is that sometimes you get an evaluation that is based on personal bias (I am NOT saying that’s what happened here, but Hasan’s bosses at Fort Hood would have no way of knowing that at the time). The system allows for the individual in question to prove themselves – and this was the case with Major Hasan. 4) Consider the source. The unnamed source. The one that won’t go on record, because he’s not authorized to speak for the military, or the investigation, or the White House. Seriously here, folks, here’s a military guy or a trusted government official who leaked information in direct violation of orders and regulations and his sworn oath. Consider the source. The media is giving you one little piece of that, emphasizing the dramatic, disregarding the mundane as they always do, because that’s what sells newspapers – for example, initially witnesses weren’t sure if Hasan said anything or not during the shooting, then there were reports of him maybe saying “God is Great” in Arabic before he started shooting, and now? This morning I’m reading “iReports” of Hasan yelling Allah Akbar! over and over during the rampage. I’ve seen reports, supposedly eye witness reports widely quoted in the news and comments, from people who weren’t even there. The tales have grown in the telling. That’s why investigators use eye witness reports only when they have to, because they are often wrong. Consider the source. The tale grows in the telling. It’s human nature. Consider the source.
Yeah, but what about the Islamic rhetoric? What about the guns? What about giving shit away? Today FoxNews points out that Hasan had business cards in his apartment with the phrase “Soldier of Allah” printed on them – no mention of whether he actually handed those out or not, but the arch eyebrow implication is obvious in the FoxNews piece: how come the Army didn’t notice? Fox doesn’t mention all those bumper stickers I see around base that mention Jesus, God, and being Born Again. I’ve seen many a sticker in the back window that say Airman For Jesus, Servant of God, and so on. Apparently religious messages are only significant indicators of impending murderous rampages if they aren’t Christian messages. As to the guns, folks, we in the military live with guns. I own a number myself. We hunt, we shoot, we go to the range. Hell, they sell guns and ammo in the base BX/PX (the military Exchange, and they don’t do that everywhere, Alaska is somewhat unique in this regard). As to giving his stuff away, how the hell would anybody know that on base or in the FBI building? And why would they care? Hell, half the military folks I know give their stuff away. We’re weight limited when it comes to household goods. The military will pay to move only a certain amount of stuff when we transfer from base to base, they will pay to store only a certain amount of personal goods while we’re off on deployment to a foreign land. Hell, I’ve got ten or fifteen propane tanks that my shipmates gave me when they transferred out of Alaska, because the moving company can’t transport them without a very expensive purging and certification process. So you give them away, and when you get somewhere new somebody always has extra and they’ll give you one. We do this with all kinds of stuff. You can always find a couch or a dresser or whatever. I know guys who either sold or gave away everything that wouldn’t fit in a seabag prior to deployment so they wouldn’t have to pay rent while they were gone – it was just cheaper to buy new stuff when they got home. My pal and occasional Stonekettle Station commenter, Beastly, still lives that way even though he’s been retired from the military for three years now, I’ve got half his tools in my shop because he lives like a gypsy, travelling the country in his RV – should I call the FBI?
But what about it? What about all of those dots that we are now connecting?
Sure it’s obvious in retrospect.
Hasan’s profile fits that of a man on the edge, but one just as likely to commit suicide or go AWOL as to commit murder and treason. Again, if you feel that you’re cut out for the life of an FBI Profiler and you can predict what a man will do with any degree of reasonable accuracy, well, go fill out an application. I get a notice from the FBI recruiter every couple of months, I know they’re hiring.
Here’s the thing, the FBI did look at Hasan.
They looked into his online contact with Islamic extremists – and determined that his contact was within the norms of his professional research. There’s probably more to that investigation, in fact it’s extremely likely that there is more to it, much more, and we’re not going to know a thing about it because it’s classified.
Here’s an interesting aside, something that everybody seems to be missing: the FBI knew that Hasan was talking to Islamic extremists. Via email.
Think about that for a minute. I’ll wait.
Figured it out yet?
How did the FBI know? Ponder that for a while. Believe me when I say they are not telling you everything – nor should they. You don’t have the whole story, and neither does Senator Lieberman – nor should he, because he can’t keep his big mouth shut. Bottom line, before we start condemning the FBI and Army CID out of hand, we need to understand that we are speaking from incomplete information, as is the media, as is everybody else – which is why the White House and the Army instigated an investigation and then decided to wait for the results before jumping to conclusions. That’s a good example, let’s all follow it, shall we?
Here’s the thing: I spent over two decades in military intelligence and I’ll be the first one to call the CIA, FBI, DIA, NSA, and any other three letter intelligence organization out on their incompetence. But this isn’t it. Hasan appears to have acted alone. Just as McVeigh did (for the most part). Just as the Unibomber did. Just as the nuts who go postal out there on the streets. Do you have any idea whatsoever how hard this is to predict? It’s impossible, unless you want to live in some Orwellian 1984. Hasan’s religion appears to have played a significant role in his actions, but it is yet to be determined whether his religion drove him to his murderous rampage or if he was mentally ill to begin with and his beliefs were only window dressing to that homicidal sickness. That is something that the investigators and the head shrinkers will have to figure out, and it is a job for professionals, not the pundits and armchair quarterbacks and those pandering for votes and attention. Funny how if your house is on fire, or if you need your appendix taken out, you’ll call a professional not Rush Limbaugh and Joe Lieberman – but in this case everybody seems to feel qualified to analyze the events. I don’t know about you, but I think that we ought to wait for the results from the professional investigation before determining what is needed next.
And speaking of what happens next, Lieberman wants to make sure that “this never happens again.” They always say that, don’t they? “We must make sure that this never happens again,” said in ponderous, stentorian tones. Yes, yes, never again. They said that on December 8th, 1941. They said that again on September 12th, 2001. Every single time something like this happens, the pundits and the politicians all stand outraged on the Capital steps and say “This must never happen again. We pledge to work together to make sure this never happens again.”
Here’s a prediction of human nature for you: I predict that they won’t work together. And I predict that it will happen again.
I predict that Senators like Lieberman will continue to place politics and rhetoric as usual above considered action and common sense.
Know how I know this?
Remember a while back? Right after Obama took over? Remember how his Secretary of Homeland Defense, Janet Napolitano, wanted to make sure that military folks returning from the warzones were looked at carefully for those indicators that might lead them into the arms of terrorists, both domestic and foreign? Remember that? Remember what happened? Do you? Conservatives and even some liberals arose en mass, appalled that “our brave soldiers” should be treated so terribly by a traitorous White House. Remember the Rhetoric? Remember Rush and Glenn and Anne and Chuck? Remember their self righteous outrage? Remember the patriotic condemnation of those Republican Congressman and Senators?
Do you remember?
Almost to a man, those are the same Senators and Congressmen and pundits and bloviating conservative hypocrites who are condemning the White House for not predicting Hasan’s actions, for not investigating the military for others of the same inclination, for not making sure that THIS NEVER HAPPPENS AGAIN.
I wonder, will Lieberman investigate them as enablers? As traitors? As terrorists. As willing participants and coconspirators?
As loudmouthed hypocrites?
It will happen again.
As long as self-serving, grandstanding sons of bitch like Senators Lieberman and Susan Collins, Pundits like Rush and Hannity and Beck, and clueless morons like Chuck Norris and Sarah Palin continue to bend tragedies like this to their own ends, it will continue to happen.
I can predict that with the utmost certainty.