Thursday, April 8, 2010

Crying (Lone) Wolf

"Near Eleusis, in Attica, there lurked a bandit named Damastes, called Procrustes, or 'The Stretcher'. He had an iron bed in which travelers who fell into his hands were compelled to spend the night. His humour was to stretch the ones who were too short until they died, or, if they were too tall, to cut off as much of their limbs as would make them short enough. None could resist him, and the surrounding countryside became a desert." (

The procrusteans of today's counterterrorism industry (and their journalist stenographers), have been giving Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood murderer, a going over:

"While the hunt for bin Laden and his henchmen remains a focus of counterintelligence efforts abroad and in Pakistan particularly, US officials understand that the al-Qaeda threat has long since mutated from a bin Laden-centric attack strategy into a hierarchy of threat levels, external and increasingly internal. 'One of the phenomena that our counterintelligence people face now is that they have to worry about the big threat of a mass casualty attack along the lines of a repeat of [sic] 9/11... and also the extreme other end, which is the lone fanatic converted by the internet', says a former CIA officer and White House adviser, Bruce Riedel. 'The latter is someone who, at most, is peripherally linked to any kind of foreign terrorist organisation, like Major [Nidal Malik] Hasan at Fort Hood, but who can still be quite deadly'. The jihadi landscape reveals several degrees of al-Qaeda affiliation, says Lydia Khalil, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations. The original leadership has passed a baton to regional subsidiaries, often coopting the nationalist struggles of disaffected local groups. Then there are 'associated free agents' who choose to commandeer al-Qaeda's rhetoric and cause, Khalil says. 'Next, there are groups of entrepreneurial jihadists: radicals from outside conflict zones who nurse simmering grievances and conceive small-bore plots, rather than attempting spectacular attacks... And then come the 'lone wolves'. Nidal Hasan has been charged with opening fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, last November, killing 13. Paul Pillar, a US intelligence veteran, says: 'They are people who are inspired at least in part by the sort of ideological framework that bin Laden represents and has propounded. They are motivated at least as much by anger over specific policies and events and conflicts, but they are not sent or directed to conduct operations by al-Qaeda central'." (Osama who?: Capturing or killing the al-Qaeda leader has become less important in America's war against terrorism, Simon Mann, Sydney Morning Herald, 2-4/4/10)

So Major Nidal Hasan is your typical lone fanatic/wolf, right? Wrong. Even the procrusteans above seem to feel the need to qualify their representation of him as a jihadi of the lone wolf variety, deploying such caveats as peripherally linked and inspired at least in part.

It has fallen to author* Mark Ames to blow the whistle on those who would cry (lone) wolf over Major Hasan. Here are the opening paragraphs of his salutary essay, The memory scrub about why Ft Hood happened is almost complete... If it weren't for archives (, 24/11/09):

"What happened to all the initial reports that accused Fort Hood killer Maj. Nidal Hasan of having snapped because he was distraught over the Army's refusal to grant him either a discharge or an exemption from being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, wars which the Muslim psychiatrist abhorred - and how it was this callous Army refusal to accomodate Maj. Hasan that led to his downward spiral into despondency, rage and mass murder? We heard quite a bit about this in the first couple of days, and then - poof! That part of the Fort Hood story disappeared so neatly that I almost started to wonder if I'd imagined it - such is the power of media bombardment versus a mere soap bubble like the human memory. I might have forgotten too and gone along with the reality-scrub, the way all of Official America has gone, but thanks to all the news archives, it was possible to check the record as it was first reported on November 5, and trace how a key part of the Nidal Hasan story was airbrushed away from reality.

"The Army's pig-headed failure to accomodate Maj. Hasan was, for a time, the most important - and most damaging - detail for understanding his shooting rampage. Because if Maj. Hasan tried to get out of his deployment, and if he telegraphed every warning signal possible (emailing terrorists, cruising 7-11s in his Al-Qaeda costume) to bolster his case to reverse his deployment orders, and all the while the Army bureaucracy ignored him despite his 20 years' service - then that means the massacre can't be blamed just on one crazy Islamofascist's inner evil. Instead, much of the blame for driving Maj. Hasan to crack would fall on his superiors in the Army, who held his fate in their hands. They could have shown some flexibility, but instead treated him with the kind of callous bureaucratic insolence and nasty ethnic harassment you'd expect to find in a 19th century army, not 21st century America. If the Army really did fail to respond to a million-billion signals from Maj. Hasan, then it means we'd have to investigate more than just his evil little Muslim soul. We'd also have to look at the environment that changed him from a good loyal soldier into a cracked lunatic. That would mean examining just how screwed up the Army culture really is, how poorly it manages its resources and personnel, and why we went so long without knowing how bad things were...

"We'd also have to examine the link between Hasan's rampage and the Army's record number of suicides this year - which so far nearly equals the total number of US combat deaths in Iraq. A lot of this year's suicides involve Army personnel which hadn't yet shipped out to the war zones, like Maj. Hasan - a grim statistic that belies the chickenhawks' screeching attacks denying the existence of pre-combat stress syndrome. But the problem with investigating questions like these is that the answers could be one giant bummer - nothing makes an American's brain switch into 'hibernate' mode more quickly. The point being that as the horror of the Fort Hood massacre started to emerge, a lot of people were interested in superimposing a more comforting, simplistic version of events over the anbiguous, demoralizing reality. According to the new version of what led to the Fort Hood massacre, all along Maj. Hasan was a sleeper-jihadist moled up inside the Army structure, patiently waiting for his Al-Qaeda handlers in AfPak to give him the jihadi signal - and in the meantime, the Islamofascist sleeper cell ran around Walter Reed scaring the shit out of his Army colleagues for 2 years straight with his frothing lectures threatening to behead Infidels and pour hot oil down their necks."

[*Going Postal: Rage, Murder & Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine & Beyond, 2005]

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