More on Attack at Fort Hood

By Rafia Zakaria, writing  for Daily Times

 It is also not the first incident of soldiers killing soldiers. In May of 2009, five soldiers were shot dead by Sergeant John Russell at Camp Liberty in Baghdad; in Sept 2008 a soldier shot himself to death after killing another soldier at Fort Hood itself.

On the afternoon of November 5, 2009 Major Nidal Hasan opened fire on people in a medical waiting area in Fort Hood, Texas. Twelve people were killed and nearly thirty-one were injured. Major Hasan was finally taken down by a female military police officer. At the time of writing this article, it was alleged that Major Hasan was still alive after having been wounded.

He worked as a psychiatrist with the Army and was rumoured to have been unhappy after learning that he was to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. According to military reports, a graduation ceremony was taking place a mere fifty meters away from the site of the shooting but luckily the doors of the auditorium were shut down

Fort Hood, Texas, is one of the largest military bases in the United States with more than 53,000 soldiers. According to reports, it has felt the brunt of repeated deployments and has been most affected by the United States’ increasing troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent reports published in the New York Times about the increasing rates of mental disorders in the United States military have pointed to an increase in the rate of suicides in the Army. Of all of the American military installations, Fort Hood has seen the largest number of suicides with nearly 75 suicides since 2003. As reports were still coming in Thursday night, the motivations of the soldier were unknown and speculation remained rife regarding why he had undertaken the dastardly act.

At the centre of speculation, especially on right wing American news channels, was the fact that the shooter was a Muslim whose parents were from Jordan. As soon as the shooter was identified has Major Nidal Hasan, the right wing media grabbed onto this detail. Fox News cornered an old acquaintance from a previous job Major Hassan had, who eagerly piped up stories about how Major Hasan had made comments to the effect that Muslims need to rise up to avenge themselves against their American aggressors. Further details were dredged up about how Major Hasan had been disgruntled about his impending deployment and had hired attorneys to help get him out of it. Other news channels tried to be more circumspect, pointing to the fact that Army officials were already calling this an “isolated” incident that at least in its early stages of investigation seemed to have been the result of some extreme form of workplace disgruntlement.

As all of this unfolded on American television screens this Thursday evening, it unleashed torrents of fear among many Muslims living in the United States. Within hours of reports of the shooting, national American Muslim groups had issued a volley of press releases denouncing the attack, and reiterating that it was not representative of either Islam or Muslims. The alacrity of their response is notable and represents the weight of lessons learned in the days since 9/11. Yet, it also represents the increasingly precarious position of Muslims in the United States eight years after the attacks on the twin towers. As two wars against predominantly Muslim countries rage on, there is little understanding among ordinary Americans of either Islam or Muslims beyond the versions presented in sensationalist news stories featuring the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Recent arrests of Najibullah Zazi and Tarek Mehanna, both arrested in the United States on terrorism charges of planning attacks on targets in the United States, have added to the anxiety faced by American Muslims that they will be profiled and discriminated against based on their religion.

The particular attack on Fort Hood is not expected to be found to be the result of any sort of terrorist plot. All current reports issued by the US Army indicate it to be the case of a disgruntled and possibly mentally disturbed person similar to the shooting incident at the University of Virginia and other workplace shootings. Even more likely is the attack being an indicator of the mental health costs being placed on members of the US armed forces as a result of protracted wars being fought in faraway lands with ever dwindling public support. Ironically the attack took place right during a meeting of US Army veterans in Washington DC asking the government for more funding for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is also not the first incident of soldiers killing soldiers. In May of 2009, five soldiers were shot dead by Sergeant John Russell at Camp Liberty in Baghdad; in Sept 2008 a soldier shot himself to death after killing another soldier at Fort Hood itself. The increase in incidents, points not only to the burdens of ongoing conflict but also the limited means of the military in maintaining morale during a time when a terrible recession and rising unemployment are not leaving soldiers with many financially viable options when they return home after combat. All of this, combined with the political uncertainty surrounding the objectives of the war and its ostensible timeline, demonstrates an aspect of the cost of war that is otherwise not tabulated into the dollar and sent amounts that are presented to Congress and the Senate.

Finally, however, the tense moments following the attack and the discovery of the attacker’s Muslim identity demonstrate how increasingly difficult the position of American Muslims is in a United States which has been drawn into protracted conflicts with Muslim countries. Even in a case like this, where the attacker’s religion was at best just a part of the derangement that led him to kill with such impunity; it could once again be presented as the single most important motivating factor. If so, it should remind American Muslims yet again, the need to be politically organised and locally visible in their communities so that they are recognised as patriotic and peace loving American citizens who wholeheartedly condemn the tragedy.

Related Stories (external links):

CNN http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/11/06/fort.hood.suspect.muslim/index.html

Dawn http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/19-fear-grips-us-muslims-after-texas-army-base-shooting-hh-04

NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/us/07muslim.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

7 Comments

Filed under Democracy, Identity, minorities, psychology, Religion, Rights, Terrorism, USA, violence, War On Terror

7 responses to “More on Attack at Fort Hood

  1. Mustafa Shaban

    Rafia gives the right idea about what happened. The morale of the US army is down and the soldiers hate being in Iraq and Afghanistan and all these wars are taking a toll on them psychologically.

