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Weekly Commentary — Nidal Malik Hasan as a Rorschach Test

2009 November 16
by rahul

Like all good current events, Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s recent shooting spree at Fort Hood, wherein he killed 13 people and wounded over 40, has functioned as a political Rorschach test.

For the right, the blob resolves very easily; indeed, this particular incident was unnecessary. Muslims are scary and can’t be trusted. Hasan was part of a massive “terrorist” ring planning assaults on the U.S. military from within. Joe Lieberman, always one of the stalwarts of anti-Arab paranoia and fundamentalist anti-Islamism, plans to hold hearings designed to ferret out said plots.

A further obvious lesson is that the pinkos and peaceniks running the U.S. military are caught up in “political correctness;” no longer just about keeping white boys on elite college campuses from having good clean fun, now it has a body count.

Interestingly, of all the mainstream commentators, only Frank Rich had the wit to point out the bizarre contradiction at the heart of the “war on terror” for the past six years at least; the very people who jump to support our various expeditions into the Muslim world and excoriate opponents for not wanting to help Muslims and not believing that Muslims are capable of democracy themselves rabidly hate Muslims. It’s apparently not polite to say, but it’s quite obviously true.

For the status-quo defenders of ponderous military bureaucracy, which apparently includes all militant liberals now, the lesson is that there is no lesson. The military’s expansive tolerance and respect for diversity are good things, and Major Hasan’s unfortunate emotional problems have nothing to do with his religion.

For some fervent opponents of the war, I suppose, the incident is a lesson that some incipient groundswell of Muslims is out there, ready to kill our soldiers and drown our empire in blood, and that we should cease to occupy Muslim countries or we will be destroyed.

There are other lessons one might just as easily choose to learn. Instead of the danger of Muslims in the military, one might consider the danger of the casual abuse and prejudice within the military; perhaps the all-too-common practice of soldiers cheerfully referring to people like Hasan as “ragheads” and “hajis” is actually not such a good idea.

Or one might consider how this incident manifests the severe problems with the provision of psychiatric care within the military; how was it that a man who was clearly in serious need of it himself ended up being charged with providing it to others?

One might even choose to learn the lesson that Hasan himself suggested, at the end of a rambling and semi-coherent PowerPoint presentation with 50 slides that he delivered in 2007 to a mystified group of Army doctors expecting a medical presentation — a presentation that, by the way, was a cry for help that only a complete blockhead could have failed to notice. The last slide contained a single recommendation: allow Muslim soldiers to become conscientious objectors and/or leave the military if they felt too much conflict with the idea of fighting against fellow Muslims. In retrospect, at least, it is hard to argue with this one.

Personally, the main lesson I see, which is, I suppose, partly in line with that of the military brass, is that it’s actually quite amazing how little of a problem Muslim soldiers have been. There have been two incidents of fratricide, that of Hasan Akbar near the beginning of the Iraq war, and this one, and only a handful of cases of conscientious objection or noncooperation.

While the military bureaucracy obviously failed miserably in dealing with Major Hasan, the complacency of the brass is well justified. Muslim soldiers and intelligence agents are a major asset in the prosecution of the “war on terror;” incidents like these are acceptable losses for a militarily sound program. It is quite obvious that these incidents are no more disconnected from the religion and/or ethnicity of the two men in question than membership in AIPAC or the NAACP is, but still they only add up to a minor cost; 13 American soldiers is the number being killed in a week in Afghanistan.

American Muslims, furthermore, have essentially posed no threat, either of terrorist attacks, or even of significant political resistance to the war on terror. They are not only less cohesive than Muslim communities in many European countries, they are apparently much more apolitical. Although there is a great deal of simmering  resentment at the reflexive anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice of much of the country, it doesn’t seem to translate into any kind of action.

Naturally, of course, the right wing wants to take one of the few things that America does right and fix it.

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