Mourning the Loss of Life at One of the World’s Largest Bases – November 16, 2009

Mourning the loss of life at one of the world’s largest bases President Obama at the Ft. Hood memorial service. Photo: Flickr user USarmy Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan is a former Ambassador of Pakistan to Malaysia, Syria and Morocco and Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. He is currently an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University and is a contributing Worldfocus blogger. The implications of Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood continue to excite public scrutiny. The US is no stranger to deranged individuals of different religious persuasions indulging in mass murder in the past. President Obama, in a moving eulogy to the dead, cautioned against a rush to judgment. The facts would have to be painstaking pieced together before a fair approximation of what motivated Hasan’s dastardly attack on fellow servicemen can be arrived at. The fact that Hasan was an Army psychiatrist administering to the post traumatic stress syndrome issues faced by returning Army soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, added to the puzzling enigma of his act. It seemed that a healer, trained to mend soldiers broken by the awful physical and psychological traumas inflicted on them by war, had himself cracked under the professional and personal strain he had apparently undergone. There is little doubt that Hasan had increasingly become a misfit in the Army. Reportedly a loner, he found solace in increasing religiosity. As a Muslim-American, he appeared to be struggling to come to terms with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He had publicly declared that he considered America’s involvement in these wars as a war against Islam. He agonized over whether Islam permitted Muslims to fight Muslims in war. It seems these warning signs were not noticed by his superiors who were about to deploy him to Afghanistan. If the U.S. Army draws the conclusion that its Muslim soldiers are not to be trusted, this would be a big mistake. Most Muslims soldier and officers have fought bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have given the supreme sacrifice for their country. Colin Powell personally knew and attested to the valor of one such Muslim officer who died in Afghanistan. He rests in peace in the Arlington cemetery, an acknowledged hero. The acts of one deranged man cannot and should not sway our military leadership. If we succumb to this attitude how can we trust our Iraqi, Afghani, Pakistani and other Muslim allies? Instead, it would be better to reform Army procedures to catch its misfits in time. Such persons who cannot be nursed back to mental normality should be weeded out. I cannot end without commenting on the ease with which weapons can be procured in America. In most first world countries this is not the case. There it is very difficult, if not virtually impossible to get a license for lethal weapons. With stringent gun control imposed here, it might just be possible to avoid putting guns in the hands of alienated individuals who can wreak havoc on innocent citizens. Otherwise we are probably fated to see a repeat of such horrific incidents in the future. Civil society should take the lead in asking for reforms of the current gun laws. When I served in Malaysia two decades ago, I noticed that it was a crime punishable by death to own an unlicensed revolver. Even owning bullets attracted heavy punishment. Crimes such as the recent rampage are unknown in Malaysia. They are also virtually unknown in Europe, although there are plenty of misfits in these countries. Think about it. – Amb. S. Azmat Hassan


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