We’re now hearing about “secondary trauma” as a reason—even a sort of partial excuse—for Hasan’s killing spree at Fort Hood. Here’s the definition:
In medical parlance it is known as “secondary trauma”, and it can afflict the families of soldiers suffering from P.T.S.D. along with the health workers who are trying to cure them. Dr. Antonette Zeiss, Deputy Chief of Mental Health Services for Veteran Affairs, while not wishing to talk about the specific case of the Fort Hood slayings, explained to TIME that: “Anyone who works with P.T.S.D. clients and hears their stories will be profoundly affected.”…
At army hospitals dealing with P.T.S.D. patients, the staff is required to periodically fill out a ‘resiliency’ questionnaire that is supposed to gauge how well they are coping with the burden of their patients’ emotional and psychological demands. “It takes its toll on people,” says one officer at a Colorado military hospital. “You cannot be un-affected by the terrible things these soldiers have undergone.”
Secondary trauma exists. It is one possible reason for burnout, and it can cause helpers and therapists to quit their jobs. It most definitely can cause helpers and therapists to feel stress and depression.
But it most definitely does not cause helpers and therapists to become mass murderers.
So, what did cause Hasan to cross that line? We can start with his clearly-expressed ideological sympathy with jihadis. This editorial asks the very pertinent question:
Did 13 American soldiers die at Fort Hood because officers were afraid of appearing insensitive to Muslims?
The answer, I’m afraid, appears to be “yes.” There is little question that Hasan raised so many red flags, so often and so flagrantly, that he should have been relieved of duty long before he was able to go on his rampage.
Predicting violence is always a difficult task, but in Hasan’s case it wasn’t even the issue: loyalty to this country was. Even if he had not murdered thirteen soldiers, he could have been expected to represent a security risk in other less violent but still very damaging ways.
The bottom line is that there should be no place in the US armed forces for a person who has professed alliance with or sympathy for jihadists. This has nothing to do with purging the military of Muslims, and everything to do with a common sense case-by-case approach to the question of loyalty to this country versus loyalty to our enemies.
During World War II, this question was faced and “solved” in a maximally politically-incorrect way: detention camps for Japanese-Americans. It was a response to a very real problem: that of the potential for a fifth column in wartime due to divided loyalties. But it was a policy in which many innocents were punished and restricted in order to contain the guilty few.
Hasan and current military policy represent the opposite: a policy in which we refrain from punishing or restricting the guilty few in order to protect the many innocent. If we make that choice, we end up with a massacre of other innocents such as happened at Fort Hood, or even worse.
What about an approach that represents some sort of happy medium? How about responding appropriately to the potentially-guilty few who make themselves obvious— those who, like Hasan, have made it clear that their loyalty is to the enemy and who are therefore significant risks for betrayal and mayhem? If we can’t manage even that, I’m afraid that political correctness has morphed into a near-suicidal insanity.
[ADDENDUM: Red flags, anyone?]