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Dr. Phil and the Fort Hood Killer

It can by now come as no surprise that the Fort Hood massacre yielded an instant flow of exculpatory media meditations on the stresses that must have weighed on the killer who mowed down 13 Americans and wounded 29 others. Still, the intense drive to wrap this clear case in a fog of mystery is eminently worthy of notice.

The tide of pronouncements and ruminations pointing to every cause for this event other than the one obvious to everyone in the rational world continues apace. Commentators, reporters, psychologists and, indeed, army spokesmen continue to warn portentously, "We don't yet know the motive for the shootings."

What a puzzle this piece of vacuity must be to audiences hearing it, some, no doubt, with outrage. To those not terrorized by fear of offending Muslim sensitivities, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's motive was instantly clear: It was an act of terrorism by a man with a record of expressing virulent, anti-American, pro-jihadist sentiments. All were conspicuous signs of danger his Army superiors chose to ignore.

What is hard to ignore, now, is the growing derangement on all matters involving terrorism and Muslim sensitivities. Its chief symptoms: a palpitating fear of discomfiting facts and a willingness to discard those facts and embrace the richest possible variety of ludicrous theories as to the motives behind an act of Islamic terrorism. All this we have seen before but never in such naked form. The days following the Fort Hood rampage have told us more than we want to know, perhaps, about the depth and reach of this epidemic.

One of the first outbreaks of these fevers, the night of the shootings, featured television's star psychologist, Dr. Phil, who was outraged when fellow panelist and former JAG officer Tom Kenniff observed that he had been listening to a lot of psychobabble and evasions about Maj. Hasan's motives.

A shocked Dr. Phil, appalled that the guest had publicly mentioned Maj. Hasan's Islamic identity, went on to present what was, in essence, the case for Maj. Hasan as victim. Victim of deployment, of the Army, of the stresses of a new kind of terrible war unlike any other we have known. Unlike, can he have meant, the kind endured by those lucky Americans who fought and died at Iwo Jima, say, or the Ardennes?

The quality and thrust of this argument was best captured by the impassioned Dr. Phil, who asked us to consider, "how far out of touch with reality do you have to be to kill your fellow Americans . . . this is not a well act." And how far out of touch with reality is such a question, one asks in return—not only of Dr. Phil, but of the legions of commentators like him immersed in the labyrinths of motive hunting even as the details of Maj. Hasan's proclivities became ever clearer and more ominous.

To kill your fellow Americans—as many as possible, unarmed and in the most helpless of circumstances, while shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), requires, of course, only murderous hatred—the sort of mindset that regularly eludes the Dr. Phils of our world as the motive for mass murder of this kind.

As the meditations on Maj. Hasan's motives rolled on, "fear of deployment" has served as a major theme—one announced as fact in the headline for the New York Times's front-page story: "Told of War Horror, Gunman Feared Deployment." The authority for this intelligence? The perpetrator's cousin. No story could have better suited that newspaper's ongoing preoccupation with the theme of madness in our fighting men, and the deadly horrors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, than this story of a victim of war pressures gone berserk. The one fly in the ointment—Maj. Hasan had of course seen no war, and no combat.

Still, with a bit of stretching, adherents of Maj. Hasan-as-war-victim theme found a substitute of sorts—namely the fears allegedly provoked in him by his exposure, as an army psychiatrist, to the stories of men who had been deployed. The thesis then: Maj. Hasan's mental stress, provoked by the suffering of Americans who had been in combat, caused him to go out and butcher as many of these soldiers as he could. Let's try putting that one before a jury.

By Sunday morning, Gen. George Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, confronted questions put to him by ABC's George Stephanopolous—among them the matter of the complaints about Maj. Hasan's anti-American tirades that were made by fellow students in military classes, as well as other danger signs ignored by officials when they were reported, apparently for fear of offense to a Muslim member of the military.

These were speculations, Gen. Casey repeatedly cautioned. We need to be very careful, he explained, "We are a very diverse army." Mr. Stephanopolous then helpfully summarized matters: This case then was either a case of premeditated terror—or the man just snapped.

The general was not about to address such questions. He was there to recite the required pieties, and describe the military priorities . . . which are, it appears, a concern above all for the sensitivities of a diverse army, a concern so great as to render even the mention of salient facts out of order, as "speculation.'" "This terrible event," Gen. Casey noted, "would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty."

To hear this, and numerous other such pronouncements of recent days, was to be reminded of all those witnesses to the suspicious behavior of the 9/11 hijackers who held their tongues for fear of being charged with discrimination. It has taken Maj. Hasan, and the fantastic efforts to explain away his act of bloody hatred, to bring home how much less capable we are of recognizing the dangers confronting us than we were even before September 11.

Corrections & Amplifications: Maj. Hasan is a psychiatrist. An earlier version of the article stated he was a psychologist.

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Rabinowitz"s article covers a number of issues. The insane downplaying of Islamist jihads and the failure of mohammedan communities to condemn such violence for what it is. For example, while CAIR deplored the massacre, it distanced its religion and community from the act. As bad as the action of mohmammedans and their champions are is the readiness to condemn Jews e.g. on the anniversary of Rabin"s assassination, SBS attributed the act to "Jewish terrorists". Another stream of concern raised by the article is that in our insane society, every act of evil is attributed to some mental or social problem; no one is responsible for their actions. The last point, possibly an aside, is the failure of civilised nations to condemn the barbarity that is so routine in mohammedan societies e.g. blowing up innocents or raping or "honour killings". When we fail to condemn in the strongest terms that concept of honour, we demean ourselves.

Posted by paul2 on 2009-11-16 04:13:39 GMT

As the Apologists practice their craft, knowledgeable, clear-minded people have to scoff. Unfortunately, there are not enough Dorothy Rabinowitz readers. Not in the White House, the media, or the public. The whitewash will lull the uninformed, the danger will grow and grow. There will be more attacks as the scourge of Islam grows unopposed.

Posted by Roberta on 2009-11-12 04:27:04 GMT

We need people like Dorothy Rabinowitz to be President of the United States.

Posted by hector on 2009-11-12 04:10:49 GMT

The obfuscations and tangled nonsense coming out of the mouths of those who run the USA are so ALice In WOnderland that I wouldn\"t be surprised to see the Red Queen and the CHeshire Cat brought on to discuss the necessity of believing several unbelievalbe things before, during and after breakfast.

Posted on 2009-11-12 04:08:07 GMT

Dorothy Rabinowitz"s article demonstrates how troubling the politically correct widespread denial of the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism is. But there is another phonomenon just as troubling, if not more so. It is that we only very rarely hear condemnation by the lay leadership of Muslim communities in the West of the sorts of atrocities perpetrated at Fort Hood by members of their community. Had a Jew perpetrated such an atrocity (as unlikely as that is because of the values we hold), the Jewish lay leadership of the relevant community would distance itself from the atrocity and from the perpetrator with "shreiing" and condemnation from the rooftops and it would assure the local community that such an act is abhorrent to its values. The troubling part, of course, is: What logical conclusion should be drawn from such silence? Silence within Arab lands might be explicable because of the inherent danger to those protesting an atrocity. But that argument holds no water in the West where no such danger exists and where such a condemnation would be welcomed. Geoff Bloch

Posted by Geoff Bloch on 2009-11-12 03:52:29 GMT