As Hurricane Katrina zeroed in on New Orleans in 2005, government at all levels was lethargic, seemed unprepared, and to some, even uncaring. In the wake of last week’s massacre at Fort Hood, we are learning that the United States Army knew quite a bit about Major Nadal Malik Hasan — but did not act on the information. Fort Hood could become Barack Obama’s Katrina.
In 2005, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff designated the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael D. Brown to lead the government’s response to the hurricane. Even though there were charges of mismanagement and delayed reactions to the devastation, President Bush was famously quoted as saying to Brown: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”
The apparent nonchalance would dog the Bush administration to the very end.
In the Fort Hood case, we’re now discovering all kinds of things about the “suspected” shooter. (We have to say “suspected” even though there were dozens of witnesses because Hasan has not been tried. His lawyer, John Galligan, has advised him to keep his mouth shut.)
The Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George Casey was made available to three of the Sunday morning TV discussion shows — presumably to show how concerned our government is about the rampage. Casey, on all three shows, made it clear what the military is concerned about: First, he told America that he had ordered his officers to make sure that muslims serving in the military do not become the victims of a backlash. Second, Casey stated, “It would be a shame — as great a tragedy as this was — it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”
So thirteen soldiers and civilian workers lay in area morgues — fourteen counting the unborn child of a pregnant solider — and about thirty more were in various hospitals, some in critical condition, and the Army Chief of Staff is concerned about Muslim soldiers and diversity.
Echoing what President Obama had said on the day of the shootings, Casey warned that no one should jump to any conclusions based on early information. After all, such speculation “could heighten the backlash.”
On Thursday afternoon, the day of the shootings, President Obama was politicking at an Indian Reservation and was expected to comment to the nation about the events at Fort Hood. When he finally went on national TV, he chattered about his visit there and gave a “shout out” to Dr. Joe Medicine Crow — before finally getting around to the events in Texas.
His lighthearted mood and his apparent lack of concern eclipsed anything we saw in the aftermath of Katrina. Oh, well. At least he remembered to tell us not to speculate.
Talk radio and cable television speculated anyway. The truth turns out to be beyond most of the speculation. Hasan had been talking and a lot of people knew what was in his head. He had attended a Mosque, the same one that some of the 9/11 hijackers had attended, and he had come under the influence of a fiery, radical imam. Federal authorities knew about this just as they knew about web postings that may have come from Hasan about suicide bombings and other Islamic threats. Now we learn that Hasan may have tried to contact al Qaeda.
So what, exactly did the military know, and when did it know it? And why was no action taken? Could it be to preserve Casey’s precious diversity?
The attitude of our Commander-in-Chief and others sworn to protect us is frighteningly reminiscent of what happened with Katrina. All we need from Obama is a hearty, “Gen. Casey, you’re doing a heck of a job.”