Death in These United States
There’s only one relevant question regarding Major Nidal Malik Hasan: Did he act alone?
That was the lingering question Thursday afternoon, when the news talked of “multiple suspects” in the Fort Hood shootings. Big difference between a sole sorry nutjob and a conspiracy.
But when the potential conspiracy evaporated — the other suspects were cleared — well, folks went on looking for one anyway. There are books to move, after all.
Absent a formal conspiracy, it’s still reasonable to consider influence. We do it all the time. A disgruntled ex-employee who shoots up an office building isn’t a political actor. A man who shoots up a church while a copy of Bernard Goldberg’s hit list rests on his coffeetable is. So is a man who assassinates an abortion doctor because he’s an abortion doctor.
A gun is just as dangerous in the hand of a militant jihadist as that of a militant racist or a militant fundamentalist. Especially when the gunman swims in a culture of real or metaphorical violence.
And that’s what we’re not yet seeing here. It’s not like we’ve just lived through months of Muslims using violent imagery at public protets. It’s not like we’ve seen Muslims carry guns to Presidential events. It’s not like Muslims stormed the Capitol on Thursday, egged on by Keith Ellison’s revolutionary rhetoric.
Instead, we know little more this morning than we did Thursday night. Hasan was nice to his neighbors. Hasan argued with fellow soldiers about whether the War on Terror was a war against Islam. Hasan’s car was keyed by a fellow soldier who didn’t like his religion. Hasan was a poor counselor during training. Hasan was an excellent counselor at Fort Hood. Hasan spent most of his life in and around Virginia. Hasan was moved to Texas in July. Hasan was married to the military. Hasan wanted out.
The known facts suggest that Hasan was an adult human being. They tell us nothing else, unless you think “and he fired fifty rounds, killing thirteen people” changes everything.
The Scribd post by “NidalHasan”? Read it, and tell us whether you think he was defending suicide bombings, or explaining them in context. (Never mind that we also don’t know whether the poster is the shooter.) The reported shouts of Allahu Akbar as he started firing? Hasan is a devout Muslim. Could very well be a battle cry. Could also be something else entirely.
All we can say with certainty right now is that the shooting was premeditated. But with Hasan in a coma, and his computer confiscated, nobody in public has a fucking clue why.