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Analysis of the Hasan Slide Presentation: Cameron at SWJ

Charles Cameron has been guest blogging here on radical Islamism and his last post was a preliminary look at the powerpoint presentation of Major. Nidal Malik Hasan, the shooter in the Ft. Hood massacre.  Charles promised a follow-up here but his next “post” that he submitted was a scholarly, 10,000 word, magnum opus!  We quickly decided that SWJ was a better venue for a doc of such a magnitude and Dave Dilegge took care of the rest.

I’ve read the paper twice. It’s a tour de force.

The Hasan Slide Presentation

Download the full article: The Hasan Slide Presentation (PDF)

There is no place as private as the interior of a human skull: the mind remains inviolate.

Words can reveal some of what goes on inside us, actions can speak some of our intents and passions forcefully, at times explosively. And yet there is no place more secret — and what a hint, a phrase, a gesture, a speech or an explosion cannot reveal, what even the best forensic examination can only label a probability, is the complex interweaving of thoughts half thought, doubts entertained, emotions pushing on through, and clashing, building at times to a perfect storm perhaps, with all doubts and constraints cast aside and the emotions unleashed in a blind and defining moment.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan MD MPH, a psychiatrist in the U.S. Army, has now been charged with multiple specifications of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Fort Hood, under Article 188 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Assuming that Major Hasan was in fact the shooter at Fort Hood and that, as alleged, he shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the event, the main question of fact and interpretation now would be whether Hasan was more an introvert under pressure whose “break” took the jihadist cry “Allahu Akbar” as its outlet, or a patient and long-standing lone wolf jihadist of the sort abu Musab al-Suri calls for (Jim Lacey, A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad, p. 19), or a wannabe with failed or actual al Qaeda connections, or an al Qaeda or related “soldier” under orders.

This analysis attempts to provide some leads in that inquiry, by a careful reading of the only substantial documentation we have from Major Hasan himself, which may throw light on his trajectory.

25 Responses to “Analysis of the Hasan Slide Presentation: Cameron at SWJ”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    After a quick read, I think that is a good and sensible analysis..Practical questions arise.  First, as the article concludes, the prospect of conscientious objection.  Second, how to identify and anticipate and prevent any similar actions in the future? Did no one feel they could speak frankly to Hasan after this slide presentation? Was everyone who saw it too embarrassed to do so, or too afraid of being accused of religious profiling or some such PC offense?  If a respected colleague or superior had taken him aside and talked to him man to man (I think given his attitudes, a female peer or superior could not have penetrated the surface), some good may have come of it, instead of this disaster.  

  2. david ronfeldt Says:

