Ford Hood’s Psychological Rampage

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. army psychiatrist has recently been found guilty of killing 13 and wounding 32 people in 2009. This event has been called by the media the Fort Hood rampage or the Fort Hood massacre.

Maj. Hasan represented himself in court and while a friend of mine would say that “a lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client”, the question remains; what brought a career officer to plan and execute such a murderous plan?

In his defence, Maj. Hassan said he acted to protect members of his faith against the U.S. aggression. This would be the case it would entails that either he enter the army in bad faith, namely becoming a sort of Muslim insider or a “fifth column” or that after entering the army he became so disenfranchised and disenchanted to become openly homicidal against his employer and its representatives (namely his victims).

I tend to be partial to the second hypothesis; Maj. Hasan was in the military for many years before the 2009 Fort Hood rampage, a long time to premeditate any sort of unlawful action.

Maj. Hasan was a loner, with little social support, not romantically involved, sensitive, with strong anti U.S. views and with rigid beliefs about what is right and wrong with society. According to the media he was distressed by his work with war veterans and likely affected by their combat memories and by their depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder presentations. Also there are some references in the current media that he was in an ambivalent and conflicted position because of his religious faith and by the reception he received from some of his fellow comrades and superiors.

All these information, although not sufficient to provide a complete psychological picture of Maj. Hasan, would suggest a workplace violence scenario (another “burn out” professional, a vicarious victim himself of the ongoing wars in the Middle East) or of a poorly adjusted, angry and extremely distressed human being more than a martyr-like explanation for his behaviour.

Working in the mental health field is quite demanding in itself, a good social and family support are essential shock-absorber to metabolize the emotional toxins picked up in the working day. Maj. Hasan did not appear to have any of the shock absorbers necessary to enjoy a fulfilling, happy life, independently of his professional qualifications and of his religious beliefs.

Dr. Giorgio Ilacqua