This morning, Politico Arena asks:
The Fort Hood tragedy: Why does it matter, or not, what we call it? Is it being politicized?
If we want to be technical, what we call the Fort Hood massacre matters, and James Taranto got it right in Monday’s Wall Street Journal: It was not a terrorist attack, targeting noncombatants, but an act of guerrilla warfare, carried out by one of our own in apparent contact with the enemy, and hence an act of treason.
But the deeper and far larger problem is why the Army didn’t act sooner against this man and, even more, why it is, as Dorothy Rabinowitz put it in yesterday’s Journal, that “the tide of pronouncements and ruminations pointing to every cause for this event other than the one obvious to everyone in the rational world continues apace.” After all, it is not as if “the Hasan problem,” richly detailed elsewhere, were unknown to the Army. So why was nothing done? We all know why. It was stated simply in an NPR report yesterday: “A key official on a [Walter Reed] review committee reportedly asked how it might look to terminate a key resident who happened to be a Muslim.” If this isn’t ”political correctness,” nothing is.
And it goes beyond the naive analyses that say we can do nothing about these kinds of problems. It infects our very culture, from the newsroom to the college campus and far beyond, crippling sound analysis and judgment. We learn just this morning, for example, again in the Journal, that the FBI may not have briefed the Army, or done so sufficiently (it’s unclear), about Hasan’s intercepted emails with Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Yemeni imam. There may have been intelligence reasons for compartmenting that information. But in other cases it is an obsession with privacy that cripples investigation, itself a species of political correctness. Yet the conflicting “rights” at issue in risk contexts are never more than right claims until they’re delineated by statute or adjudication. Too often, however, that obsession blinds us, including in our legislation and adjudication, to the rights on the other side. After all, the 3,000 who died on 9/11 and the soldiers who died at Fort Hood had rights too.
The Fort Hood massacre cries out for further investigation. But it must be clear-eyed and free from the prejudice that today is rightly called “political correctness.”