This article was first published in Alternet.
It’s hard to pinpoint what’s the most shocking thing about Major Malik Nadal Hasan’s shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas. I’ll start with this: there’s nothing all that ground-breaking about it. Happens all the time, it’s just that we’re a nation of amnesiacs who forget all the unpleasantries, and refuse to learn the valuable lessons. [Just this morning, another "going postal" office massacre in Orlando, leaving at least 2 dead and 17 wounded. Early reports say the shooter was an employee.]
For starters, Fort Hood is located in Killeen, Texas — where one of the deadliest rampage shootings in American history took place in 1991, when an unemployed ex-Navy enlistee, George Hennard Jr., crashed his pickup into a popular cafeteria, pulled out two handguns (Hasan also used two handguns), and murdered 23 people before taking his own life. The day before the massacre, Hennard was eating a hamburger in a local restaurant watching the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and, according to the manager, “When an interview with Anita Hill came on, he just went off. He started screaming, ‘You dumb bitch! You bastards opened the door for all the women!’”
So yesterday’s Fort Hood shooting isn’t the worst or most deranged mass-killing in Killeen’s history — not by a longshot. The mainstream media is enabling the screaming about the Muslim traitors in our midst, but Hasan killed far fewer Americans than the white, racist George Hennard. And they were bested by the federal government in nearby Waco Texas, in 1993, when federal forces slaughtered some 75 men, women and children in the Branch Davidian compound.
But in what may seem like a strange coincidence, Maj. Hasan and Killeen are connected to another American shooting rampage. Killeen held the record for America’s worst shooting massacre until 2007, when Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 33 fellow students. And Malik Nadal Hasan graduated from Virginia Tech in 1997. Both Hasan and Cho were bullied and harassed – Hasan’s cousin told reporters that after 9/11, his military comrades regularly abused him, calling him “camel jockey.” But the cousin insisted that Hasan’s opposition to the war didn’t grow out of the bullying, but rather from the stories he heard while interning as a psychiatric counselor to veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Hasan even hired an attorney to try to come to a settlement with the US government and leave the service, but they wouldn’t settle for a deal and instead forced him to deploy. He apparently fought it up to the day before his deployment — and instead of going to the war, he brought the war to the US military.
As is often the case, the wrong lesson was learned, and the solution was more guns and more militarization of society: after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007: a new pro-gun student group was formed, calling for the arming of as many students as possible. The group is called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, and today it claims over 40,000 members on over 363 campuses. Likewise in 1991 after the Killeen shootings, the state of Texas responded by enacting a law freeing up gun owners to carry concealed weapons. It was President Bush who signed the law as TX governor in 1995 — and it was also Bush in 2008 who signed the first federal gun control law in 13 years after the Virginia Tech massacre.
(It’s already happening in this case: here for example is an article just published, “Fort Hood: Death By Gun Control,” in something called the “Austin Gun Examiner.”)
So Hasan, whose parents came to the US from Palestine, had plenty of personal connections to “Made in the USA” violence and massacres; and yet there’s a frantic attempt to make him out to be a crazy Muslim monster hell-bent on killing Americans. Why would he need to take inspiration just from them, when Americans already provided so many excellent examples of how to mass-murder fellow Americans?
Fort Hood, the largest military base in America, has seen its share of violence as well. For one thing, it holds the record for most soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan — 685 so far — and though we don’t know the figures, it’s reasonable to assume that Fort Hood is responsible for a sizable percentage of the tens or hundreds of thousands killed in those countries since America invaded them. Over the same period, 75 soldiers have committed suicide at Fort Hood, ten in 2009 alone — the highest of any base. In just one weekend in 2005, two soldiers who’d returned from Iraq killed themselves in separate incidents. Last year, in something right out of Full Metal Jacket, Specialist Jody Michael Wirawan, 21, of the 1st Cavalry Division, shot and killed his lieutenant, then killed himself when police arrived. And life in Killeen isn’t much nicer: it has one of the nation’s lowest median incomes and highest crime rates. Earlier this year, a 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier was killed by a Killeen cop who claimed he killed the soldier after being dragged underneath his SUV; the dead soldier’s mother filed a lawsuit claiming that the cop was notoriously out-of-control and violent, and that he shot her son while the car was pulled over.
