I don't think there is much doubt now that Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 US soldiers and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood Thursday. There have clearly been a lot of reports about the event in the news since then, many inaccurate. But it is not at all clear what happened yet.
I am a retired Army Reserve Major who has spent quite a bit of time at Fort Hood. I also love the Army. It is my family, as much as is my real family. Major Hassan killed my brothers-in-arms. The emphasis is on brothers (or sisters.) But Major Hasan was also one of us. How could he do this? I know he is only a doctor and not a real soldier, but I'm an Ordnance officer and a REMF. Neither of us are (were) combat arms. We were both technicians supporting the guys at the tip of the spear. It's still my family. I need to know what the fuck happened.
The LA Times offers an early report that seems to me to get to some of the answers. But first we need to look at how he got where he is. Major Hasan was a graduate of Virginia Tech. The reports I have seen say that he graduated in 1997. He must have been a damned good student, because he convinced the Army to send him to Medical School. It's one of the Army programs designed to train Army Doctors. He obtained a degree in Osteopathic Medicine and was further trained as a psychiatrist. The training required a commitment to serve in the Army for a number of years. I think it is very important that the commitment was made well before 9/11.
There appears to be no question that Major Hasan was born in the U.S. He is a native born American. He is also a devout Muslim. Is he an eldest child? I'd bet he is. His parents are Muslim, so he has to be in order to please them. And since he is native born American, he is especially devout. He is pleasing his parents. (OK. Pop psychology. But I'll bet it is true.)But it makes him very different from his peers and it makes it very difficult for him to find a wife. He is very demanding that she be devout and practicing Muslim. The important thing is that it means that at age 39 he is still alone and without anyone to support him emotionally. He is a lonely man. Since Muslims consider dogs unclean, he probably doesn't even have a dog.
9/11 was clearly a major event in Major Hasan's life. He was a devout Muslim in the Army after Muslims had attacked America in a big way. Many "Americans" have considered the battles since then to be wars between Christian America and Islam. Then Captain Hasan clearly was questioned regarding his loyalty, even if not officially.
He as already a loner. The questions regarding his loyalty would have driven him even further into distrust of those around him. It doesn't really matter if the questions come from only one in fifty of those around him, the questions are what he would have taken to bed with him at night before falling asleep. It sounds like his profession was his social life.
But his profession was psychiatrist in the Army when the Army was at war with Muslims. And he was a Muslim. Major Hasan's job since the invasion of Iraq has been to listen to and deal with the confessions of American soldiers who very often were confessing war crimes against Muslims.
Major Hasan's identity seems to have been very much wrapped up in his religion. He is at his core a Muslim. How does he feel listening to people who have killed Muslims, often for no better reason than the fact that they were Muslim?
There is a known psychological disorder called Compassion Fatigue. It is common among individuals that work directly with victims of trauma. as they hear more from the victims they themselves literally shut down.
So here we have a man whose profession is to help the enemies of his people deal with the stresses of killing his people. He is also a man who is a loner, one who cannot find a wife who is sufficiently devout.
But he is committed to serving in the Army because they sent him to Medical School and to the advanced training. He asked to leave, but was denied. Then they tell him he is not doing his job satisfactorily because (apparently) he was professing his religion. Then they reassign him and inform him that he is going to be sent to Afghanistan, a war he does not believe should be fought.
So he broke. And he committed a violent suicide, by killing others and expecting to be killed in the process.
He was defending both himself and his religion. His experiences listening to individual American who came back from Iraq will have clearly demonstrated both that Muslims were being killed, war crimes were being committed, and that for many of the American soldiers it was considered a war between Christianity and Islam - a crusade. This would have built into a case of Compassion Fatigue.at the very least. But it would have been more for Major Hasan, since it was his coreligionists who were being killed.
The fact that Major Hasan broke is, in retrospect, no real surprise. The failure to predict is was a clear failure in the Army Medical system. Every psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker should have a personal counselor to help the individual deal with their job, and major Hasan either had none or the individual was too influenced by the needs of the Army to deal properly with the Major.
Why was Major Hasan pushed into this position? The current military was never designed to fight a war this long without calling up the reserves or a draft. The American military has been pushed to the breaking point, and this is another of the cracks it has demonstrated. It is a surprise and a credit to the American military that this kind of event has not happened more often. As it is, the increase in suicides, murders and PTSD demonstrates just how much we Americans are demanding from our military. It is too much and long past too much.
Major Hasan is only another example of the idiocy of the Bush administration. The invasion of Iraq should never have been undertaken unless the Reserves were called up and then the draft were activated. But that was not something the Bush administration felt they could have sold to the America people. They knew how obviously idiotic it was. Iraq is not a war that should have been fought. Then, Afghanistan may have been reasonable, but it simply has not been fought. The resources it required were sent to Iraq, and there was no rational strategy for winning there. Again, it is an example of Bush administration incompetence. Afghanistan couldn't be fought with Iraq and without the draft. The result has been that the American ground military has been destroyed. Major Hasan's actions in Fort Hood are merely one more example of a broken military.
This evaluation of what Major Hasan did is, of course, speculation based on news reports. Someone familiar with Major Hasan's career and file might find a very different time line and situation. But I'll bet based on what I have seen in the last two days this is pretty close.
ABC News has a good story on Sgt. Kimberly Munley who was the civilian police officer who stopped Major Hasan. She saved a lot of lives.