    charles — you’ve put together a sensible, solid analysis of hasan’s briefing:  an expert dissection of its narrative flow and structure, plus reasonable deductions about what it may all indicate regarding hasan’s state of mind at the time, in 2007.  
    your analysis shines in contrast to other views i’ve seen lately.  one deemed the presentation irrational — “just crazy” (commentator on fox news).  another claimed it was dogmatic — a “crystallization of the SJ [Salalfi-Jihadist] ideology" (a jihad-watchers’ blogpost).  yet, i’d say the presentation provides little to no evidence for those views.  i’m also surprised to see hasan’s’ rampage at ft. hood being viewed (prematurely?) as possibly “a classic example of Fourth Generation war” (acc. to a dni blogpost).  
    if i may shift to using a perspective that i like when analyzing mindsets — a perspective that says to look for underlying space-time-action orientations — i’d add and wonder about the following in conjunction with your points:
    regarding space orientations, the presentation conveys a tendency to structure matters — even to compartmentalize them — in terms of binaries and dualities, as you note:  e.g., rewards and punishments, paradise and hell, god and country/state, muslims and infidels.  of course, not everything is viewed in binary terms, but quite a lot.  i’m wondering — and asking — whether such binary structuring, especially if a person thinks that ultimately all should be one under god, may add to the strain of coping with a mental balancing act in times of stress.  i would think so.  your analyis detects the ambiguities in hasan’s text.  perhaps coping with ambiguities is a lot harder for a binary mentality.  
    regarding time orientations, the presentation reveals a concern with proper progression.  as your analysis of the “timeline” reveals, the slides show that islamic behavior may evolve in phases — from peaceful accommodation, to defensive jihad, to offensive jihad, depending on how muslims are treated, and on the justifications for “abrogation” to proceed along the timeline.  at the time of the presentation, hasan does not himself appear to be far down this progression, as you indicate.  but it’s interesting that he lays it out, a kind of warning.
    as for action orientations, i have less to add.  the presentation is thoroughly religious:  man should do god’s will.  one phrase that catches my eye is on slide 49:  “Muslims may be seen as moderate (compromising) but God is not.”  you did not comment on this in your paper, but i’m supposing this remark is another clue.  
    finally, your observations about “Hasan’s mind . . . as gradually becoming a sort of self-imposed prison, an echo chamber” remind me of the explosive reaction known as “running amok” in which a period of sullen underground brooding is followed by an outburst of sui-homicidal rage.  Psychiatrist B. G. Burton-Bradley (1972), based on an analysis of amok-runners in Papua-New Guinea (the source of the term), once paraphrased their thinking as follows:
    “I am not an important or “big man.”  Although poor, I have always had my sense of personal dignity and social identity.  But I have had little else.  Now even this has been taken from me and my life reduced to nothing by an intolerable insult.  Therefore, I have nothing to lose except my life, which is rated as nothing, so I trade my life for yours as your life is favored.  The exchange is in my favor, so I shall not only kill you, but I will also kill many of you, and at the same time rehabilitate myself in the eyes of the group of which I am a member, even though I might be killed in the process.”  
    wow.  that sounds like part of what happened to hasan.  here, the meaning of the violence transcends its instrumental utility (an action orientation).  it seems to be mainly about projecting an ego-identity (a spatial orientation), even more than about expecting to break through to a new future (a time orientation).  some terrorism has this quality.  but so does most tribalism.  perhaps hasan was expressing a kind of loner tribalism more than terrorism.  — onward, david

  3. david ronfeldt Says:

    also, i’d like to reiterate, so you can answer here instead, a question i posed at your prior post:  i keep reading that hasan was reacting to stories he heard in counseling sessions.  but i’ve not seen whether he was counseling only muslim soldiers, or soldiers from other faiths, or all of the above.  do you know? . if all of the above, it also remains unspecified whose kinds of stories may have upset him the most — e.g., those of conflicted muslims, or those from folks of other faiths (or none at all) who expressed anti-muslim views during counseling sessions.  again, does anyone know?  does it matter?

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    First, I’d like to thank you for such an insightful, speedy and detailed response.  I’ve answered at the other post, but will bring my answer over here, since this is where the conversation is likely to turn now the longer version of the text is up.    
    My impression is that Hasan would be counseling anyone whose trauma seemed to require psychiatric attention, and he’d be a natural choice, perhaps, for Muslim soldiers in particular — unless someone higher up was having doubts.  But I don’t know for sure who he was counseling or at what point exactly supervised and/or unsupervised counseling began.  I imagine a lot is under wraps, between him and his attorneys, medical personnel, etc, and that some may come out at trial, perhaps some before…    
    Clearly, there are more aspects of the Hasan timeline besides the presentation itself, and I haven’t kept up on all of them.  I may do a follow up piece at some point, but the slide presentation seemed to give enough leverage on insight to deserve its own space for commentary.    
    As to the blog post you linked to from Marisa Urgo, calling Hasan’s presentation a "crystallization of the SJ [Salalfi-Jihadist] ideology" — my sense is that the slideshow is ambiguous precisely because it shows both sides of a conflict, between the concern of an American soldier about what he recognizes as the possibility of what he twice calls "adverse events", and the concern that same Muslim soldier has to grapple with, that his faith — interpreted along jihadist lines — might set him in severe conflict with or even at war with his own fellow soldiers and countrymen.    
    In that sense, I’d say Urgo’s blog post is reading one of the two strands that are present — not the one that is dominating his presentation as he speaks, but the one that will emerge definitively as his choice as the events at Fort Hood unfold.  Naturally enough, his actions at that point receive acclaim from the folks that Jarret Brachman, Jihadica and others are following.     
    Let me ponder on the rest of your comments, and get back to you when I have more to offer.

