Conflicting loyalties and identities pervaded the U.S. Civil War. Col. Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Federal Army, but rejected it because his loyalty to Virginia trumped his oath to defend the United States. Fellow Virginian and West Point graduate George Thomas ("the Rock of Chickamauga") served with the Union and was branded a traitor by Southerners.
These men at least made their choices evident, and they waged war as armed adversaries in open battle.
Hasan's treachery is more like that of America's most infamous traitor, the Revolutionary War's Benedict Arnold. The fortuitous capture of a British spy foiled Arnold's plot to betray the Continental Army position at West Point to the British. Arnold committed treason for money and rank in the British Army, and his treachery put American soldiers and the war effort at risk.
Hasan's treason employed terrorist tactics. Sure, the lawyers can argue Hasan attacked soldiers, with civilians as incidental targets, and the assault occurred on a military post, but the tactics are those used by jihadis in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Indonesia and a score of other nations -- the armed killer entering an open facility and massacring unarmed men and women.
As a retired officer familiar with the military investigation process, I am certain the post-attack investigations now underway will ultimately provide a detailed picture of a 21st century turncoat, one of great use to intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies. Since Hasan survived, we may hear from him about his journey from medical officer to jihadi.
His own explanations -- whether glandular, psychological, theological or political theatrical -- will intrigue many, particularly in the chitchat media already fretting over his identity crisis, but they will not raise the dead, comfort the grieving or satisfy fellow soldiers he betrayed.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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