Friday, November 6, 2009

Do Not "Support Our Troops"

Let's be clear. Mr. Nidal Hasan's faith is not the most important matter to discuss in trying to make sense of why he killed 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounded 30 others at Ft. Hood. All the patronizing defenses of Islam as "a peaceful religion" that we're hearing are equally as irrelevant as the bigoted screeds against it.

Mr. Hasan brought the war home. His actions cannot be understood outside of the political context in which they occurred. The people (excepting the security guard) who died were not civilians; they were soldiers in a military at war. Unarmed as they were, in their home country, they were no more or less vulnerable than the shitkicking Pakis who gets blown to smithereens by American remote attack drones on regular bases, and whose unnecessary deaths we write off as acceptable collateral damage. (It will interest the reader to know that between 2006 and early 2009, American drone attacks in Pakistan killed 687 civilians and only 14 Al-Qaeda militants.) Hasan's massacre constitutes a form of domestic anti-war terrorism, like that of the Weather Underground, although Hasan was obviously driven by different political and personal motives and to much graver ends. Hasan could have become a conscientious objector. He could have been dishonorably discharged, could have gone to jail as a resister, or could have fled to Canada, while his family went on lecture tours of Ivy League campuses campaigning for the anti-war cause. In a word, he could have been marginalized and forgotten like every other goddam hero who has sacrificed their military career to oppose these wars. Instead, misguided by religious thinking and a great deal of stress and terror, he chose the path of "martyrdom". As a result, we will not forget Hasan, unlike the others. But we will still overlook his message.

On the matter of psychology, we would err to attempt to understand Hasan's crime only as a matter of madness, as we would usually err to describe most massacres in such terms. There are reasons for madness, if not reasons to it. To say that Hasan did what he did because he was mad is to suggest that he might still have been a danger to others had these wars not taken place, were he not a Muslim in the US military after 9-11, if there had been no 9-11, etc. Such a notion is absurd. Hasan was driven to mad slaughter, at least in part, by an inability to make sense of the contradictions between what he was and what he thought he should be, between what he did and what he thought he should do, at this moment in history. That, and a good deal of religion and stress. Hasan may have been cracked, but he cracked for a reason.

Hasan brought home the war, as have the hundreds veterans who have returned physically and mentally mauled by war, who have committed suicide or violent crimes after their return. Only unlike with Mr. Hassan, whose life will be agonizingly scrutinized in media the next few months, we refuse to hear of, see, or think about the them.

We can expect more events like these, not fewer, if we continue America's wars abroad.

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