By Dahlia Wasfi
November 24, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- Our nation is still recovering from the November 5, 2009, shootings at Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas. We are waiting for some sense of normalcy to return after such a shocking event. How unbelievable it is for this tragedy to occur; after all, our occupations had been going so well until this point. Just ask the Iraqi people. Wait, scratch that. Ok, ask the Afghan people. Nevermind. Just ask U.S. veterans. Oh boy. If we ask the people who are living the horrors, then maybe what happened at Ft. Hood isn’t so shocking at all. What is surprising is that we haven’t seen more of the same.
In the first ten months of 2009, ten soldiers based at Ft. Hood killed themselves; that was the second-highest for the nation, behind the sixteen suicides at Kentucky’s Ft. Campbell. In January 2009 alone, twenty-four soldiers across the country killed themselves. "This is terrifying," an Army official said. "We do not know what is going on." Well, let me help you out, random Army official. When you issue illegal orders for people to go commit atrocities overseas (because that’s the best word to sum up what’s happening in Iraq and Afghanistan), and they fail to refuse said orders in compliance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, you end up with people in trouble, people with PTSD. Some of them turn their trauma inward, self-destructing and committing suicide. Some of them express their trauma outward, committing homicide. One report documents Former Pfc. Johnathon Klinker, 22, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing his 7-week-old daughter, Nicolette, in October 2006. Another report tells of the murder spree by three Iraq veterans at Ft. Carson, which included the death of a 19-year-old nursing student who was stabbed six times after the trio ran her over with their car in October 2007. And now, you have Major Nidal Hasan, who may have been experiencing secondary PTSD (not to mention degradation by his brothers-in-arms for his ethnicity and religion). THAT is what is going on; it’s all connected to our illegal occupations.
We hear reports now that the military is not taking care of its soldiers. According to allegations from clinical psychiatrist Dr. Kernan Manion—who believes he was dismissed for his complaints—Marines at Camp Lejeune are getting poor care for their PTSD. And it’s not much better in the Army, according to veteran, Sgt. Chuck Luther, who was discharged after twelve years of service with a “personality disorder” instead of being diagnosed with and receiving benefits for PTSD. Here’s what I want to know: WHY ARE WE SURPRISED? Do we not know how this story ends, with a quarter of the homeless population on America’s streets comprised of veterans? Do we not recognize the brutality and dehumanization—of recruits and the “enemy” (whatever the flavor of the month is)—that is the foundation of basic training? Do we really think the military and government are going to one day take care of the US armed forces, when they send them overseas to die for corporate profit? I wouldn’t put my dog’s welfare in the hands of an Army drill sergeant; Americans are handing over their flesh and blood to them. Yes, there is a recession and jobs are scarce, but the military is made up of less than 1% of the U.S. population. There are a whole lot of people who are struggling economically and not choosing to enlist. We are in some serious denial here.
But the denial isn’t just a civilian disorder. As Luther describes on his website, he “was deployed to Taji, Iraq from October 2006 to July 2007. SGT Luther unknowingly suffered PTSD after living in the combat environment.” He was “living” in the combat environment. How innocent that sounds. Under further probing, Luther describes “Violence breeds violence. I was trained to be very violent in combat as a scout ... we killed or detained Iraqis before anyone else got there.” Before there could be any witnesses to your crimes. From the Bible, Galatians VI (King James Version), “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Yes, Luther is suffering now. And only he and his fellow scouts know the misery and pain they brought to who knows how many families who did nothing to us. If you break into someone’s home, it is not “self-defense” to attack the people who live there. It is assault and battery. It is terrorism. It is murder. Power of pride? I don’t think so.
And because these crimes are committed in all of our names, we are all the war criminals. We load the weapons; the soldiers and Marines do our dirty work. November 5, 2009, was sort of a “take your family to work” day at Ft. Hood. Military families got to see first-hand the environment where their loved ones earn a paycheck. All of us had a brief glimpse into the horrors that we visit on Iraqi and Afghani families everyday.
But we were lucky, for it wasn’t quite the same. The victims weren’t raped before they were murdered; their bodies were not set on fire after their last breaths were taken. The victims’ children were not tied up while their fathers were detained before they were shot. Ft. Hood soldiers were not stacked into naked pyramids and tortured to death, nor were there families killed in their homes by airstrikes. That is the reality of occupation, and none of us are without blood on our hands—civilian or military. American soldiers and Marines are not guiltier than the rest of us, but they sure as hell aren’t any more innocent. If we want the madness to stop, we all must stop the madness.
Dahlia Wasfi is an activist and speaker, currently working on a book. She supports the rapid redeployment of all overseas American military personnel back to the U.S., specifically to the offices of Goldman Sachs, AIG, and the Federal Reserve, where they should remain until they receive the benefits they were promised. Her website is www.liberatethis.com.