  2. shazia

    there’s something quite despicable about the author’s primary concern being the safeguarding of her community (American muslims), even at the expense of honesty as to acknowledging Major Nidal’s motivations.

  3. mazbut

    Flynn to
    Mazbut

    It’s more about fitting into the society where you live.

    That’s why Hasan murdered soldiers at Fort Hood, he did not fit in.

    Some people were more than happy to make him aware of how his traditional Muslim ways did not fit in with their version of right and wrong.

    The current situation off the Australian Coast is a good example of where America went wrong.

    Hasan has more in common with your part of the world than he has with the USA and that is by his choice alone.

    Sri Lankans and Tamils have more in common with geographically closer international neighbours than what Australia is to them.

    Why should Australia accept refugees who fled their country of birth when other countries like Indonesia are closer geographically and socially ?

    Flynn

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flynn
    It does look like he did it for personal reasons.
    Mazbut:
    This is evidently true…

    Flynn:
    His Muslim way of life did not suit his Western life style.

    mazbut:
    No. Many Muslims in the US are married to american women who are either Christian or Jews but that doesn’t matter as both man and wife don’t interfere in each others faith. I have several Pakistani friends in US who are married to American women and living happy lives. It’s also my personal observation and I may be wrong that some of the Pakistani guys there who were not so religious in their youth have acquired bent toward religion. I know if they were in Pakistan, their home country, they wouldn’t have been as religious as they are in the States or elsewhere abroad!
    This gives rise to the thought that either they fail to assimilate US culture which is mostly different than Islamic teachings in so far as sex, pre-marital sex, fornication, sodomy, gays, gender inter-relationships/interaction, drinking, eating pork, gambling, interest, usury or such ethics,morals or customs are concerned….apart from these some things I think the Americans or other civilized countries are all working, though un-aware , on the same teachings which Islam commands!

    Quote:
    Flynn :
    The psychiatrist once said that “Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor” and that the United States shouldn’t be fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place, according to an interview with Col. Terry Lee, a co-worker, on Fox News.

    Mazbut:

    That was his personal opinion. all MUslims abroad do not think that way.
    If you glance at history you will note that many Muslims served in blood thirsty Chengis Khan’s army who plundered the Great Muslim Centres of Baghdad and Egypt etc. Those Muslim soldiers killed their brethren Muslims ruthlessly and without remorse!
    This proves that circumstances for Muslims especially this guy Hasan were not upto the mark and the attitude of hhis colleagues had a marked influence on his mind which ultimately resulted in that sad tragedy.

    Flynn:

    At the Muslim Community Center, Hasan stood out because he would sometimes show up in Army fatigues, said Faizul Khan, the former imam there.

    He came to mosque one or two times to see if there were any suitable girls to marry,” Khan said. “I don’t think he ever had a match, because he had too many conditions. He wanted a girl who was very religious, prays five times a day.”
    There is no harm in making a personal choice. Even non-Muslims have priorities when choosing spouses.

    Flynn:
    Suspect in Fort Hood shooting, a Muslim, asked Army to discharge him, aunt said – washingtonpost.com

    Mazbut:
    they should have discharged him if he was mentally so upset and unhappy at conscience at going to Iraq….without ‘keeping him’ under fear of penalization with costs!

    Hasan would have certainly fought and killed any Muslim who invaded America but it seems his conscience did not allow him to go kill them in Iraq as perhaps his patients might have told him such sad stories of Muslims that changed his thinking! This seems an instance of failed US Military counselling

  4. Mustafa Shaban

    shazia: totally disagree, the author is only trying to make us aware of stereotypes that can take away our eyes from the bigger picture and the real and more probable cause for this act

  5. Milind Kher

    Major Nidal’s crime cannot be condoned. However, if untreated cases of PTSD are being redrafted into high stress places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that is a cause for worry

  6. mazbut

    anna_hun:

    And who was the counsellor at his unit?
    :

    Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army shrink who specialized in combat stress, (and snapped)

    Maz:
    Every army officer is under perpetual observation. why did his CO or others around fail to assess his overall condition??

    anna-hun
    To: why the Army didnt discharge him…

    You cant just tell them you dont want to go…
    when the going gets tough
    well you can… but it mite be a prison sentence

    maz:
    sending him to jail was what the army should have done!

    anna-hun:
    From yahoo news UK….

    It could be argued that that he knew the conditions of service
    when he signed up
    Every Soldier who signs up for active service is aware that disciplin …
    Yes.. people opinions and circumstances changes…but
    Its not for the service men and women to decide which wars they wish to fight in.

