The rule of Occam’s Razor holds that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable and that an explanation for unknown phenomena should first be posited in terms of what is known. Here is what we know about the killer at Fort Hood: that the American born and bred Nidal Hasan still identified as a Palestinian and praised suicide bombers; that after receiving all of his medical education and specialty training free, courtesy of the U.S. Army, he was unwilling to repay the debt he was bound to by the contract he signed up for; that he became a more zealous Muslim in repeated contact with another American born radicalized Muslim imam; that killing infidels is part of that extremist code of honor; that the gun he used was purchased way before he found out that he was to be deployed to Afghanistan. The slights that Hasan claimed as military discrimination against Muslims were the equivalent of schoolyard pranks but in the Muslim world, any slight may be a justification for honor killings. We have been asked by all the higher-ups to suspend judgment until all the facts are known and though this is prudent advice, the story is currently being spun with the emphasis on the killer’s defensive mindset instead of the more objective narrative of events. If we change the focus from what the killer might have been thinking to what he did, we get a clearer picture of the insidiousness of this terrorist act.
Of the thirteen soldiers killed by Nidal Hasan, almost a third were over 50. For the general public which considers the army a young person’s enterprise, it worth noting that the oldest, Michael Cahill, was 62 and still working as a physician’s assistant. Capt Russell Seager, 51, was to be deployed to Afghanistan in a month; Capt John Gaffaney, 54, helped soldiers deal with trauma; Maj Libardo Caraveo, 52, was scheduled for deployment to a combat zone where he would help soldiers deal with stress, and Lt Col Juanita Warman, 55, worked in mental health. These admirable people, still involved with serving their fellow soldiers and their country, were among the sitting ducks for an American Muslim, supposedly stressed over his own imminent deployment and the discrimination he perceived from his colleagues. If this were an act of desperation, why wouldn’t Hasan simply kill or injure himself? Why shout Allah Akbar and spray more than a hundred rounds of ammunition into an unarmed crowd unless he was in fact committing a purposeful terrorist act?
As a secular nation enthralled by the paradigm of mental health, we are puzzled by criminal behavior and look to psychology or sociology for its explanation. In the case of a psychiatrist who is also a killer, we are stymied and still clutch at the straw of personal despair as a causal motivation. But if we paid more academic attention to teaching history than fostering self-esteem, we would be aware of how many doctors and psychiatrists went along with Nazi policies of exterminating mentally unfit people and how many rationalized the need to exterminate Jews. It would seem that ideology and dogma can trump professional training more easily than we care to remember. The further we stray from refusing to blame individuals for their deliberate acts, the more self-destructive our policies regarding domestic terror will be. Just as the army downplayed evidence it had of Hasan’s substantial involvement with a radical imam, we are now being asked to believe that his murderous acts were spontaneous and personal, not part of the larger picture of radical jihad in the midst of our own defense system. It’s more frightening to acknowledge that seemingly rational people are governed by irrational murderous beliefs but this has been part of the cycle of history and in the past century alone, we have witnessed it several times. In this century, radical Islam continues to grow as the dominant threat to our security. Attempts to blind ourselves to its adherents’ basic hatred of us and resentment of our freedoms is to invite more imminent peril into the fabric of our own society. Let’s tell the story as it is even though it clashes with our earnest need to believe in shopworn paradigms that offer little protection against a malevolent ideology of hate.
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