Politics & Policy

The PTSD Evasion

The media obsession with PTSD elides uncomfortable questions about Hasan's dual loyalty.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is available exclusively through King Features Syndicate. For permission to reprint or excerpt this copyrighted material, please contact: kfsreprint@hearstsc.com, or phone 800-708-7311, ext. 246.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 of his fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood, is a most unlikely victim of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He never experienced any combat-related trauma. He had never even been deployed overseas. Yet he had barely stopped shooting his victims in cold blood, chasing the wounded to finish them off, when the media rushed to their copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The New York Times headlined an analysis piece on the incident “When Soldiers Snap.” It reported that in World War II, military doctors believed “that more than 90 days of continuous combat could turn any soldier into a psychiatric casualty.” With Hasan, the paper stipulated, “that point may have come even before he experienced the reality of war.”

#ad#Time magazine blamed the stressful environment of Fort Hood where frequent deployments meant “the kindling was hiding in plain sight.” The Washington Post ran a piece on Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where Hasan had served, as indicative of “the ongoing tensions, frustrations and problems in the military health-care system for [returning] troops.”

The press keeps mistaking Hasan for Private Ryan, when the closest he’d come to combat was counseling sessions with soldiers. Another New York Times piece raised the possibility that Hasan might have acquired PTSD from the very act of treating those patients — “in contact distress, of a kind.”

The obsession with PTSD serves two purposes. First, it fits the media’s favorite narrative of soldiers as victims. Here was poor Hasan, brought low like so many others by the unbearable burden of Iraq and Afghanistan. Never mind that PTSD usually results in sleeplessness, flashbacks, and — in the extreme — suicide. Hasan is the first victim of PTSD known to jump on a table and allegedly yell “Allahu Akbar” while slaughtering his fellow troops.

Two, it elides uncomfortable questions about Hasan’s dual loyalty. He appears to have been most “stressed” by the tension he felt between his obligations as a devout Muslim — as he understood them — and his service in the American military.

Put aside his ongoing contact with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, formerly a leader of Hasan’s mosque. A classmate of Hasan’s in a master’s program said Hasan told other students he was “a Muslim first and an American second.” Hasan titled a PowerPoint presentation he gave in an environmental-health seminar a year ago “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam.” According to one witness, he said he thought Muslims should “stand up and fight against the aggressor,” i.e., us.


By all means investigate this case thoroughly, but don’t flinch from the growing evidence that this was an act of treason by a Muslim solider who — in the War on Terror — took the other side. The press and the Army brass desperately want it to be anything other than that, the stress of  . . . something. Perhaps the indignity of petty acts of anti-Muslim harassment, like his car getting keyed.

“Hasan was a soldier, and we have other soldiers who might have the same stress and indicators that he had,” the commanding general at Fort Hood, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, said after the massacre. How insulting to his troops who sacrifice so much fighting terror. 

#ad#Then there is Army chief of staff Gen. George Casey: “What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.” If Casey says that after 13 people die, imagine what pressures there were in the military to honor Hasan’s contribution to diversity before he killed. Hasan’s fellow students told the Associated Press that, despite his anti-American rants, “a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.”

Obviously, Hasan isn’t a representative American Muslim, nor is his act an indictment of Muslims in the military. We can acknowledge both those things without laboring to obscure the nature of his crime in childish evasions.

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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