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News Analysis

U.S. Military in the Jihadi Bull's-Eye

by: 
Clare M. Lopez

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King held the fourth of his series of Capitol Hill hearings on Islamic radicalization in early December 2011.

The 7 December hearing focused on military communities in the United States (U.S.), which King described as the most sought-after target for Islamic terrorism. King’s Homeland Security Committee report, “Homegrown Terrorism: The Threat to Military Communities Inside The United States,” was issued the same day. It documents the startling surge in Islamic plots and strikes against military targets since 2009, which included the June 2009 attack at an Army recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas and the November 2009 attack by Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Ft. Hood, Texas.

More than 30 other threats and plots against U.S. military communities since 9/11 have put service members in the Islamic jihadist bull’s-eye, not just at dangerous posts overseas, but “inside the wire,” at home. Those communities are exceptionally vulnerable because of the Department of Defense’s refusal to define or defend against the enemy threat doctrine of shariah Islam—a doctrine that makes jihad obligatory for all Muslims.   

As King’s hearings and the Committee report both point out, Islamic jihadis of unknown numbers are penetrating our defenses by enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces. Many of them have been inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born al-Qa’eda operative who was killed in Yemen in September 2011. Although he is no longer writing for Inspire, al-Qa’eda’s (now-defunct) slick English language online magazine, al-Awlaki’s many sermons recorded on DVD and available at myriad jihadi websites continue to urge individual Muslims to put their faith into practice through individual jihad (or fard ‘ayn).

Under Islamic law (shariah), Fard ‘ayn is obligatory for all Muslims everywhere in the world whenever non-Muslim (infidel) soldiers are present on Muslim land. Ordinarily, in times when the Muslim world was governed by a Caliph at the head of a Caliphate (Islamic empire), shariah required that Caliph to lead a minimum of one offensive jihad foray per year against neighboring infidel lands. But since the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, the Islamic world has been without a Caliph or Caliphate to organize these obligatory raids. In this situation, and with American troops present in so many Muslim lands, Islamic law is clear: the usual collective responsibility (or fard kifayah) to conduct jihad (which relieves every single individual of the duty) devolves to the individual Muslim. 

And that is the duty that Muslim authorities have been describing and urging on those faithful to shariah Islam, especially in recent years. Clearly, as news reports document, there has been an increase in cases of individual jihadist plots—including attempts in Times Square, at a Portland, Oregon Christmas celebration, and in the skies over Detroit, Michigan—that target American civilians, too. But jihadist infiltration of U.S. military ranks betrays a trust in an especially insidious way, both by penetrating the defensive bulwark that used to hold civilians safe from the barbarians outside the gate and also by destroying the code of camaraderie that binds the troops together. Now the enemy is “inside the wire” and threatening the homeland from within. 

Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who gunned down thirteen people at the Ft. Hood Army Readiness Processing Center on 5 November 2009, offers a good case study of a Muslim officer, who although American born and raised, still identified himself first and foremost as a Muslim, not as an American. Hasan was within weeks of a scheduled deployment to Afghanistan on that tragic day, a prospect that seems to have triggered his murderous rampage.

But this first-generation son of Palestinian immigrants from Jordan had given explicit warning of his jihadist identity years before he opened fire on his fellow troops while screaming “Allahu Akbar” at the top of his lungs. Even as he was promoted through the ranks of the Army’s medical training program, Hasan not only received poor marks, but was trying to proselytize patients to his Muslim beliefs, handing out business cards marked with “SOA” (Soldier of Allah), and maintaining a long-term relationship with al-Awlaki, whom Hasan first met at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.

Even though both his Army military superiors and the FBI were aware of Hasan’s jihadist behavior, no one in the chain of command would take the professional career risk of challenging him or demanding an explanation for his threatening behavior. Not even when, in 2007, Hasan delivered a Power Point presentation to his classmates entitled, The Koranic World View as it Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military. Had anyone in that or subsequent Department of Defense (DoD) audiences understood the enemy’s Islamic doctrine, as their Constitutional oath of service requires, alarm bells would have gone off right then and there. Hasan’s presentation, in fact, gave a factually accurate explanation of the Islamic injunction against a Muslim killing fellow Muslims without right, the doctrine of abrogation, the imperative of submission in Islam, the rewards promised to jihadis (and especially those who commit suicide in order to kill infidels), and the definitions of “defensive” and “offensive” jihad. His final Recommendations slide was chillingly prescient: it read, “Department of Defense should allow Muslim soldiers the option of being released as “Conscientious objectors” to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events.”  [Emphasis added.]   

Gen. George C. Casey, Army Chief of Staff, exemplified the incompetence that currently characterizes U.S. military and national security leadership with regard to the Islamic enemy when he dismissed Hasan’s jihadist massacre as less important than “diversity” in the military, saying “Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” The August 2010 DoD report on the Ft. Hood shootings likewise plumbed new depths of cowardice when it refused to even mention Hasan’s jihadist motivations and instead classified the attacks as, essentially, a kind of workplace violence. 

The King hearings, by contrast, fearlessly took on Islamic jihadist penetration of the U.S. military and featured testimony from Daris Long, the father of slain Army Pvt. William Andrew Long, killed when Carlos Bledsoe (aka Abdulhakim Muhammad) opened fire outside a Little Rock, Arkansas recruiting office in June 2009. Long took the Obama administration to task for treating his son’s murder as a “drive-by shooting” and the Ft. Hood killings as merely “work-place violence.” At earlier appearances, Bledsoe’s father also has spoken movingly about losing his son to Islamic jihad, describing how he turned his back on the family’s cultural roots and traditional Baptist faith. He, too, blames official U.S. “political correctness” for failing to identify and root out those imams and mosques whose seditious preaching and jihadist literature lead young Americans astray right here at home.

Individual jihad is a Muslim duty. The only way that obligation can be lifted is if or when an Islamic Caliphate arises again to organize the ummah (Muslim community) in official raids against the infidel enemy. Given events sweeping the Middle East, the notion of a new Caliphate actually is not so far-fetched as U.S. national security or military leadership would portray. If Americans want to be warned of what’s to come next from the international Islamic Awakening, it will be more instructive by far to listen to the acknowledged leaders of the jihad movement: the Rachid Ghannouchis, Mustafa Abdul-Jalils, and Yousef al-Qaradawis, than to most American national leadership at the moment (Rep. Peter King and like-minded congressional colleagues excepted). At least these jihadis speak candidly about shariah Islam, a new Caliphate, and their intent to see them both ultimately in force in the United States of America. 

Clare M. Lopez, a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, writes regularly for ClarionProject.org, and is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, and counterterrorism issues. Lopez began her career as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)