Some evasiveness remains in the Times' coverage of the Fort Hood massacre committed by a radical Muslim, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
Reporter Joseph Berger's Monday web posting, "Army Chief Concerned for Muslim Troops ," served as a relay point for Army chief of staff Gen. George. Casey's oversolicitous concerns over the feelings of Muslims, warning about a hypothetical anti-Muslim backlash while downplaying the actual massacre.
General George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, said on Sunday that he was concerned that speculation about the religious beliefs of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing 12 fellow soldiers and one civilian and wounding dozens of others in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, could "cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers."
"I've asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that," General Casey said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union. "It would be a shame - as great a tragedy as this was - it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well."
General Casey, who was appeared on three Sunday news programs, used almost the same language during an interview on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," an indication of the Army's effort to ward off bias against the more than 3,000 Muslims in its ranks.
"A diverse Army gives us strength," General Casey, who visited Fort Hood Friday, said on "This Week."
The Times blurred Hasan's clear motivation for the massacre:
The San Antonio Express-News has reported that classmates in a graduate military medical program heard Major Hasan justify suicide bombings and make radical and anti-American statements. But investigators have said that Major Hasan might have suffered from emotional problems that were aggravated by the strain of working with veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and by the knowledge that he might soon be deployed to those theaters as well.
A Tuesday A1 story by Michael Moss and Ray Rivera, "At Fort Hood, Some Violence Is Too Familiar ," shifted the blame to the Army bureaucracy, and blurred the distinction between Hasan's treason and post-traumatic stress suffered by soldiers (Hasan had yet to be deployed to Afghanistan).
Fort Hood is still reeling from last week's carnage, in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of a massacre that left 13 people dead. But in the town of Killeen and other surrounding communities, the attack, one of the worst mass shootings on a military base in the United States, is also seen by many as another blow in an area that has been beset by crime and violence since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Reports of domestic abuse have grown by 75 percent since 2001. At the same time, violent crime in Killeen has risen 22 percent while declining 7 percent in towns of similar size in other parts of the country.
The stresses are seen in other ways, too.
Since 2003, there have been 76 suicides by personnel assigned to Fort Hood, with 10 this year, according to military officials.
There was more standard media evasion of Hasan's documented sympathy for jihad:
But interviews with soldiers who have deployed one or more times to Iraq or Afghanistan, and with family members of those who died violently back here in Texas, show that the Army's efforts are still falling short. Even some alarm bells rung by the Army leadership have gone unanswered.
In July, two weeks after Sergeant Garza's death, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, then the base commander, told Congress he was in dire need of more mental health professionals. "That's the biggest frustration," he told a House subcommittee. "I'm short about 44 of what I am convinced I need at Fort Hood that I just don't have."
Among the medical personnel brought to Fort Hood to help deal with the growing mental health issues was Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who arrived in July. Major Hasan is accused in the attacks last week, but little is known about what might have driven him.