Investigators and journalists are now slowly fleshing out some details about yesterday’s Fort Hood military-base massacre that left 13 people dead and dozens wounded — and about accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The big question is “why” — a question increasingly asked as more tidbits slowly emerge.
The detail that is and will get the most attention: witnesses say he yelled “Allahu akbar!” before opening fire in the multiple murders.
Officials hope more will emerge about why an an Army psychiatrist, who is supposed to treat soldiers, snapped and raided his home today to seek some answers. Some of the developments and press details:
**Witnesses said he shouted “Allahu Akbar!”(“God is great) before opening fire at the Texas post. The Houston Chronicle reports:
An Army psychiatrist about to be deployed to a combat zone overseas shouted a religious slogan in Arabic before fatally shooting 13 people — including 12 soldiers — and injuring 28 others at this sprawling Central Texas military post on Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the base commander at Fort Hood, said on NBC’s Today Show that witnesses heard Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shout “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire. The phrase means “God is great!” in Arabic.
The death toll rose by one overnight when one of the wounded died. Today, Col. John Rossi said all the wounded were in stable condition, including the suspect and the policewoman who shot him, Sgt. Kimberly Munley.
“It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer,” said Cone, praising her for stopping the gunman despite already being wounded herself.
Here’s the MSNBC video:
**According to the New York Times, Hasan was “mortified” about his deployment:
Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small Palestinian town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.
But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., started having second thoughts about his military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia.
He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying realities of war, said a cousin, Nader Hasan
“He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy,” Mr. Hasan said. “He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there.”
**Hasan’s purported internet comments had raised concerns among authorities six months ago. Here are the comments via Sacramento’s Fox40:
“There was a grenade thrown amongs [sic] a group of American soldiers. One of the soldiers, feeling that it was to late for everyone to flee jumped on the grave with the intention of saving his comrades. Indeed he saved them. He inentionally [sic] took his life (suicide) for a noble cause i.e. saving the lives of his soldier. To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate. Its more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause. Scholars have paralled [sic] this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers. If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory. Their intention is not to die because of some despair. The same can be said for the Kamikazees in Japan. They died (via crashing their planes into ships) to kill the enemies for the homeland. You can call them crazy i you want but their act was not one of suicide that is despised by Islam. So the scholars main point is that “IT SEEMS AS THOUGH YOUR INTENTION IS THE MAIN ISSUE” and Allah (SWT) knows best.”
Times Online reports:
The posting was analysing rather than glorifying the actions of suicide bombers, but the distinction was lost in a slew of angry comments left after the news emerged of the slaughter in Texas.
“Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims,” one commenter wrote. “Texas will fry your ass,” wrote another.
**CNN televised surveillance footage of Hasan hours before the shooting, as he visited a 7Eleven. This good British report contains some of it:
The Huffington Post also has this slide show of photos from the scene.
UPDATE: ABC News has some Tweets sent by Salvatore “Rico” Rossi, a preventive dentist specialist, when he saw a man with blood enter the clinic. Here are a few of them:
SECOND UPDATE: A top GOP recruit says the Fort Hood murder proves that the enemy has infiltrated the U.S. military The Hill reports:
Allen West (R-Fla.), a retired military colonel who served as a commander at the Texas base, said in a release that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s attack may indicate a broader effort by Islamic extremists to recruit downtrodden members of the military.
“This enemy preys on downtrodden soldiers and teaches them extremism will lift them up,” West said in a statement. “Our soldiers are being brainwashed.”
The release added that West claims “the horrible tragedy at Fort Hood is proof the enemy is infiltrating our military.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee in October selected West as one of 32 new members of its “Young Guns” program designed to promote challengers and open-seat candidates in the 2010 midterm elections. West formerly served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the 2008 Republican nominee to unseat Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) in the state’s 22nd district.
“if your OFFPOST right now dont come to base, multiple shootings, several casualties, possible terrorist suspects … FT HOOD TX”
“a soldier i treated here said he was waiting in line @ SRP [the Soldier Readiness Processing Center] when another soldier stood up and started shooting.”
“wow….. umm the entire FORT HOOD just restricted all CELL PHONE usage, unless its govt authorized… twolla @ me yall…”
“GET OUT OF HERE!!!!! there were children in the theatre!!! thank God they’re fine!! We have them here in the clinic.”
“Army post is a mess right now, lots of traffic … everyone in a hurry to get off post and pick up their kids or get home to their loved ones”
And, of course, as developments come in, the new media speculates and analyzes. Here is a cross section:
—Talking Points Memo:
Later Update: The fact that the primary assailant has an Arabic name and is presumably, though we don’t know this yet, of Muslim extraction if not a practicing Muslim, is going to be the focus of attention. That is an issue that speaks for itself. And I’m sure it will be the focus of much discussion over the coming days. But in some ways what’s more shocking to me is that the assailant was an Army Major. Whatever the motivation — ideological, religious, nationalist, mental instability, etc. I would far more expect something like this to done by a young soldier, perhaps an enlisted person. Needless to say this is no knock on enlisted personnel. But a lot of people cycle through the Army. Many have only been in service for a relatively short period of time. A major though is a lifer, usually I would think someone who’s been in for a couple decades or near to it more than a decade, who’s risen very high in the ranks.
