There are lots of places to start looking if we want clues as to what happened today at an Army base at Fort Hood, Texas. One obvious place to start is Virginia Tech. We know that Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, who perpetrated the largest shooting at a military base in U.S. history today, graduated attended the college.
There are striking similarities between the modus operandi in both cases: 32 people were gunned down in the Virginia massacre with many wounded, both perpetrators were non-Caucasian, both perpetrators appear to have had murder/suicide as part of their game plan. While Hassan was born in Arlington, Virginia, his complaints about religious discrimination in the Army could only have made him feel like a pariah, or outsider. Indeed, both the Virginia Tech and now the Fort Hood shooters were outsiders doubtless angry about being outsiders.
It is entirely possible that Hassan took his cues from the massacre at his alma mater and, although he graduated from Virginia Tech ten years before the massacre, there is little room for coincidence in the similarities between the two crime sprees.
But, to really know what happened to Hassan, we will have to know why he was being deployed to Iraq later this month, and whether he was to work with those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, as reported, or whether he was instead being called upon to combine his psychiatric expertise, and his knowledge of Arabic to serve in an intelligence capacity.
Simply stated, was Dr. Hassan, a devout Muslim, being deployed to Iraq to work with U.S. interrogators as a sort of liaision between the American military, and Iraqi detainees? We know that Hassan didn't want to deploy to Iraq, and that he felt strongly about it. What we don't know is why. For clues, we might want to consider another psychology major, fluent in Arabic, whose career ended in violence, Alyssa Peterson.
Peterson, a U.S. Army Specialist, received her Arabic language certification, and served with the 101st Airborne in Iraq. She was an enlistee, a career intelligence officer, whose concentration was interrogation techniques. She found herself part of black ops, and was expected to participate in a clandestine operation in which what we now know to have been so-called "alternative enhanced interrogation techniques" were employed which she refused to do. While the Army has denied it, sources close to Peterson say that she was so deeply despondent about what she witnessed at the detention camp in Iraq that, on September 15, 2003, she was found with a bullet wound to her head, a victim of what the Army euphemistically called "non-hostile weapon discharge."
Like Hassan, Peterson was deeply religious. She was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter- Day saints. Within days of taking her life, she was placed on suicide watch after refusing to participate in interrogation sessions at the airbase on the Syrian-Iraqi border, interrogations which she believed involved the torture of Iraqi prisoners.
Importantly, one must look to Alyssa Peterson for clues, not for answers. Answers won't come fast, and they won't come easily, but the place to start is what were Hassan's exact duties with the Army, why was he being sent to Iraq, what were his duties going to be in Iraq, and did his knowledge of Arabic, his Islam faith have anything to do with the kinds of sessions the Army had in mind for him?
Though, unlike Alyssa Peterson, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassin, was not a trained career intelligence officer who specialized in interrogations, could he have found himself in much the same circumstance as a young Christian enlistee before him?
And, as one, of Middle Eastern descent, who strongly opposed the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, if called upon to participate in interrogation sessions, arguably using what to him might constitute dubious interrogation techniques, it is plausible that what happened at Fort Hood today was a deranged response to a righteous concern.
Causes Jayne Stahl Supports
Free Speech, human rights, and abolition of the death penalty.