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Lone gunman kills 13 in rampage at Fort Hood

November 12th, 2009

The Fort Hood Army post in Killeen, Texas underwent a horrific scene of violence on Nov. 5, claiming the lives of thirteen and wounding over two dozen more.  Fort Hood, the largest United States base in the U.S., operates like a city with a daytime population ranging around 80,000. Many of the 40,000 troops stationed at Fort Hood will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. 

Dressed in uniform and armed with two handguns, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Center while over 400 people were going through a medical screening. These men and women were in the process of returning home or preparing to serve their country abroad. While most in the center were military personnel, civilians were also present and account for one of the 13 lives lost. Hasan’s actions were eventually halted after being shot four times and, after it became apparent that he would survive, he was put in protective custody.

Although the motivations behind Major Hasan’s shooting spree remain unclear, investigators are doing everything they can to find answers. Among these leaders, President Barack Obama has issued several statements of condolence and reassurance to the victims’ families.

Included in the investigation is the search to uncover potential ties Hasan may have had with terrorist organizations.  This search is largely based on Hasan’s religious affiliation to the Muslim faith and his past interactions with a radical Muslim leader, Anwar al Awlaki. Awlaki, believed to reside in the country of Yemen, posted sentiments of support towards Hasan’s actions. Thomas Evans, a John Carroll University psychology professor who focuses on violence and aggression, said, “He became enthralled with Awlkai’s radical teachings.”

Despite these circumstances, based on current evidence it does not appear that Hasan had any links to terrorist organizations. Furthermore, officials seem to believe that Hasan is solely responsible for the rampage which they believe was caused by a number of contributing factors. However, many still have placed the blame on the Muslim religion rather than the individual’s interpretation of religion.

Hasan, a military psychiatrist, was to be deployed to the Middle East by the end of this month. As a practicing Muslim, it is reported that he had great qualms killing those who shared his faith.

Evans said, “Hasan was immersed in all of these veterans coming back and needing to be debriefed which reminds him of all the dead Iraqis.  This solidified his [fundamentalist] religious commitment.” 

On this point, Evans said that “what could be considered as triggering the event was the news of his deployment and that he could not face killing Muslims. In his mind, the thought of going to Iraq forced him to make a decision.”

What’s more, Evans elaborated on Hasan’s fundamentalist position reporting that “He had made statements to military students declaring the Islamic law supreme to the United States constitution.”

In response to this blame placed on the Islamic faith, many Muslims have vocally shown opposition placing blame also on the structure and pressures of the military itself.  Nationally, the Council of American-Islamic Relations has verbally condemned Hasan’s actions.

With 13 dead and another 30 injured in the shooting at Fort Hood, the military base must now recover in the wake of tragedy and decide how to prevent future outbursts of violence.