03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Virus Behind Fort Hood Shootings

How did Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a “calm” man according to
his neighbors, become so mentally unstable to the extent that he would open
fire on his own colleagues, killing 13 and injuring 38 before he himself was
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 Mjr. 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 found his colleagues treating him allegedly 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 feel 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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