EDITORIAL: When the shooter becomes the victim

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A disturbing story line is taking shape in the wake of the Fort Hood massacre. Some are trying to explain suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s motives for reportedly gunning down 13 people in cold blood by ignoring the ideology of hate that sanctified the killings. Instead, we’re supposed to seek out the “real reasons.”

It’s the typical victimology: Bemoan the perpetrator’s troubles and then sprinkle liberally with pop psychology. Maj. Hasan supposedly felt alienated and oppressed because people did not understand his faith. They discriminated against and taunted him, then they keyed his car. Hearing the horrors of war from the wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center disturbed him. Orders to deploy overseas added to the psychological pressure - we might call it pre-traumatic stress disorder. These and other factors reportedly drove Maj. Hasan to do what he is accused of doing. Yes, he is guilty, the argument goes, but doesn’t society also share part of the blame? Aren’t we all a little guilty?

President Obama summed up this approach when he said “there are going to be instances in which an individual cracks.” But the suspected killer, Maj. Hasan, did not crack. He was not a regular person who woke up one morning and went on a rampage. He was a true believer who purportedly methodically planned and executed an attack against a country he had come to view as his enemy. For Maj. Hasan, the killings of which he is suspected were a choice.

The president said Maj. Hasan’s reported explosive acts of violence were “inexplicable,” but that is not true. The massacre was the logical culmination of a belief system that advocates and sanctifies murderous violence. Maj. Hasan apparently saw himself as a jihadist warrior, and in 2007, when he briefed his co-workers that “[w]e love death more then [sic] you love life,” they should have taken him literally.

Maj. Hasan was not someone silently suffering oppression who one day just lost control. He was a suspected practitioner of an ideology of hate who reportedly completed the logical journey he embarked on. Maj. Hasan was not insane when he purportedly pulled the trigger, he was in rapture. When he reportedly started shooting, he did not cry out in anger, but testified to his god. He was not a victim pushed over the edge but apparently a “martyr” taking a leap of faith.

Attacks like this are rare in the United States but happen frequently abroad. There is no reason the United States should be immune from it. The ideology of death reaches into every country. While some Americans won’t recognize him as a terrorist, other jihadists hail Maj. Hasan, recognizing him as one of their own. “He is a hero, a hero, a hero,” one advocate of jihad commented on a Middle Eastern Web site. A poster named “Al-Mahrum min al-Jihad” referred to the white traditional garb Maj. Hasan wore in video footage from earlier that morning, saying, “Brothers, notice his attire. It screams, ‘I am going to kill.’ ” Another named “malik” said that “the attack carries the same characteristics as those of Al-Qa’ida of Jihad, my brothers.”

To call this an example of “workplace violence” is absurd and dangerous. Maj. Hasan’s suspected jihadist belief system inspired, directed and justified his actions. It is a mobilizing ideology focused on action. Its entire purpose is to create more people like the suspect, Maj. Hasan, and more victims.

The Fort Hood massacre cannot be understood absent this context. It was not an aberration or a fit of insanity. Maj. Hasan’s purported acts were the pure expression of everything he evidently sincerely held to be true. From Maj. Hasan’s apparent point of view, the only tragedy is that he was not killed in the process. Now he’s not going to paradise, and those 72 virgins will have to wait.

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