CBS’s Smith: Iraq and Afghanistan Wars to Blame for Ft. Hood Shooting

Harry Smith and Eric Shinseki, CBS Interviewing Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith cited a cause of the shooting at Ft. Hood: “...the Iraq war, the escalation in number of cases of post traumatic stress disorder...the more people go back to these fields, these theaters of war, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, it multiplies the incidence of these kinds of things occurring.”

Smith went on to ask Shinseki: “Is the Army and is the Veterans Administration really equipped to deal with this flood of a problem?” The VA secretary responded: “Veterans Affairs employs 19,000 mental health professionals to address things like PTSD and TBI and depression. And some of the other mental health issues that come up from time to time with exposing people to the high stress, high dangers associated with combat.” The shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, never served in combat nor had post traumatic stress disorder.

Smith’s initial question to Shinseki actually attempted to focus on Hasan: “As a former secretary of the Army, how disturbing is it to you that it looks like various agencies failed to connect the dots on Major Hasan?” Shinseki began by correcting Smith: “Well, first of all, I served as chief of the Army, Harry.” He then shifted away from Hasan’s radicalism to mental health issues: “What I will tell you is that Secretary Gates and I two weeks ago co-hosted something called a national mental health summit to address PTSD, TBI, and other mental health issues that we think –  it’s important for us to address at this time.”

Prior to Smith’s interview, correspondent Don Teague reported on evidence of Hasan’s Islamic extremism: “Officials say the government knew Hasan had communicated with radical Cleric Anwar Al Awlaki over the internet....And in 2007, Hasan gave a shocking presentation to colleagues at Walter Reed Medical Center. Using slides, he argued U.S. Muslim soldiers be released as conscientious objectors instead of fighting against other Muslims. And another slide warned  ‘we love death more than you love life.’” Those radical comments were left out of a CBS Evening News report on Tuesday.

Here is a full transcript of the segment:
7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Now the blame game. As President Obama pays tribute to the fallen at Ft. Hood, the governmental finger pointing begins over the missed warning signs.

JUAN ZARATE [CBS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST]: Was somebody looking at the complete picture of Dr. Hasan?

7:00AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: First, though, President Obama and thousands of others remember the shooting victims at Ft. Hood yesterday. Meanwhile, government officials are pointing fingers over who knew what and when about alleged shooter Nidal Hasan. CBS News correspondent Don Teague is in Ft. Hood with the latest on that. Good morning, Don.

DON TEAGUE: Good morning, Harry. The investigation is moving forward quickly, even as this post and the nation paused to remember the fallen. Five days after the deadly rampage on Ft. Hood that claimed the lives of 13 people, 15,000 soldiers, civilians, and family members gathered together to remember those lost.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Blame Game; As Obama Honors Fallen, Officials Snipe Over Hasan]

BARACK OBAMA: No words can fill the void that’s been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and care givers. You knew them as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers.

TEAGUE: Who knew what, when, and finger pointing overshadows the investigation of alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Officials say the government knew Hasan had communicated with radical Cleric Anwar Al Awlaki over the internet. But defense officials say no one at the Pentagon or the Army knew of the connection, even though there was a military representative participating in the joint terrorism task force review. And in 2007, Hasan gave a shocking presentation to colleagues at Walter Reed Medical Center. Using slides, he argued U.S. Muslim soldiers be released as conscientious objectors instead of fighting against other Muslims. And another slide warned  ‘we love death more than you love life.’

JUAN ZARATE [CBS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST]: A major question for the Department of Defense, and the Army in particular, is was somebody looking at the complete picture of Dr. Hasan?

TEAGUE: Well, the President has ordered a thorough review to determine if the agencies involved failed to connect the dots that could’ve prevented a tragedy. Harry.

SMITH: Don Teague at Ft. Hood this morning. Thank you very much. Joining us now from Washington is Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. General, good morning.

ERIC SHINSEKI: Good morning, Harry.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Ft. Hood Tragedy; What Could Have Been Done Differently?]

SMITH: Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us today. First, you were at Ft. Hood with the President yesterday, can you describe what it was like there?

SHINSEKI: Well, yes, it was, as you might expect, heart wrenching, terrible tragedy, unexplainable. But I think the President did what was required yesterday. And that was to bring the community together and begin the healing.

SMITH: As a former secretary of the Army, how disturbing is it to you that it looks like various agencies failed to connect the dots on Major Hasan?

SHINSEKI: Well, first of all, I served as chief of the Army, Harry-

SMITH: Sorry.

SHINSEKI: - but I’m sure that there is – the right – the right people will look at this. What I will tell you is that Secretary Gates and I two weeks ago co-hosted something called a national mental health summit to address PTSD, TBI, and other mental health issues that we think –  it’s important for us to address at this time.

SMITH: We know from the beginning of the Iraq war, the escalation in number of cases of post traumatic stress disorder. The other fact is, is that the more people go back to these fields, these theaters of war, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, it multiplies the incidence of these kinds of things occurring.

SHINSEKI: Sure, yes.

SMITH: Is the Army and is the Veterans Administration really equipped to deal with this flood of a problem?

SHINSEKI: Well, we are working diligently to increasing our capabilities here. I will tell you that today the Veterans Affairs employs 19,000 mental health professionals to address things like PTSD and TBI and depression. And some of the other mental health issues that come up from time to time with exposing people to the high stress, high dangers associated with combat.

SMITH: And very quickly, you have an enormous bureaucracy you’re trying to wrestle to the ground and get in some sort of an order. How confident are you that you’ll be able to turn the Veterans Administration into an agency that really does fulfill its – its promise?

SHINSEKI: Well, we’re working at that very hard. We’ve been at it nine months now. First thing – first order of business was to implement a new post-9/11 G.I. bill, that’s underway. We have a large backlog of claims that has been there for years. And that’s the next priority. And we’ve begun taking that down, as well.

SMITH: Secretary Shinseki, we knew that you were the chief of staff of the Army. And we apologize for that. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us this morning. Do appreciate it, sir.

SHINSEKI: Well, Harry. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.     

SMITH: Alright, take care.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC