Editor’s Note: This interview took place at 6PM EST, well before the delayed press conference at Fort Hood later in the evening.
HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt on a very sad day. Twelve are dead at Fort Hood in Texas, 31 wounded. The killer is Major Malik Nadal Hasan. There may be others, two other people are in custody. I will play you the official announcement in a moment. Hasan is dead. I’m joined by Mark Steyn, www.steynonline.com. Mark, just today, you wrote over at MacLean’s that it’s tough to do radio in the middle of breaking news, because it’s just, you never know what’s going on. But do you have a reaction thus far to how, to this horrific story out of Texas?
MS: Well, granted, all that we said about how it’s…we should be wary of leaping to conclusions as the story is breaking. Several things did leap out at me. The first thing was that there were three shooters when the story was first reported. So obviously this isn’t the lone guy going rogue as happens at Virginia Tech or whatever. Then, when it’s said they were three members of the military, again, the story got a little more unusual. Then when they said it’s Major Malik Nadal Hasan, who’d expressed recently his hostility to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was reported by ABC to be a recent convert to Islam, then a very disturbing picture starts to emerge. And what in the end may be just as disturbing is whether the American media is ready and willing to discuss the underlying motivations of these events honestly.
HH: It is also being reported this hour, CBS says he is an Army psychiatrist. Other sources have said the two other soldiers were not shooters. Other sources say that they were shooters. We don’t know yet.
HH: In order to bring everyone up to speed, let me play for everyone the most definitive statement from Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, commander, two star, at Fort Hood. Here is his statement earlier today:
RC: At approximately 13:30 hours today, a shooter entered what we call the soldier readiness facility, where soldiers who are preparing to deploy go for last minute medical checkups and dental treatment, et cetera. A shooter opened fire, and essentially due to the quick response of the police forces, was killed. And at this time, the numbers that we’re looking at are twelve dead, and 31 wounded. And they are disbursed among the local hospitals here in the Central Texas area. Again, there…the extent of injuries varies significantly, and again, we’re getting great cooperation from the Central Texas medical facilities. As I said, the shooter was killed. He was a soldier. We since then have apprehended two additional soldiers that are suspects. And I could go into the point that there were, there were eyewitness accounts that there may have been more than one shooter. They tracked the suspected individuals to an adjacent facility, and they were apprehended. They are soldiers, but again, they are suspects at this time, and we’re looking into that. The challenge that we face right now is the installation is locked down, and in many cases, a lot of facilities, a lot of our families, children, are locked in facilities, and we’re making a call right now as to determine whether we think the situation is at a conclusion such that we can release people and get them back to their homes.
HH: And that was the extent of the official statement thus far. Mark Steyn, one other piece of information out is it is said that Major Malik Nadal Hasan used two handguns. I’m at a loss to explain how 44 people can be shot, twelve of them dead, 31 wounded, with two handguns. That doesn’t add up.
MS: No, there are a lot of elements about this story that don’t add up. When you take what may be the kernel of this story, that it may be an officer firing on his own men, though, you can understand why that would be the last situation in the world that anybody would be expecting on a U.S. military base. And as I said, what will be interesting here is to see how honestly we deal with these events. I found it very curious that the FBI, for example, who are involved in the investigation here, issued a statement almost immediately saying there was no terrorism aspect involved. Now I suppose this is the FBI’s very narrow definition of terrorism that the guy is not a member of the Texas branch of al Qaeda, he doesn’t have his membership card on him. But that is not really a useful definition of what may prove to be the ideological motivation for what is going on down there.
HH: You know, I saw that statement as well, and the Bureau’s just got to stop doing that, because they’re losing credibility. It may turn out that it is not terrorism. It may turn out that you know, he’s not a recent convert to Islam, it’s got nothing to do with Islam, although the odds would argue against that. But you cannot rule out terrorism at this point. It’s impossible to do that.