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    Lexington G:    
    I think your questions are right on point, but by no means easily answered.    
    One of the problems here is that the next "potential Hasan" presumably won’t be a psychiatrist giving a very public lecture — so although I’m interested in the answers to your questions as they specifically concern Hasan and think some of them might have more general application, the answer we’d all like to find — to "how to identify and anticipate and prevent any similar actions in the future" — is not going to be terribly obvious.  Hasan himself seems to have suggested that soldiers who change or have changed their names, and show devotion to the Qur’an and to their prayers, might be at risk (slide 14), but those are such externals!  "Question tactfully and with respect", which is essentially his suggestion on slide 15, goes a bit deeper in.  But there’s not going to be a litmus test with no false positives and no false negatives.    
    I think it’s time for some "alternative thinking", brainstorming style.

  6. Lexington Green Says:

    Charles, you are certainly right that few people will send up such vivid signal flares in advance of committing mass-murders.  So, if even something this blatant did not lead to an intervention, there is something very wrong.  What struck me, as a non-member of the military, was how isolated and compartmentalized Hasan must have been.  Perhaps naively, it would seem that military officers engaged in caring for traumatized soldiers would have some sense of comradeship and team spirit, and would see a colleague who was troubled, and intervene informally.  Even in the morally icy world of large law firms, where I spent some time, a truly "out of whack" public display would have led to some kind of "talking to" by peers, and by superiors, to try to help the guy or at least figure out if he needed to be taken away from serious responsibility, either to get help, or permanently, for his sake, and for the sake of the clients and the firm.  So, I think I do see this as a cry for help.  He had divided loyalties.  He put his cards on the table, in an unorthodox and abnormal way, to people who were supposed to be comrades in an important, life-or-death, shared enterprise.  In a way it could have been a test to see if they would take him seriously or not.  If Charles is right that he was torn between two sets of loyalties, his attempt to reach out to one of two possible communities was a failure.  It looks like they shrugged it off, talked behind his back, shunned him more than before, did not initiate any formal or informal intervention, and left him to twist in the wind by himself.  Maybe that is unfair, and I may be lacking important facts.  But it looks like Hasan was just allowed to float along in a military that is so saturated with ass-covering, avoiding any act that could be labelled as politically incorrect, and fear of being tainted by proximity to weirdness, that it displays the worst features of civilian business life, to a pathological degree.  If that is so, future "Hasans" who do not act out in advance will be even less likely to be detected.  .Hasan betrayed the trust that was reposed in him, he is a murderer, and there is no excuse for it, and none of my speculation above contradicts that ultimate moral fact.  I am musing here solely to try to think about ways to keep this sort of thing from happening in the future.  

  7. zen Says:

    I think there was a dual dynamic operating here in the folks around Hasan. The military PC-sensitivity for careerist reasons ( How does a guy with a bad performance review in an "up or out" personnel system get promoted unless they are seen as a member of an officially "protected" minority group?) plus the medical hubris of the omnicompetence of physicians, where the norm is to give undue deference to colleagues and avoid openly criticizing them, especially in front of non-doctors.
    It takes some large stones to suggest that your fellow psychiatrist is in greater need of becoming a patient himself than treating them.

  8. Lexington Green Says:

    "…avoid openly criticizing them…"  Zen, exactly.  Hence, the need for the kind of open and direct and (at least initially) confidential communication that should exist between colleagues who have mutual respect and trust — which opens up the possibility of an informal face to face approach.  Only if that fails would the more heavy tools of official intervention be employed.  It looks like there was nothing here on the "escalation continuum" between doing nothing and initiating a formal proceeding.  This suggests an atomized, low-radius-of-trust organization — and if that is so, it is a systemic deficiency that is a more deeply worrying prospect than simply the failure to identify and thwart Major Hasan.

