My good friend and student, Captian Greg Postal, M.D., posted the following on Van’s forum yesterday. I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the shooting at Ft Hood and thought what Greg wrote was worthy of front page coverage. G.E.Mattson
P.S. Tha’s Greg on the left, with Jerry McDonald, me and Paul Haydu
Ever try to write something but have difficulty ’cause everything wants to come out at once?
FWIW in re background, Hasan and have a good deal of objective factors in common:
As USUHS (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the military’s med school) alumni, we both owed 7 years payback post graduation. Upon graduation from USU, students (who are 2LTs while in school, hence many of Hasan’s photos) are commissioned as O3s (Captains in Army or AF speak, Lieutenants in Navy lingo). Promotion is essentially assured up to O5 (Lieutenant Colonel and Commander respectively) for anything short of gross negligence. Payback of the 7 years begins only afterone leaves training i.e. Hasan was only at the beginning of his 7 years of payback…
Allow me to hold forth for a moment – being an Army doc is a really mixed bag. Typically paid less, in some cases considerably so than civilian peers, having to deal with Army bureaucracy and frequent deployments away from family just like all the other soldiers are some of the basic stressors. On the flip side, serving one’s country, providing (hopefully) quality medical care for soldiers who, by virtue of their service have earned it, and not having to worry about whether your patients can afford to fill their prescriptions are all benefits of serving. The military (from this point on, I’ll largely talk about the Army with which I’m most familiar) has a tremendously difficulty time keeping docs for the reasons mentioned above. The constant struggle is trying to maintain a decent crew of doctors while stressing to them the benefits above the costs. Unfortunately, I’ve seen time and time again, mediocre or worse physicians who are retained year after year by the Army, so Hasan being “odd” or “concerning” was hardly unique. At the same time, there are many (hopefully myself included) who although conflicted about much involved in Army service at times, are honored to serve our soldiers and their families…
Next topic: Mental health. Again, Hasan and I have a lot in common – he was a psychiatrist (ostensibly), I was a clinical social worker/therapist both in civilian practice and then in the Air Force and just put in my packet for training as an Army psychiatrist (great timing, no?). A recent New York Times article (which I cannot find at the moment) stated that there are currently 408 psychiatrists serving the Army, which include contractors as well as active duty. They are, from both what I have read and personal observation, incredibly overtaxed. From 2005 to 2007 I had numerous rotations at Walter Reed, two of which were in the consultation and liaison (C&L) subsection of the psych department who work with the inpatients in the hospital, many of whom were returning OIF and OEF soldiers. There is a lot of truth to the various accounts of how difficult it is to do that work day in and day out and not quickly burn out. HOWEVER, the notion that Hasan (it pains me to call him either “Major” or “Doctor”) was vicariously traumatized into shooting many of his fellow soldiers is pure bullshit. He was so affected by his patients’ painful stories that he decided to act by killing them? Shooting forty or so people is not the action of a decent man who ‘snapped’ under pressure; it is the act of a psychopath who was acting for political/ideological reasons.
On to the “Islam issue.” Political correctness be damned; deciding that Hasan’s Muslim faith was somehow to blame for his warped ideology is as nonsensical as blaming Christian ideals for all of the misery perpetrated over the centuries in Jesus Christ’s name or blaming maltreatment of Palestinians on the tenets of Judaism. There is plenty to find in every religion which can be used to justify killing of innocents – it does not damn the religion or the text, it damns the interpreter, or more precisely the individual who does evil under its aegis… Furthermore the notion that a member of some particular religion should not be allowed to serve in the Army enrages me (you should only know what I deleted from this post). Yes, there have been Muslims who have performed outrageous acts in the name of Islam. Yes, these should be strongly condemned by the American (and other) Muslim communities. But let me know when the Christians are scheduled to make their apologies, ’cause I’d like to hear some of them. Furthermore, from a purely pragmatic viewpoint (as has been mentioned elsewhere) there are billions of Muslims in the world; from a strategic viewpoint, do you really want to define this struggle as a religious one, when what you are really decrying is the actions of a minority of disturbed individuals? What makes the US so strong and makes me so proud to serve in the Army is the diversity of backgrounds and beliefs that assure me that none will become paramount to the exclusion of all others. The notion that for some niggling tactical “advantage” we will exclude our Muslim brothers and sisters from military service ignores not only our national ethos, but strategic realities of today’s world.
Now I’m going to go decompress…