Religion clearly part of Fort Hood story

November 13, 2009


— What a surprise — that someone who shouts “Allahu Akbar” (the “God is great” jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre downplaying Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.

“I cringe that he’s a Muslim. ... I think he’s probably just a nut case,” said Newsweek’s Evan Thomas. Some were more adamant. Time’s Joe Klein decried “odious attempts by Jewish extremists ... to argue that the massacre perpetrated by Nidal Hasan was somehow a direct consequence of his Islamic beliefs.” While none could match Klein’s peculiar cherchez-le-juif motif, the popular story line was of an Army psychiatrist driven over the edge by terrible stories he had heard from soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

They suffered. He listened. He snapped.

Really? What about the doctors and nurses, the counselors and physical therapists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who every day hear and live with the pain and the suffering of returning soldiers? How many of them then picked up a gun and shot 51 innocents?

And what about civilian psychiatrists — not the Upper West Side therapist treating Woody Allen neurotics, but the thousands of doctors working with hospitalized psychotics — who every day hear not just tales but cries of the most excruciating anguish, of the most unimaginable torment? How many of those doctors commit mass murder?

It’s been decades since I practiced psychiatry. Perhaps I missed the epidemic.

But, of course, if the shooter is named Nidal Hasan, who National Public Radio reported had been trying to proselytize doctors and patients, then something must be found. Presto! Secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, a handy invention to allow one to ignore the obvious.

And the perfect moral finesse. Medicalizing mass murder not only exonerates. It turns the murderer into a victim, indeed a sympathetic one. After all, secondary PTSD, for those who believe in it (you won’t find it in DSM-IV-TR, psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), is known as “compassion fatigue.” The poor man — pushed over the edge by an excess of sensitivity.

Have we totally lost our moral bearings? Nidal Hasan (allegedly) cold-bloodedly killed 13 innocent people. In such cases, political correctness is not just an abomination. It’s a danger, clear and present.

Consider the Army’s treatment of Hasan’s previous behavior. NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling interviewed a Hasan colleague at Walter Reed about a hair-raising Grand Rounds that Hasan had apparently given. Grand Rounds are the most serious academic event at a teaching hospital — attending physicians, residents and students gather for a lecture on an instructive case history or therapeutic finding.

I’ve been to dozens of these. In fact, I gave one myself on post-traumatic retrograde amnesia — as you can see, these lectures are fairly technical. Not Hasan’s. His was an hour-long disquisition on what he called the Quranic view of military service, jihad and war. It included an allegedly authoritative elaboration of the punishments visited upon nonbelievers — consignment to hell, decapitation, having hot oil poured down your throat. This “really freaked a lot of doctors out,” reported NPR.

Nor was this the only incident. “The psychiatrist,” reported Zwerdling, “said that he was the kind of guy who the staff actually stood around in the hallway saying: Do you think he’s a terrorist, or is he just weird?”

Was anything done about this potential danger? Of course not. Who wants to be accused of Islamophobia and prejudice against a colleague’s religion?

One must not speak of such things. Not even now. Not even after we know that Hasan was in communication with a notorious Yemen-based jihad propagandist. As late as Tuesday, The New York Times was running a story on how returning soldiers at Fort Hood had a high level of violence.

What does such violence have to do with Hasan? He was not a returning soldier. And the soldiers who returned home and shot their wives or fellow soldiers didn’t cry “Allahu Akbar” as they squeezed the trigger.

The delicacy about the religion in question — condescending, politically correct and deadly — is nothing new. A week after the first (1993) World Trade Center attack, the same New York Times ran the following front-page headline about the arrest of one Mohammed Salameh: “Jersey City Man Is Charged in Bombing of Trade Center.”

Ah yes, those Jersey men — so resentful of New York, so prone to violence.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 7 months ago

I wonder when all the "he must be a terrorist" crowd will admit that many in the US military and elsewhere, not just Muslims, are insane, and their wacko religious beliefs are part and parcel to that insanity. This is especially true in the military, whose main purpose is killing people.

