The massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, last week has shined a harsh, unremitting light on the hold that "political correctness" has on the American military. There is an eruption of commentary on the appalling results of ignoring disturbing things so as not to appear "discriminatory." It struck me the other day that the big picture unveiled by the murders of 13 Americans and the wounding of more than two dozen others, soldiers and civilians, last Thursday is simply this: Political correctness kills. As I got ready for my show on Tuesday, I Googled the phrase and discovered that a large number of other people had been exploring the concept. No wonder.
The accused mass murderer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, couldn't have been more open about his lunacy if he'd taken out billboard ads proclaiming it to passing motorists. The army psychiatrist conducted an hourlong PowerPoint presentation at his previous billet, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, that was ostensibly a medical presentation but turned out to be a rant against non-Muslims - infidels, he said, who should be burned in oil and beheaded. That should have set off alarms, but reportedly, none of the doctors in attendance filed a complaint for fear of being seen as "discriminatory" against Muslim soldiers. And they had good reason to be wary. As we know from Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey's appearance on "Sunday Morning," a greater tragedy than the carnage inflicted on unarmed soldiers by an officer of their own army would be anything that called into question "diversity" as a priority of the American military.
So the facts, witnessed by many, that Major Hasan said he was disturbed by the wars being fought in Muslim lands, that he sympathized with suicide bombing, and that he told fellow soldiers he was a Muslim first and an American second, were ignored by higher-ups in the chain of command. Instead of intervention and separation from service, or perhaps charges of sedition, it was instead decided to send him to Afghanistan by way of Fort Hood. We now know the terrible price paid for this unwillingness to face reality and do something appropriate to the circumstances.
Diversity trumps everything, according to the Guardians of Correct Thought, within and without the military. ABC News reports that intelligence agencies were aware of Dr. Hasan's attempts to contact al-Qaeda but did nothing. It's reminiscent of the intelligence failures prior to the Sept. 11 attacks; bureaucrats bumbling about, unable to see what was in front of their noses until after the bloody fact. In this case, the CIA is denying the report that it refused to brief congressional intelligence committees on what knowledge the agency might have had on Major Hasan's efforts to communicate with terrorists. Who knows what the truth is, and whether we'll ever learn it?
The mindset of diversity trumping all other concerns is on display in less dramatic ways in our military as well. The Navy Times reported Sunday that Naval Academy leaders removed two midshipmen from a color guard assigned to the World Series because they were white men. According to the story, they were replaced by a black man and a white woman to present a more diverse profile, angering a lot of midshipmen, their families and alumni. So, as is to be expected in the military, the Naval Academy commandant, Capt. Matt Klunder, ordered his brigade commanders to forbid midshipmen from discussing this story with any outsiders. This is in keeping with the statement earlier this year by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead that at the Naval Academy, diversity is priority No. 1. As academy English professor Bruce Fleming pointed out on my show Wednesday (and wrote in an online column, "The Cost of a Diverse Naval Academy"), there is a high price to pay for this obsession.
As we know from our president, we mustn't leap to conclusions about what prompted the shootings at Fort Hood. We aren't to allow for the possibility that diversity has its downside, even though that reality is as clear as a Sonoma sky.
Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL .com. His column appears Fridays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.