Friday, November 6, 2009

November 6, 2009

Hasan Was ‘Mortified’ About Deployment to War

WASHINGTON — Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.

But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., started having second thoughts about his military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia.

He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying realities of war, said a cousin, Nader Hasan.

“He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy,” Mr. Hasan said. “He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there.”

Major Hasan was taken into custody by the Fort Hood police after the shooting spree, in which 11 people, many of them soldiers, were killed, and at least 31 others were wounded. The shootings occurred at a readiness center where soldiers are put through a series of medical, dental, legal and other paces in preparation for being deployed.

Though Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas reported that Major Hasan was to be deployed later this month, that could not be confirmed with the Army Thursday night.

Nader Hasan said his cousin never mentioned in recent phone calls to Virginia that he was going to be deployed, and he said the family was shocked when it heard the news on television Thursday afternoon.

“He was doing everything he could to avoid that,” Mr. Hasan said. “He wanted to do whatever he could within the rules to make sure he wouldn’t go over.”

Several years ago, that included retaining a lawyer and making inquiries about whether he could get out of the Army before his contract was up, because of the harassment he had received as a Muslim. But Nader Hasan said the lawyer had told his cousin that even if he paid the Army back for his education, it would not allow him to leave before his commitment was up.

“I think he gave up that fight and was just doing his time,” Mr. Hasan said.

Nader Hasan said his cousin’s parents had both been American citizens who owned businesses, including restaurants and a store, in Roanoke, Va. He declined to confirm reports that they were Jordanian, but said the parents, who are both dead, had immigrated from a small town near Jerusalem many years ago.

Records show that Major Hasan had received his undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech University and his medical degree at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

He did his residency at Walter Reed Medical Center and then worked there for several years before being transferred to the Darnell Army Medical Center at Fort Hood earlier this year.

Major Hasan was not married and had two brothers, one living in Virginia and another in Jerusalem, his cousin said. The family, by and large, had prospered in the United States, with various members working in law, banking and medicine, Mr. Hasan said.

The Associated Press, quoted federal law enforcement officials saying Major Hasan had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that mentioned suicide bombings and other threats.

But Nader Hasan, 40, a lawyer living in Northern Virginia, described his cousin as a respectful, hard-working man who had devoted himself to his parents and his career.

He said his cousin had been a practicing Muslim who had become more devout after the deaths of his parents, in 1998 and 2001. But he said he had not expressed anti-American views or radical ideas.

“His parents didn’t want him to go into the military,” Mr. Hasan said. “He said, ‘No, I was born and raised here, I’m going to do my duty to the country.’ ”

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