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The political correctness of our armed forces engenders fear of anti-Islam "gaffes" that has left it vulnerable to homegrown, Internet-enabled Muslim terrorism within the rank-and-file.

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Military’s ‘PC’ Approach Blinds it to Jihadist Threats

The political correctness of our armed forces engenders fear of anti-Islam “gaffes” that has left it vulnerable to homegrown, Internet-enabled Muslim terrorism within the rank-and-file.

The thwarted bombing by a U.S. Army jihadist outside Fort Hood in Texas intensifies fears there is a serious homegrown terrorist threat and raises questions about whether our politically correct (PC) military can identify internal threats.
 
Last Wednesday, U.S. Army Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo, who had requested conscientious objector status because of his Muslim beliefs, allegedly planned to “get even” for unspecified mistreatment by detonating two shrapnel-packed bombs inside a restaurant frequented by soldiers near Fort Hood, according to ABC News.  But the AWOL soldier’s plans were thwarted by operational mistakes that led to his arrest.
 
Police arrested Abdo at his Killeen, Tex., motel, where they found bomb-making materials, firearms and ammunition.  Officials told ABC News they also found a copy of an article titled, “How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” a feature article from Inspire, the English-language magazine by the terror group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
 
On Friday Abdo was charged in a Waco, Tex., court with possession of an illegal firearm in addition to previous charges of possession of child pornography and going AWOL from his unit.  After his hearing, he yelled “Iraq 2006” and the name of an Iraqi girl who was raped and murdered in 2006 by U.S. soldiers.  Then as he was led from the courtroom, he shouted, “Nidal Hasan!,” “Fort Hood!” and “2009!”
 
Abdo’s case is another example of the danger of homegrown lone-wolf militants.  His shouted reference to “Nidal Hasan,” the jihadist charged with 13 murders and 32 attempted murders at Fort Hood in 2009, and the discovery of a copy of the Inspire article in his motel room suggest Abdo’s inspiration comes from Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born Islamic cleric and AQAP leader.
 
Al-Awlaki is believed to have inspired Hasan via e-mails, along with Umar Abdulmutallab, the Christmas 2009 underwear bomber of Northwest flight 253, who allegedly told U.S. officials he was in contact with al-Awlaki prior to that bombing.  Faisal Shahzad, who pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate a bomb in Times Square in 2010, admitted he too was inspired by al-Awlaki and said after his sentencing, “War with Muslims has just begun … the defeat of the U.S. is imminent, God willing.” 
 
The incidence of homegrown terrorism has increased significantly in the past two years, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  Specifically, from May 2009 to November 2010, there were 22 different homegrown plots by al-Qaeda, its affiliates and ideological allies.  By comparison, there were just 21 plots from September 2001 to May 2009.
 
It is important to understand that most of the new terrorists were radicalized via the Internet.  A 2008 U.S. Senate report predicted homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremist ideology would increase due to the focused online efforts of that ideology’s adherents.
 
Internet-savvy jihadist wannabes learn the ideology’s core goals from their cyber mentors: a global caliphate that strives for Sharia (Islamic law) enforced by government and allegiance given to the Islamist community (the Ummah) and none else.  This network believes violence is justified to accomplish these goals and anyone who opposes it is an enemy.
 
The New York City Police Department developed a four-part framework to understand how these homegrown Islamists are radicalized: pre-radicalization (acquire openness to the ideology), self-identification (adherents search for answers to their grievances), indoctrination (embrace ideology that the world is in a struggle against the West), and violence.  The violence stage is reached when members accept their duty to commit violence, seek training and plan attacks.
 
As disconcerting as the surging threat of Internet-savvy homegrown Islamists may be, it is arguably more troubling that our military seems to be so PC that it can’t identify internal extremist threats.  That is especially troubling because over the past two years, eight Islamist attacks have been planned or carried out against military installations in the U.S., according to the Associated Press.
 
But political correctness has swayed the military’s culture regarding all things Islamic, thus making identifying Islamic extremists less likely.  For example, the Pentagon’s 86-page review of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre, “Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood,” doesn’t mention the words “Muslim,” “Islam,” “jihad,” “Sharia,” or “Koran,” even though Maj. Hasan initiated his slaughter with the scream “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and he is a confirmed Islamist.  Worse, none of the report’s recommendations would have stopped Hasan’s attack or the one planned by Pfc. Abdo.
 
Unfortunately the Fort Hood report is but one of many examples of the military’s PC blindness when it comes to criticizing Islam.  Last year, for example, Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, was invited to speak at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer, but days prior to the event his invitation was withdrawn because he once described Islam as “evil.”  Army spokesman Gary Tallman told Fox News that Graham’s “presence at the event may be taken by some [read Muslims] as inappropriate for a government agency.”
 
President Obama’s advisers advanced this PC agenda by exorcising religious terms such as “Islamic extremism” from the U.S. National Security Strategy and directed the Pentagon to rewrite strategy documents that viewed Muslim nations through the lens of terror.  For example, the 128-page 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review outlines the country’s terrorist threat without using the words “Islam,” “Islamic” or Islamist” a single time.
 
President George W. Bush also kowtowed to Muslim sensibilities, which contributed to the Islamist-shy military culture.  Bush gave the White House its first Koran, hosted its first iftar (fast-breaking) dinner to celebrate Ramadan, and launched a Muslim outreach program giving “legitimacy” to some Islamic organizations that promote an ideology similar to al-Qaeda. 
 
Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England guided the Pentagon’s pro-Muslim campaign, which included hiring an Islamic aide, Hesham Islam, who had links with the radical Muslim Brotherhood.  England cavorted with leaders of Islamic groups such as the Islamic Society of North America, a front organization for the Muslim Brotherhood.  His outreach program created military-wide cultural fear of being vilified as “Islamophobic,” which was evidenced by the case of Stephen Coughlin, a military intelligence analyst.
 
Coughlin said he was hired to “… set aside the feel-good assumptions about Islam … and take an unblinkered look at the facts.”  But Coughlin was eventually sacked after a run-in with England’s Muslim aide, who labeled his views “Islamophobic,” according to Fox News.
 
England also set out to recruit more Muslims.  He set up Muslim prayer rooms on military installations, hired imams and hosted an iftar for the Muslim American community and Muslim service members.  “There is a message here, and that is that Muslims and the Islamic religion are totally compatible with Western values,” England told the Christian Science Monitor.
 
These pro-Muslim actions across two administrations created a military cultural firewall around Islam.  That was evident at the Fort Hood memorial service following the 2009 massacre.  Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, never mentioned the Islamist factor in the massacre but made statements expressing concern about “force protection,” the potential heightened “backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers” and the risk to Army “diversity.”
 
The Pentagon must shed its blindness regarding violent Islamist extremism among service members like Abdo through strong policies and training, and by changing the PC culture of fear.  The military has become uncomfortable identifying and dealing with possible Islamists within its ranks out of fear of the political gaffe of racially profiling Muslims. 
 
Fortunately, Pfc. Abdo was stopped before he killed innocents.  Congress must demand an investigation before there is another incident, and insist this time on real solutions to the military’s PC culture.  And military leaders must be courageous as the Obama administration’s PC fusillades continue to erode our readiness.

Written By

Robert Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, and a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television.

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