Who Is He? and Why Did He Do It?

At this point, of course, we know very little, but that doesn’t prevent many commentators from speculating, and some from jumping to conclusions.

Newsweek sees it as a harbinger of more violence from our soldiers, exposed to the violence in Iraq and Afganistan.  It suggests that such post-traumatic acts increasingly will come back to haunt us. Along similar lines, colleagues of mine who have worked extensively with trauma victims point out that “treating PTSD is itself traumatic.”  Those who work with trauma victims are likely to suffer from the repeated exposure to the trauma of painfully damaged minds. (See Todd Essig’s comments, “Vicarious traumatization: PTSD is contagious and deadly,” on TrueSlant.)  This perspective gains backing from information suggesting Hasan was inadequately trained and showed, indeed, some significant limitations as a psychiatrist.

So, the liberal press and mental health professionals tend to see this as expressing a form of mental illness, albeit promoted by combat conditions.  On the other hand, there is the hypothesis of a terrorist attack.  The New York Times reported that officials are trying to investigate if Hasan worked with others.  Some politicians are quick to speculate that it might be a plot, but some conservative commentators, not waiting for evidence, have concluded that Hasan is a “trained terrorist.”  An interview with Dave Gaubatz on Frontpagemag quotes him as saying:  “Malik Nabal Hasan is a terrorist supporting the ideology of Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and yes, CAIR.”  (See “The Muslim Brotherhood and Ft. Hood.”)

Struggling as we all are to make sense of this tragic incident, none of us can help bringing our own perspectives to bear on it.  Interestingly, here, liberals tend to see this as an act of individual madness, which is how the right tends to think of liberals:  always explaining away such actions, blinding themselves to the real dangers of conspiracy.

But in the liberal press, I have also seen little reflection on the fact that Hasan is Muslim, and how is being Muslim in America may have contributed to his alienation and pent-up frustration.  Working in the army, moreover, handling veterans who themselves have been traumatized in the course of fighting Muslims in Iraq and Afganistan, must have been extraordinarily complex and difficult.  And then, of course, he was preparing to be deployed there himself.

The right, on the other hand, usually committed to the rights on individuals, sees no individuals at all in this scenario.  A Muslim is a Muslim and a likely terrorist.  They know what they know.

There is much to find out about Hasan and his circumstances, and no doubt we will find out much from the trial that almost certainly will follow on his recovery.  But, right now, it is fascinating to see what we already don’t know we know about him.