    You sign up, you take orders. You disobey orders, you get court-martialed

    maz:

    True but an armyman is not meant to follow ‘illegal orders”…
    Army morale is more important than just following orders…
    In case of Nidal the problem was his ‘conscience’….
    Either he should have been dismissed or court marshalled….rather than wait to find him killing his colleagues!

    anna-hun
    As intelligent ,educated major..he mite could have tried a court case
    to get out of it,or could have tried other ways to sign off…
    maz:

    without knowing the facts it amounts to surmising and conjecturing!
    evidently he got exasperated at the mockery of his unfriendly and hostile colleagues

    anna-hun:
    To his harrassment, like they have been carving allah on his car…
    there must have been
    ways to report it too and maybe ask for a swap or posting out from fort hood
    to a different unit..but especially …him as counsellor he should have known

    maz:
    As he was born and raised in the US I believe he must be aware of all alternatives to adopt in the circumstances. The Question is Why he didn’t do that?? It has nothing to do with his education or status as a counseller or whatever.. he is a US citizen and quipped with all legitimate recourse to protect his rights

    I think he finally broke down at the continuous taunting and hostility of his colleagues and finally lost his mind in that inimical ambiance/company ..
    The Commanding Officer of his unit should be held responsible for criminal negligence for Nidal’s conduct

  7. mazbut

    Flynn View Post

    Flynn::
    Of course he did it for personal reasons.

    The reason is, he did not fit in.

    Maz:
    you can’t say that for a person who was born and raised in the US and rose to the level of a major in the army!
    The fact is that he studied the American culture more than anybody else but
    he couldn’t give up his conscience after listening to the miseries of the returnees of war during psychological counselling. I think any soldier would not be compelled to join a war against his conscience. this has happened in hhistory….for example Muhammad Ali Clay refused to go and war in Vietnam…and preferred to go to jail. Similarly, the Pakistan army at first had weak morale fighting against the Muslim Talibans but their morale boosted up when the fundamentalists began exploding bombs in cities and killing innocent people.

    Flynn:
    It was no fault of his own that he was a victim of racial/religious abuse.

    Maz:
    I don’t think anyone can stand racism and hatred by his own colleagues. That certainly goes to making one’s life miserable. For example, the main cause for the splitting up of Greater Pakistan into the present Pakistan and Bangla Desh was racism and ethnic discrimination which led to revolt and mass killing!Unfortunately, the West Pakistanis considered the Bengalese inferior to them though both of them were Muslims. They even ate different foods, spoke different languages….and had different lifestyles! This created the breakup eventhough they were bound with the same religion. Thus you can see religion is not the binding factor nor it supports warring or killing!

    Flynn:
    These friends of yours in the US and other places that have integrated so well that Jew marries Muslim or Catholic or Infidel and there is no problem. I would have to suggest that the people you refer to are not fundamentalist in their views.

    Maz:

    You cannot be sure at all!! The simplest way I adopt to judge how religious or irreligious a person is to send him crap and see his reaction!!lol In case of some of my friends they don’t like it and are more fundamental in their views than I am or others are there abroad or at home!

    You will note that althought the British ruled Indo-Pak for more than 150 years they failed to convert the locals (both Hindus and Muslims) to their culture (at least in practice). As stated in Tales from the Raj the colonial masters remark that the locals would love to come to their clubs, dance with their women but never bring their own women there or let them dance with others!!! Still the locals of Indo Pak regardless of their religions would stick to this and are never ready to part with their culture
    You can find a glimpse of that among the Mormons living in Utah!

    Flynn:
    It has been discussed before that immigrants bring their religious, moral and ethical ways with them and adhere to it. Yet back home in the “ Old Country “ moral and religious codes of conduct alter to suit an ever changing world.

    Maz:
    The foreigners don’t come to the US to transfer their religious, moral and ethical ways yet they do not want others to interfere in their business in private lives. After all this is what the US Constitution says!

    The immigrants come to US or emigrate to other affluent countries mainly for higher education or in search of better financial prospects…..they know that with the talents they possess they can make their lives better by living in the US rather than wasting their talents in their own countrie3s for lack of opportunities …and payback.

    Flynn:

    This gives rise to the thought that either they fail to assimilate US culture which is mostly different than Islamic teachings…….

    Flynn:
    My point exactly, the teachings of Islam do not translate to a modern Western World.

    Maz:

    Incorrect perception. After all what is ”modern Western World”???
    Apart from some of the factors relating to personal conduct I don’t think there is any thing else which holds back Muslims from moving on with the modern Western World!!

    Flynn:
    Western society should not have to alter its’ way of life to accommodate those that want to take us down a religious road that would lead to a destruction of life as we know it.

    maz:

    Again a wrong perception. Nobody imposes anything on anybody but at the same he also doesn’t want others to impose their way on them. Would you like to force a Muslim to eat pork or a Hindu to eat cow meat or a Sikh to smoke tobacco??? If anybody tries to do that the trouble will have no end! All religions have their own codes of life and if someone adheres to its stipulates in his personal life we should not look at it with hate, discrimination or abhorrence. This is also what the US Constitution upholds.