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Let's Be Vigilant
Homegrown Terrorists

Natalia J. Garland

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In our post-9/11 world--even eight years after the FIRST* attack on American soil--there are people who do not acknowledge the threat from terrorists living among us. There is an unwillingness to face harsh realities and solve difficult problems. In other words, when a defense mechanism such as denial is used by massive numbers of people, it can make the wrong look right (or justified) and the right look wrong (or at fault). Homegrown terrorists are ignored or granted politically correct excuses while American citizens are put at risk of losing their lives.

The potential force of homegrown terrorism might become more recognizable if inserted into the context of another era in American history. Every American knows, for example, that slavery was wrong. Could we compare the wrongness of slavery to the wrongness of terrorism, and perhaps emotionally equip denialists to engage in problem-solving and self-protection? Would denialists more clearly see who are the victims of terrorism and who are the perpetrators?

In 1845, Frederick Douglass wrote about his experiences as a slave in America. In the preface to the original publication of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave, William Lloyd Garrison wrote the following:

So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery are many persons, that they are stubbornly incredulous whenever they read or listen to any recital of the cruelties which are daily inflicted on its victims. They do not deny that the slaves are held as property; but that terrible fact seems to convey to their minds no idea of injustice, exposure to outrage, or savage barbarity. Tell them of cruel scourgings, of mutilations and brandings, of scenes of pollution and blood, of the bandishment of all light and knowledge, and they affect to be greatly indignant at such enormous exaggerations, such wholesale misstatements, such abominable libels on the character of the southern planters! As if all these direful outrages were not the natural results of slavery! As if it were less cruel to reduce a human being to the condition of a thing, than to give him a severe flagellation, or to deprive him of necessary food and clothing! As if whips, chains, thumbscrews, paddles, bloodhounds, overseers, drivers, patrols, were not all indispensable to keep the slaves down, and to give protection to their ruthless oppressors! As if, when the marriage institution is abolished, concubinage, adultery, and incest, must not necessarily abound; when all the rights of humanity are annihilated, any barrier remains to protect the victim from the fury of the spoiler; when absolute power is assumed over life and liberty; it will not be wielded with destructive sway! Skeptics of this character abound in society. In some few instances, their incredulity arises from a want of reflection; but, generally, it indicates a hatred of the light, a desire to shield slavery from the assaults of its foes, a contempt of the colored race, whether bond or free. Such will try to discredit the shocking tales of slave-holding cruelty which are recorded in this truthful Narrative; but they will labor in vain. Mr. Douglass has frankly disclosed the place of his birth, the names of those who claimed ownership in his body and soul, and the names also of those who committed the crimes which he has alleged against them. His statements, therefore, may easily be disproved, if they are untrue.
[End of quote.]

Why are homegrown terrorists, like the slave-holders of America's past, not regarded as ruthless oppressors who want to claim ownership of body and soul? If there was (and still is to a much lesser extent) a contempt for black people, why are homegrown terrorists not also regarded as contemptuous of all Americans? Moreover, why are so many Americans filled with contempt for their own country? (See my essays Why Ask Why? and Hatred Complex and Self-Hatred Sequence.) No matter how much we try to uncover the roots and understand the culture of any type of behavior--and such study is worthy--there are nevertheless certain behaviors (slavery, terrorism, rape, murder, etc.) that can never be justified but must always be confronted, punished, and extinguished. Slavery would not be tolerated in today's America. Why are homegrown terrorists ignored or afforded politically correct excuses?

Today I will attempt to summarize some of the reactions to the Fort Hood massacre which was perpetrated by Major Nidal Malik Hasan and in which 12 soldiers and one civilian were killed and 30 people were injured. I will draw from articles by Dr. Judith Sills, Dr. Phyllis Chesler, and Debra J. Saunders, as well as add a few thoughts of my own. My purpose is to pull together insightful writing about homegrown terrorists and to expose political correctness as an obstruction to national security.

From a Professional Viewpoint

Hasan was an Army psychiatrist. Well, psychiatrists are crazier than their patients anyway, right? Wrong. How many other psychiatrists are committing violent jihad? Professional helpers (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers) have various levels of mental health, personal happiness, and professional competence (see my essay Should Therapists Be in Therapy?). If Hasan was suffering from any kind of mental health issue--and most terrorists are probably mentally ill (see my essay Beyond Comprehension)-- or if he was experiencing personal unhappiness, then these states of mind should have been noticed and reported by other Army personnel.

Did Hasan work under supervision? Was he a part of a treatment team? Did he seek professional consultation on difficult cases? Was he subject to periodic case audits? Was he in therapy--and did he share his jihadist thoughts with his therapist, and did his therapist have a duty to warn? If he shared any such thoughts with a religious leader, was that leader morally (if not legally) obligated to warn?

