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A Bit of a Bit More on Fort Hood

Perhaps in responding to Jason, I wasn’t clear about why I don’t think we have grounds yet for calling Nidal Hassan’s act an act of terrorism. Let me try once more, and let me make one thing clear: I am not ruling out that it was, and I don’t require that he admit it was. Let’s go back to the question of motive. When you uncover a motive, you uncover an intention that an action have certain results. In this case, we want to know what Hassan Nidal wanted to accomplish by his act. If he wanted to revenge himself on soldiers who had taunted him, that was not an act of terrorism. If he wanted to force the United States to reconsider its foreign policy, that was an act of terrorism. It was using terror to accomplish a political end. If he was acting  on behalf of a political group, it was an act of terrorism that calls for the FBI to step up its surveillance programs. If he merely imagined that he was acting on behalf of a worldwide movement, that suggests a mix of madness and politics. Yes, terrorism, but not of the straightforward variety.

It remains, however, we don’t know what he wanted to do. The fact that he killed soldiers and not the civilians at a 7-11 or shopping center isn’t conclusive in the least. If he had set off a bomb a shopping mall, that would have been as suggestive of an act of terrorism as his going on a shooting rampage among his fellow soldiers. We know he was against the Iraq and Afghanistan war, and we also know he was bothered by what he saw as anti-Muslim sentiments among his fellow soldiers. Take your pick. These facts argue for different kinds of explanation, and we don’t yet know what the correct explanation is.