الثلاثاء، نوفمبر 10، 2009

The Virus Behind Fort Hood Shootings

The Virus Behind Fort Hood Shootings

How did Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a "calm" man according to his neighbors, became so mentally unstable to the extent that he would open fire on his own colleagues, killing 13 and injuring 38 before he himself is shot by an officer and incapacitated? Nidal, a Medical Doctor (Psychology) was born in the U.S. into a family from a Palestinian origin. He was a practicing Muslim. He worked as an army psychiatrist specialized in, believe it or not, disaster and preventive psychiatry.


It is too early to say, what really happened to Major Hasan to turn him from a mild-mannered man to an executioner capable of causing such havoc. The photo which is widely used for Nidal shows a grin, maybe even a smile. But behind the smile, what kind of emotional knotting went on in that man's head?


Was it the virus of radical religious ideas which haunt the heads of so many fanatics in our world today tampering with proper brain functioning and making victims incapable of using reason? Filling their heads with obsessive ideas and their lives with compulsive rituals that can eventually turn to violence and provide an urge to kill others in the name of god or as a way to fulfill some holy duty? A blog posting which Nidal may have written 6 months ago glorified suicide bombers. "Scholars (supposedly he meant Islamic Scholars?) have paralleled this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers." The officials say they are still trying to confirm that Major Hasan was the author of such internet postings.


Or was it the accumulation of humiliation and crushed self-esteem of an army major who founds his colleagues treating them as an inferior outsider? "There was racism towards him because he's a Muslim, because he's an Arab, because he prays," Nidal's cousin said in a CNN interview in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Maintaining relations with his relatives in Palestine, did Nidal identify with their suffering and felt that U.S. backing of Israel stood behind their pain and so decided to send a bloody message to embody their ordeal? Was it rage, caused by the combination of all the above? Rage which over the years built up until it became too monumentous to contain or repress, so exploded in that bloody massacre hurting so many innocent others who casually happened to be in its way?

Or is it simply a case of one psychiatrist's professional fatigue? A psychiatrist who out of human compassion, got emotionally involved with the stories, horrors and problems of his patients, who left him a slice of their psychological disturbances, day in and day out, until one day his bag just got full and exploded?


After 9/11 and the launching of "The War on Terror", which reportedly he opposed, Nidal may have begun to develop an identity crisis. Here he is, making a living working for the war machine which started targeting people he identifies with, Muslims and Arabs. The peak of the crisis and possibly the trigger of the incident came when Major Hasan was told that he would be posted to Iraq within a month. This was possibly beyond his capacity to peacefully accommodate all these different loyalties. Is it actually wise to send a man to fight in lands where he identifies one way or another with the people he may have to kill, so to speak? Major Hasan, being a psychiatrist, is unlikely to engage in actual combat, but being in the field, on the American side, may have just proved intolerable for him.


Whether it is the radical religious ideas which can only be compared to a virus that self-replicates, blocking normal thinking pathways and rendering certain cognitive and reasoning skills idle; or a bug of conflicting loyalties, or a professionally-related nervous breakdown; the aftershocks of this incident may be as painful. In the days and weeks to come, the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting tragedy will likely show us significant policy implications on the recruiting and periodical "psychological-scanning" of military personnel in the U.S. armed forces.

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