The Anything-but-Islam Pundits Strike Out

Not long after Major Nidal Malik Hasan pulled the trigger for the last time at Ft. Hood, the mainstream media began assembling their preposterous, anything-but-Islam narratives. A rationale was needed, something that could plausibly be claimed to motivate a killing spree. A desperate rush to explain his behavior in politically palatable terms naturally resulted in desperate stories in which preposterous motivations contrary to the known facts were posited.

Among the first possible reasons for Hasan's actions submitted was that he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Ever since the Vietnam War, media swells have peddled the stereotype of the psychologically traumatized veteran ready to snap. So of course, some of them made fools of themselves.

PTSD is a legitimate and carefully drawn diagnosis, as found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association and used as the primary reference standard by psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, insurance companies, etc. In the DSM's latest edition (DSM IV), in order for someone to be diagnosed with PTSD, they must meet the following primary criteria:
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:

(1) The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of others.

(2) The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror ...

In other words, the initial predicate for a diagnosis of PTSD is that a person has been personally "exposed to a traumatic event." Once this has been established, the diagnostician then goes on to look for the following symptoms:
B.  The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

(1) recurrent and distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions ...

(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event ...

(3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated) ...

(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

(5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
In their rush to ascribe PTSD as the cause of Hasan's rampage, the pundits apparently forgot to check on the above definition, as there seems to be no evidence that Hasan meets any of these criteria.

Confronted with this reality, the media then attempted to make their incredible assertion credible by expanding their definition of how one can be traumatized. This entailed citing some dubious studies not incorporated into the DMS's definition of PTSD to the effect that a therapist can be traumatized by hearing -- but not personally experiencing -- traumatic events. The legitimate diagnosis of PTSD was therefore corrupted in a way that no diagnostician could ethically defend, making its use here as a clinically valid explanation worthless.

The new take was now that Major Hasan, having counseled servicemen returning from the trauma of war, heard their stories and so suffered what the New York Times described as "secondary trauma: contact distress." For those still trying to hang on to the PTSD rationale as to why Hasan acted as he did, the problem is that even if such a clinically controversial diagnosis proved valid, there is no evidence for it ever leading to murder in the past. The entire house of cards collapses.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room: radical Islam. While "secondary trauma" is not known to have ever resulted in the kind of mass slaughter in which Hasan indulged, there is a factor that has been known to lead to many such atrocities: subscribing to the philosophy of radical Islam. And instead of having to find (unsuccessfully) ways to make Hasan fit a preconceived paradigm, we know for a fact that he was a radical Muslim. 

It is now well-known that Hasan gave a lecture at which he said that "infidels" should be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throats. For a time he attended the Dar al-Hijrah Mosque and Islamic Center, also attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers and whose imam was Anwar Nasser Aulaqi (aka al-Awlaki), who regularly preached jihad. Hasan repeatedly made comments in support of radical Islam and against U.S. efforts to defeat it.  Each day new revelations seem to surface that make clear Hasan's allegiance to radical Islam.

And unlike "secondary trauma," radical Islam's history of incitement to violence is well-documented, having led to tens of thousands of deaths.

Searching out obscure, unproven psychological reasons for Hasan's behavior is an act of willful blindness on the part of those who try to promote it, especially when a far more reasonable and clear cause is right before our eyes. It is bad enough that those who don't want to hold Islam responsible for the actions of its adherents try to ignore the obvious for craven political considerations, but in doing so they extend their disservice to all of us by trying to corrupt our understanding of mental health issues.

Edmond D. Smith is a social worker, adjunct college instructor, and freelance writer.  He can be contacted at