  9. J. Scott Says:

    Lexington Green, "…atomized, low-radius-of-trust organization…" sadly, this is the status quo in the government bureaucracies I’ve seen. This includes DoD at the Pentagon and satillite commands. A friend and I discussed the other night that getting one star is usually based on merit, but two and above is so political that everyone with ambition sees the "requirement" and complies. I would dare say there a so few true principled leaders in the defense bureaucracy as to qualify as endangered species. Intentionally excluded are the men and women in the field where hiding behind the BS of PC isn’t nearly as nearly as ubiquitous. Trust and integrity are in greater need today than ever, for the longer we persist in the delusions of group-think (which includes most of the political class) the greater the danger.

  10. tdaxp Says:

    I took it seriously until I got to the section (bottom of Page 13 of 21) where he began insisting there were abrogated versus in the Bible. If he’s making up his theological as he’s going along, what else is he falsifying for dramatic effect?

  11. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Dan:

    You may differ with my theological usage, but I’m not making it up.    

    In speaking of Islam, the term "abrogation" is generally used as a translation of "naskh", which occurs in verbal form in the Qur’an at Sura 2.106, which reads: "We do not abrogate an ayah or cause it to be forgotten, except that we come with one better than it."  As I understand it, the majority of Islamic scholars of abrogation hold that later, more warlike verses of the Qu’ran supercede earlier more peaceable ones, with many holding that the Verse of the Sword abrogates all others.     .     

    The term is also, however, used in western theological scholarship to describe (eg) the view that Christ’s teachings "abrogate" the Jewish law as set forth in the Torah specifically and the Tanakh more generally.  Thus Robert Chazan, in his Fashioning Jewish identity in medieval western Christendom (Cambridge UP, 2009, p.39), writes:     .     "A major shift that took place within the early Christian community was the abrogation of Jewish law for gentile converts to the movement."     .    

    Similarly, Salo Wittmayer Baron in A social and religious history of the Jews, Vol 15 p 462 writes:     .     "The problem of the abrogation of Jewish law has been, as we recall, a permanent bone of contention between Christians and Jews, and had also had some bearing on Judeo-Muslim polemics."     .     Within Judaism, it is specifically used for the abrogation of one code of sacrifice by another in Bernard Malcolm Levinson, Deuteronomy and the hermeneutics of legal innovation (Oxford UP, 2002, p.73):     .     "The application of the technical verb ‘sacrifice’ (Deut. 16:2, 5, 6) to the paschal slaughter signals the complete abrogation of the old rite and its assimilation into the public cult."     .     Here, as the immediately preceding footnote indicates, the abrogation is of Exodus 12.21 and 12.6.     .     If, then, my example from Isaiah doesn’t suit you, the sacrificial abrogation described by Levinson may serve in its place.     .    

    As for my example from the New Testament, the Gospel records Christ as giving his instructions to "the seventy" in Luke 10.14-15, and reminding them of those same instructions while replacing them with other instructions which explicitly reverse the previous set, in Luke 22.35-36:     .     &quotAnd he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."     .    

    That seems to me to fit within the meaning of "abrogation" offered by OED: "To repeal (a law, established usage, etc.); to abolish authoritatively or formally; to annul, to cancel."     .     I would accordingly invite you to resume your reading at the point where you left off.

  12. tdaxp Says:

