Richard Moran on the Fort Hood Shootings

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 10:00

Questioning Authority recently sought out MHC sociology professor and acclaimed criminologist Richard Moran for his thoughts on Nadal Malik Hasan, the man charged in the November 5 Fort Hood shootings in Texas. In addition to facing 13 counts of premeditated murder, on Wednesday, December 2, Hasan was charged with 30 counts of premeditated attempted murder based on the soldiers and civilians he injured in the attack.

QA: In retrospect, could the Fort Hood killings have been prevented?

RM: Absolutely yes. After all, this was not the first Muslim soldier to turn his weapon on fellow soldiers.

Last year, American intelligence agents intercepted emails between Hasan and the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlakicials, who has been linked to a number of terrorist attacks, including the 9/11 hijackings. After an initial enquiry, intelligence officials concluded that Hasan’s emails had a legitimate research purpose and terminated their investigation. The question becomes, did they not pursue their inquiry because of “politically correct” concerns about the consequences of calling this guy out and how that would look? I think so. This is the dark side of political correctness. The agents probably did not want to be labeled “Islamophobes.” It was a gamble they should not have taken, but understandable in the current political climate.

QA: Is there other evidence indicating the Mr. Hasan was a potential threat?

RM: Yes. The attending physicians, residents, and students at Walter Reed Military Hospital who attended his Grand Rounds lecture were quite aware of the danger he posed. Hasan’s hour-long diatribe titled “The Koranic View of Military Service, Jihad, and War,” which contained a sermon on the assortment of punishments visited upon infidels, left many in the audience distressed and not sure what, if anything, to do.

QA: Is Hasan a terrorist?

RM: In a superficial sense, he’s a suicide bomber. Although he didn’t die during the attack, he did not have a reasonable belief that he would survive. Like most suicide bombers, he was motivated by a number of things. He seemed to be unhappy and to have a disorganized personality. Moving to Texas and shipping out to Iraq put additional stress on him. Also, he found himself in a difficult position in that he had conflicting allegiances: he was a Muslim in an army fighting against Muslims. And, if he was otherwise prone to kill himself, his religious beliefs provided a way to give his death meaning. A lot of suicide bombers and terrorists use a cause to give meaning to their lives. I don’t think he was involved in a conspiracy, but he took radical rhetoric from Anwar al-Awlakicials and others and related it to his current predicament. This event would not have happened if not for his extremist religious beliefs. He went out shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Good). In a sense, that is all you need to know.

QA: Why has our government been so quick to depict the killings not as an act of terrorism but as an incident of workplace violence?

RM: There are a couple of reasons why the government wants to characterize the shootings as an act of insanity devoid of political/religious meaning. First, to characterize Hasan as a Muslim terrorist would likely provoke acts of violence and hatred against Muslims, perhaps in the military itself. Second, the government wants to neutralize Hasan as a role model for other Muslim extremists. The insane label does that most effectively. If the government can persuade us that “only a crazy person would do this,” there will be fewer repercussions. It would be most effective for the government to induce Hasan to plead “ not guilty by reason of insanity,” avoid a trial, and put him away forever in a secure mental facility such as St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

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