By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The Army psychiatrist believed to have killed 13 people at Fort Hood warned a roomful of senior Army physicians a year and a half ago that to avoid "adverse events," the military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors instead of fighting in wars against other Muslims.
As a senior-year psychiatric resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan was supposed to make a presentation on a medical topic of his choosing as a culminating exercise of the residency program.
Instead, in late June 2007, he stood before his supervisors and about 25 other mental health staff members and lectured on Islam, suicide bombers and threats the military could encounter from Muslims conflicted about fighting in the Muslim countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a copy of the presentation obtained by The Washington Post.
"It's getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims," he said in the presentation.
"It was really strange," said one staff member who attended the presentation and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the investigation of Hasan. "The senior doctors looked really upset" at the end. These medical presentations occurred each Wednesday afternoon, and other students had lectured on new medications and treatment of specific mental illnesses.
An Army spokesman said Monday night he was unaware of the presentation, and a Walter Reed spokesman declined to comment. It is unclear whether anyone in attendance reported the briefing to counterintelligence or law enforcement authorities whose job it is to identify threats from within the military ranks.
Hasan spent six years at Walter Reed as an intern, resident and fellow beginning in 2003. He was transferred to Fort Hood as a practicing psychiatrist in July and was set to leave soon for Afghanistan. According to a relative, he had asked not to be deployed. It is not known whether he ever sought conscientious-objector status.
Maj. Gen. Gina S. Farrisee, the Army's personnel chief, said in an interview Monday that because of the investigation, she and other Army officials could not discuss whether Hasan had officially asked to quit the service or not to be deployed. However, she and another Army official said it would be highly unusual for officers with Hasan's rank and medical training to be allowed to resign, given their service obligation.
Investigators are examining Hasan's religious beliefs, whether he harbored extremist views, and whether he was in contact with others who may have encouraged violence against U.S. troops.
The title of Hasan's PowerPoint presentation was "The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military." It consisted of 50 slides. In one slide, Hasan described the presentation's objectives as identifying "what the Koran inculcates in the minds of Muslims and the potential implications this may have for the U.S. military."
He also sought to "describe the nature of the religious conflicts that Muslims" who serve in the U.S. military may have and to persuade the Army to identify these individuals.
Other slides delved into the history of Islam, its tenets, statistics about the number of Muslims in the military, and explanations of "offensive jihad," or holy war.
Another slide suggested ways to draw out Muslim troops: "It must be hard for you to balance Islamic beliefs that might be conflicting with current war; feelings of guilt; Is it what you expected."
Hasan's presentation lasted about an hour. It is unclear whether he read out loud every point on each slide. If typical procedures were followed, his adviser would have supervised the development of his project, said people familiar with the practice.
The final three slides indicate that Hasan referred to Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, suicide bombers and Iran.
Under a slide titled "Comments," he wrote: "If Muslim groups can convince Muslims that they are fighting for God against injustices of the 'infidels'; ie: enemies of Islam, then Muslims can become a potent adversary ie: suicide bombing, etc." [sic]
The last bullet point on that page reads simply: "We love death more then [sic] you love life!"
Under the "Conclusions" page, Hasan wrote that "Fighting to establish an Islamic State to please God, even by force, is condoned by the Islam," and that "Muslim Soldiers should not serve in any capacity that renders them at risk to hurting/killing believers unjustly -- will vary!"
The final page, labeled "Recommendation," contained only one suggestion:
"Department of Defense should allow Muslims [sic] Soldiers the option of being released as 'Conscientious objectors' to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events."
Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson contributed to this report.