There have been attempts to understand or justify Hasan's actions by saying that he snapped, he was suffering from trauma, he was a lonely and tormented man, he was expressing his opposition to an unjust war. The Pentagon-Congressional Probes, as seen on CNN, said that Hasan "channelled his personality problems into fanaticism." This may be true, and we need to understand any such dynamics in order to prevent further episodes. A homegrown terrorist, so obvious to some of us, has a different mental state from that of the average American.

Hasan could have made other choices regarding the channelling of any personality issues. How would most professionals cope? They would seek therapy, talk to peers or to their supervisor, turn to a circle of friends, take a vacation, develop a hobby, write a book, go back to school, consult with a legitimate religious advisor for positive guidance. Other professional caretakers would not go on a mass-murder spree.

Hasan, however, chose to radicalize himself, using Al Qaeda tactics as his model. It does not matter that he acted alone or whether he was officially connected to Al Qaeda. He made a choice and he had a plan. He aligned himself with extremist Islam which is backed by a certain cultural and ideological segment of the world's population. In that sense, he was not alone. He was a part of a whole that is anti-American, anti-Western Civilization, anti-Christianity and anti-Judaism. He did not snap. And, unlike other professionals, he did not find a way to cope with, adjust to, or change his life circumstances in a positive manner. At some point along the way, we would have to say that Hasan ceased being a psychiatrist and began functioning solely as a jihadist. A real psychiatrist--an empathic professional dedicated to helping others--could not do what Hasan did.

In the attempt to distinguish Hasan from other professionals (both competent and incompetent, both happy and unhappy), we could view Hasan's condition as follows.

Hasan's Condition
(from a working viewpoint)

  1. He self-radicalized (he refused to deal with life on life's terms).
  2. He planned the Fort Hood massacre as an act of terrorism (he did not snap due to any personal affliction or external misfortune).
  3. He used Al Qaeda as a model (he was a jihadist, and violent jihad was his motivation, purpose, and goal).
  4. He did not identify as an American (his ideology was more important than and contrary to America's humanitarian values, the Constitution, and Army service; and he identified with the cause of Palestine).

The above list is not intended to be diagnostic. It is based on news reports and opinions of Hasan's actions and background, and not on any clinically psychological criteria. It is, rather, a list of cultural and political attributes (No. 1 might be an exception, but the Pentagon-Congressional Probes also commented on Hasan's "personality problems"). Putting the list together was a matter of logical thinking, research and organization, and common sense--unless one is in denial and/or indoctrinated by political correctness.

The list is intended to defend those helping professions in which psychotherapy is practiced, to separate typical unhappiness from violent jihad, and to expose political correctness. Since September 11, 2001, I have been trying to understand the dynamics of terrorism. Anyone who may have clicked on the above essay links, or who has scrolled through my Table of Contents, knows the intense effort that I have put into this task.

From a Political Viewpoint

It is well past 3:00 a.m. That was when the SECOND terrorist attack was committed on American soil. In my essay Obama Speaks in Cairo I wrote the following.

Should Obama have mentioned the murder of Pvt. William A. Long? Pvt. Long, aged 23, was killed at a military recruiting station by an American convert to Islam, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, on June 2, 2009. Muhammad also wounded Pvt. Quintan Ezeagwula, aged 18, in the incident. Muhammad stated that he committed these acts because of American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The murder of Pvt. Long was a terrorist act committed on American soil. Although other countries have experienced this type of terrorist act more frequently and more severely than America, it should be a matter of utmost concern to the whole world if America starts getting attacked from within. America is the greatest stronghold against terrorism. If terrorists can diminish American power and resources, then other countries will find themselves in even greater danger. Americans cannot protect others if we become necessarily preoccupied with our own survival on a day-to-day crisis level.

Obama could have used Pvt. Long's murder as a rallying point for a new beginning between Americans and Muslims. He could have motivated everyone to prevent the senseless loss of innocent lives, in America and in Muslim countries. Remember the 2008 presidential campaigns? Remember Senator Hillary Clinton saying that Obama was not qualified to be Commander in Chief,** not ready to take that 3:00 a.m. phone call? Pvt. Long was Obama's 3:00 a.m. call, and Obama failed to awake from his slumber.
[End of quote.]

Now, the massacre at Fort Hood on 11/05/09 by Major Nidal Malik Hasan was the THIRD terrorist attack committed on American soil (although most news sources refer to it as the second). Some of Hasan's colleagues had noticed his ideological extremism, but did not report it. Why? The likely answer is that American society, including the military, have been indoctrinated by extreme multicultural tolerance and political correctness (i.e., not giving offense to anyone). To confront or report Hasan would have been to offend him and presumably all Muslims. Such political correctness appears to be a prejudice, contempt, and oppression directed at mainstream America by the hardcore liberals who currently dominate the political scene.

