The Fort Hood massacre and questions of terrorism

Fort Hood gunman gave signals before his rampage

In late July, Major Hasan moved into a second-floor apartment on the north side of Killeen, paying $2,050 for his six-month lease up front, said the apartment manager, Alice Thompson. The two-story faded brick complex, Casa del Norte Apartments, has an open courtyard with exterior stairs and advertises move-in specials.

A few days later, Major Hasan bought an FN Herstal 5.7-millimeter pistol at a popular weapons store, Guns Galore, just off the highway that runs between the mosque that Major Hasan attended and the base, federal law enforcement officials said.

The tenants generally saw him leave early and come home late in the afternoon, usually in his fatigues. He never had visitors, they said, but he was friendly with his neighbors.

“The first day he moved in, he offered to give me a ride to work,” said Willie Bell, 51, who lived next door. “He’d give you the shoes and shirt and pants off him if you need it. Nicest guy you’d want to meet.

“The very first day I seen him, he hugged me like, ‘My brother, how you doing?’ ”

In mid-August, another tenant, a soldier who had served in Iraq, was angered by a bumper sticker on Major Hasan’s car proclaiming “Allah is Love” and ran his key the length of Major Hasan’s car. Ms. Thompson learned of it and told Major Hasan about it that night, and though he called the police, Major Hasan did not appear to be angered by it. [continued…]

Officials: U.S. aware of Hasan efforts to contact al Qaeda

US intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.

It is not known whether the intelligence agencies informed the Army that one of its officers was seeking to connect with suspected al Qaeda figures, the officials said.

One senior lawmaker said the CIA had, so far, refused to brief the intelligence committees on what, if any, knowledge they had about Hasan’s efforts.

CIA director Leon Panetta and the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, have been asked by Congress “to preserve” all documents and intelligence files that relate to Hasan, according to the lawmaker.

On Sunday, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) called for an investigation into whether the Army missed signs as to whether Hasan was an Islamic extremist.

“If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have a zero tolerance,” Lieberman told Fox News Sunday. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — If an investigation and Hasan’s own testimony eventually lead to the determination that the Fort Hood massacre was an act of terrorism — meaning, it was a premeditated attack whose victims were selected for political rather than personal reasons — then there already appears to be enough evidence to draw one conclusion: Hasan was a US Army major who became a terrorist and not a terrorist who joined the army.

If it is determined that this was an act of terrorism, then the next question will be: at what point did Hasan make the transition from being someone with profound misgivings about the wars; someone who suffered the indignities of being a target of anti-Muslim bigotry; to someone who wanted to use violence not merely to vent stored up rage but in order to send a message.

At this point, in spite of mounting anecdotal evidence that the killings were an act of terrorism, there is no unambiguous signature — a fact that suggests that not only in this particular case far more remains unknown than known, but that the linguistic clarity through which we are now so used to applying these terms “terrorist” and “terrorism”, point to something far more complex and far more difficult to define than the glib use of these words imply.

As a psychiatrist, one might expect that Hasan’s understanding of the workings of the human mind will make his own testimony unusually illuminating.

Unfortunately, we live in an era where the treatment of tortured psyches has been reduced to an often perfunctory practice in dispensing brain-numbing drugs. This was a physician who appears to have had no inkling how to treat himself. His case may ultimately present more questions than answers.

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