Friday, November 13, 2009

Let's not medicalize mass murder

Charles Krauthammer is outraged at the attempts to find a psychiatric motive for Nidal Hasan's spraying unarmed men and women at Fort Hood with bullets. In a rush to avoid the apparently clear conclusion that Hasan's descent into mass murder was part of an Islamicist desire to kill American soldiers, the media and some psychiatrists have tried to diagnose a new disease pre-traumatic stress disorder that Hasan suffered from having listened to tales of stress from his patients returning from the battlefield.
But, of course, if the shooter is named Nidal Hasan, who National Public Radio reported had been trying to proselytize doctors and patients, then something must be found. Presto! Secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, a handy invention to allow one to ignore the obvious.

And the perfect moral finesse. Medicalizing mass murder not only exonerates. It turns the murderer into a victim, indeed a sympathetic one. After all, secondary PTSD, for those who believe in it (you won't find it in DSM-IV-TR, psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), is known as "compassion fatigue." The poor man -- pushed over the edge by an excess of sensitivity.

Have we totally lost our moral bearings? Nidal Hasan (allegedly) cold-bloodedly killed 13 innocent people. His business card had his name, his profession, his medical degrees and his occupational identity. U.S. Army? No. "SoA" -- Soldier of Allah. In such cases, political correctness is not just an abomination. It's a danger, clear and present.

Consider the Army's treatment of Hasan's previous behavior. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling interviewed a Hasan colleague at Walter Reed about a hair-raising grand rounds that Hasan had apparently given. Grand rounds are the most serious academic event at a teaching hospital -- attending physicians, residents and students gather for a lecture on an instructive case history or therapeutic finding.

I've been to dozens of these. In fact, I gave one myself on post-traumatic retrograde amnesia -- as you can see, these lectures are fairly technical. Not Hasan's. His was an hour-long disquisition on what he called the Koranic view of military service, jihad and war. It included an allegedly authoritative elaboration of the punishments visited upon nonbelievers -- consignment to hell, decapitation, having hot oil poured down your throat. This "really freaked a lot of doctors out," reported NPR.

Nor was this the only incident. "The psychiatrist," reported Zwerdling, "said that he was the kind of guy who the staff actually stood around in the hallway saying: Do you think he's a terrorist, or is he just weird?"

Was anything done about this potential danger? Of course not. Who wants to be accused of Islamophobia and prejudice against a colleague's religion?

One must not speak of such things. Not even now. Not even after we know that Hasan was in communication with a notorious Yemen-based jihad propagandist. As late as Tuesday, The New York Times was running a story on how returning soldiers at Fort Hood had a high level of violence.

What does such violence have to do with Hasan? He was not a returning soldier. And the soldiers who returned home and shot their wives or fellow soldiers didn't cry "Allahu Akbar" as they squeezed the trigger.

The delicacy about the religion in question -- condescending, politically correct and deadly -- is nothing new. A week after the first (1993) World Trade Center attack, the same New York Times ran the following front-page headline about the arrest of one Mohammed Salameh: "Jersey City Man Is Charged in Bombing of Trade Center."

Ah yes, those Jersey men -- so resentful of New York, so prone to violence.
If we refuse to objectively consider what motivated Hasan, we will not be able to protect ourselves from future Hasans. We cannot let political correctness leave us open to such copycat acts of murder by our own homegrown jihadist wannabes. It must be made clear to everyone up and down the line that sensitivity to someone's religious freedom shouldn't be an excuse for ignoring the sort of signals that Hasan was giving off.

Meanwhile, several in the media regretted that the murderer turned out to be a Muslim. Brent Bozell summarizes some of the reactions by those in the media to the story.
THEME: The shooting wasn’t just tragic because it killed patriotic Americans who were serving their country. The shooting was "much worse" because it gins up fear-mongering right-wingers.

Newsweek’s Evan Thomas: "I cringe that he's a Muslim. I mean, because it inflames all the fears. I think he's probably just a nut case. But with that label attached to him, it will get the right wing going and it just -- I mean these things are tragic, but that makes it much worse."

THEME: In the Age of Obama (as opposed to those Bush years), American can be expected to behave after terrorist attacks and not overreact.

From USA Today: "‘We haven't heard of anything violent, which is a good thing,’ said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group. ‘It shows our society has matured in how it responds to these incidents.’"

THEME: Let’s not be too quick to judge these Muslims. After all, we have our Christian nut cases, too.

A Boston Globe op-ed by Harvard professor Harvey Cox: "If some seem ready to die for faith, others are ready to kill for it, gunning down abortion doctors in church, hijacking planes, and exploding bombs at weddings." On CBS, Bob Schieffer energetically sought full moral equivalence: "And you know Islam doesn’t have a majority – or the Christian religion has its full, you know, full helping of nuts, too."

THEME: Blame someone other than the shooter for shooting.

Schieffer grew much more annoying, suggesting that this killing was all the Army’s fault, that "this shows the Army still does not take protecting soldiers' mental health as seriously as it does training them to shoot." It was the Army’s fault for not seeing that this was a radical Muslim who could be a danger to others. This kind of arrogance – sitting on a throne of 20-20 hindsight and demeaning our military – explains why the media’s favorability ratings have gone into the toilet.

If the Army had removed Hasan before his mass murder, Bob Schieffer and the other anchors would have been standing shoulder to shoulder with the ACLU people and the CAIR crowd suggesting anti-Muslim bigotry. These anchormen thought the Constitution was being shredded when the Bush administration attempted to intercept messages between bad guys here and al-Qaeda abroad. That was unhealthy "domestic spying." They have forfeited their right to question the military now. In their idealistic vision, we would have all remained ignorant of Hasan’s phone calls, and completely vulnerable to his rampages.

Even now, some media liberals were astonishing in the aftermath of this Islamic terrorism – and that is precisely what it was. Jaws dropped at the idiocy of Chris Matthews on MSNBC when he proclaimed, "Apparently, he tried to contact al-Qaeda. Is that the point at which you say, ‘This guy is dangerous?' That's not a crime to call up al-Qaeda, is it? Is it? I mean, where do you stop the guy?"

Answer to the well-paid idiot: Before he kills Americans on a military base.