The pressure of political correctness is so great that normally intelligent and responsible people can feel intimidated not to do the right thing. Even people who would be willing to face harsh realities and solve difficult problems cannot do so without possibly incurring negative repercussions from society, government, or their employer. This is not to excuse those who did not speak up, but to emphasize the reach and grip of political correctness.

Perhaps the deadliest features of political correctness are: (A) it reinforces denial, and (B) it prohibits offense to everyone except Americans, thereby prompting contempt for America among Americans as well as an insidious self-hatred. These features likely contributed to the acceptance of the murders of Pvt. Long and of the 12 soldiers and one civilian at Fort Hood. Acceptance, meaning: the tendency of some to underestimate or pardon Hasan's and other terrorists' actions as understandable anger at America. Wrong is right, and right is wrong.

In response to the Fort Hood attack, Admiral Mike Mullen told FOX News on 11/18/09, "Diversity in our forces is one of its greatest strengths." However, everyone knows that true diversity has no connection to terrorism on American soil. Mullen did not have to defend the military's policy on diveristy. The problem is extremist Islamic ideology. Why can't we say that?! Or, why can't we say that without always having to backtrack and repeatedly make it clear that we do not have anything against moderate Muslims? Why do we have to constantly reassure everyone that we value diversity, even as American citizens are being murdered? Where is the outrage over violent jihad? Where is the grief over the lives that were lost? And why aren't moderate Muslims reassuring the rest of us that they are participants in America's humanitarian values and that they uphold the U.S. Constitution?

Political correctness is ultimately self-destructive for America. Will there be a FOURTH attack on American soil? Probably. Whatever happened to the call for citizenry vigilance? In my essay Jordan: A Lesson in Vigilance I quoted a speech given by King Abdullah after three hotels had been attacked in Amman. Below is one paragraph from that speech.

I appeal to every citizen--man and woman--of this country to consider himself or herself a soldier and a security officer. Each one of you has a responsibility to protect your country. Circumstances require each and every citizen to be cautious and vigilant, and to cooperate with the security services to prevent any attack on the security and stability of this country. We must be united in confronting these terrorists, who have neither a religion nor a conscience.
[End of quote.]

Similar words should have been spoken by America's leaders. Anyone who works with or has any kind of contact with someone like Hasan, should follow King Abdullah's instructions. United, we can stand up to terrorists and political correctness, and we can save lives.

[*NOTE: The attack on September 11, 2009, can be regarded as the first attack only if we count the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 as a criminal act rather than a terrorist attack; and only if we count all the 9/11 attacks--New York City, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon--as one attack rather than three separate attacks. Rightfully, the 1993 attack should be regarded as the REAL FIRST terrorist attack on American soil.]

[**NOTE: Some T.V. news commentators referred to Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton having campaigned against Obama in the 2008 presidential race, specifically to their evaluations that Obama was not prepared to be Commander in Chief. This paragraph is an adaptation of those comments.] (Written 11/30/09: bibliography available.)


Just recently, I came across some writing by Van Gross, M.D., as posted on the Daniel Pipes blog. Gross comments on his concept of Sociological Psychosis in his attempt to understand Hasan.

A New Model: Sociological Psychosis
(by Van Gross, M.D.)

  1. The definition of "psychosis" must be entirely reworked.
  2. Psychosis as an entity must be defined beyond its present formulation--i.e. a disorder mostly set apart from cultural triggers. Current definitions of psychosis include disorders like schizophrenia which is believed to be heavily biological. That idea has to be scrapped. Hasan is simply not the case of a schizophrenic who happens to be Muslim. That biological tendency now dominating psychiatry (not all of medicine by the way) is the reason in part why a Hasan was not identified as psychotic and removed from his job. It was not simply a case of political correctness dictating "hands off the Muslim-American."
  3. Sociological Psychosis argues that the culture or religion (such as Islam) that precipitates mental derangement must be understood as the underpinning for someone "snapping" rather than what is now the accepted view--i.e. someone snaps because they are psychotic and their belief system is secondary to an intrinsic brain disorder that warps their perceptions (I should add that there is no universally accepted biological marker for schizophrenia akin to insulin deficiency equaling diabetes).
    [End of quote.]

Although Gross' new model differs from my working viewpoint, I think both constructions can contribute to the attempt to understand the terrorist mind. You might also refer back to my series on Post-Iraq Views of the New Year. This is new territory in the field of psychiatry. If more professional caretakers would work on objectively analyzing terrorist behavior, this would help civilized peoples to fight the war on terror at a grassroots level: something which is now a domestic necessity. (Written 12/18/09)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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