What should the U.S. Army do with a soldier who every so often gives Islamic State a thumbs-up and threatens to kill other American soldiers?
Invite him into his commander’s office for a friendly little chat about religion and politics in the Middle East until the Military Police arrive? Prepare his discharge papers and help him fill out his application for a place on the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorist watch list? Maybe all of the above?
Or, do you allow him to stay in the army, and then send him to Afghanistan and hope he will shoot at the Taliban and not other Americans and their Afghani allies?
That is what the authorities in the U.S. Army decided to do with Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang after he displayed some of the giveaway behavior modalities of the homegrown jihadist. Fortunately, while in Afghanistan he pointed his gun in the right direction — but the story wasn’t over.
According to an FBI affadavit filed Monday in federal court in Honolulu, Kang was on record making pro-Islamic State comments and threatening to hurt or kill other service members back in 2011. His superiors took notice, and his security clearance was revoked in 2012, but given back to him the following year. In 2013, Kang was deployed to Afghanistan.
But last year, the Army seemed to have second thoughts about his case and notified the FBI that it “appeared that Kang was becoming radicalized,” as the affidavit said.
The FBI launched a year-long investigation, including a sting operation, during which Kang incriminated himself beyond any further doubt. In the presence of undercover FBI agents, he declared his loyalty to Islamic State and declared that he wanted to “kill a bunch of people.” He also allegedly told a confidential informant that Hitler “was right, saying he believed in the mass killing of Jews.”
Nor did he stop at such menacing statements. Kang is charged with seeking to provide material aid to Islamic State in the form of a combat training video and buying a drone he believed would be shipped to the Middle East to help the group wage war.
This story is reminiscent of the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who went berserk and killed 13 people in a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.
Retired Army judge and prosecutor Col. Gregory A. Gross, who served as the initial judge in Hasan’s court martial, noted the disturbing parallel to Kang on Tuesday. “He was making all these statements, and giving these presentations,” said Gross, who is currently a civilian defense attorney for military service members.
Why didn’t the Army realize right away that they might have another Hasan on their hands, and take more decisive action?
Gross suggested that the Army may have decided Kang was just mouthing off and was not a threat.
Maybe so. But after the horrible experience with Hasan, why take chances?
Then, too, there was Kang’s record as “a decorated veteran of two deployments” to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army was no doubt reluctant to discharge a fine officer just like that, for a few careless statements.
Hasan was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and other honors for his exemplary contribution in the fight against, well, Islamic terrorists. Patriotism and bravery are evidently no guarantee against conversion to radical Islam, the very side American soldiers are sworn to fight against. As Hasan told the court martial panel, he had “switched sides” and regarded himself as a Mujahideen waging “jihad” against the United States.
Yet, in spite of all the evidence, the mainstream media at the time resisted the obvious.
There is reason to suspect that some in the Army are still caught up, like the media, in the politically correct attitude that dares not recognize the most obvious manifestations of jihadi violence.
Fortunately, in this case, Ikaika Kang was arrested before he decided to follow in the bloody footsteps of Nidal Malik Hasan. The Army acted in time.
But it might have ended differently. We hope that in the future the Army will be less hesitant when confronted with potential jihadists in its ranks.