Answers Sought in Deadly Fort Hood Assault
11 November 2009
As the United States continues to mourn last week's deadly shooting
rampage at a U.S. Army base in Texas, Americans are grappling with
disturbing and difficult questions. What provoked the assault that
claimed 13 lives at Fort Hood? Could the tragedy have been averted?
And what can be done to prevent a similar attack?
|First responders prepare the wounded for transport in waiting ambulances outside Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, 05 Nov 2009|
It is perhaps
natural for people to yearn for concrete answers in the wake of a
senseless tragedy. And the lessons of the Fort Hood assault are sure
to be pondered and debated for a long time.
At Tuesday's public
memorial for the slain, President Barack Obama said the attack revealed
that U.S. service members can face grave dangers far from conflict
"This is a time of war," he said. "Yet these Americans
did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here on
American soil, in the heart of this great state, in the heart of this
great American community."
The alleged shooter, Army
psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, has yet to be charged with any crime.
Hasan is conscious and in stable condition after being shot by civilian
police. Neither he nor his attorney have spoken publicly about the
motives for the attack.
|Nidal Malik Hasan (2007 file) (picture provided by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences) |
But Hasan's apparent actions and
affiliations have come under intense scrutiny. A devout Muslim, he is
reported to have shouted "God is great" in Arabic before opening fire.
He reportedly was troubled over his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan
and he had warned Army officials about "adverse events" if Muslim
American soldiers continue to be sent into battle against fellow
Muslims. In addition, U.S. intelligence officials say they intercepted
emails between Hasan and a Yemen-based Muslim imam known for radical
anti-American teachings and who is revered by violent Islamists.
Conflict between faith and allegiance
picture that emerges of Hasan is that of a deeply religious man
embracing the most extreme forms of his faith, according to the
president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Zuhdi Jasser.
appears that he started to be driven towards the Wahhabi version of
Islam, which is a very exclusivist, fundamentalist and militant
version," said Jasser. "And their mentality is that the Islamic state
takes preeminence over any other form of government - to impose the
Islamic state by any means necessary."
Jasser, who says his
family came to the United States from Syria in search of political and
religious freedom, has a message for his fellow Muslim Americans.
is time for us to publicly debate imams that do believe that there
should be a role for politics in the mosque because until we can
separate mosque and state, the virus that infiltrates the minds of
people like Hasan is going to continue," he said. "It only can be
rooted out by an Islam that is at ease with liberty, freedom, and
believes in American constitutional law."
Jasser adds that the
U.S. military must be more vigilant of service members who appear
conflicted between their religious beliefs and their allegiance to the
armed forces. He says Hasan gave clear indications of such a personal
conflict and that it should not have been tolerated.
"We need to
start looking at warning signs and not allowing political correctness
to make us anesthetized to a radical political ideology that has within
it a theological construct," said Jasser.
U.S. officials say
that while Hasan's correspondence with a radical imam was tracked, the
messages did not contain any statements of violent intent.
note that many people come to the attention of U.S. authorities for a
variety of reasons, many of which turn out to be benign. Identifying
who will commit a heinous crime - and when and where it might occur -
is difficult, if not impossible, according to former State Department
intelligence analyst Terrell Arnold.
"You need to take from Fort
Hood the basic lesson that you cannot actually predict these things,"
he said. "The basic problem [in predicting attacks] is life in an open
society that has a high regard for individual liberties, and also life
in a military community where people are very careful to avoid
offending other members of the group by making charges they cannot
substantiate in advance."
Fear of suspicion and hate
Several Muslim religious leaders in
the United States have condemned the Fort Hood attack. And much like
they did after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many Muslim
Americans say they fear becoming targets of suspicion and even hate.
rights advocates warn against targeting and punishing the nation's
Muslim population for the actions of one man. Vanita Gupta, an
attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, says public outrage
over the Fort Hood attack is justified. But she adds there is a danger.
. . that we create policies and practices that result in deep suspicion
of entire swaths of people in a very unfair and, frankly, un-American
manner," said Gupta.
And so the question remains - in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings, what, if anything, can and should be done?
Analyst Terrell Arnold says periodic violence is a fact of life, but boosting honest and open dialogue will help.
need to look at ways to reduce the tensions between ethnic groups
within our society," he said. "And one of the up-front areas for that
concern is, of course, the Muslim community."
have promised to investigate intelligence officers' handling of Hasan's
intercepted communications, which reportedly were not given to military
officials. The White House has promised a thorough investigation of
the crime and what preceded it as well as steps to prevent similar