Alleged Shooter Was Ordered To Deploy To Iraq
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We're going to learn more, now, about the man believed to be responsible for yesterday's shootings. NPR's Tom Gjelten is with us. He joins us live. Tom, good morning.
TOM GJELTEN: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What do you know about this officer, Major Hasan?
GJELTEN: Nidal Hasan, he was born here in the D.C. area, Steve, in Arlington, Virginia, his parents were immigrants - they are said to be Palestinian. Nidal himself went to local schools, graduated from Virginia Tech. He then joined the Army, and that's how he got his medical education. He was trained as a psychiatrist, served for several years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in the D.C. area, specializing in treating soldiers with combat stress. And then he was transferred earlier this year to Fort Hood.
He had received orders to deploy to Iraq. That was something that apparently bothered him, from various sources, we've heard he was upset by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, did not want to go for whatever reason. He was, himself, a devout Muslim, took his faith very seriously. We also heard, via some relatives, that he felt uncomfortable in the Army as a Muslim, even harassed.
We do not know, Steve, that any of this is relevant. In fact, before we go any further, I want to read a statement here from his cousin, Nadir(ph) Hasan. Nadir said, we are filled with grief for the families of today's victims. Our family loves America. We are proud of our country and saddened by today's tragedy.
But clearly, Steve, Nidal Hasan was a very troubled man.
INSKEEP: Troubled enough to explain these shootings?
GJELTEN: How do you explain these things? We have heard from some law enforcement agencies that they came across some Internet postings by a man calling himself Nidal Hasan. In some of these postings, there seem to be a defense of suicide bombings as heroic acts. We can't say, for sure, that these came from Major Hasan, himself.
I do think, Steve, we have to give a lot of attention to the experience that he's had over the past six years as a psychiatrist dealing with soldiers at Walter Reed who were suffering from combat stress. He was clearly dealing with a lot himself.
INSKEEP: But that itself can be stressful, dealing with all of that, I'm sure.
GJELTEN: Well, no doubt, he'd faced soldiers every day who'd been through terrible combat experiences - lost arms, lost legs, been burned - he heard their anguish. He would, no doubt, have heard some real horror stories about violence that they had been through, or perhaps even perpetrated. Now, did it anger him? You have to wonder.
We also know, Steve, that he apparently received some negative performance evaluations there at Walter Reed. And we know from talking to some of his former associates that he was not always easy to get along with. He had some troubled relations, both with patients and with professional colleagues.
INSKEEP: You mentioned the family. They put out a statement saying they're Americans, they're shocked and appalled by this. Is anything more known about his family?
GJELTEN: Well, he was, himself, not married and had no kids. His family was from a professional background. The cousin whose statement I read was, himself, a lawyer. But Major Hasan was living alone at Fort Hood.
INSKEEP: And let's talk, briefly, also about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's been a big issue for the military throughout the war. Have they been drawing lessons from experiences like this?
GJELTEN: You know, Steve, Major Hasan himself had not been deployed. But one of the things that we know, is just even the prospect of deployment, and certainly in case dealing with soldiers who had been deployed, had to be stressful. You know, there've been a lot of suicides in the Army, Steve.
Interestingly enough, as many soldiers have killed themselves who were about to be deployed as who had been deployed. And one of the things that the Army is learning from this is that they need to pay a lot of attention to resilience. They need to look for soldiers who they feel confident will be able to deal with the stress of going to war and the stress of combat. And they need to identify those soldiers before they are deployed.
INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.
GJELTEN: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tom Gjelten.
And this is a moment when media coverage of a shooting like this can distress some listeners because we hear everything about the suspect and comparatively little about the victims. That's purely a matter of what's available this morning. The military is saying little, so far, about who the victims are. It is early, though, and we will bring you more as we learn it in the coming hours and days.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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