What was the motivation of Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter? Is it that hard to determine?
We know that Hasan attended a mosque in Virginia in 2001 where the imam was Anwar al-Awlaki:
Mr. Awlaki is a leading light among militant Sunni preachers seeking to reach out to English-speaking Muslims and encourage them to engage in jihad in the West. He’s at the forefront of the effort to create more “homegrown” jihadis, whose language skills and passports help them operate in the US and Europe. — Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor
We know that Hasan has since been in contact with al-Awlaki. We know that Hasan was opposed to Muslim soldiers fighting for the US “against Muslims”. We know that Hasan expressed radical Islamic ideas, and uttered the phrase “Allahu akbar” when he opened fire:
Relatives and friends said in interviews that Major Hasan had become unhappy with his seven-year commitment to the Army, which had provided him with his medical training. They said he had grown more openly vocal in his opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and had also become more religiously observant, often praying five time a day at a local mosque. He began his rampages, according to witnesses, by bowing his head as if praying and saying, “Allahu akbar” — “God is Great.”
Former classmates in a master’s program at a military college said that Major Hasan had expressed anti-American views, justified suicide bombings and contended that Islamic law took precedence over the Constitution, but that their complaints to faculty about his views did not result in any action against Major Hasan. — NY Times
It seems correct, even obvious, that this was an act of jihad. Was it a terrorist attack? Well, all but one of the victims were soldiers, so it could be considered an act of war. But since it took place far from a battlefield, and since the victims — his fellow American soldiers — were unarmed, it’s not a stretch to call it ‘terrorism’.
Let’s see what President Obama thinks. Here is a snippet from an interview broadcast on Good Morning America today:
Jake Tapper: What separates an act of violence from an act of terrorism?
Barack Obama: In a country of 300 million people, there are going to be acts of violence that are inexplicable. Even within the extraordinary military that we have. There are going to be instances in which an individual ‘cracks’. I think the questions that we’re asking now — and we don’t yet have complete answers to — is, is this an individual who’s acting in this way, or is it some larger set of actors. You know, what are the motivations?
So according to the President, a) Hasan’s actions are ‘inexplicable’, and b) ‘terrorism’ is only terrorism when the perpetrator is a card-carrying member of an organization such as al-Qaeda. Possibly even evidence of a phone call from Bin Laden is needed.
This afternoon, in his address at the memorial service in Ft. Hood, Obama said,
It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy… [b]ut this much we do know: No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving God looks upon them with favor.
The NY Times writer continued,
As he rejected the logic of Islamic extremists like the one who had been in contact with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of the killings, Mr. Obama offered no judgment on whether the incident should be viewed as linked to terrorism…
The president also dealt only obliquely with the sensitive question of Muslims serving in the American military. Senior Army officers have expressed concern about a backlash, but Mr. Obama did not use the opportunity to address that directly and never used the word “Muslim” in his address.
Hard to comprehend?
Actually, it’s simple. Most Muslims believe that they are obligated to fight if Muslims or Islam are threatened in a Muslim land; this is called “defensive jihad“. Fighting Americans in Afghanistan would fall into this category. In the view of al-Qaeda and other militant groups, defensive jihad can include fighting an aggressor in his own land, and ‘aggression’ doesn’t even need to mean invasion; Bin Laden managed to see US policy in 2001 as ‘invasive’ enough to justify the 9/11 attacks.
Hasan’s mentor, al-Awlaki, holds this view. Indeed, he called Hasan a hero:
Nidal Hassan is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people. This is a contradiction that many Muslims brush aside and just pretend that it doesn’t exist. Any decent Muslim cannot live, understanding properly his duties towards his Creator and his fellow Muslims, and yet serve as a US soldier. The US is leading the war against terrorism which in reality is a war against Islam. Its army is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest through its stooges. [this text was also found in the Google cache of the now-defunct blog “anwar-alawlaki.com”, along with laudatory comments by readers — ed]
What I find “hard to comprehend”, even “inexplicable”, is the pusillanimous response of our president, after the most serious terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. What could he possibly be thinking?