Nidal Malik Hasan was two men.
One was the proud Army major who wore battle fatigues to mosque; the other, the proud Arab who wore Muslim garb in civilian life.
What brought Hasan's identities into fatal conflict was his belief that Iraq and Afghanistan were unjust wars, and his shock that he, a Muslim, was to be sent to serve in one of those wars, against fellow Muslims -- a sin against Allah meriting damnation.
Hasan was conflicted by a dual loyalty -- to the country he had sworn to protect, and to his perceived duty as a Muslim. When Hasan told his neighbor that morning, "I am going to do good work for God," the call of jihad overrode his oath of loyalty as an American soldier.
Hasan proceeded to shoot, wound or kill 44 U.S. soldiers, and die on what he saw as the side of right, the side of Islam, against America. "Allahu Akbar!" -- "God is great!" -- Hasan shouted as he began firing.
An Internet posting by "Nidal Hasan" compared suicide bombers to medal-of-honor winners who throw themselves on grenades to save fellow soldiers. Hasan had decided to become a suicider for Allah.
Though this was an act of treachery against his fellow soldiers, of treason in wartime, of terrorism and mass murder, Hasan must have seen himself as a hero and martyr.
Few ever commit atrocities like this. But conflicts in identities and loyalties are common in the cauldrons of war.
"Let none but Americans stand guard tonight," said Washington at Valley Forge. Irish Catholics deserted the Union army to fight beside Mexican Catholics in the San Patricio battalion against what they thought was American aggression. Honored today by Mexico, the San Patricios were hanged when captured by Winfield Scott's army.
In Scott's march to Mexico City was Robert E. Lee. The hero of Buena Vista was Col. Jefferson Davis, who had married the daughter of his commanding officer, future President Zachary Taylor. Davis went on to serve in the Cabinet of Franklin Pierce and the U.S. Senate.
Yet, in 1861, Davis and Lee would depart the service of their country to wage war against the United States on behalf of their new nation and the kinfolk to whom they belonged and whom they believed had a right to be free of the Union. Were they traitors -- or patriots?
This is not to compare the deeds of the San Patricios, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, all of whom declared themselves openly and fought heroically and honorably, with the crimes of Maj. Hasan.
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