"How did the enemy get into our camp?"
That's what Bart Womack, a command sergeant major of the elite 101st Airborne Division, asked himself as a grenade rolled past him after 1 a.m. on Sunday at an American camp in Kuwait.
The attacker worked methodically, destroying an electricity generator, throwing grenades into Womack's tent and the two other command tents, then shooting tents. One soldier died and 15 sustained injuries.
The enemy in this case appears to be not what one might expect - an Iraqi soldier or a Kuwaiti Islamist. The only suspect in custody is Hasan Karim Akbar, 31, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division.
If Akbar were responsible for the rampage, what might be his motivation? First reports suggest that, as a devout African-American convert to Islam, he identifies with the Iraqi enemy against his fellow soldiers.
The Los Angeles Times quotes him stating, after he was apprehended, "You guys are coming into our countries, and you're going to rape our women and kill our children."
NBC found that he "was opposed to the killing of Muslims and opposed to the war in Iraq." Reuters quotes one source saying, "He's a Muslim, and it seems he was just against the war," while another told the news agency that the violence was "politically motivated."
There is evidence to suggest that Akbar expected to get in trouble even before he arrived in Kuwait. His former stepfather quotes him saying that Akbar "did not want to fight in this war, he didn't want to go over there." A neighbor explains why: "America shouldn't be going," Akbar told him; he judged it not "right" to attack Iraq. And his mother quotes him: "Mama, when I get over there I have the feeling they are going to arrest me just because of the name that I have carried."
This incident raises two issues.
First, the U.S. government's initial response indicates that, once again, it is ascribing violence by an American Muslim to purely personal causes. Here's its take on prior homicides:
- "A prescription drug for or consistent with depression" to explain why El Sayyid A. Nosair in 1990 shot Rabbi Meir Kahane.
- "Road rage" to explain why Rashid Baz in 1994 shot a Hassidic boy on the Brooklyn Bridge.
- "Many, many enemies in his mind" to explain why Ali Hasan Abu Kamal in 1997 shot a tourist on the Empire State Building's observation deck.
- "A work dispute" as why Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet in 2002 shot two people at the El Al counter of Los Angeles International Airport.
And Akbar in 2003? U.S. Army spokespersons talk variously about an "attitude problem," a desire for "retribution" and "resentment." The chief chaplain at Akbar's Fort Campbell, Ky., home base announces (completely without evidence) that the incident is "not an expression of faith."
No one yet knows Akbar's motives, but ignoring that it fits into a sustained pattern of political violence by American Muslims amounts to willful self-deception. When will officialdom acknowledge what is staring it in the face?
Its avoidance of reality has real consequences, increasing the dangers Americans face. "This country's officials are in a state of denial and confusion that is almost as frightening as the terrorism they are supposed to be fighting," observes Dennis Prager, only slightly exaggerating.
Second, the Akbar incident points to the suspect allegiance of some Muslims in government. The case of Gamal Abdel-Hafiz recently surfaced: an FBI agent whose colleagues say he twice refused to record conversations with suspected financiers of militant Islamic terrorism ("A Muslim does not record another Muslim"). [The Seattle Times reports three witnesses recalling that John Allen Muhammad, the man accused of the Washington, D.C.-area sniper murders last fall, had thrown a grenade into a tent during the 1991 war against Iraq.] Other cases are under investigation.
All of which reinforces what I wrote in January: "There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in prisons and the armed forces. Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches and temples."
As Sgt. Womack noted, the enemy has already managed to "get into our camp." Do we have the will to stop him before he strikes again?
Mar. 26, 2003 update: If evidence points to a terrorist motive, reports the New York Times, the F.B.I. would most likely open a full investigation, officials said. But "at this point," a law enforcement official in Los Angeles said, "I don't think there's anything that's pointing to that as the motive."
Apr. 8, 2003 update: According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, "U.S. Air Force Capt. Mark Wisher, the Northern Kentuckian injured during a grenade attack carried out by a member of his own unit in Kuwait, is back home in Tennessee, comfortable but not content. … Because the incident is still under investigation, Wisher can say little about what happened that night in the Kuwaiti desert. But he did call it 'a terrorist attack, the kind of terrorism we are trying to keep from our homeland'."
Apr. 9, 2003 update: U.S. intelligence and security officials fear attacks by Muslim U.S. soldiers opposed to the war in Iraq in the wake of a fatal grenade attack in Kuwait blamed on a Muslim soldier in the Army, reports the Washington Times. "There is concern that this may not be an isolated incident," said one intelligence official familiar with the investigation of Sgt. Asan Akbar.
Apr. 15, 2005 update: I provide more information about the jiihadi's state of mind at "Hasan Akbar's Chilling Diary Entries."