I like the “Today’s Headlines” email feature that the New York Times provides free for the asking. The daily post starts with links to three top stories and a quotation of the day, this last of which is generally intended to pique interest in one of the headline stories.
So, I find it interesting that on a day when more and more alarming details emerge about the connections between the Fort Hood murderer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, and virulently anti-American Muslims, the daily quote that the New York Times chose to present was this:
“Whether it’s self-medicating, anger or violence, these are the consequences of war, and you have to think about all the people affected by soldiers coming home, the parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and cousins.” - Cynthia Thomas, an Army wife who runs a private assistance center for soldiers in Killeen, Tex., called Under the Hood Café.[Note 1.]
Are we supposed to infer that this is the source of last week’s massacre at Fort Hood?
Obviously, there are very real troubles related to suicide and violence among returning soldiers, who have undergone stresses unimaginable to those of us who have not seen combat. These are serious problems that deserve attention, and it is perfectly appropriate for a newspaper to run an article on the topic. But the presence of this quote on this day, along with the accompanying story, “At Fort Hood, Some Violence Is Too Familiar,” leaves little doubt that the Times is pressing hard to scatter some chaff, the purpose being to direct attention away from Hasan’s Muslim connection and to make this atrocity seem like just one more in a series of violent acts by American soldiers.
Is Nadal Malik Hasan really the typical troubled soldier with post-traumatic stress, as the Times would have us believe? Maj. Hasan had not returned from combat; he had never been deployed. He was himself a psychiatrist. While his fellow American soldiers were fighting in the field, Hasan was busy surfing radical Islamist web sites urging Muslims to kill U.S. Troops; he had been in occasional contact (“10 to 20 times”) with an Islamist spiritual leader in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who had previously been the imam of Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, the Virginia mosque attended by Hasan. (Awlaki, who knew three of the September 11 hijackers, had “drawn the interest of law-enforcement officials in several terrorism investigations since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.”[Note 2.])
Hasan did not quietly and desperately commit suicide as tragically ten American soldiers have done this year alone at Fort Hood. He did not kill his wife and then turn the gun on himself, as happened in one awful incident at Fort Hood last year. He did not kill a fellow member of his division in a moment of violence at a party, as did a soldier last July.
No, Maj. Hasan systematically shot forty-three of his fellow American soldiers, killing thirteen of them while shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
Because there is no indication that Maj. Hasan was part of a conspiracy - and perhaps also out of obedience to political correctness - the incident is not being classified as a terrorist attack. But his actions, with their apparent jihadist motive, the plodding pre-meditation, and the sheer casualties of his final fury, have much more in common with say, the attack on the USS Cole than with the violence of a distraught soldier. In fact, if one looks clearly at the matter, Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan acted much less like a soldier (no matter how troubled) of the United States Army than as an enemy of the United States.
If the New York Times had wanted to capture the essence of the Fort Hood massacre, they would have done better to select for the daily quote the words of the imam that Hasan had contacted. Anwar al-Awlaki wrote on his web site, following the incident, that Hasan was a “hero”:
“He is a man of conscience who could not bear living a contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people . . . The only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.” - Anwar al-Awlaki.[Note 3.]
1. From the “Today’s Headlines” email distribution, The New York Times, 10 Nov 2009.
2. “Hasan, Radical Cleric Had Contact,” The Wall Street Journal, 10 Nov 2009.
3. “U.S. Knew of Suspect’s Tie to Radical Cleric,” The New York Times, 9 Nov 2009.