Seven salient facts about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.
The admonition not to rush to judgment or jump to conclusions might sound fair and prudent enough, perhaps even statesmanlike when uttered by the president, as long it's borne in mind that such advice is itself a judgment that is more than halfway to a conclusion. What it plainly implies in the present case is that the actions of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan should not be assumed in any meaningful way to be related to his Muslim faith.
Perfect subjective knowledge of the major's possibly disordered mind is not available to me, but nor is it available to the host of damage-control commentators and FBI drones who have had things mostly their own way so far. In order to demonstrate the absence of a connection, however, the following facts would have to be regarded as relatively random or secondary:
1) Hasan had been in direct correspondence with a notorious preacher of violence, Anwar al-Awlaki, whose enthusiasm for the teachings and actions of al-Qaida has long been well-known to researchers and intelligence agencies.
2) He bought weapons for himself well in advance of a murderous assault on unarmed soldiers awaiting treatment at a clinic—people to whom, in addition to his responsibilities as a human being, he also owed, as a physician, a sworn duty of care.
3) As he unleashed his volleys, he yelled the universal cry of jihad, " Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" (The eyewitnesses on this point, originally doubted, are especially convincing since some of them didn't understand the meaning of the words and only sought to reproduce them phonetically.) On his business card, he described himself as "SOA" or "slave," or possibly, "soldier of Allah." Neither would be especially reassuring in this context.
4) He had attracted considerable attention by repeatedly using his postgraduate classes at the Uniformed Service University in Bethesda, Md., for the purpose of Islamic proselytizing, for a version of Islam that, to say the least, did not overemphasize it as a "religion of peace."
5) He had, in spoken and written communications, demonstrated a fascination with the love of death and the concept of suicide martyrdom (better described as suicide murder) that is the central concept of Bin Ladenism.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.
Photograph of Hasan by U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences via Getty Images.