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Morale: The Price Of Fairness


Valin

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20130403.aspxStrategy Page:

April 3, 2013:

 

The U.S. military award for combat wounds (the Purple Heart medal) is now the center of a controversy between politicians who are trying to play down the presence of Islamic radicalism in the United States and military leaders who want recognition for American troops killed or wounded by Islamic terrorism. While victims of domestic terrorism can receive the Purple Heart, the U.S. government refuses to categorize the November 5, 2009 attack in Ft Hood as a terrorist action. In that incident a Moslem U.S. Army officer (Major Nidal Hassan, a psychiatrist) shot and killed 13 people at a clinic, all the while yelling "God is great" in Arabic. It was later revealed that Hasan had a long history of Islamic radicalism, which his army superiors ignored. Now, in an apparent effort to not offend Moslems, the U.S. government refuses to designate Hasan's murders as terrorism and thus his victims cannot receive the Purple Heart. The government is calling the Hasan incident workplace violence.

 

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Eventually several officers were punished, or investigated, for their role in allowing Hasan to do what he did. But the army also realized that there were institutional problems and these were addressed, at least on paper, with some new rules. First, the army is conducting more thorough background checks. Not just to catch actual or potential Islamic radicals but also gang members or radicals of any sort. This has already caught some questionable recruits and, based on the few who got into the news, kept some dangerous, although otherwise qualified, applicants out of uniform.

 

The army is also attempting to deal with the atmosphere of political correctness that underpinned most of the bad decisions that enabled Hasan to stay in uniform and even get promoted. In the army, as in any large organization, all the rules are not written down. In the army many of the unwritten rules come in the form of "the commanders' intent." Sometimes this "intent" is spelled out, but in many cases subordinate commanders have to figure it out. In the Hasan case the commanders' intent was that Moslem officers, especially doctors, were to be kept happy and in uniform. When in doubt, look the other way and hope for the best. In the case of Hasan no one expected the guy to turn into a mass murderer. But, then, Hasan's superiors were encouraged to be optimistic about their Moslem problem child. So Hasan's radical rants and abusive behavior towards non-Moslems was, if not ignored, certainly played down. Commanders have now been ordered to pay attention to religious or political activities of their subordinates and sound off if radical or dangerous behavior appears to be in the works. This is a lot to ask from officers who know that some bad publicity not only makes the army look bad but damages career prospects.

 

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