In 2003, then Secretary of Defense (and current un-indicted war criminal) Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo in which he asked if “extreme radical madrassas,” the Islamic learning centers that pass for public schools in large parts of the Muslim world, were producing more terrorists every week or month than we were able to capture or kill. The premise of the question is revealing because it demonstrates the basic problem with America’s policies toward the world’s Muslims. We seem to think of all Islamic schools as “extreme” and we regard the graduates of those schools as “terrorists” who were radicalized and taught to hate the U.S., but we never examine the role we play in inspiring that hatred in the first place (like reducing our options to “capture” or “kill”).
One of the biggest problems with attempting to figure out where, exactly, the schism lies is that they don’t talk to us and we don’t talk to them. That’s why I was relieved to learn that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, wasn’t killed at the scene and is conscious and able to speak. I sincerely hope that law enforcement isn’t allowed anywhere near this man and that he stays out of our civilian courts because his open-and-shut legal case won’t be nearly as valuable to our criminal justice system as his psychological case study will be to our military.
There is no mystery about what will happen to Maj. Hasan if he becomes a criminal defendant in a civilian court. Since the killings were clearly premeditated and obviously committed with reckless disregard for human life, he will face at least 13 counts of murder in the first degree (among others). He’ll be convicted on all counts and, because this is Texas we’re talking about, he will be sentenced to die by lethal injection. Then comes the mandatory trip through the Court of Criminal Appeals, a likely appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court, and finally an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. As this process works its way through to completion, Maj. Hasan wouldn’t be talking to anyone, and would be experiencing the horror that is our prison system. It’s safe to say the treatment he’d receive would be unlikely to make him more (as opposed to less) willing to cooperate and might cause the already suicidal Hasan to shut down completely.
The problem with that is our military’s need to understand exactly what happened to him in the past several months and why he did what he did. There is some serious psychological heavy lifting to be done, and that cannot happen in prison. Luckily, Maj. Hasan is also a psychiatrist, so he speaks the language of the brain and understands the nature and purpose of the counseling setting. Two summers ago, Hasan described his personal inner conflict when he told a group of supervisors and mental health professionals at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims,” essentially crystallizing one of our country’s biggest challenges.
In the age of the jihadi who “loves death more than you love life,” that same conflict is dividing Muslim communities all over the world and illogically hardening anti-Islamic feelings in countries that are targeted for attack. That turns an obviously disturbed person like Hasan (who was unable to wrangle his personal beasts) into a “self-radicalized, home-grown terrorist who had turned to Islamic extremism while under personal stress,” according to Sen. Joe Lieberman. But simply labeling his actions “terrorism” is dismissive, and it ignores the warning signs that came from Maj. Hasan and that come from the Islamic world every day.
About his infamous 2003 memo, Sec. Rumsfeld once said, “what I was trying to point out to the people in the Department of Defense was that there’s a tendency when you call this a global war on terror to think of it as a war of big militaries — armies, navies, and air forces — against armies, navies and air forces, and it is not. It is a totally different thing …. It’s a struggle basically within the Muslim faith of a small minority of violent extremists against the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are not violent extremists, and we need to find ways to empower and strengthen those moderates who are determined to not have their faith hijacked by these violent extremists.”
If anyone can help our military to understand the way those moderates think and what drives a Muslim to kill or die for his religion, it’s the Palestinian-American Army Psychologist Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan. I just hope we keep him in a hospital where he can be studied, and not in a prison where he will be put to death. We know he has expertise on the human brain, the Islamic faith, and the U.S. military. As long as we keep him alive, he can still be of some service by helping us figure out how those things can all work together.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider with four-quadrant crossover appeal who is consistently impressed by the United States military’s ability to respond to a crisis. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.