Friday, November 6, 2009

How could the Ft. Hood shooting have happened?

Fort Hood-Killeen, TexasFt. Hood, Texas
Image by Bling$Bling via Flickr
By now, the entire nation has probably thought about why did a Major in the US Army opened fire on other soldiers in the deployment processing area of Ft. Hood, Texas.

Strangely, I actually think I have an answer for that.

In my opinion, the problem here is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is depressed, either covertly or overtly. The depression, along with other stressful events, lead him to believe that 1) he must 'save' others from getting deployed, and 2) in doing so, he can 'save' himself from getting deployed as well. It is just unfortunate that he chose two pistols and more ammo as his tool to do the saving. And there are many factors that lead to his present day.

One such factor is his ethnic background. Some reported him as "Jordanian-American", though he seems to have identified himself as more of a Palestinian, according to his local mosque former Imam, even though he is born in Arlington, VA. His parents have long since passed away and his brothers and cousins are living here in the US. Reports say that his family "has Palestinian roots". It is likely he grew up with the stories of the difficult lives of his parents, whom eventually fled to Jordan, then emigrated to the US.

Another factor is ROTC. Before 9/11, most people regarded ROTC as "play-soldier" and people who are in it see it as sort of a fast track into the military, who pays for everything, and never expects to get deployed. Maj. Hasan was in the ROTC at Virginia Tech and got his BS in biochem, which lead him to the career in the army. Seems he spent 8 years as enlisted, and decided to stay in, rather enjoying the regimented life, and eventually decided on psychiatry, as the "safest" of all medical fields in the army. It is likely that his parents died during his enlisted years, and military became his surrogate parents.

One report says that he had problem as an intern / resident at Walter Reed Medical center at Bethesda, MD, as he had some problem dealing with patients. At this time, he probably became an officer (though a relatively low one). Not sure why he needed counseling, but likely, he had hard time reconciling his multi-role as a Muslim, as superior officer, and as psychiatrist.

It is likely he also studied heavily the "plight of the Palestinian people" both in and out of the military, which does have some what of a religious tone, Judaism vs. Islam, in a sense.

After 9/11, and getting harassed about his ethnicity and his faith, he felt his trust in the army may have been misplaced. Furthermore, he, being a counselor for soldiers returning with PTSD, has received some of that pain. It is also conflicting for him to be counseling soldiers whom he perceives as fighting against Islam. This lead to his poor evaluation at Walter Reed, which lead to his deployment order. This only serves to reinforce his opinion that he has been outright betrayed by the Army. It is likely that from here he transferred his allegiance to Islam.

In treating PTSD, he came into contact with people daily who can't seem to distinguish between regular Muslims and the Jihadists. To people who were wounded and traumatized by Jihadists, and seen friends and fellow soldiers wounded/killed by Jihadists, the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. This lead to his further alienation. It is next to impossible to treat someone if you cannot empathize with them. This lead to radicalization of his views, and empathy with jihadism.

That "radical Internet posting" was a comment posted using a screenname of NidalHasan, which may or may not be him. Basically, it is a counter-comment against an article that explains that "suicide" is against the principles of Islam. The posting basically counters that dying for a cause should NOT be considered suicide. That is where suicide bomber is compared to a soldier diving on a grenade to save fellow soldiers. Both have overridden their instinct for self-preservation and gave their life for a higher purpose. It sounds like something Major Hasan would post, but there is no conclusive proof.

He fought the deployment, but his depression and inner conflict pretty much meant it's useless. He basically committed suicide by cop, but he also symbolically try to "save" the others from getting deployed... ironically by killing and/or wounding them.

He may or may not have shouted "Allahu Akbar", or "God is great". It doesn't matter. While suicide bombers do use that chant, he likely used it as more of a prayer, like "May the Lord give me strength".

People have wondered how can a "health professional" commit mass shootings. The problem here is he has somehow "resolved" the conflict in his head. In his mind, he is "saving" the soldiers from suffering future PTSD, and to prevent the creation of so many 'enemies' of Islam. There is a sense of martyrdom in the attack, in that he will suffer to 'save' his faith. The previous factors, such as betrayal, and his shifting view of his role in the conflict, eventually lead him to this.

His starting point, at the deployment processing, is the key. If he had wanted to perform a true "terrorist" attack, he would have gone after more valuable targets, such as commanders. If he had just "flipped out", he would have started at his place of work. He started at the deployment processing because this is where he will get deployed, he want to "destroy it" in a sense, "save" those who are there from deployment, and also prevent the creation of more who will hate his faith.

The point is, he felt betrayed by the army, and decided that he identified more with the "enemy" of the US.

There was a lot of talk about "how can a soldier go after fellow soldiers". The point is, this man has NEVER been deployed. Thus, he had never been in combat, and he's a doctor, which makes him a support officer, not a "line officer". He was only exposed to the AFTERMATH of combat, the PTSD. He had never experienced the camaraderie of being under fire, having to rely on each other to stay alive. He is NOT a part of the "brotherhood", so to speak. He was already alienated by other soldiers. So there is no "fellow" or "brother" there. Plus, he's a MAJOR, and a "shrink", AND a Muslim. It's triple insulation. What do I mean by that?

a) he's an officer, and officer's would have a hard time talking to the enlisted. Enlisted, in generally don't trust officers much. They're much rather listen to the sergeants, who pass on the Lt's orders. If he is counseling regular soldiers, they'd be intimidated by his major's oak leaves. It's unlikely they'd open up, unless he made it an order.

b) he's a "shrink", or psychiatrist. In general, men do NOT see psychiatrists unless they have no other choice. In civilian world, they were dragged in by parents, spouses, or sometimes, courts. In the military world, they are ordered in by their superiors, and nowadays, they are required to talk to a shrink. However, men do not really enjoy opening up.

c) he's a Muslim. Usually that is not an issue, but in this case, he was already harassed by others not sharing his faith. It is one more factor in his alienation. Having the common religion is a way to relate to his patients, and he can't do that. In fact, his patients may be repelled by his faith.

Altogether, he cannot feel much compassion to the soldiers at all, even though they share the same military. He is "not really" a fellow soldier. He does not consider himself to be one of them. That lead to his bad performance review.

Can this have been averted? Possibly, at several stages.

1) When he was harassed by other soldiers. If he had spoken up, and let others know that Islam is a religion of peace, and it had been perverted by "fundamentalists", just as a lot of Christians were perverted by fundamentalism, except Christians don't call their own "perversions". Basically, his self-esteem didn't quite held up against all the barbs.

2) His superiors failed to find out the real reason behind his lack of performance. If they had really found out the problem, he would not have received the deployment order, which would be the "straw that broke the camel's back", so to speak.

3) Assigning a Muslim shrink for PTSD from Iraq or Afghanistan, to me, is not the smartest idea. It is not really about religion, it is just that somehow this doctor can't deal with the PTSD cases he's been getting. He's somehow absorbing the pain from his patients, and he himself needs counseling, and is likely NOT getting it.

It is a tragic incident, but there should have been warnings signs a long time ago. One hopes that this does not cause any backlash against Muslims in the military. As this man's problem is not with his faith, but for his LACK of faith. Somehow he had came to the conclusion that he can only 'save' himself and others... by killing them. And it took a while to reach that conclusion.

P.S. I must emphasize that I have no psychiatric training and no military background.

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