Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fort Hood Shootings: Don't Let Racism Hide Truth

BY NOW EVERYBODY ON THE PLANET KNOWS about the killing of 12 people and wounding of 31 others at Fort Hood in Texas. There's no doubt that this is a tragedy for the families and friends of the slain. But from a tragedy like this there will inevitably issue forth a second tragedy - the racist, anti-Muslim hysteria that will follow because the man - Major Nidal Malik Hasan - was from a Palestinian background. And that hysteria - already in evidence in online newspaper comments boxes - will obscure the real issues and the real reasons for this tragedy. Hiding from the truth will only ensure more tragedies like this in the future. So, let's go through some of the truths.
1) The sheer racism involved in immediately speculating on the religion of the shooter. Back in May, an Army Sgt. stationed in Iraq and suffering from PTSD shot and killed five of his fellow soldiers. That man's name - John Russell - was Anglo Saxon. Nobody speculated on the role of his religion in the killing. In this instance, as an article in the New York Times makes clear, Hasan, who joined the military out of patriotism, faced harassment for being Muslim and wanted out, even pursuing a failed legal route to early discharge. As a psychiatrist, he had counseled many returning vets who suffered PTSD. The combination of these two things apparently made him "mortified" at the prospect of being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

2) This racism also provides a cover for the fact that men and women trained to kill and who experience the brutality of enforcing occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, suffer from mental breakdowns, suicides and commit murders at far higher rates than the general population. A 2007 CBS News investigation into military suicides found:

"Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror... had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)"
And according to an article in the Washington Post, based in part upon an investigation by the Colorado Springs Newspaper, the rate of homicides amongst veterans from the Fourth Infantry Division's Fourth Brigade were 114 times higher than the rate amongst the general population in Colorado Springs, where they are stationed stateside.

"During their deployment, some soldiers killed civilians at random -- in some cases at point-blank range -- used banned stun guns on captives, pushed people off bridges, loaded weapons with illegal hollow-point bullets, abused drugs and occasionally mutilated the bodies of Iraqis, according to accounts the Gazette attributed to soldiers who said they witnessed the events."
Another study by the New York Times found that at least 120 people had been killed by returning vets. However, the Times itself assumes that this is a conservative number since it was reached only by looking at newspaper reports and it only includes active-duty soldiers and new veterans. The CBS survey used government statistics.

3) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents and the destruction of infrastructure and social networks that will take generations to repair. The media and government are utter, utter hypocrites to condemn these murders while taking no note - or reporting as simply normal operation procedure - the families slaughtered wholesale by US drones that fire missiles at wedding and funeral parties, into Pakistani villages. In Afghanistan alone there have been an estimated 8,400 - 28,000 direct and indirect civilian deaths caused by ISAF and US forces.

4) Mass murder has become as American as apple pie with dozens killed in spree murders this year alone. What is it about American society that brings about such a large number of these types of violent acts? The roots have to be found in the fact that America is the world's biggest, most violent empire, whose means of domination and largest single budget outlay goes towards the military. This year alone the military will take up to $700 billion directly with more indirectly through military aid to countries such as Israel and Colombia. This is a country jacked on violence. America, as the wealthiest nation on earth, also had the third highest levels of inequality and poverty in a study by the OECD released in 2008.  The only two countries above the US were Turkey and Mexico. The combination of poverty and glorified violence, in the shadow of historically unprecedented levels of wealth creation is key to understanding the prevalence of violence in America.

There is a danger that in the days following the Fort Hood shootings, the right and the media will whip up terrible racism. Arguing wherever possible the real reasons for this terrible act will be an important part of the ideological struggle to maintain the momentum of opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We mustn't allow the truth to drown in a sea of racist filth.
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