Even Later Update: Late reports suggest that Hasan was an Army psychiatrist. That changes the picture somewhat. As TPM Reader BC points out, MDs can come into the Army as Captains. If popular culture is your reference, remember the doctors on MASH were Captains, even though they were drafted in for the Korean War. What that means is that Hasan might not have been in military all that long, which changes the picture somewhat.
Neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News, in their East coast feeds Thursday night, noted the Muslim religious beliefs of the mass killer at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas, but ABC anchor Charles Gibson wasn’t cowed by political correctness as he teased World News, “Fort Hood tragedy: An Army officer, a Muslim convert, is the suspect in a shooting spree…” Introducing his first story, Gibson referred to how Major Nidal Malik Hasan “an army officer, a Muslim, opened fire with handguns…” (With a range of frequency, during late afternoon/early evening coverage, CNN, FNC and MSNBC all identified Hasan as a Muslim.)
Cryptically, ABC’s senior foreign affairs correspondent, Martha Raddatz, concluded a story on reaction at Fort Hood: “As for the suspect, Nadal Hasan, as one officer’s wife told me, ‘I wish his name was Smith.’” So, a concern this will lead to groundless fear of Muslims?
There’s more so read it in full.
—Crooks and Liar’s David Neiwert:
Of course, the wingnuts — led by Michelle Malkin and Pam Geller — are going ape in their campaign to paint this as a terrorist attack by a Muslim jihadi. Nothing like a big dose of the very ethnic stereotyping that appears to have driven Hasan to a murderous rage to make things better, eh?
–-Michelle Malkin has a long, extensive roundup of blog posts and news stories, and she writes at one point:
Business as usual: The whitewashing of jihad by the MSM. See here and here.
I’ve said it many times over the years and it bears repeating again as cable TV talking heads ask in bewilderment how all the red flags Hasan raised could have been ignored: Political correctness is the handmaiden of terror.
The sinking feeling I’ve got, and I’m sure I’m not alone, is that there is a tremendous possibility of a backlash against American Muslims, because of the actions of one very sick man. Reports across the wires say he was very upset about deployment to Iraq, considering it “his worst nightmare.”
EXPLOSIVE: Ft. Hood suspect reportedly shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’. (Via The BlogProf). On NPR I heard — I can’t find the story on their website yet — that he had given a presentation on the Koran at a professional conference where he claimed that unbelievers should be beheaded, burned, etc. to the discomfiture of the attendees.
—Andrew Sullivan in a post titled “This Remains a Religious War” He asks what some would like the U.S. to do in response to an incident to this and writes:
Michelle Malkin, remember, favored interning Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Is that what the anti-Jihadists now want for American Muslims? Or what, exactly?
Denial of these Islamist currents, even within the military, is dangerous and foolish. But equally, over-reacting to them is dangerous and foolish. The cycle of sectarian distrust and division can happen here as well as over there. Reducing all of us to these atavistic identities only exacerbates the problem and drags us further into the cycle of medieval religious conflict. And the task of threading our way through this political minefield is immense.
If I thought we couldn’t do it, I’d despair. But I believe we can, and have since this war broke out on September 11. We need to remember that we are not fighting for Christianity over Islam or even the West over Islam. We are fighting to retain an open democracy, where all religions can coexist, where religion is separate from politics, where toleration is a civic virtue. This requires attention to the real and dangerous Islamist threat – and in that respect Bruce’s and Michelle’s warnings against p.c. denial are perfectly valid and important. But it also requires insisting that our membership in society is based on a citizenship devoted to core ideas, not a citizenship based on raw religious or ethnic identity.
I fear in an economic depression, as unemployment rises over 10 percent, we live in a tinder-box in which such passions can be ignited to divide and destroy us. The key is the self-restraint to live without denial of the threat within but without the easy recourse to baser identities that will finally devour us all.
Not in time, anyway. The murders of 12 people and wounding of 31 others by one man with two handguns probably made a lot of things painfully obvious, and probably helped cut through a lot of clutter and red tape pretty quickly.
But when, within a matter of hours, the following facts and suspicions are widely reported, it suggests there may have been insufficient urgency in some quarters, maybe official obstacles in others, maybe reluctance to act on concerns elsewhere … maybe a desire to see the problem known as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan go elsewhere … and in the end, a lot of dots not connected.
From everything I’ve been hearing, I have to wonder why this dirtbag hadn’t been discharged. The feds had been tracking his posts online for six months?…How could the FBI say this was definitely not terrorism knowing this background?
The brave soldiers who were massacred at Fort Hood had trained to fight the jihadist enemy abroad. But they seem to have ended up being murdered by the same enemy on American soil, in a place where they thought they were safe — murdered, apparently, because a series of military and medical officials recognized what was going on with this major and chose to do nothing about it.
Most of the people in the mainstream media, I suspect, could also see early on exactly what was going on — but to an outrageous degree, they, too, spent Thursday evening doing their best to turn away from the obvious truth. Throughout the evening military and other authorities kept saying, and the talking heads on CNN kept repeating, that there was no sign that this was “a terrorist act” — as if Nidal Malik Hasan had to be officially connected to al-Qaeda to be a jihadist, a pious Muslim who saw the infidel as his enemy.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.