Lessons Unlearned: Pentagon Report on the Massacre at Fort Hood Echoes The Murders at Camp Liberty

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This morning's Pentagon report on the November massacre by Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, who faces court martial at Fort Hood, sounds in a repetitive way like the Pentagon report on the May massacre by Army psychiatric patient John Russell, who faces court martial at Fort Lewis.

"It is clear that as a department we have not done enough to adapt to the evolving internal security threat," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, noting the Pentagon "is burdened by 20th century processes and attitudes mostly rooted in the Cold War."

Maj. Hasan is accused of the worst mass shooting at a domestic U.S. military base, leaving 13 dead. Sgt. Russell is accused of the worst mass shooting at a foreign U.S. base, killing five at Camp Liberty in Iraq. Both shooters were stereotypical loners, failing at their jobs, and chose unsuspecting troops at Army clinics as their victims.

Though they may have had different motivations, both grew into an increasingly angry and suicidal state under the Army's un-watchful eye. "Force protection programs are not properly focused on internal threats such as workplace violence and self-radicalization," Gates said. "The problem is compounded in the absence of a clear understanding of what motivates a person to become radicalized and commit violent acts."

The question is whether the Army will be candid enough to get things turned around. Though the Pentagon's focus is on the Fort Hood shootings, it should have learned from not only Sgt. Russell's Camp Liberty slaughter but the 2003 grenade murders of two U.S. officers in Kuwait by an Army sergeant and the 2005 bomb murders of two U.S. officers by yet another sergeant in Iraq

In those and other base-related deaths, the Army is rarely forthcoming with all the details, including its systemic failures. As military author Cilla McCain told SW in November, "If history's our guide, I guarantee the true picture behind the shootings will not surface."

 
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