Their View: Massacre at Fort Hood

Dallas Morning News

When soldiers die on the battlefield, it’s a tragedy, but a normal one, if violent death can ever be thought of as normal. And then there are warzone outrages, such as this week’s murder of five British soldiers in Afghanistan at the hands of a treasonous Afghan police officer, which are particularly shocking. But Thursday’s massacre at Fort Hood was a tragedy of another magnitude entirely.

Could there be a safer place for American soldiers than an Army base deep in the heart of Texas? If that weren’t astonishing enough, the two score dead or wounded at Fort Hood were shot by an American soldier. The horrific irony of this act is hard to comprehend. An obviously stunned Bell County Commissioner John Fisher went on national TV to ask for prayers for soldiers, saying that nobody expects soldiers thousands of miles from the front lines to face this kind of thing at home.

As of this writing, the killer’s motive is not known, and depending on how much he can or will cooperate with investigators, it may never be, but his name is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, believed to be in his late 30s. It obviously could prove significant that the murderer was believed to be a Muslim, suggesting the motive might be ideological or religious anger, as opposed to post-traumatic stress disorder or some other psychiatric distress. This wasn’t the act of a young and traumatized enlisted man; the mass murderer was an officer – and, indeed, a psychiatrist himself, one about to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

It is tempting, in our collective grief and anger, to jump to furious and intemperate conclusions. Given this country has been engaged in a war on Islamist terror for most of this decade, it’s natural to focus on the killer’s religion. (“I wish his name was Smith,” an unidentified Army officer’s wife told ABC News, and who wouldn’t agree?)

Be careful here, and let the FBI and military investigators do their careful and deliberate work. If there was any sort of conspiracy, they will find it, but don’t assume the worst.

The Pentagon estimates roughly 3,000 American Muslims serve in the U.S. military, though they don’t have a precise count. Islamic soldiers no doubt get lots of grief serving in a military that’s occupying and fighting in Muslim countries, but serve they do, and by choice. They don’t deserve to have their patriotism and loyalty questioned because of this.

What they do deserve, as do the rest of us, is a complete examination of this criminal act and a clear resolution on what led to it.

The editorial was originally published Nov. 6 by the Dallas Morning News.