What causes jihad terror attacks? As far as the U.S. Navy is concerned, a primary cause is apparently people who say mean things. On Friday, the Navy released a 260-page investigation on the December 2019 jihad attack perpetrated by Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, in which three people were killed. The report found that yes, he was a jihadi, but also “there was a toxic microclimate” at Naval Air Station Pensacola due to the “unprofessional behavior” of one of Alshamrani’s instructors. So you see, Alshamrani murdered people in the name of Allah and Islam because non-Muslims were mean to him. Isn’t that always the case?
Military.com reported Friday that “a U.S. Navy investigation has determined that the Saudi pilot who killed three people when he opened fire on Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola last year was self-radicalized.” The Navy will not say so in so many words, but that means that Alshamrani somehow got the idea that his Islamic religion commanded him to make war against unbelievers, including his comrades-in-arms in Pensacola.
We didn’t really need a 260-page report to tell us that. The Associated Press reported back in May that Alshamrani “repeatedly communicated with al-Qaida operatives about planning in the months leading up to the attack.” And he didn’t just communicate with them. Attorney General William Barr noted that the shooter, Mohammed Alshamrani, had “significant ties to Al Qaeda [in] the Arabian Peninsula not only before the attack, but before he even arrived in the United States.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray added that Alshamrani’s attack was the “brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation….We now know enough to see Alshamrani for what he was — a determined AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] terrorist who spent years preparing to attack us. He wasn’t just coordinating with them about planning and tactics. He was helping the organization making the most it could out of his murders.” Wray said that al-Qaeda “certainly more than just inspired” Alshamrani’s massacre.
The Navy report acknowledged this, saying: “The self-radicalization of 2nd Lt. Alshamrani was the primary cause of this fatal attack.” However, it added that “military leaders, government employees, contracted employees, peers and civilians knew of isolated events and indicators, but all remained unaware of a complete picture of 2nd Lt. Alshamrani’s potential threat indicators.”
We have seen this silence in the face of threat indicators before, in the case of U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who murdered thirteen people and wounded thirty at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009, while screaming “Allahu akbar.”
Before his attack, Hasan had given numerous indications of what he was planning to do. Most notorious among many such indications was the fact that in June 2007, Hasan gave a PowerPoint presentation to his coworkers, in which he proposed to show “what the Qur’an inculcates in the minds of Muslims and the potential implications this may have for the U.S. military.” According to the AP, “he gave a class presentation questioning whether the U.S.-led war on terror was actually a war on Islam. And students said he suggested that Shariah, or Islamic law, trumped the Constitution and he attempted to justify suicide bombings.”
Although Hasan’s jihadist tendencies were well known, clearly fear of charges of “Islamophobia” prevented his Army superiors from acting upon signs of his incipient jihadist tendencies. Instead, they kept promoting him. The AP reported in January 2010 that “a Defense Department review of the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, has found the doctors overseeing Maj. Nidal Hasan’s medical training repeatedly voiced concerns over his strident views on Islam and his inappropriate behavior, yet continued to give him positive performance evaluations that kept him moving through the ranks.”
Likewise in Alshamrani’s case. Enraged by an instructor, he was heard saying, “I want his head,” although he stopped himself before he completed the last word. Everyone who heard him knew that it would have been “Islamophobic” to start to wonder if maybe Alshamrani was inclined to jihad. His superiors also didn’t know that he had purchased a gun, likely because they were likely tiptoeing around him, knowing that there is a heavy price to pay for too much scrutiny of a Muslim officer.
But as far as the Navy is concerned, that instructor who so irritated Alshamrani bears some responsibility for the jihad attack. “A key factor,” according to Military.com, “was the unprofessional behavior and harassment from a contracted instructor — and a group of instructors who stood idly by — at the base within Training Wing Six, or TW-6, the host training wing at the Florida base, the report says.”
Three students charged that this instructor “made homophobic comments regarding their hairstyles and personal grooming.” He was also unkind to Alshamrani, whom he called “Pornstache.” Another student said the instructor called him an “a–hole.”
All this may sound like just another day in your father’s military, but a new breed is in charge now. The instructor was made to apologize to Alshamrani, but the Saudi was unappeased, and that’s when he blurted out, “I want his hea … I want something to happen to him!”
That’s the “toxic microclimate” that led this poor lamb Alshamrani to murder three people. People were mean to him, you see, so he had to kill. It is worth noting, however, that the three students with the gay haircuts didn’t shoot up the base. Nor did the a-hole. Only Alshamrani did. Now, why is that?
This Navy report is not only embarrassing for revealing these military men to be fragile half-men who worry about “toxic microcultures” made up of insults and ribbing that military men have engaged in from time immemorial; it also demonstrates yet again how fear of “Islamophobia” prevents officials from acting upon warning signs of an impending jihad attack. How many more people have to die before this is addressed? In a Biden administration, the real toxic microculture of denial, willful ignorance, and weakness is likely only to get worse.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.