Massive Fail at News Organizations: It Was Sergeant Mark Todd Who Brought Down Major Nidal Hasan
Even I initially bought it: the fearless blonde police officer, a young mom of two, hard-changing up the hill towards the danger and eventually taking down the big bad terrorist. It would have made great TV and Hollywood. It would have made great military recruiting PR. But after a while, it did not make sense; how could this woman have fired several shots at Major Nidal Hasan when she was already down and incapacitated? I kept seeing in my mind how this could have occurred, and it did not add up. It looked too Hollywood…and impossible.
Thing is, it wasn’t true that Sgt. Kimberly “Mighty Mouse” Munley alone took down Major Hasan. She may have simply distracted him, and slowed him up by taking him on. But she was shot and wounded by him. She may not have even struck him, because witnesses saw Hasan reload after taking her down. It was someone else who rather was ordinary, older, and up to that point, had never discharged his weapon at a suspect. It took days before the media finally began countering the military’s version of events. From the New York Times on November 11:
[…T]he story of how the petite police officer and the accused gunman went down in an exchange of gunfire does not agree with the account of an eyewitness who had gone to the base’s processing center, where the shooting occurred, to conduct business before being deployed.
The witness, who asked not to be identified, said Major Hasan wheeled on Sergeant Munley as she rounded the corner of a building and shot her, putting her on the ground. Then Major Hasan turned his back on her and started putting another magazine into his semiautomatic pistol.
It was at that moment that Senior Sgt. Mark Todd, a veteran police officer, rounded another corner of the building, found Major Hasan fumbling with his weapon and shot him.
How the authorities came to issue the original version of the story, which made Sergeant Munley a national hero for several days and obscured Sergeant Todd’s role, remains unclear. (Military officials also said for several hours after the shooting that Major Hasan had been killed, although he had survived.)
After the witness’ admission, the mainstream media scrambled to reclaim control of the story. CBS’ Early Show immediately contacted Sergeant Mark Todd after a joint appearance by both Sergeant Kimberly Munley and Sergeant Todd on The Oprah Winfrey Show. However, the pair did not give a timeline of events that would have led to identifying who it really was who shot Hasan down.
However, Sgt. Todd, by himself, gives a pretty credible statement of what he did. A 25-year military police veteran, Todd only discharged his weapon for the first time ever at Fort Hood as part of its civilian police corps.
Sergeant Todd, 42, is a native of California who spent most of his adult life as a military police officer in the Army. He left the military police after 25 years to join the civilian force at Fort Hood. Like most members of the military, he has moved around a lot, serving at four bases in the United States and two in Germany.
This is really strange. Ballistics reports could settle once and for all who did what and when. Why wouldn’t they be as forthcoming on Oprah? And why is the military suddenly buttoning up, saying that they could not comment on specifics. Just what is the big problem owning up just who did take down Major Nidal Hasan?
A lot of this does have to do with manipulating public perceptions of what and who is in control. Army spokespeople were too quick to paint Munley as this female John Wayne-type. Seems we haven’t learned our lesson about this kind of thing. Remember what happened with PFC Jessica Lynch in Iraq? Wiki can remind you how the Pentagon’s propaganda machine crashed and burned six years ago with another blonde white “heroine” who refused to play by the script:
On March 23, 2003 she was injured and captured by Iraqi forces, but was recovered on April 1 by U.S. special operations forces, with the incident subsequently receiving considerable news coverage.
Lynch, along with major media outlets, has since accused the U.S. government of embellishing the story as part of the Pentagon’s propaganda effort.
On April 24, 2007 she testified in front of Congress that she had never fired her weapon; her M16 rifle jammed, as did all weapons systems assigned to her unit, and that she had been knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed.
Some people think that this promotion of white female fighters or police in the Armed Forces is an argument the military is trying to make that women can make great soldiers. In this overstretched as well as under-equipped military, this is indeed a development. But the emphasis frankly is getting a bit overdone–and obvious; like the white, blonde middle-class girl in distress meme which runs every time someone fitting the description is reported missing. Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher concluded the following:—
Plus: Just coincidence that a white woman got the credit over a black male? We’ll soon find out. Perhaps. But this time, put aside the military’s official narrative. First time, shame on the source. Second time, shame on the media. Third time?
I think people should remain skeptical about what happened at Fort Hood. Just don’t believe everything you read and hear. Our military and intelligence communities all are at fault for not intervening with Major Hasan much earlier, as more individuals finally stood up and told of their disconcerting encounters with the man. Everyone is agreed that they dropped the ball, especially when it came to lone wolf Hasan presenting PowerPoint-led lectures that fairly flowed with jihadist rhetoric. They are going to want an investigational outcome that will not make them look any worse, but might at least enhance their reputations.
The same thing goes with quickly identifying a wiry blonde white officer known for jumping into the fray rather than her alter-ego, a tall, heavier, older and mature black professional who reportedly was trained as a hostage negotiator. Her image may indeed have been reassuring to the populace watching on TV and cable news, and even to the soldiers and families affected. But such images can be too reassuring, and even dangerous. Especially to our understanding of how justice is going to be served in this case.