WASHINGTON -- What a surprise -- that someone who shouts "Allahu Akbar" (the "God is great" jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre downplaying Nidal Hasan's religious beliefs.
"I cringe that he's a Muslim. ... I think he's probably just a nut case," said Newsweek's Evan Thomas. Some were more adamant. Time's Joe Klein decried "odious attempts by Jewish extremists ... to argue that the massacre perpetrated by Nidal Hasan was somehow a direct consequence of his Islamic beliefs." While none could match Klein's peculiar cherchez-le-juif motif, the popular story line was of an Army psychiatrist driven over the edge by terrible stories he had heard from soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
They suffered. He listened. He snapped.
Really? What about the doctors and nurses, the counselors and physical therapists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who every day hear and live with the pain and the suffering of returning soldiers? How many of them then picked up a gun and shot 51 innocents?
And what about civilian psychiatrists -- not the Upper West Side therapist treating Woody Allen neurotics, but the thousands of doctors working with hospitalized psychotics -- who every day hear not just tales but cries of the most excruciating anguish, of the most unimaginable torment? How many of those doctors commit mass murder?
It's been decades since I practiced psychiatry. Perhaps I missed the epidemic.
But, of course, if the shooter is named Nidal Hasan, whom National Public Radio reported had been trying to proselytize doctors and patients, then something must be found. Presto! Secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, a handy invention to allow one to ignore the obvious.
And the perfect moral finesse. Medicalizing mass murder not only exonerates. It turns the murderer into a victim, indeed a sympathetic one. After all, secondary PTSD, for those who believe in it (you won't find it in DSM-IV-TR, psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), is known as "compassion fatigue." The poor man -- pushed over the edge by an excess of sensitivity.
Have we totally lost our moral bearings? Nidal Hasan (allegedly) cold-bloodedly killed 13 innocent people. In such cases, political correctness is not just an abomination. It's a danger, clear and present.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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