Something has gone terribly wrong in the entire reaction to the Ft. Hood massacres, as evidenced by the media, the administration, the military authorities, and perhaps the public at large. There seems almost a dreamy disconnect from the terrible fate of the slain—as if we are innately impotent to stop such mayhem, or are above the fray and so like Platonic Guardians must remain deep in contemplation about how in theory we can persuade the Hasans to cease and desist—as if our therapeutic stance in the first place did not encourage and embolden such monsters to act.
Not a “tragedy”
So I am tired of the use of the word “tragedy”—the Greeks’ original invention that grew out of a “goat song”. True, it has come to mean “calamity”, but tragedy’s essence is a central character, flawed rather than inherently evil, at war with, and at the mercy of, larger, immovable forces like fate, destiny, and the gods that overwhelm an Oedipus or Ajax—through a fatal flaw, hubris, or happenstance. The horrific resulting collision can bring education and even entertainment to an audience— Aeschylus’s “learning through pain.”
Sorry, Major Hasan just doesn’t rate. He was not a “tragic” figure, just a tawdry murderous killer, who in premeditated fashion bought guns, planned his killings, and tried to locate his personal failings within some sort jihadist war against the West. Our slain soldiers were the result of an evil act, a one-sided horror story, not a collision of human and divine wills.
Enough of ‘Why did he do it?’
I am also tired of the asinine questioning, “Why did he do this?”—as if we are to be perplexed that Hasan the deep philosopher inexplicably committed mayhem. We have reached real Bathos, when talking heads ponder whether trying to contact al Qaeda is really that bad, or whether yelling “Allahu Akbar” as one blows apart human flesh is really an act connected to radical Islam.
(By the way, do we really, in the style of Mohammed Atta’s father, need another pathetic interview beamed from the Middle East with the aggrieved relative, who swears on television that his progeny could not have possibly done the crime? And do we need another Western “thinker” writing that our armed forces attacking suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban in Predator strikes is the equivalent of Hasan shooting uniformed soldiers—as if those in uniform of a democratic state, training for or in war, are the same as those out of uniform committed to theocratic absolutism through the deliberate killing of civilians or the unarmed? If we kill the non-combatant in Waziristan, it is through error mostly brought on by the deliberate terrorists’ use of “shields”; if Hasan does, it is by intent; those at Fort Dix are enlisted in a cause of freedom and consensual government; Hasan in his hour of carnage enlisted in a 7th-century cause to extinguish it.)
The evidence is pretty clear. 1) Hasan did not want either to leave the army and pay back the cost of his education loans, or stay in and deploy to a war theater that was heating up; so (2) he sought a desperate solution to both dilemmas, one that might elevate his tiny psychodramas into some sort of cosmic “meaning” through mass murdering in cowardly fashion.
(I say cowardly since his victims were (a) trapped in a confined place, (b) unarmed, (c) unaware and unsuspecting of a fellow officer—the only constraints on his death toll were the mechanics of adding additional clips until police arrived.)
That is not to say Hasan did not “believe.” He most surely did see the West as pathological, and the never-never-land of 7th Islam as paradise, one obtainable should Hasan, as others have, martyr himself for the cause.
The murderer as hero
As an added incentive, instead of going AWOL or getting in another spat with an officer, he might instead find himself immortalized in sermons throughout the Middle East as a brave warrior, who does more than rant at work, but instead becomes a great hero in the jihad against the West.
So he became a terrorist who, in fact, could do real damage by striking fear into the heart of the US military on its home turf (which, in fact, is now uncertain how, given its past politically-correct habits, to address future occasional Islamic rants among its ranks), while showing the Islamic masses how the West, when attacked, in reaction becomes the morally immobile “weak” horse, and prone to visible self-doubt and self-accusation—proving that while the jihadist believes in something, we in contrast don’t quite.
Hasan’s cause is a vicious war to promote a 7th-century vision, ours is seen as not much of a defense of a hallowed tradition of 2,500 years under dire assault.
Something more than moral lectures?
Can we hear something more from the President than assurances that we will not rush to judgment or that Hasan will not please his god?
Is that not an insult to the American people, to suggest hours after the killings that we have to be careful, as if not to give into our innate national tendencies to form posses of vigilantes roaming the country to kill Muslims—Americans being incapable of distinguishing a Major Hasan boasting about killing infidels from a Muslim neighbor talking over the fence about the dangers of crabgrass?
How about some passion, or at least promises of a gargantuan hearing, a federal inquiry, Tailhook- or 9/11-style, to investigate how this extremist passed all sorts of red lines—starting with the promotion process and ending with questions of firearm security and use on bases, touching on immigration policy from the Middle East, FBI policies, and political correctness?
Something is needed from our military and civilian leaders other than platitudes and warnings not to blame “all Muslims” and shock at “unimaginable” crimes—as if red-neck Americans in retaliation after September 11 had killed hundreds of Muslims in the fashion that Islamic radicals in the last 98 months have frequently targeted the innocent, or as if Major Hasan flew in from Mars and without warning shot the innocent. (How strange, given the elite rhetoric—once butchered Americans did not in mob-like fashion hunt down innocent Muslims to take out their rage, but were often sermonized to as if they were on the verge of doing just that, while after 9/11, on dozens of occasions young Muslims were caught trying to trump the 9/11 death toll, even as they were assured they were safe and protected from a possible mob-like Neanderthal America.)
So what’s next?
Are we sort of to be sacrificed in dribbles of twos and thirteens? The present status quo alternative of complacence is rather frightening and amoral in typically postmodern fashion. About every three months since 9/11 we have witnessed another foiled plot (23-4 by now), or a lone-wolf sort of attack on a shopping mall, Jewish center, military installation, or university campus (20 plus), whether a shooting or a run-over.
The apparent logic is that the plots will continue to be foiled (while we caricature the Bush illiberal Homeland Security policies that allow us to be so vigilant), and the lone wolves will kill someone far distant and in twos and threes, or as in the Maryland Sniper and Fort Hood cases, tens and thirteens—until another 9/11 comes around and for two to three years shocks us out of our pretensions.
For now expect the sanctimonious talk of, “I promise to shut down Guantanamo one year after my inauguration,” to cease for a while (and to be replaced by something like, “We’ve discovered just how hard it is to dismantle the Bush anti-constitutional complex, but we really do now promise to do so within two years of my inauguration.”)
1. Here is praise from the radical jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki, who preached to two of the 9/11 hijackers:
“[Hasan] 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. Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.”