Evil Exists and Must Be Presumed in Time of War: The Case of Terrorist Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan

The case of terrorist Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who on November 5 murdered 13 people and wounded 33 more as he fired upon mostly weaponless victims at Fort Hood, is reflective of the perfect storm of the undeserved and unpatriotic sympathy dictated by the precepts of political correctness.

Sometimes examples are uncomplicated. Hasan lectured on, complained about, and attacked openly American policy regarding its erstwhile “war on terrorism.” What about his prolific communications with Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Muslim cleric in Yemen (but previously located in Washington)? Suffice it to say, as USA Today quotes one relevant observer: “Tom Kean, co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission…said Thursday that Hasan’s contact with [Anwar al-] Awlaki, the radical cleric, ‘should have risen to the very top’ of every agency involved…’This is a real bad guy,’ Kean said.”

Not according to initial interpretations. As I wrote earlier, see just two prototypical examples of early-on, excusing psychological interpretations: The Washington Post’s November 7 articles, “Ideology, Stress or Another Motive?” and “Psychiatric Stress Stretches Soldiers, System.”

American political correctness, even in its non-radicalized form, is all about presumption: a person who commits a violent act is presumed to be acting under the influence of factors beyond his or her control, including mental problems which allegedly impel the untoward acts. The agent is presumed to lack responsibility for his/her actions, and it is seen as unethical to argue otherwise unless and until the evidence for the opposite view is overwhelming.

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As such, terrible miscreants are sometimes seen as presumptively “mentally ill,” acting because they “snapped.” The denial of the agency of intentional, pre-meditated action is the state that is assumed.

Unless cowardice is a new psychiatric diagnostic category, however, the irrelevance of psychiatric exculpation should be understood by every knee-jerk apologist for loathsome, premeditated political terrorism committed by haters of America.

(A parenthetical point, if I may: please spare me the worthless “angels on a pin” motivational distinctions of whether “terrorism” constitutes having acted to kill or to create fear, as if these can be parsed out in some meaningful way. These are distinctions without differences. Hasan doesn’t manifest clearly calibrated motivation: he wanted to cause as much misery and death as he could as an act of war because he hates the United States.)

Some advice for army investigators: do not be mystified by the fact that you are assessing a “doctor,” especially a psychiatrist whose label as a “medical officer” is misleading at best. Mass murderers come from all occupations and walks of life: civil engineers (Yassir Arafat), doctors (Ernesto (Che) Guevara) and, yes, psychiatrists like our “stressed-out” Mr. Hasan.

I was one of the early pundits to write on the intentionality of Hasan’s killings, not because I am more perspicacious than others, but because my presumptions – not to be confused with necessary trial presumptions – were different from those dictated by the liberal ethic now dominating our country.

Killers kill for goal-directed reasons. Evil – evidenced by the quality of deliberate, premeditated, destructive behavior against innocent people – exists throughout humankind and should be assumed to be the motivation behind such reprehensible acts.

Those whose sympathies reflexively go to perpetrators perpetuate the social context that makes prevention and punishment difficult and often impossible. The large number of felons whose punishments are mitigated by mental health “experts” gives testimony to the wrongheaded, anti-responsibility premises that suffuse our criminal justice system.

When the United States realizes that in time of war preemptively stopping terrorist and criminal acts when we have the intelligence to do so is more important than ensuring that no one is made unnecessarily uncomfortable by our suspicions, we will have fewer successful murderous acts such as those of pseudopsychiatrist Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.

–Professor Vatz teaches political persuasion at Towson University

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