Willful Blindness: Army Unprepared for Another Jihadist Attack

In January, I spoke before an audience of 350 top U.S. Army anti-terrorism and force protection officials from around the world. The seriousness of this event was punctuated by the Ft. Hood killings, committed by one of their own, and the killing six months earlier of an Army recruiter in Little Rock, Arkansas.

My briefing on current jihadist threats and tactics was intended to give this audience -- which included senior Pentagon commanders -- an external perspective on what went wrong, how the threat to the military was evolving, and how to move forward in terms of identifying these threats, countering them, and preparing for the next inevitable attack.

Days before this conference, the Department of Defense had issued the unclassified version of the report on the Ft. Hood massacre, prompting members of Congress and media outlets of all political stripes to note that something was missing -- namely, the killer’s motivation. The report failed to mention the jihadist ideology that inspired the attack by Maj. Nidal Hasan.

The report failed to even mention the killer by name. That was a bad sign.

I was grateful that I had been asked to speak at the conference, but I understood that I was coming in as the lone dissenter. Many in this audience, particularly in the front row, were the architects of and participants in the very system that had failed to address or ignored the obvious threat posed by Maj. Hasan to his fellow soldiers.

But they couldn’t say they hadn’t been warned. In fact, as the Washington Times reported in February, two of my colleagues -- Army Lt. Col. Joseph Myers and Dr. Terri Wonder -- and I had appeared at this very conference in 2008. We specifically warned them that these types of domestic jihadist threats were developing and that people were going to be killed if changes were not made. How did we know of this emerging threat? We had been tracking the evolution of the jihadist ideology, increasing radicalization, and specifically increased rhetoric directed at military personnel and installations at home.

Needless to say, our warnings went unheeded and people were in fact killed.

Throughout my presentation, I inserted various diagnostics, both to see if the audience was tracking and if there were in facts substantive changes being made. At one point I discussed the swarm attack, such as was seen in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. The Little Rock and Ft. Hood shootings had involved lone gunmen -- what if the next attack was by multiple shooters at multiple locations, or by a VBIED followed by follow-on shooters? The experience at Ft. Hood demonstrated that active shooter training and prompt response by base police saved lives. But what if that training was turned around on them next time?

I asked how many were training the first responders for swarm attacks at their military installations and facilities. Not a single hand was raised. For the record, I warned them that some variation of swarm tactics will be more than likely how the next jihadist attack against U.S.-based troops (and even their families) will unfold.

Immediately following the Ft. Hood massacre, I offered some initial thoughts here at Pajamas Media (“Why There Will Be More Military Base Shootings”) on where the problems lie. Chief among those was the long-institutionalized culture of political correctness that allowed Maj. Hasan’s full display of his hostile intentions to his fellow soldiers to be willfully ignored -- his now-infamous PowerPoint presentation. Had any one of those who protested his open hostility and violent ideology pressed the matter beyond their immediate chain of command, they would have seen their military careers come to an abrupt end. That remains true today.