Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fort Hood Texas, and other places

image Nidal Hasan and John Russell

1. fromWikipedia:

The Camp Liberty killings occurred on 11 May 2009, at military counseling clinic at Camp Liberty, Iraq. Sgt. John M. Russell, 44, of the 54th Engineering Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany, was taken into custody and charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault against soldiers—including those from the 55th Medical Company, according to Major General David Perkins (a spokesman for the U.S. army forces of the area).

Russell was being escorted from the clinic when he stole a weapon from a fellow soldier and drove to the clinic, where earlier he had been in a fight. He then opened fire there, killing five people.

President Barack Obama, in a White House statement, said he would speak to Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the matter, and that he was profoundly saddened by the news and determined to understand why it may have happened in order to do everything feasibly possible to make sure it never happened again.

It was the worst killing in the Iraq War against U.S. forces perpetrated by a fellow American servicemember.

A report was issued in October, 2009. Stars and Stripes summarized by writing in part "Despite years of emphasis on mental health issues, commanders in Iraq lack the necessary tools, training and guidance to deal with at-risk soldiers, according to an Army investigation into mental health services."

2. When I first heard about the shootings at Fort Hood, I actually thought about the guy who drove through the plate glass window of a Luby's in Killeen, back in October of 1991. He supposedly yelled, "this is what Bell County did to me" just before he started shooting. Killeen is just up the road from Ft Hood, and every time I drive to San Antonio to visit my family, I see the exit sign off I-35 that says Killeen/ Ft Hood.

The next thing I thought was 'damn. It's going to get bad again.' Because it will get bad, for us. I hate to say us, as opposed to you and me=us. A lot of Americans hear about things like this and reactively think in terms of "us versus them." (Fortunately, not all.) Well, we are them, and most of the time we don't think these things, but events like this make Arab-Americans a bit wary, especially those who look like we are from the middle east. I would venture to suggest that many Arab-Americans hearing about the shooting are feeling a strange ambivalence about Hasan's actions--protective concern about how readily the media and large numbers of our fellow citizens will eagerly demonize him, mixed with anger at him, thinking, "what did you hope to accomplish? Do you think you were making some kind of statement? Do you think you're the only who periodically grits his teeth and puts up with shit because he has to? Why didn't you just refuse to go? If you did that you'd be in the Ft. Hood stockade right now, instead of on life support."

3. This was Bernard Chazelle's response, which somewhat puzzled me. Maybe he was trying to be dryly ironic as another commenter suggested, but maybe I have difficulty with that kind of humor in this instance. I left this comment(slightly revised and expanded here):

What I see is different. The media is working to stir up resentment towards Middle-easterners in our midst, but also to seal off the cognitive dissonance that this horrible act represents-- the psychic toll that the wars take on the foot soldiers who serve the empire.In other words,

(1)stress he was sane, even though we don't know this.(that SOB Hindraker at Powerline is already calling Hasan a terrorist.)

Which dovetails into

(2)don't call too much attention to all the other military personnel who carry psychic wounds from their participation in our wars. Yes, we could care about them more, but what if it reminds us how fucked up and just plain wrong these wars are? And it seems to be working. Look at the mostly disgusting comments that follow this crazy WaPo article:

"Fort Hood attack is 3rd this year by antiwar radicals targeting military on U.S. soil"

And ultimately, the corporate media's job is to make sure that we avoid a sense of our common humanity-- it's important that we don't see Hasan's actions and the many suicides by vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as having anything in common, even though he listened to so many testimonies of soldiers referred to him precisely because they were deemed to be psychologically vulnerable. So we're supposed to see Hasan as sane and bad, and real American soldiers are sane and good, and when they crack it's because of their goodness, or maybe some other reason. But this dynamic can't apply to him, since he didn't crack but was cowardly and bad, and motivated by a deadly religion.

Damn you CNN, Fox News, CBS, ABC, Washington Post, MSNBC, etcetera. Damn all of you who deliberately misrepresent the psychiatric crisis our wars present. You knew how to make a fuss about inadequately armored Humvees, right? The Camp Liberty killings, horrible as they also were, were an opportunity to talk about the serious deficits in the Army's mental health resources for soldiers, but apparently this didn't interest you, what with John Russell being as Caucasian as he was. (Note how for Russell's standard newswire photo, above, they chose one with his ribbons and posed in front of a flag, unlike the standard one for Hasan.) Now, thanks to Nidal Hasan being as Arabic as he is, you have a figure you can talk about who's had a similar crackup but allows you to avoid the psychiatric dimension because he is a ready-made swarthy villain, and uncomplicated, infantilized popular approval of the military state is more important than attending to our broken ex-soldiers (like the ones he counseled), now that they've served their purpose.

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At November 08, 2009 6:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I have read other articles about soldiers returning and shooting their husbands and wives. There are hidden costs to war that are only revealed at certain times.

At November 09, 2009 1:16 PM, Anonymous Jenny said...

I was confused by the Bernard's lament as well.


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