MS: No, and also, everything we know so far, allowing for all the imponderables in the air, but the fact is that there are three people involved, one is dead, two are in custody, the talk that whatever we know about this major, he was very hostile to the idea of deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq, there’s something bizarre. There’s something bizarre about the FBI rushing out a statement saying oh, don’t worry, this has nothing to do with any broader, bigger picture, so don’t give it another thought. It’s just one of those crazy things that could happy anywhere. And I don’t understand…and the fact that the Bureau does this, I think, is a worrying glimpse of a kind of politicization of crime scene investigation, and I don’t like it at all.
HH: Yeah, we of course will be watching to see if it is indeed sudden jihad syndrome, Mark Steyn, as we have been following John Mohammed’s execution watch. We never quite figured out whether or not he was motivated by Islam, but we know, or his own…
MS: Oh, no, I think that’s actually pretty clear, that if you look particularly not so much with John Allen Mohammed, but with his boy sidekick Malvo…
MS: He had all kinds of pictures showing the planes going into the Twin Towers, and Allahu akbar written on them and all the rest of it. And again, it was the same thing at the time. If you remember, all during the Washington sniper incidents…
MS: We had all these experts on the air telling us oh, it looks like the work of an angry, white male, probably a hunter.
HH: Yup. Oh, I do remember that. And there’s also, we’ve had an experience with an American uniform military acting in the name of his view of radical Islam throwing a grenade into a tent, as I recall, in Kuwait…
MS: That’s right.
HH: …if I’ve got that right. So the idea of sudden jihad syndrome is something, I don’t know what you do about it, because we’ve got lots and lots, and I want to say it many times today, hundreds if not thousands of members of Islam in the American military who have fought on the front line against radical jihadists all over the world, many of whom have done so with extraordinary courage and discipline and duty. They’re going to be the ones who are most ticked about this, Mark Steyn.
MS: Yes, I think, for example, of the…for example, a Muslim soldier in the British Army who fought with great distinction in Afghanistan, and on returning home, I think it was to the city of Birmingham, in England, found himself under attack from his fellow Muslims for having loyally served Queen and country. So I think it’s true that one of the people, one of the groups you’re at most risk from the fallout of this, are those Muslims who serve loyally in the United States armed forces. But at the same time, if this is sudden jihad syndrome, and if there looks like there’s the kind of conspiracy going on within Fort Hood between this major and two other people, then that has extremely serious implications. Twelve people dead – that would be a bad day in Afghanistan. And if essentially what happened at Fort Hood is driven by the same forces as in Afghanistan, then effectively that is just the domestic front of the same war.
HH: And it’s going to have to be understood at that, and investigated as that. In terms of media coverage, I also think that the military…I appreciate Lt. Gen. Cone coming out and talking. The military, the FBI, they’ve got to get out every bit of information they know immediately, Mark Steyn. Do you agree with that?
MS: Yes, I think so. I think these things, there is a trust issue involved, that essentially if what you’re being told by the FBI does not appear to meet the facts as they emerge, it’s not a good thing in the present climate for institutions of the state to encourage citizens in effect to lose trust in those institutions. And I certainly think in that respect, the FBI’s statement was premature, and to a certain extent, misleading.
HH: And I want to get one comment from you, Mark. I’ll be covering this throughout the day, about the elections of Tuesday night. Your assessment of the direction of the country?
MS: Well, it’s very interesting to me. I think Obama now has a choice. Does he say nuts to this, I’m going to ram it through, I don’t care if it’s unpopular, I’ll do what I have to do and I’ll take the hit in 2010? Because what is interesting to me is the suburban results in places like Westchester County, New York, and the Connecticut suburbs, where a lot of the people who thought they could afford an Obama presidency have discovered they can’t. And if that, if that starts to spread, then the Democrats are in huge trouble.
HH: Yeah, one thought I’ll be following up, New York 23rd a disappointment, but it might be a giant head fake that confuses Democrats about just how radical is the opinion sea change underway, and how it’s going to rebound against them next November. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America.
End of interview.