The "crusader" mentality that is the Christian counterpart to "jihadism" and is so prevalent in the US military may not have led to fratricide, but it's certainly led to mass murders of civilians in war zones.

jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago

This article should stir things up today. I, like Charles, have been disturbed by the rush to minimize or completely dismiss Hasan's religious beliefs as motivation for this massacre. I met up with a couple friends for a great steak and even better scotch a couple nights ago; one of them was Josef, a former employee who's a practicing muslim. His thoughts on hearing the different accounts through the media was 1) we can't discount the possibility of Hasan having some sort of mental defect because it seems fairly crazy, or at least self-destructive, for a member of the US Army in today's climate to openly express his fervent loyalty to Islam and jihad over the Armed Forces. Made him think perhaps Hasan wanted to be stopped, a cry for help as it were.
And 2) even if that were the case, only a blind, deaf, and dumb person could possibly choose to negate Hasan's religious fervor as the motivating factor in this incident. But he said he would have been surprised if the media had not tried to obfuscate and play down Islam's role over this. More than anything else right now, Josef is afraid of the resentment that is symptomatic of a people having to walk on egg shells when the subject of his religion comes up in any regard. PC'ness to the levels we've stooped can be a very dangerous thing, he said. And this comes from a man who now works in the Atlanta Public School system teaching cultural and religious diversity.

I couldn't agree with him more.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 7 months ago

" only a blind, deaf, and dumb person could possibly choose to negate Hasan's religious fervor as the motivating factor in this incident."

It's just as likely that his underlying insanity is behind his religious fervor. Regardless of which came first, I'm sure one reinforced the other.

craigers 8 years, 7 months ago

Wow bozo do you even believe some of the things you post? This PC crap is getting ridiculous.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 7 months ago

PC? What's "PC" about recognizing that a homicidal nutcase's wacko religious beliefs are part and parcel to his overall insanity?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 7 months ago

The War of Religions isn't a one way street.

This is from an Air Force Academy graduate--

"In April of 2004, my son, after receiving a coveted appointment to the United States Air Force Academy, asked me to accompany him to the orientation for new appointees. This 24-hour visceral event changed my life forever, and crushed my son's lifelong dream of following in my footsteps.

The orientation began with a one-hour "warrior" rant to appointees and parents by the commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida. The fact that the word warrior had replaced leadership was a signal of what was to follow. I later learned that cadets, to determine when a new record was established, had created a game in which warrior was counted in each speech Weida gave.

My son and I then made our way to the modernist aluminum chapel, where I expected to hear a welcome from one or two Air Force chaplains offering counsel, support and an open-door policy for any spiritual or pastoral needs of these future cadets. In 1966, the academy had six gray-haired chaplains: three mainline Protestants, two priests and one rabbi. Any cadet, regardless of religious affiliation, was welcome to see any one of these chaplains, who were reminiscent of Father Francis Mulcahy of "MASH" fame.

Instead, my son's orientation became an opportunity for the academy to aggressively proselytize this next crop of cadets. Maj. Warren Watties led a group of 10 young, exclusively evangelical chaplains who stood shoulder to shoulder. He proudly stated that half of the cadets attended Bible studies on Monday nights in the dormitories and he hoped to increase this number from those in his audience who were about to join their ranks. This "invitation" was followed with hallelujahs and amens by the evangelical clergy. I later learned from Air Force Academy chaplain MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran who was forced to observe from the choir loft, that no priest, rabbi or mainline Protestant had been permitted to participate.

I no longer recognize the Air Force Academy as the institution I attended almost four decades earlier. At that point, I had no idea how invasive this extreme evangelical "cancer" had become throughout the entire military, that what I had witnessed was far from an isolated case of a few religious zealots."

To read the rest--


jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago

"This is especially true in the military, whose main purpose is killing people."

Another in a long line of statements that show you have no clue what you're talking about, bozo. Your's must truly be a sad, little world.
The "main purpose" of the military is to build a fighting force so strong that you don't have to use it, or only use it sparingly. It's called 'pacification by intimidation'.
What's "insane" is your giving this guy an instant psycho label, alluding that religion and insanity are always "part and parcel", and then saying that he's not only nuts because he's religious, but the military is to blame as well. Brilliant!

Incredibly sad, small world in which you dwell, clown. It's ironic that amongst all the other posters on these boards, you're the one I most often feel sympathy toward.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 7 months ago

"It's ironic that amongst all the other posters on these boards, you're the one I most often feel sympathy toward. "

Gee, that you would take a bit of time out of pumping yourself up just to tell me your innermost feelings for me has me all verklemmt.

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