Major Hassan: The Military Psychiatrist who Freaked Out
The Evidence of Things Unseen?
Barely a day has passed since Major Nidal Hassan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at fort Bragg, but the relentless spin by the military and civilian authorities has begun. Since it is obvious that the Major had a mental breakdown of some sort, they recognize the futility of attempting to deny this. However beyond that simple admission they are inclined to treat this tragic event as if it is an unfathomable mystery.
While it is always a good thing not to jump to conclusions without a proper investigation of the facts, the gravity of this situation invites speculation. Hence I’d like to offer mine. Perhaps those who will hear this might be persuaded to interrogate the available facts guided by my theory of events, which I believe is the direction the investigation should take. First let’s consider what we actually know about the situation.
It is a fact that Major Hassan is an American born Muslim of Palestinian heritage. It is also a fact that he is a military psychiatrist who regularly counsels soldiers returning from combat in the two protracted wars the US is waging in the Muslim world. Dr. Hassan specializes in treating soldiers who are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. It is also true that PTS is often caused by the guilt soldiers feel about the acts they committed – which often results in the deaths of innocent men, women and children – while fighting overseas.
I have witnessed the result of this kind of guilt in friends and family members who fought in Vietnam; some of them have been profoundly wounded although they bear no physical scars. As a result of the deep introspection brought on by this experience, some have come to sympathize with the Vietnamese; even donating money to build schools or support orphanages in villages they once pillaged.
Dr. Hassan is stationed at Fort Hood; the largest American army base in the world, hence the base is full of soldiers who have participated in the bloody carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan. Alas the critical question we need to ask is: What must it be like for a Muslim American of Middle-Eastern lineage to listen to the horror stories about unspeakable atrocities the US military is committing against his co-religionist and ethnic kith and kin? Yet this is the question that thus far the official spokesmen want to avoid, because the implications are too unsettling. However it is the question that all thoughtful people should ask; especially pundits who are tasked with explaining complex issues to the public.
Since I believe comparative analysis of classes of phenomena that occur in all countries and cultures subjected to the same conditions can help us arrive at universal truths, I’d like to compare Dr. Hassan’s experience with that of another army psychiatrist who was tasked with conducting psychoanalysis on soldiers fighting in a war of insurgency: Dr. Franz Fanon.
Like Dr. Hassan, Dr. Fanon was part of an invading army attempting to suppress an insurgency in the Muslim world – the French in Algeria. And although he was neither Muslim nor Arab, as a black man from Martinique he was also a colonial subject of France subjected to the same racist oppression as the Arabs. And this became the basis for his identification with the Algerians.
Unlike Dr. Hassan however, Fanon’s patients were the Algerian insurgents. Yet listening to their stories turned him to their cause and he deserted the French army and emerged as the leading theoretician of the Algerian Revolution! This decision hastened the collapse of the French empire in Africa. I believe that Dr. Hassan was affected in a similar way listening to the terrible tales told by the returning American soldiers, but he behaved in what is becoming a typically American way of expressing nihilistic rage: grab a gun and shoot everybody in sight!
For a while this kind of behavior was called “going postal” because the most famous instance of this type of mass slaughter to express a grievance was committed by a fired postal worker who returned to his former workplace and shot up the place. But now, alas, it has become such a recurrent phenomenon the enraged postal worker has faded into memory.
I believe that in Dr. Hassan’s mind he was striking a blow for his Muslim brethern, whom as a Muslim living in America just now he would have little trouble identifying with- especially the thousands of innocents who have been slaughtered by American forces – and there is emerging evidence that he was stressed out about the fact that he had been ordered to deploy to the Middle East within weeks.
Given the dread that he has reportedly expressed about the impending deployment, it is reasonable to believe that this was the trigger that set him off. It’s really a no brainer; especially since med-school classmates and others have come forth and revealed the fact that Major Hassan thought himself a Muslim first and American second and considered the war on terror a war on Islam. The fact that he was screaming “Allah u Akbar” when he opened fire convinces me that he was striking a blow for Islam. Washington we’ve got a problem. I anxiously await Dr. Hassan’s explanation for his actions in the forthcoming trial.
Superior Officers Investigating the Tragedy
They look as confused by events as everybody else
Harlem New York
November 5, 2009