    Charles,Thank you for the reply.As you demonstrate, you did not ‘make up’ the use of the term abrogation in the context of unfolding revelation. However, the criticism remains. Your argument is based, at least according to your citations, entirely on Jewish theological criticism of Christianity.I might as well cite Pope Bendict as the authoritize academic source of information Islam, as he has issues Christian theological criticisms of Islam.Or you might as well cite Islamic sources noting that the Gospels are merely an abridged, mistranlated, misinformed, mutated, and warped early revelation of the Koran. That would have as much of your basis as your claim here.All forms of that I am aware of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and so on) all insist that there is no abrogation in the Bible, that all parts of it are equally true (in a divine sense), equally binding, and equally eternal. Jesus explicitly rejected the abrogational perspective, stating that "he whosoever shall break the least of the commandments," and by his actions teaches others to likewise hold an abrogationaist view of the Law, "shall be called the least in Heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19). The Jewish theological criticism (becasue that’s what your making) rests on two legs1. What Jews describe as the "Oral Toran"is part of the Law. The Oral Law is not part of the Bible, and is a sort of case law created by Jewish judges over centuries. Christians hold this ‘case law’ was never binding and thus cannot be abrogated. 2. Jews reject Christ’s explicit prioritization as a guide to understanding the Law (Matthew 22:36-40), reject Christ’s teachings on the conditions for being a governing legal authority for the purposes of carrying out the Law (John 8:2-11), and also reject Paul’s exegesis on how differnt parts of the law have different purposes, etc. That a Jewish theological argument would criticize Christianity as internally incoherent is not interesting. It is expected. Likewise, it is not interesting in the academic sense that Pope Benedict would criticize the Islamic view of God as irrational. We’re talking about partisans, after all.But to confuse this partisanship with some objective understanding — and to privilege an outside criticism with the faith and practices of a worldwide community — is fatal to your argument. How can one trust such a description when you are arbitrarily and without comment substituting partisan religious criticisms for description and analysis?

  13. Charles Cameron Says:

    I fear you are taking a meaning from my words that I never intended.  Perhaps they were unclear.     .      
    Classic Islamic doctrine holds that the Qur’an in its entirety is the Word of God, in much the same way that you yourself and the Christian church as exemplified in the Catholic catechism regard the books of both Old and New Testaments as revealed scripture, and as together constituting a single scriptural source of revelation: "All sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ." (Art 134).    
         Paul speaks, nonetheless, of a "new covenant", quoting Jeremiah 31.31, and suggesting that the Christian gospel message (soon to be canonically recorded in the form of the books collectively known by the same name, the "Kaine Diatheke") exempts (at minimum) gentile Christians from those regulations enshrined in the "old covenant" as that of circumcision, writing for example, "But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter" (Romans 7. 6, NAB as posted by the USCCB), and "One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter" (Rom. 2.28-29a).    
         So there is what one might well call a "hermeneutic of continuity" (to use a phrase of Benedict XVI’s) even as one covenant renders "obsolete" the "letter" of another.    
         I am not staking out any doctrinal position of my own here.  I am merely observing that the idea that within the totality of God’s utterance, one instruction may supersede another, to which in Islam is applied the term of art, "abrogation", is not entirely absent from Jewish or Christian exegetical traditions, as witness the Deuteronomic treatment of sacrifice to which I referred in an earlier post, which as you say is a matter of Jewish rather than Christian theological concern, but also in the Pauline contrast between the "obsolete" old letter of the law and the life-giving spirit of the law, embodied in and revealed by Christ — and in fact in Christ’s plain reversal of his instructions to the seventy, given just prior to the events of his Passion.    
         I doubt that we can find too much disagreement on these matters, but let me say this: I intend by my words nothing that is not contained also in the Catholic Catechism, at 1963, "According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and good, yet still imperfect" and 1965, "The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed."    
         Whether you call that abrogation or no, it illustrates from within the heart of Christendom the workings of change within a single revelation.  And if people are surprised to find such workings within the Islamic revelation, I would point them to these Christian and Jewish examples, to show that such processes also occur within the respective revelations of those two perhaps more familiar faiths.    .      And for my own side, I must leave matters there, since I do not wish to subject Zen’ generous hospitality to a prolonged discussion of Christian exegesis.

  14. Charles Cameron Says:

    And please excuse the formatting of this and other posts of mine — wherever you see a five-character space, a period, and another five character space, I was attempting to insert a paragraph break.  At times, it works, at times it doesn’t – and I haven’t been able to figure out the difference.   I hope at least the spaces will allow the reader’s thought a pause…

  15. zen Says:

    Note to all: Attempted to fix the comment as best I could thru the string of broken code. If there is an error here it is mine.
    This is your show Charles, expound as you wish when you have the floor.

