Ft. Hood Thoughts

A active duty officer (Army) friend sent me an article today that was a sort of evaluation report on lone wolf attacks like the Ft Hood incident, lone wolf referring to people who act without a support network. In a nutshell, the article laid out the reasons that lone wolves are difficult to detect (duh), what might have to change to have a better chance of detecting them (more Homeland Security crap), and why those things are unlikely to happen (internal FBI politics, and current administration).

This friend and I were both having trouble articulating what we thought or felt about the Ft Hood incident, and it felt as by sending me the article he was asking me a question. I answered him with the letter below: 

Of course the lone wolf is all but impossible to detect. I do see the value in trying, but I also see ugly possibilities that could come out of a strong effort, as a lot of innocent people would likely be targeted by the FBI and ultimately some of their actions would likely be misinterpreted (I use the subjunctive, yet am sure that is happening already) … there’s a culture of fear that’s really taken off since 9/11, and although I understand it, I’m not comfortable with the mentality. It feels like people are willing to give up personal freedoms (rights and responsibilities), leaning more toward a police-state in trade for what they perceive as security. I question the trade-off, myself. But then, I’m willing to live with a higher degree of danger than most (obviously!) in return for freedom of movement and freedom from some security aggravations. Personal preference, and not one I’m interested in imposing on anyone right now – just noting it.
In the case of Hasan, there’s all sorts of things that strike me: working with other psychologists, if they thought he was disturbed they’d probably think about it but reporting him wouldn’t necessarily be on the agenda. From psychologists that I know, they’d try to “fix” him themselves, tactfully, or they’d wait until he asked for help! That’s what they’re trained to do, right? And then being at WRAMC at all … all the docs that I had there are insanely overworked, and gave so much to their patients that I wonder whether they would have had/taken the time to put out a lot of effort to connect with Hasan, even if they wanted to. Finally, I’m not convinced that there’s always a way to stop lone wolves like this, because it may be that he didn’t even think seriously about doing something like this until the day before – how do you anticipate that? 

And how do you pinpoint the one person out of the thousand who mutter complaints? There may be a thousand other men who would voice the same sorts of thoughts that Hasan did, yet never act on them in the way he did. There were a lot of people, for instance, in Basrah who complained loudly about Slasher, many of whom carried guns for a living and said that they wouldn’t mind shooting him in the back. But no one was really going to shoot him in the back, right? It would be someone quiet and kind of just below everyone’s “worry” radar … you kind of worry and wonder then you drift off – there’s more urgent and interesting things to worry about. Everyone knows someone like this: in the office, in the neighborhood, in the church. Hasan sounds like that person, Notice how people always say “He was such a quiet man …” after someone shoots ten people?
Those are just random thoughts … I don’t have conclusions or hard facts. It’s all just so very sad to me, all those families and friends of the people he shot … but also Hasan. What a sad man, a sad life, to feel like the only way to get what you need is to kill people. It would be easy to hate him, but I can’t, like I can’t hate the people who built the EFP that blew us up, either. I feel so terribly sorry for them, to be so unhappy and vengeful and, ultimately, totally ineffective in choosing constructive actions that would move themselves toward a worthwhile and productive goal.  
Hasan, BTW, I believe did my initial psych evaluation at WRAMC. It’s fuzzy in my memory due to the great drugs, but I remember an Arabic nametag on the psych’s uniform, a quiet man who seemed wrong for the job. I remembering thinking it seemed bizarre that the Army would send an Arabic psychologist to talk to soldiers who’d just been blown up and shot by people that looked like him and had names like him … so many of the soldiers were on that snap-thought reaction edge when they got to WRAMC, you know? Like sending a Hieu to interview a Viet Nam vet. Not wrong, just potentially uncomfortable.
Anyway, thanks for the article. And happy Vets Day to you too … a lot of people earned war hero status in Iraq without ever going to my extreme of being blown up. All those hard workers – Army, Reserve and civilian – that only ever get thanked by the Army command and their colleagues … you were among them, sir.


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