Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small Palestinian town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.
But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., began having second thoughts about a military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia.
He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying realities of war, said a cousin, Nader Hasan. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — A few thoughts:
1. I’m a firm believer in the Occam’s-razor-school of journalism (if only it existed!), so the most obvious explanation for why this happened is also the most credible explanation — absent further evidence to the contrary.
2. Hasan, as reported above, desperately wanted to avoid being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. He had multiple compelling reasons not to want to go, but probably highest among those reasons was the fact that he’d spent a great deal of time counseling war casualties. Just imagine how many recruits the US military would get if every kid walking into a recruitment office was first told to spend a few weeks talking to victims of post-traumatic stress disorder as they recounted their fresh experiences of war!
3. Just as is the case with a guy who goes on a shooting spree after being ignored for a promotion or getting fired, this is not rational behavior. Even the rationale that he hoped to get killed in the process seems questionable. Hasan’s behavior suggests he flipped out, which is to say, his capacity to make rational judgments was overwhelmed by extraordinarily intense emotions.
4. It’s incredibly unfortunate that he happened to be a Muslim. Had he been a Southern Baptist, I don’t imagine the blogosphere would now be busy attempting to ascribe his behavior to his religious beliefs. Timothy McVeigh, while awaiting trial, said in an interview with Time that he was raised Catholic and maintained its core beliefs. No one has suggested that might account for what he did. In Hasan’s case, the existence of web postings by a “NidalHasan” reveal nothing unless it can first be established that they were indeed written by the shooter.
5. The idea that a human being can snap like this is profoundly disturbing to most people and the need to rationalize it in some way so that its recurrence appears less likely caters to our collective desire to live in a world that is more predictable than it actually is.
6. Assuming this guy recovers, whatever he has to say should prove more illuminating than anything that’s been said so far.