  16. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks, Zen.    
    I think my last sentence came out poorly.  What I intended to say was, "And for my own side, I must leave matters there, since I do not wish to subject Zen’ generous hospitality to too much more discussion of Christian exegesis, though I’d certainly enjoy a further comment from Dan’s side" — or further discussion between us by email, should he prefer that.   
    I came here mainly to say I just read an interesting piece by an old colleague of mine, Gershom Gorenberg, which deals with troops with dual identities and dual command lines, religious and military, and the implications thereof, in terms of a New Politics of Conscientious Objection in Israel.    
    So "dual identities and dual command lines" would appear to be another analytic category, applicable to Maj. Hasan and others

  17. DP Says:


    Many thanks for your post. I have been searching for a larger network of professionals who recognize the growing consciousness and need to gather minds together to counter violence of this magnitude. All intellectual and societal resources need to be employed to do so.

    I certainly agree with Jean Rosenfeld that religiously-based "methodology, typologies, and frameworks" can formulate "provisional conclusions" and a "database" by isolating phenomena like a medical doctor. Religion needs a scientific method in light of the historic trends of motivation witnessed in AQ; or, to the very least, needs to add a "religious-centered paradigm" with similar meaning as David Ronfeldt at RAND has with a "tribal paradigm" presented in "AQ and Its Affiliates."

    My logic is simple: scientific method uses an example of experimenting with two separate but similar growing plants. The objective, of course, is to use variables as well as placebo effects to measure several factors and draw a plausible conclusion. How I think we need to move forward is to begin to measure vertical ideologies (i.e. dawah) with horizontal trends (i.e. population growth). This, I think, can be done structurally and systematically by utilizing systems theory as well as chi-square analysis.

    The difficulty ahead is precisely what Marc Sageman exposed in his book, "Leaderless Jihad": there is a progressive movement not hierarchically connected to AQ but linked to its ideology(ies). My colleague, Pat Ryan, asks the tipping-point question: [But] how do we track Hasan-types? I add: By what variables that are quantifiably binding; i.e. legally?

    This is exactly why I commented that religiously-centered analysis, at least at the stage it is in currently, is not holistically accepted by officials who are bound to policy which dictates they must present measurable activity which is justifiable in a court of law. Our individual and collective reason, experience, tradition, and/or authority (i.e. leaders) may affirm terrorist ideology and activity is abnormal, unethical, immoral, or unprecendented, but if the conclusions are merely anecdotal evidence than it may be rejected, dismissed, or thought of as a pilot-program/tentative model of inquiry.

    The method, as it stands now, is being used to understand suspected terrorists mainly in sociological and psychological terms. It is "out of bounds" to the extent that some officials [I have come in contact with] think it is quality-based in this sense and holds limited or no quantifiable value all-the-while agreeing that it holds deep meaning.

    I wish to note – in good manner – that I and my colleagues on al Sahwa fully recognize that your efforts as well as the hard work of your colleagues and the blogs, centers, and entities which you are connected to/affiliated with are substantial, worthy, and legitimate. Simply, my singular comment recognizes that some officials and scholars dismiss this analysis as not holding weight. It does not speak to all officials and scholars in our growing area of study. If it did, I would find every way to ensure that my arguement would be stronger.

    In conclusion, Sageman is right to ground his inquiries in data and statistics, but I am continuing to attempt to flesh out – as you, Rosenfeld, Ronfeldt, and Hall are – the exact particulars of how a religious study can be empirically natured in order to a) identify and differentiate between insane, abnormal, "lone-wolf" according to persons like Evan Kohlmann, and/or terrorist as well as b) provide further insight into the ideological teachings – such as those I mentioned; sahwa, shariah – inherent in their motivations.

    I would like to be more apart of the team, and will maintain active communication through blogs and other avenues in the future, as this is all in attempt to counter the extreme jihadi movement and strategically plan for proactive and preventative intelligence.