All of this violence and despair led Fort Hood’s commander, Lt. General Rick Lynch,to build a post-traumatic stress disorder complex called the Resiliency Campus, featuring a Spiritual Fitness Center for soldiers to meditate, and a Cognitive Enhancement Assistance Center. As though a spiritual fitness workout routine could resolve the underlying cause of why a Resiliency Campus was built in the first place.
But if the government really were concerned about all the suicides and PTSD cases, they could have prevented Maj. Hasan’s murder-suicide mission before it happened. It would have been easy: Hasan had pleaded with his superiors not to be sent to Iraq, where he was scheduled to be deployed, but his requests were denied. RIght-wing bloggers like Michelle Malkin and some mainstream outlets have seized on reportsemerging that Hasan supposedly voiced opinions sympathetic to suicide bombers. But if he was an Al Qaeda sleeper-cell suicide bomber himself, it makes no sense why he’d a) argue with fellow soldiers that the wars are wrong and we should withdraw; and b) that he tried to get out of being deployed to Iraq. The 9/11 terrorists did their best to “blend in” and pretend like they were as American as apple pie, because the point is not to draw any attention to yourself if you’re a terrorist planning to suicide bomb a military base. Moreover, the timing of his shooting, the day before he was to be sent off, shows that his desperation had reached the limit. What this suggests is that the massacre could have been avoided if Maj. Hasan’s objections were taken into account.
Maj. Hasan’s opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars puts him where the majority of Americans are today. And he’s not the first soldier at Fort Hood to protest the war. Desertion rates have soared since the Iraq invasion, and Fort Hood has had some high-profile objectors making the news this year, such as Spc. Victor Agosto, who was court-martialed in August after he refused to go to Afghanistan, and Sgt. Travis Bishop, who filed for conscientious objector status after serving in Iraq for 14 months.
Going back to Vietnam War, Fort Hood was famous as the site of one of the first anti-war protests in 1965, when the so-called “Fort Hood 3” refused to be shipped off on the grounds that the war was wrong and illegal. Three years later, the movement expanded: hundreds of African-American GIs protested plans to deploy them to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and 43 were court-martialed. It was a heroic act: US troops and cops staged one of the bloodiest police-on-citizen episodes in modern history. In 1971, the Fort Hood United Front, made up of soldiers from the base, marched into Killeen, even though the city refused to grant them a permit; hundreds were arrested.
Today, if you read through some of the forums out of Fort Hood, the antiwar mood is clearly strong and clearly a problem for the authorities. So they’ll do their best to paint Maj. Hasan as a Muslim loon. The rightwing has been trying for years now to equate opposition to the wars with pro-terrorist, anti-American sentiment, and by the poll numbers today, that would make most Americans anti-American terrorists.
You can already see the dark, rank heart of the American Soul in anonymous messages posted on underground right-wing sites like Free Republic, a few of which are posted below:
Why is anyone surprised?
We already have a DIRTY MOSLEM TRAITOR in the Oval Office.
What’s one more moslem piece of garbage?
* * *
[Quoting a previous posting] **If you are Islamic, you may not serve in our military. Period.**
I’m getting closer to:
If you are Islamic, you may not serve in our military live in this country.
* * *
I’m getting closer to:
If you are Islamic, you may not live.
* * *
The story is still fresh and there’s a lot we don’t know, and there are still a lot of conflicting reports and confusion. Since Hasan will be tried in a military court, the American public will only learn whatever the military wants us to learn. And to a nation slipping deeper into its own amnesiac fog, the last thing we want to learn are the painful, threatening truths.
Update: It’s already happening again: a “going postal” office massacre this morning in Tampa that’s left at least 2 dead and 17 wounded. Early reports say the shooter was an employee the company. More details to come.
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.
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