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OPINION

Ft. Hood: The Largest 'Terror Act' Since 9/11?

AP

The Fort Hood killings, perpetrated by Major Malik Nadal Hasan a psychiatrist by training, no matter what the judiciary reports conclude is, for now, the largest single terror act in America since 9/11. This quantitative finding will take into consideration dramatic change in the data released by authorities. However, the most important matter confronting us now is that we must not fail to properly analyze Hasan's possible motives. 

What happened at Ft. Hood is not about being frustrated by America's foreign policy or exacting revenge for racial slurs. Nor is it about simply being a Muslim-American serving in the military or about being a member of any faith. The murders at Ft. Hood are about the radicalization of individuals by an extremist ideology -- jihadism -- which fuels acts of terror. The main question we should be asking is when did Hasan become radicalized and who indoctrinated him? Everything else will fall in place once we have these answers. Moreover, this would allow us to detect other potential terror acts that may be in the making.

The shooting inside a U.S. military installation that led to the murders of many military personnel only leads to more questions. Over the past few years and months since the 9/11 terror attacks law enforcement officials have thwarted similar planned terror attacks. The Fort Dix, N.J. plot -- dismantled in 2006 -- was designed to kill military personnel inside the base. Other terror cells have also been dismantled. Cells discovered in Georgia, New York and North Carolina also had plans for attacking military installations on U.S. soil. But more importantly a number of "lone wolves" have also expressed their intentions to attack military personnel.

This year, a person by the name Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, shot two members of the U.S. military at the Army-Navy Career Center in a shopping center in West Little Rock, Arkansas. One of them was killed. In cyberspace jihadi threats against U.S. military serving in the homeland and against American cities has been ongoing. Information collected by authorities, including from suspects and indicted individuals has shown a pattern by the jihadists (militants or propagandists) indicating their intentions to strike at military and security installations.

The incident at Fort Hood, whatever is the personal motive, falls into the category of the demonization of the U.S. and its military. What does that mean? It says that whatever the causes of Hasan's individual aggression, the latter was legitimized by the perception that America is the "enemy." An investigation will soon show if Hasan's motives are strictly personal, ideological or a hybrid blend of motives. It's also important that the investigation into Hasan's motives be made available as quickly as possible to the public. According to retired Col. Terry Lee, who was interviewed by Fox News and who knew Major Malik Nadal Hasan, the suspect made several statements indicating his ideological beliefs such as: “The killing of the soldier in Arkansas and any attack against the U.S. military inside the homeland is legitimate because of American military involvement in the Middle East.� Terry detailed remarks made by the accused killer “against U.S. policy and in support of potential suicide attacks inside the country.� Of course, these statements and those reported by others need to be analyzed and verified.

While we wait for the results of these investigations and experts weighing on the historical context of the suspect's possible motives as well as the specific circumstances of engagement between the jihadist propaganda and the United States during the past eight years along with this type of an alleged attack by an individual on the military, we're still left, at this point, with the the following prediction. Hasan's ideology was part of what led him to alledgedly commit murder at Ft. Hood. Of course, psychological factors must also be given serious consideration but the ideological component, the legitimacy of attacking the U.S. military as perpetrated by some jihadi groups also has to be investigated.

Although I would place this attack within the wider context of the evolution of what terror analysts call homegrown radicalization it's still early. Of course, we need to wait for the information that will come from investigators. We may find that the legal side doesn't jibe with the psychological experts. In the meantime, if we do find that the suspect was motivated, at least in part, by ideology the attack on Ft. Hood must be recognized as the single largest terror attack on America (regardless of its homegrown origin or not, or the psychological reason or not) since 9/11.

In that case, what the world has witnessed this week in Texas cannot be described just as “a horrific outburst of violence� directed at the American military, Instead it is part of a wider ideological war, generated by radicalization and inciting individuals to perform such acts. "Lone wolf" or not, organized or not, fully self-aware perpetrator or not, influenced by overseas radicals or not, this massacre of servicemen has moved America from stage to another.

Walid Phares, Ph.D. is a Fox News contributor and is director of the Future of Terrorism at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is the author of "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America."

Dr. Walid Phares joined Fox News in January 2007 and serves as Middle East and terrorism expert.