  18. Mat M Says:

    Mr. Cameron:

    I found your article to be quite insightful, careful and dispassionate.  It presents, and explores is quite some detail, a close analysis of Maj. Hasan’s slide presentation on what–at least Maj. Hasan believed–is the growing and inherent conflict between active duty service in the US armed forces who are engaged in war in two Islamic nations, and faithful allegiance to Islam.  Add to this, perceived or actual isolation/ostracism within the US military (and/or American society), personal loss (death of parents), failure in love (no marriage although seeking) and private withdrawl, at least the vicarious experience of the horrors of wars, and orders to deploy to serve in the US armed forces in the war theater, and the pressures can possibly provide at least a substantial "explanation" for what drove Maj. Hasan to massacre. 

    While I found the "Christianity’s sacred text says something much akin to various parts of the Qu’ran" portions of your article somewhat distracting and beside the point of your article, I assumed you put this in as a defensive measure to establish your bona fides that you were not Islam-bashing. 

    Your invocation of the imagery of physical infection on page 3 of your article, however, was not only entirely contrary to the image you didn’t struggle to make but was plain and developed throughout the article–pressure building, no outlet valves, a plea for CO status by Hasan as just such an outlet, etc–but was and is, in the context of this highly charged subject, inexcusable.  It added nothing to the article–indeed was contra to the image you carefully revealed–but lends itself readily to demogagury.  The not too distant past reveals the powerful imagery created when humans are equated with infection and disease.  Normally urged then for actions to "cure" the patient or "protect" the rest of the body (the military, the nation, the race, etc.) as "science" and "medicine" teach us (i.e. remove the cancer, quarantine the infected, etc.).

  19. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi, Mat:And thanks for your careful reading and comments, both here and on SWJ.   .   I don’t actually feel a need to establish "bona fides" that I’m not-Islam bashing for the simple reason that I admire Islam.  I have prayed in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul as I have in a synagogue in Boston, St Peter’s in Rome, and by the funeral ghats of Banaras — and I have been reading Rumi, Hafiz and Ansari of Herat off and on for thirty-five years now.  .     My reason for including non-Islamic examples of sacred texts lies in my sense that the practice of nashk may seem strange to non-Muslims, and I wanted to make it seem a little less remote.     .     I will take your concern about the language of infection under advisement.  I chose the image of an infected wound and the "red streak" leading to the heart in an attempt to give a visceral initial sense to my readers of a poison brewing and finally discharging to deadly effect, the poison being the conflict between two obligations of obedience, and also in part because it is my sense that in his slide show, Dr. Hasan was performing a sort of self-diagnosis.  It is the sickness he feels as a split being that I am focused on.     .     And having said that, let me say also that I have no wish to encourage demagogues, and indeed the entire exercise in close reading is designed to elicit subtleties rather than the kinds of broad-strokes, sound-bite, black-and-white opinions favored by propagandists of every stripe.  Should I republish this piece, or write a follow up, I shall add some words intended to clarify my usage and intent, but for the moment I must let my text stand as it is. 

  20. Mat M Says:

    I assuredly did not think it was your intent or desire to encourage demagogues.  Indeed, the entire thrust of your article was careful, nuanced examination.  Language of "infection", or now "poison" or "sickness", are indeed words that give rise to a "visceral initial sense."  That is precisely what I meant you to consider, and in my judgment should be eliminated because, to repeat myself, your article (by its entire content) is a call for careful and dispassionate analysis–the opposite of visceral reactions to metaphors previously used to encite support for dispicable ends.  I believe I understand your point in the manner which you intended.  But, of course, I’m not a partisan who will conduct televised hearings, or incite viewers and listeners on cable or talk radio–who may very well be in search for support for "provocative" assertions they wish to make.

    Thank you for giving this further thought.  And again thank you for article–really.

