From Gal Luft
The tragic killing of the 13 U.S. soldiers in Fort Hood by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is one is a string of events involving Muslim soldiers and veterans who have gone astray, raising delicate questions about the role and trustworthiness of the 3,000 Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military. The major incidents include the March 2003 attack in Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait by an American Muslim soldier, Asan Akbar, who rolled grenades into three tents where officers of the 101st Airborne’s 1st Brigade were sleeping, killing one serviceman and wounding 15; the six Islamic radicals who in May 2007 plotted to storm New Jersey’s Fort Dix Army Base with automatic weapons and execute as many soldiers as possible; and John Allen Muhammad, the Beltway Sniper, a Gulf War veteran and convert to Islam who was responsible for 16 shootings and 10 murders and who is scheduled to be executed today.
It would be inappropriate to malign or even question the loyalty of the hard-working Muslim men and women wearing the uniforms of the United States. But it would be equally irresponsible to ignore the amassing evidence that subversive and combustible elements with radical Islamic persuasion have infiltrated our military, often putting our personnel at bigger risk in their own bases than from their enemies on the battlefield.
While Muslim soldiers have served in uniforms loyally for decades, it is the rising number of Wahhabi-trained and converted Muslims that is a relatively recent phenomenon. Since Wahhabism is one of the most radical and puritan strands of Islam, the penetration of Wahhabi thinking into the ranks of the military must be treated with care.
The genesis of radical Islamic thinking within the military was in the 1990-91 Gulf War, when nearly half a million soldiers and marines were deployed in Saudi Arabia to liberate Kuwait and defend the oil kingdom from Saddam Hussein’s aggression. While the Saudis were adamantly opposed to any expression of religious practice by their guests, including a ban on Christmas carols, bible classes and Christian and Jewish prayers, they embarked on a well-orchestrated and generously funded effort sponsored by the Saudi government to convert as many American military members as possible to Islam.
According to General Norman Schwarzkopf’s aide Rick Francona,
Saudi officers appeared to have been directed by their senior military or religious leadership to spot and assess potential converts to Islam among American military members. Once a particular American was ‘targeted,’ […] a few Saudi military officers, including a military imam, would attempt to meet the American in either a purely social setting or at least outside of the work area. These approaches usually included fairly generous gifts and of course, literature about Islam. The gifts included expensive briefcases, pens, books and other personal items. Americans who decided to convert to Islam were rewarded handsomely […] including all expenses paid trips to Mecca, and payments as high as $30,000.
The commander of Saudi forces in the Gulf, Prince Khaled bin Sultan bragged in his memoir that more than 2,000 American troops converted to Islam through this campaign. “These Muslim troops are now the messengers of Islam in the U.S. forces,” said Dr. Abu Ameena Bilal Phillips, a Jamaican-born convert to Islam (1972) who worked during the Gulf war under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force while converting U.S. troops to Islam in his spare time. After the war, Phillips moved to the United States to “set up Islamic chapters in the U.S. Defense Department.”
Nearly two decades have passed since the Saudi conversion campaign, and most of the converts may no longer be in uniforms. But the seeds sown during the Gulf War have germinated, creating scores of radicalized Americans who are a threat to their comrades in uniforms as well as to their civilian communities.
Fort Hood’s Hasan yelled “Allahu Akbar“—Arabic for “God is Great”—just before the shooting. As Camp Pennsylvania’s killer Akbar was being led away after the incident, fellow soldiers heard him shout: “You guys are coming into our countries and you’re going to rape our women and kill our children.” Allahu Akbar, “you guys,” “our countries”—strong words which tell us that it is time to investigate what exactly happened back then in the desert and assess how serious and deep-rooted the damage is.