- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The note below is from a friend, retired Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a veteran intelligence officer who wrote one of the best memoirs of the Vietnam War, Silence was a Weapon — and who also blew a much-needed whistle in Iraq in 2004 about the abuse of prisoners.
My favorite anecdote in his Vietnam memoir is about the restaurateurs of Saigon who specialized in Hanoi cuisine and who complained about all the Viet Cong commanders he was driving into the city for lunch. Herrington’s feeling was that they were hungry and homesick, and that a little bit of pho would go a long way. He was right, despite the discomfort of the restaurant owners.
Anyway, here is his take on what the Army needs to do after the Fort Hood incident. I think he offers a lot of common sense, as well as dollop of respect for Muslim soldiers in a difficult situation. I think the top brass needs to think about this was a way to protect American soldiers from violent extremists in their ranks:
I remember when we invaded Panama, and I led a team to investigate (via captured archival review and interrogations of detainees) if some of our soldiers stationed in Panama had been “co-opted” (i.e. recruited) by Noriega’s intelligence service to give secret information about the US contingent stationed there. We found 35 cases from our investigation, of whom all but one were Hispanic GIs, or GIs with Panamanian wives who were working as civilians for US forces.
When I revealed these somewhat damning results to the J-2 and recommended that ethnic Hispanics, heavily targeted as they were, should receive a special security briefing when they signed in for duty, apprising them that they were particularly vulnerable and targeted when stationed there, the idea did not go over well with Southcom staffers and commanders, and that’s putting it mildly. “We cannot insult our fine Hispanic-American soldiers,” was the outcry. Sounds like a similar situation now exists with Muslim soldiers.
Fear of “insulting” them causes the Army to circle the wagons, in spite of the obvious appeals being made now by al Qaeda-associated Imam that no soldier in the U.S. Army who is Muslim can faithfully be a Muslim while serving in a force that kills fellow Muslims. This is a serious situation, and someone needs to wake up. There are ways to handle these things that are not necessarily insulting and degrading to Muslim soldiers. In fact, what is insulting and degrading to them is the notion that they are not sufficiently professional to understand their vulnerability and accept common-sense measures to heighten vigilance and weed out problem soldiers — like Maj. Nidal.”
I think there is a great deal of common sense in Stu’s note. I think his last three sentences need to be put in front of the Army chief of staff, the secretary of the Army, and the secretary of Defense.