  21. Lexington Green Says:

    "… indeed the entire exercise in close reading is designed to elicit subtleties rather than the kinds of broad-strokes, sound-bite, black-and-white opinions favored by propagandists of every stripe."
    Unfortunately, not only demagogues have to make black and whited decisions.  Maj. Hasan’s superiors, clearly in retrospect, and possibly also at the time, should have seen that he was torn in his loyalties and "performing a sort of self-diagnosis".  That perception leads to a non-subtle, non-nuanced binary choice: (1) do not intervene (and take the risks that the assessment and the person is a present or potential future danger, or (2) intervene (and take the professional consequences, including accusations of profiling, insensitivity, bigotry, etc.) or Further, assuming that your basic approach is correct, and it allows leaders to better assess subordinates who may be having these problems, from time to time they will have to make black and white decisions:  (1) Keep this man on and promote him on schedule, and take the risk that he will explode at some point, or (2) intervene, possible remove him, ruin his career, perhaps damage his professional reputation for life, because his superiors perceive a risk that cannot be tolerated.
    If your approach, with suitable refinements, helps people to pull the trigger and choose option 2 where on balance it is the right choice — though it will always be a hard choice — then it will be a significant contribution going forward.  If not, however interesting it is, it is merely a historical analysis of past events with no applicable lessons learned. 
    Here is a question:  As a matter of professional duty, did the slide presentation give sufficient cues about psychological problems that a room full of licensed and trained psychiatrists should have intervened.   Reconfigured into lawyer-speak:  Were the psychiatrists who saw the presentation negligent in failing to intervene after they saw it.  Should they have known, based on the presentation (at minimum), to a reasonable degree of professional certainty, that Maj. Hasan had a psychological problem of sufficient gravity that they should intervene, that he might be be a threat to others, and that potentially he should be removed from his job in the Army?
    Bottom line:  The point of learning more about Maj. Hasan, and others who may be like him, and what motivates them, and how they think, is to allow people to make better decisions, and to have a sound basis for doing so.  And any decision is ultimate black and white — act, or do not.  

  22. Charles Cameron Says:

    I pretty much agree, LG.    
    Dr. Scott Moran’s Memorandum for the Credentials Committee will no doubt prove significant in determining the psychiatric and legal answers to your question.  And the only quibbles I’d have with your "bottom line" would be to note (a) that the choices might be more like a short multiple-choice quiz than a binary question, with options like (i) no intervention, (ii) no direct intervention but increased oversight, (iii) minimal intervention, (iv) moderate intervention, (v) maximal intervention — and (b) that this sort of analysis might have other audiences and uses, eg in training analysts, officers or psychiatric workers, in preparing a brief for trial, in influencing general public opinion away from politically correct or religiously charged interpretations, etc.    
    Having said that, I think your questions are the significant ones to raise (and being raised) at this point.

  23. Lexington Green Says:

    Charles, I agree that a range of possible interventions should be possible.  But the decision to "pull the trigger" has to be made, whatever it is, and in a "zero defects" environment like the Army, any official intervention is a huge step.  Even a documented consideration and rejection of an intervention is a huge deal.  For example, a decision to promote later would see that an intervention had been considered, and that in itself would be a black mark, even if the decision was against doing so.  ;
    This is in major part why I suggested that informal, collegial, comradely intervention would be good — but the environment seems to be too atomized and low-trust to permit that.  If that is so, it is a serious indictment of the organization. 
    And, agreed, your analysis has many other uses.  But the most important one is the one that will save lives.  And coming up with a well-founded protocol to determine who is a candidate for some kind of intervention could do that. 

  24. If you read anything on the Hasan/Fort Hood case, read this « All Things Counter Terrorism Says:

    […] are here, and here, and […]

  25. Charles Cameron Says:

    Here’s a link to an extremely useful paper for those of us interested in developing the dialog between terrorism analysts and scholars of religion: Ted Oleson and James T. Richardson, The Confluence of Research Traditions on Terrorism and Religion: A Social Psychological Examination.      .     I’ve posted the same URL with a more extended comment and some further links, including one to some al-Awlaki notes on "signs of the end times", in a comment on the SWJ blog.

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