Ft. Hood tragedy ‘terrorism’ debate is irrelevant

Home Editorial & Opinion Ft. Hood tragedy ‘terrorism’ debate is irrelevant

by Paul Smith

The recent tragedy at Ft. Hood in Texas where Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Palestinian-American and Army psychiatrist, senselessly killed 13 people and wounded 30 others has inspired a ridiculous national debate of over the definition of terrorism.

Fox News (of course) recently ran a poll on its website asking whether the Ft. Hood tragedy was the worst act of terrorism since 9/11. The respondents overwhelmingly voted that, indeed, it was.

But, what the Fox News respondents and the other countless people currently engaging in this irrelevant national debate fail to realize, is that the Ft. Hood massacre does not reasonably fit any metric for classifying terrorism.

We could split hairs over semantics all day about what the word “terrorism” really means, but perhaps we should just go to official sources for the definition.

The United States Law Code currently defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”

The Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military Terms defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”

The evidence so far suggests the Ft. Hood tragedy does not even come close to fitting these criteria.

There is no evidence to suggest Hasan was a “clandestine agent” or part of a “subnational group.” And while he may have been partly motivated by religion, there is no evidence to suggest he intended to coerce or intimidate government or society.

The Ft. Hood incident actually has far more in common with the U.S. Postal employee workplace shootings that used to occur than with any form of terrorism.

The only reason the word “terrorism” is being batted around is because Hasan was a Muslim and his victims worked for the military.

Now, do I think religion was a large part of Hasan’s reason for going on this senseless rampage? Absolutely – I think the evidence suggests his mind was poisoned by religion to a large extent, but religion is certainly not the only excuse people have to go on killing sprees.

Hasan was also a psychiatrist who had to constantly hear about the horrors his fellow soldiers experienced at war and the difficulty of post traumatic stress they had to deal with once they returned.

Hasan was about to be spent to Afghanistan, and his fear of being deployed coupled with the psychological perils he experienced because of his religion caused something inside him to snap.

It was a sickening and horrific act of violence that should be condemned by all – but there is no current evidence to suggest it was an act of terrorism.

Ultimately, I fail to understand why we’re even having this debate. Let’s say we do find out that Hasan committed this terrible act because he was politically motivated, had some sort of tangentially related co-conspirators egging him on, and was hoping to intimidate the American populace and change government policy – so what?

Well, then we could certainly call this terrorism, but does it really matter? Would it in any way change the way we look at this tragedy just because we used a different word to describe it?

I fail to comprehend why are so many are insisting we call this terrorism. I find something about this insistence not only strange, but a bit disturbing and disgusting.

The Ft. Hood tragedy is the story of a man who snapped, just like every other mass shooting that has taken place. People are obviously free to call it whatever they want, but to engage in this debate and insist we must call it terrorism is a myopic distraction and does a disservice to the people who died that day.

It was a tragedy by any definition – any everything else in this debate is just pointless semantics.