When a US Army doctor guns down 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounds 29 others, naturally some questions arise, particularly when the doctor in question is a Muslim and has ties to the very same mosque where a couple of the 9-11 terrorists worshiped for a time, and its radical cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki.
The knee-jerk reaction, of course, is to label this an act of terrorism against our country. It has all the classic elements: A brown-skinned gunman known to be a follower of the prophet Mohammed; a seemingly irrational shooting spree, the victims of which were apparently chosen by proximity rather than any personal connection to the murderer; a rumored shout of “Allahu akbar!” as the bullets flew home; a body count of American fighting men and women, each life callously taken and properly memorialized.
Certainly it was terrorism — to not acknowledge the terror felt at Fort Hood as the shooter claimed his victims would be an exercise in denial. But was it… you know… that kind of terrorism — an organized, systematic attack by foreign nationals as part of a sustained campaign against the American way of life? The kind that eradicated some 3,000 souls when the Twin Towers went down? The kind that has drawn American troops into Iraq and Afghanistan?
The short answer is: No. This is a different type of terrorism entirely.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan seemed to have acted more or less impulsively rather than being a “sleeper” like the 9-11 hijackers. He had no training other than that provided by Uncle Sam. This event doesn’t seem like the culmination of some grand plan, but rather the unfortunate breakdown of an American psychopath under the influence of religious zealotry and chronic stress.
Hasan has more in common with Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, who drove his SUV into a crowd of UNC- Chapel Hill students in 2006, than he does with the 9-11 hijackers or even Timothy McVeigh, whose 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City was steeped in ideology and premeditation.
And while the prospect of al Qaida and other terrorist organizations plotting against our country and its people certainly sends chills throughout our nation, domestic nutjobs like Hasan are even more disturbing.
Hasan grew up in Roanoke, just 100 miles or so up the road. He went to Virginia Tech and attended medical school on the taxpayer’s dime. He was an American, with all the rights and privileges inherent therein.
But Hasan lost it under the influence of a cocktail made from cowardice, ideology, pressure and mental illness; the post-traumatic stress experienced by some of his patients made a terrible garnish. And the entire nation pays a terrible price.
Through his murders, Hasan seems a new kind of terrorist: a freelancer, who acts on his own impulses and for his own reasons.
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