Rampage At Fort Hood: Should We Be Surprised?

It's unfair to say, categorically, that Nidal Hasan went berserk because we've made the wrong choices. But it's also unfair to continue policies that kill people on both sides of a now pointless conflict.
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"It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil."

The president said that after the shooting at Fort Hood. It was the worst documented mass shooting at a stateside U.S. military base in the history of our nation. It was indeed horrifying. But do you want to know what is also horrifying? (You know I'm going to tell you regardless, right?)

The very same president (ever the enthusiastic one about war in Afghanistan) is entertaining the possibility of placing more troops in harm's way in Afghanistan where the shooter believed he was to be deployed--a place that has never been conquered, and that no longer signifies in the way it did when we first retaliated for the attacks on September 11, 2001.

What does success look like in Afghanistan? Is it a grainy video of Osama bin Laden's corpse hanging naked with happy locals doing vulgar things to it? Does it look like a thinly veiled international drug cartel masquerading as a U.S.-funded puppet government? No one knows what it looks like. Not even Obama. And that's why we shouldn't be sending more troops there.

The shooter responsible for the tragedy at Fort Hood was a doctor named Nidal Malik Hasan. He is about my age, and I know that offers scant reason to identify, but I can't help but try on his shoes while the vast right-wing nut factory starts churning out theories about the man with the Muslim name (just like Barack "Osama") who hates America (just like Barack Hussein Obama). Okay I tried them on, and yes we're talking about a crazy person--a guy who snapped. Regardless, I bet Hasan and I agree about a few things. For instance, the re-deployment of a soldier, over and over and over, regardless of his or her mental health, is immoral an just plain crazy. I bet we also agree that what happens to these young women and men over there is horrific and--given the futility of the fight--ludicrous to the point of institutionalized cruelty.

I can also identify with the abject terror Hasan must have felt when he was apprised of the fact that he would be deployed to the place that wrecked so many of his patients. I remember when Desert Storm was brewing and we all thought we'd get conscripted and sent to Iraq (for the Bush family's friends in Kuwait) back in 1991. It was scary. Imagine how much worse it would be if your job was to listen to people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who had just returned from the place you were going?

While you stew in the sadness and overarching tragedy here, try to imagine what could cause a man to do such a thing. It was the act of an insane person. Sure. How did he get that way? He was on psychiatric clean-up duty. He knew where he was going, and he was terrified. Perhaps that terror expressed itself as an anti-war sentiment, or as a Stockholm Syndrome-esque empathy for the enemy. If you knew the horrors of war firsthand, chances are a creeping pacifism would start to set up camp in your heart.

A member of our armed services lost his marbles and killed his own people, and it is a tragedy that resists any description. It is a symptom of a sick military, that is suffering from fatigue and stress caused by two wars: one unwinnable (the war on terror) and the other baseless (the post-9-11 invasion of Iraq).

Fort Hood serves as the home away from home for about 52,000, and it has lost more troops in the war in Iraq than any other base in the States.

It is unfair to say, categorically, that Dr. Nidal Hasan went berserk because we've made the wrong choices. He's no John Brown, and this is not the anti-war equivalent of Harper's Ferry. That said, it is also unfair to continue policies that kill people on both sides of a conflict that can no longer bear usable fruit and expect everything to be just hunky-dory among the women and men serving in our armed forces.

We know what failure looks like. It looks like the shooting at Fort Hood that left thirteen dead, and thirty of our dedicated women and men--voluntary soldiers, if you don't count the back-door draft of re-deployment--injured; thirty-one injured if you count Hasan.

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